Ryan Hart: 'Juri is going to be an issue in Ultra', EventHubs exclusive interview covers Ultra, preferred fighting game, tournament mindset and more

Posted by Nicholas 'MajinTenshinhan' Taylor • March 23, 2014 at 11:47 a.m. PDT

In the beginning of March, the thrilling IVGC tournament was taking place in Cannes, France. EventHubs' very own writer MajinTenshinhan was present at the scene, and made sure to grab six different interviews, five of which have been published regularly since.

Today, we publish our sixth and final interview, with the Europe's seasoned expert in multiple different titles, Ryan Hart. Below, you'll find a quick snippet of the interview.
MajinTenshinhan: In the Street Fighter 4 series, you've been known for the last few years for your very strong Sagat play, but it's also no secret that you're quite capable with several other characters as well. Once Ultra Street Fighter 4 hits, do you think that you'll be switching characters a lot in tournaments, or do you think you'll be sticking to mostly Sagat?

Ryan Hart: Originally I thought Id be using many characters again but after trying the game today I think I will try to have one main with perhaps one sub character. When I tested Ultra I found that I couldn't time the jump in on their delayed wakeup reliably, this meant that I kept eating anti airs or wakeups for free.

With EVO coming up its important to focus on match stability for short tournament sets. This may change once I've had more time with the game, but at the moment I'm not really seeing what I'm supposed to be trying to do when they use the delayed wakeup option, nor how that is going to be a reliable path of play since I'm also risking my advantage by guessing their wakeup method and then their wakeup attack or defence on top of that.

Of course this may change over time, it's just how I currently feel. May as well just forget all that, get some space and do a fireball when they get up, if it hits meaty its all good, and if it doesn't then at least you are safe.
Hit the jump to read the rest of the interview, which covers Ryan's favourite fighting game, potentially strong characters in Ultra, plans for EVO and more.
MajinTenshinhan: You've been part of both of the first two seasons of ESGN Fight Night, which started this year. The format played there is quite different from other fighting game events. Would you mind telling us a little bit about your experience at ESGN Fight Night and if you'd like this format to gain more success?

Ryan Hart: Yeah, I really like ESGN Fight Night. I think that it's an amazing event. I really like what they're doing, bringing world-class players to the same place to play long sets for a lot of money. It gives people the opportunity to see a different side of Street Fighter.

Because, when you go to a major, or watch on stream, you only see matches go up to best of 3 or best of 5, but you never see long sets like first to 7 and such. So, you get to see top players use a lot of material, and I think that's good for growing players, because they can watch top players in those situations and see how they use the match length to adapt as the matches go on.

I also think that it goes to show that there are cases where results can differ a lot depending on the length of the set. For example, Alioune is doing really well right now on ESGN, but he hasn't done as well in a lot of tournaments that he's entered because in those tournaments, it's only two matches, so he might not be able to really get into his groove, you know.

Not quite get his momentum going in just two matches. Obviously, that might be a separate skill in itself, but it also shows that there's a skill in being able to play long sets, endure, have that stamina and also having enough tech, enough material with your character, to play and outwit your opponent for the entire duration.

MajinTenshinhan: Recently, Western Wolves, who you were then being sponsored by, shut down. Could you provide any clarity as to what happened to them?

Ryan Hart: Well, from what I know... I think that Western Wolves closed down because there wasn't enough funding to keep it running, so it just became more beneficial to cease operations.

My manager gave me a Skype call and told me that Western Wolves was going to go, and that DreamHack would be our last event. All of the former members of Western Wolves are now free agents, looking for new opportunities.

MajinTenshinhan: With Ultra Street Fighter 4 launching soon, and a lot of attention being paid to the changes done so far, are there any characters in particular you think will be strong in this new version?

Ryan Hart: I noticed that Yang can cancel his far Medium Punch into Rekkas, and he now has his crossup jumping Medium Kick back, so based on those two changes alone I can see why Yang might be really good in the new one.

