For years Ken has been considered the best Smasher in America, and as of last Summer that title has stretched to include the entire world. Ken has traveled both cross-country and internationally to compete in tournaments and has constantly proved to be the best — not just by getting first place, but by doing so in dominant fashion. Representing the West Coast by way of California, Ken has set the bar for Smash talent, and has been phenomenal throughout both the 2004 and 2005 MLG season. As an individual player Ken is truly unbelievable, having taken first place in every MLG appearance this season with the exception of MLG LA, where he took second place to his long-time 2v2 partner, Isai. As if that weren’t impressive enough, Ken and Isai have been an absolutely untouchable duo ever since they teamed up several years ago. They have literally never, ever lost a 2v2 event — MLG or otherwise — throughout their history of teaming together, drawing respect and admiration from the entire Smash world.
MLG had a chance to sit down with Ken, the undisputed King of Smash, to get to know a bit more about who he is, where he comes from, and what it’s like to be so dominant at such a skillful and competitive game. It’s not all as rosy as you may imagine, as Ken has had to deal with a serious backlash as of late that is testing his love for the game and his dedication to competitive play. Read on to get an insider’s perspective on the most successful and widely-feared competitive Smasher of all-time, and watch out for Ken as he takes on the best of the MLG season at our upcoming 2005 National Championships in New York.
MLG: I’d like to start off by congratulating you on your first place victory at MLG Chicago in singles, as well as your second place finish in the 2v2. Let’s start off by covering some of your background before moving on to other topics. When did you first start Smashing?
Ken: I first started Smashing when SSB 64 came out. Being poor at the time and not able to afford an N64, I would always ask my friend to come over and spend the night at my house so we could Smash. However, I did not start playing SSBM, until eight months after it came out since I was still in love with the first one — not to mention, I used to be real good at it.
MLG: What initially drew you to Super Smash Brothers? What about the game appealed to you?
Ken: The first thing that drew me to Super Smash Bros had to be all the Nintendo characters. I could not believe Nintendo would throw together a game with all their characters in a final showdown. Some things that appealed to me were the simple and yet fun basics — meaning “knock enemy out of stage and keep enemy from returning.”
MLG: When was your first tournament?
Ken: I was not really into the Smash scene until my brother, Manacloud decided to look it up online and discovered Smashboards and stumbled onto the biggest tournament at the time, TG4.
MLG: Who is currently in your crew?
Ken: My crew currently consists of me (Sephirothken), Manacloud, Tavo, Pedro and Arash; known as the Elite 5. Although we are not as close as before and we are thinking of disbanding and forming a new crew.
MLG: Which character do you prefer to use? Why? Was this the first character you tried to pick up?
Ken: I love to use Ganondorf, because Ganondorf is a character that takes lots of skill to use. I kind of have a joke for people when using Ganondorf. Well, actually I have two jokes. When people say, “Damn, how is your Ganon so good,” I respond saying my Ganondorf has Genji armor (he used to wear Mythril armor, but Eddie stole it from me). And when people ask me, “Why won’t your Ganon die,” I respond, “Craaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaazy Return.” I don’t know, it’s something funny — while training Isai he would always say it when returning.
“I used to compete in random FFA tournaments held at my local game store (Gamesquare) and would get slaughtered, due to the fact that everyone saw how good I was and started triple-teaming me.” – Ken, on his early days as a competitive Smasher.
MLG: When was the first time you won a tournament?
Ken: Well, as mentioned before, my first 1v1 tournament was Tg4, the biggest tournament of the time. This tournament had people from all over the nation, and even some Europeans. My bro and I decided to go and I ended up winning second in teams and first in singles. I used to compete in random FFA tournaments held at my local game store (Gamesquare) and would get slaughtered, due to the fact that everyone saw how good I was and started triple-teaming me. These random FFA tournaments were poorly run and would get over 100 people.
MLG: Roughly how many tournaments have you won?
Ken: I don’t keep track of how many tournaments have I won, but there have been a lot.
MLG: For years you and Isai have formed the most dominant team in the country. In fact, you have never placed below first at a tournament when you’ve teamed together.
Ken: Isai and I are a really good team because I noticed Isai had lots of potential after my first tournament at TG4 and decided to train him for two weeks. After that we have been working together greatly.
MLG: What do you attribute this success to?
Ken: Hard work and lots and lots of Monopoly.
MLG: When did you first meet Isai? How long have you two been Smashing together? Do you consider him a good friend outside of Smash?
Ken: I first met Isai at my first tournament, TG4. We do not live close to each other so it’s really hard to get some team practice in, but we always do when we see each other at tournaments. Of course, I consider Isai to be a good friend outside of Smash. We’ve been to lots of places together, including Japan. He is a real cool and smart guy, but can be rude and weird sometimes.
MLG: Who has your greatest challenge been in a team match?
Ken: I think our greatest challenge in teams would have to be Eddie and Manacloud or Chu and Manacloud, since my brother knows how I play and Eddie is just good on teams. Chu on the other hand uses Ice climbers and that’s just real hard to fight against.
MLG: Which characters form your most effective combination? Are these also your favorite characters to use in teams?
Ken: Our best combination is probably Fox and Sheik, and our favorite characters to use in teams are Marth and Sheik.
MLG: When and at what tournament was the first time you and Isai won at teams? At the time, was this a difficult accomplishment?
Ken: The first time Isai and I won teams was at TG5, the first tournament that we ever teamed together. At the time, we played against one of the best East Coast teams — Wes and Hein using Samus and Peach — two characters that just would not die.
MLG: You are considered not just the best Smasher in the country, but also in the world. During the summer, you won Smash’s largest tournament, FC3, placing above over 180 people. You then went to Japan and proceeded to win against their best players. How was your experience in Japan? What did you enjoy most about the trip (outside Smash)?
