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Daigo was 'disappointed' when he won Japan's national tournament for Street Fighter 2 at age 15, talks about 1998 match against Alex Valle on radio

Posted by Cheng Kai 'KarbyP' Sim • May 18, 2014 at 11:17 p.m. PDT • Comments: 144

Last month, MCZ|Daigo was invited to be a guest on NHK1's radio show, Suppin Interview.

While on the show, Daigo answered questions submitted by listeners, and also talked about a number of topics with the radio show's hosts -- one of which being his thoughts at the time when he became a national Street Fighter champion at the age of 15, and the world champion at 17.
Female radio host: How did you feel when you became the national champion when you were 15? You must have been thrilled!

Daigo: Hmmm... I can't really say that I felt that way.
Find out why -- as well as Daigo's thoughts going into the match with Alex Valle in 1998 -- after the jump.
Daigo: The meaning behind winning a national tournament and becoming #1 in Japan, is just that you're really good at the game.

But when I was 14 I had already realized that I was really good, and begun to think that I may not be able to find an opponent who's better than me at it.

With a national tournament, there's no telling how strong your opponents might be. So I went into the tournament with certain expectations, only to emerge as the champion.

Female radio host: So you were actually disappointed with the result?

Daigo:Right, I was disappointed. Well, 50% disappointed, and 50% happy about winning.

Male radio host: We're about the same age. And like you, when I was younger, I would go into different arcades to play fighting games, and there'd always be different people to play with so, on one day I might be winning a lot at the arcade close to where I lived, but then when I went into, say, the arcade by the bowling alley, I'd get utterly thrashed by the players there.

Daigo: Yep, yep, that happens a lot.

Male radio host: So doesn't that happen to you?

Daigo: Not anymore, by the time I was 14. That pretty much stopped happening to me.

Female radio host: So, in that sense, after you became a national champion, it was only natural that you'd seek to enter a world tournament, I suppose?

Daigo: At the time, even if I wanted to join a world tournament, there was no way for me to find out in which country it would be held, or how I would be able to sign up for it.

Although within Japan, I knew where all the popular arcades were... outside of Japan, I didn't know where a world tournament might possibly be held.

When I was 17 and finally made it into a world tournament, it was for a different game (Street Fighter Alpha) than the one I was national champion in, at 15.

What happened was, when this different game first came out, it was announced that there'd be a world tournament for it. Prior to that, there hadn't been any world tournaments for fighting games -- this was probably the first.

And after that (Street Fighter Alpha) tournament concluded, *chuckles* for a while there weren't any world fighting game tournaments either. There was just one world tournament when I turned 17, and then for a while there weren't any.

Female radio host: How did you hear about that world tournament then?

Daigo: At the arcades, there were posters proclaiming that a new fighting game was coming out soon. And on the posters, it said that a world tournament would be held. So everybody knew about it.

Female radio host: And where was this world tournament held?

Daigo: The place was in America. I think it was... San Francisco. The way it worked was that, there was a Japan national tournament, and the champion of that would go on to face the winner of the American tournament at the grand finals.

Female radio host: And so you went over there for the world tournament. At the time you were a student, so what did you tell your school as the reason for your absence of leave?

Daigo: *Laughs* Well, I didn't tell them anything! I couldn't possibly tell them that I was going away to focus on video games.

Female radio host: *Laughs* Okay, so you came up with some kind of excuse for it, and took an absence of leave from school... but at the time, you were in high school, right? Taking an absence of leave from high school must have been pretty big deal. Did you feel like, you've absolutely got to come back with the trophy to make this trip worth being away from school for?

Daigo: Erm, no. In the first place I really wasn't that serious as a student.

Female radio host: *Breaks out in laughter* Ah, was that the case?

Male radio host: Despite how serious he takes his gaming, when it comes to his studies, it's completely different. There's a huge difference, in terms of aspirations.

Female radio host: Well then, how did you feel going into the world tournament?

Daigo: To be honest, even though like Japan there was also a tournament being held in America, what I thought was that, there's no way the level of competition there could possibly match that of Japan's. Japan probably has the best scene, so in all likelihood I'm definitely going to bag the trophy.

Or at least, that was what I thought at the time.

In reality, the level of competition was actually quite high, and it was a really close grand finals.
Daigo explained that in the grand finals, he was very close to losing. The finals had been best-out-of-three-games, with each game being best-out-of-five rounds.

Alex Valle took the first game, won the first two rounds for the second game, and was literally on tournament point. But Daigo managed to make a comeback from the brink of defeat.

And thus, history was made.
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