He's got a dive kick, a command throw, rekkas which he can get ultra from, a safe overhead, a solid crouching medium kick, a 3-frame crouching light kick and now he has a medium kick cross up and a good range cancellable standing medium punch. He's going to be good, believe it!

I think Ken seems quite good as well, Dictator with his new EX Scissor Kick looks really strong... Juri, Alioune showed me some stuff with the new Juri. Well, it was that PC mod, not the proper one, but you can still see some stuff. If it stays like that, yeah, Juri is going to be an issue.

I think there's a lot of characters that are going to be really good. I just hope that we'll see some overall balance though, and that you don't end up with every tournament featuring the usual suspects. I thought I was looking forward to it but after today's encounter with how defensive the game looks I'm a bit nervous.

MajinTenshinhan: You've been playing fighting games for a long time, and you have noteworthy experience with a lot of different titles. What would you say is your favourite fighting game of all time?

Ryan Hart: I get asked this quite often. My favourite fighting game of all time is probably Virtua Fighter 4: Evolution. I really love that game.

I love the Virtua Fighter series in general, but they've changed the series recently to accommodate players who don't like things to be super technical, and who don't want to learn frames, who like big explosions and things happening on the screen. Virtua Fighter can look very bland, plain and simple, but the dynamics of what's happening technically and mentally are really amazing. The mind games, the psychology within the fighting is absolutely incredible.

It started for me with Virtua Fighter 3 which came out in 1996 a long, long time ago and I started by playing against the CPU. Then, I started going to the arcade where there were people to challenge. I wasn't actually supposed to be in there because I wasn't 18 yet but I used to get in sometimes because I was quite tall.

I used to get battered on the regular and I'd spend all my money. However without knowing it, I'd get better and better with each visit. When I say that I got better and better, in case you're wondering how I did that, I just observed what the players that were winning were doing, because I definitely wasn't winning, so I knew that I was doing something wrong.

I would watch what they were doing, and obviously I didn't understand it all because my knowledge bank was too small, so I couldn't quite digest what was going on, but they were doing certain things that stood out. So what happens at that stage is I started developing little flowcharts from things Id seen. You do this move then this move then this move - like a set little pattern that you have, and it'll work on some players, and it won't work on some other players.

As you learn more, you start to understand that generally, this kind of strategy will work while this kind of tactic will not work. So for me, it's never been this thing where I like, start a new game and learn the frames straight away, learn safe jumps, learn all of these really technical high-level things. No, it's very much been feeling the game out for myself, learning how to adapt myself as a player to the game and the opponent came before everything else.

It's a lot easier when you have an arcade, with players who are readily able to play and you can just visit there whenever you want, they're always there and you can just go in your spare time. If things were that convenient now, I'd definitely suggest that format for leveling up, because it's very useful.

But, nowadays when you're limited to YouTube, a ranking battle every now and again, maybe a house session if you're lucky it's quite tough. Look at attending majors, its not easy, not everyone is sponsored and that is when you CAN get to events. I know some people in America, they have to drive for hours and hours to get to these things, so leveling up is not that simple. But that's what used to work back then. Just adjusting to the game over time with hands-on experience. There were no frame data guides or anything like that.

So, Virtua Fighter 4 for me had amazing balance, the game was very fair in tournaments as any character could win. Since every character was a tournament character, it made the game super hype to watch, because you really, really didn't know what was going to happen. Even at the highest level, any character could win. So it's not like a game where it looks balanced, but once everyone knows what's up, certain characters can't win.

No, every character was really, really solid and the players themselves decided the outcome. I mean, that's an amazing accomplishment. It's hard to make a balanced fighting game. Even a company as experienced as Capcom are consulting the community right now to achieve something similar to that, so it's clearly not easy (assuming they are consulting for balance issues).