Ken: Japan was very hot and humid, but still very fun. Throughout my whole trip in Japan, I would say I enjoyed eating Ramen at a little shop called Tan-Tan. I used to never like Ramen, and I still do not like any Ramen besides Tan-Tan. Otherwise, I enjoyed hiking up Mount Fuji and going around Japan to see all the attractions.
MLG: Did you enjoy getting to know the Japanese Smashers?
Ken: The Japanese Smashers were great. They were totally kind and considerate, unlike American Smashers. Also, Japanese Smashers would cheer for whoever is good at Smash and respect them as a person and a Smasher, something I do not really get in America.
MLG: How do you consider the Japanese competition?
Ken: Personally, I think Japan’s community is better as a whole than the Americans. If we were to have a 10 on 10 “Japan vs America” Crew Battle, Japan would win.
MLG: The trip must have been exhausting. Did you run into anything unexpected?
Ken: Yea, Isai and I were biking all over Kyoto and it started to rain out of nowhere while it was hot and sunny outside!
MLG: You and Isai frequently must play each other in tournaments. How do you two handle this?
Ken: We are partners for life, and we usually end up splitting the money we win. Otherwise, we just play it out.
MLG: Outside of Isai, who do you consider to be your greatest challenge? How do you deal with this challenge, considering that you always seem to come through in the clutch?
Ken: I am not sure who my greatest challenge is, but everyone is so “out to beat me” that it does not matter.
MLG: Regarding the East Coast versus West Coast rivalry, do you think this fosters better, more exciting competitive Smash, or do you think it may not bring out the best in people?
Ken: The East Coast/West Coast rivalry brings competitive Smash to the extreme, but also brings out the best of people. There are so many sh** talkers on the West Coast that it brings out a different level of Smash, personally and competitively.
MLG: Often times your critics claim you don’t approach newer Smashers with the same respect and sort of mentor-ship that others might. From what I’ve heard, this is far from true. Why do you think some people would be negative toward you?
Ken: I am not sure what the issue is, but people are always spreading bad rumors about me. On a regular basis, I usually get about 50 IMs from people saying they could wipe the floor with me, or I suck at SSBM. Moreover, I also get people asking for advice, and I could never forget this question from some random guy: “How long is Marth’s sword?” I get so many AIMs that I get annoyed and begin to block people. It’s as if they think I play SSBM all day, which is hardly true because I barely play nowadays. I am not sure, but it could be that they are jealous or they just think it’s funny to piss me off.
“You know how much people hate you when they tell you that if you quit SSBM then the Smash community would be a better one.” – Ken, on the backlash he has experienced for being so dominant in the Smash world.
MLG: Regarding Smashers who are looking for improvement, what sort of advice can you give? How do you prepare for a tournament?
Ken: It really depends on what kind of help they are asking for. I generally hate talking about Smash anyways. To tell you the truth, I really do not prepare for a tournament at all. I just come and try to do my best.
MLG: When you were learning the game, years ago, how did you practice then? What did you do that helped you develop into the Smasher you are today?
Ken: While learning the game in my earlier days, I used to play with my brother, Manacloud, in order to get better. I think what made me real good was the many tournaments I have traveled to. After a tournament I seem to get better.
MLG: How do you think MLG has helped the Smash community?
Ken: MLG has improved the Smash community by far because it has opened it up and made it more popular.
MLG: What are your feelings on the MLG rule set? How do you think MLG will play into the future of Smash?
Ken: The MLG rule set is pretty good; I cannot agree or disagree with it. I think MLG will make Smash bigger and bigger until finally Nintendo will have to recognize the Smash community.
MLG: What do you think will change about the game when the new Smash game is released for the Revolution?
Ken: Not many things would change; maybe just adding a few new characters and a new rate at which the characters fall at. The game play, however, should still be the same.
MLG: What do you think will happen to the Smash community?
Ken: The Smash community would just get larger with more cocky people.
MLG: What are the next tournaments you plan on attending? I have heard that the MLG 2005 National Championships in NYC will be your last? Is that true?
Ken: I am attending the MLG Championships for sure. MLG Championships just might be my last due to the recent disrespect I have been getting. I just do not want to deal with it anymore. You know how much people hate you when they tell you that if you quit SSBM then the Smash community would be a better one.
MLG: Are there any players out there who you think are underrated and deserve more respect?
Ken: Yes, I do. I think Vidjogamer, Sastopher, Manacloud, Tavo, and Wes are underrated and all deserve more respect.
MLG: What do you enjoy doing outside of Smash? Career goals? Hobbies? Sports? Recreation?
Ken: I am currently attending CSULB and hope to get a career in film and illustration. Outside of Smash, I enjoy watching Naruto and Bleach. I am really into strategy games such as Warcraft III. I am thinking of getting into World of Warcraft, but I am not sure if I should start since I heard people who started have sort of gone missing. I like to play tennis and go bowling.
MLG: Is there anything you would like to add? Anybody you would like to mention? Any statements you would like to make?
Ken: Yea, I would like to say that during Melee FC 3, I played so many matches that the first controller that I have been playing with since the beginning broke. I still use my first and the same broken controller today for tournaments. I would like to thank all the fellow Smashers who support me and my family for always being there for me (Jenny, Mike and Helen). Oh yea, I am trying to host the OC2 possibly in the Summer of 2006 and get Japanese players over here and redo the WC vs EC vs SS vs MW tournament including Japan. If I happen to win the MLG Championships it will definitely happen. By the way, I do not think I will enter singles for this event (OC2).
MLG: Thank you for your time.
Ken: Thanks for having me.