It's great that they are giving such value to community input. I look forward to the final version and I hope that people are pleased in the end. Anyway, for me it was Virtua Fighter. The psychology, the simplicity of just having 3 buttons as well, instead of 4 or 6 buttons. Yeah, it was an amazing game. Every game has its specialities, though you know. I like each game for different things, but overall, it'd have to be the Virtua Fighter series and in that series, I like Virtua Fighter 4: Evolution the best.

MajinTenshinhan: What do you think about your chances at EVO 2014 this year?

Ryan Hart: I believe in myself as a player. I know how good I am, I understand what it takes to win, and I've got a lot of experience behind me. I do need to work on myself under pressure in a tournament environment, though.

Especially with the sets being so short. I mean, it's not like I've never lost a long set, but I definitely perform better in a relaxed environment, where it's just maybe some money on the line, or it's a long exhibition or something and I can really just be myself. Sometimes when I'm on stage, I feel almost like I'm there just to impress the crowd or something. I want to do something stylish and put on a memorable show.

Like today, I pondered ideas mid game to go for crazy stuff that I never go for instead of just focusing on winning. I just thought "Let me try it today". It's a bit silly, but if you can pull it off in Grand Finals, that's kind of cool, right? Haha. And it can sometimes work out but it didn't today so in hindsight I obviously see that it wasn't worth it.

I've been playing in tournaments for so long that, Grand Finals, the premise of being up on a stage in Grand Finals doesn't scare me, so I'm kind of relaxed enough to go for certain things most of the time. One of the reasons I enjoy playing in front of others now is to entertain. It's not just about winning for me.

If I won everything but had a really boring style I wouldn't feel I was being myself. I've always been a specialist at doing the trickiest combos or the most stylish combos, and people will be like "Why are you doing that? It scales crazily", but I love it because it looks cool, and that's just how I am.

Of course I wouldn't risk a tournament for it but there have been times where I'll try to land a certain move or whatever just for looks. I don't do it for me, I do it for the people, they enjoy it. Like when King of Fighters 96, 97 and 98 came out and I had to find all the crazy stuff with everyone and execute the hardest things in matches.

Tekken, when I had really unique Mishima tech on the first Tekken Tag Tournament and Dark Resurrection and such.. Killer Instinct was the same thing, when I got to try it out I just had to find a 100+ hit combo of my own straight away, or when Street Fighter X Tekken came out and I had the most unique tech on Cross Assault, I like to be creative in what I do, that's just who I am.

I have character and I express myself. I've been the same way in my martial arts, drumming, breakdancing and all my other hobbies. You might find that maybe I don't use the most top top tier character in every game, I mean if I just look at my Street Fighter 4 history I mained Ken and then Sagat in Vanilla, Guy and then Ryu in Super, Oni and then Yun in Arcade Edition and Sagat in Arcade Edition v2012.

I did main Yun in Arcade Edition but although I was very successful with him in Third Strike he just didn't suit me in AE that much. I mean, it's a rush down character in a game where you need to be patient. It just didn't work for me, I felt my Yun on AE was never as good as the top Japanese Yuns.

I'm going to keep using him as although he was nerfed he is still a fun character and winning is more of a challenge now, and to be honest I think I'm doing better with him now than before when he was stronger.

But going back to EVO this year, I think that 2014 is going to be tough. I'll need to go to Japan, maybe, to try and watch what's happening with Ultra there, since they're going to have a lot more time with the game than everywhere else. A lot of people have been telling me that they're going to be in Japan strictly for the purpose of training Ultra Street Fighter 4 for EVO.

Their sponsors are paying for them to head out, and they're going to be there. They are very lucky. If I can land a sponsor before then I too will be heading out for training. If I can't get out there, I don't see why I'll be able to beat someone who's had so much more time with the game than I have. That's going to be a tall order.
Massive thanks from all of us here at EventHubs to Ryan Hart for agreeing to do this interview with us.

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