By Dark Gentleman
“Being able to improve is more important than winning.”
Welcome to part one of my interview series, Philosophy Corner with The Dark Gentleman, hosted by The Smash Writers. We will be speaking with some of the most advanced Super Smash Bros 64 players from around the globe, focusing on competitive mentality and philosophy. For this inaugural segment I chose to interview Wangera, a player from Japan who is widely viewed as the best 64 Jigglypuff main in the world.
This interview was conducted over online messaging using google translate between English and Japanese. Wangera and I started our discussions on December 20th 2016 and continued through January 13 th , 2017. Further translation was provided by NYC 64 player, Kelvinheit. We have edited some of Wangera’s responses for clarity.
Dark Gentleman: Let’s start with a few quick background questions. When did you start playing competitive SSB 64?
Wangera: I started playing in July of 2009.
Dark Gentleman: What is exciting to you about SSB 64 compared to other fighting games? What is special to you about 64?
Wangera: The creative tactics and combos that each player has thought up.
Dark Gentleman: Something I’ve been personally curious about…How did you get the tag Wangera? What does it mean?
Wangera: In my college days there was a club called the “Wandervogel club”. [It is similar to a youth outdoors Scouts organization, originating in Germany]. Within that organization, a specific activity can be called a “Wangera”. That is the origin.
See here for reference : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wandervogel
Dark Gentleman: Who were the players and what was the scene like when you started learning and competing?
Wangera: Around 2010 there was a puff player called “Den-Chan” who I looked up to. I longed to play Jigglypuff like “Den-Chan.”
Dark Gentleman: I’m glad you mention an old school Japanese player. The Japanese SSB scene is known to be very skilled. With so much talent in Japan, when did you start to win more and become one of the best players?
Wangera: No, I am weak. But I can become strong.
Dark Gentleman: Interesting answer. I’m definitely going to have to think that one over for a while. On the topic of becoming strong: one of the most intriguing aspects of your play is that you solo main Jigglypuff, a character typically thought to be mid tier in SSB 64. Most competitors at your level of skill (in the west) strongly prefer using Pikachu, Falcon, Kirby and to a lesser extent, Yoshi. I have to ask the obvious : why do you use Jigglypuff?
Wangera: Puff is the most fun for me. To be honest, I think that even if I used Pika or Kirby, I could make top 8 at the big overseas tournaments lol. But I use Puff because I find Puff is more interesting than Pika and Kirby.
Dark Gentleman: I’d have to agree that Puff is a lot of fun, but it is still unusual to see a top player using her. As a competitor at the highest level, do you have a pre-game strategy? Do you feel nervous when you compete?
Wangera: More recently I find listening to music helps me. It increases concentration. And yes, of course [I get nervous] lol.
Dark Gentleman: Many players feel that they plateau at a certain level. How do you focus on improvement? What is the most important thing to look for?
Wangera: I am trying to improve by watching my past match up videos. When I watch the videos, the element I am paying attention to is mainly whenever I get hit. Why did I get hit? I try to make judgements on my play by thinking about the reason why I went for an attack, or why I got hit.
Dark Gentleman: Do you think that general skill is more related to having good training partners or personal effort?
Wangera: I think that both are important.
Dark Gentleman: How crucial is it to you to win your matches? Do you play for fun or do you play to win?
Wangera: I think that being able to improve is more important than winning.
Dark Gentleman: You had a spectacular 2016, double eliminating Isai to place 3rd at Genesis 3, placing 5th at Super Smash Con, and then placing 1st at Kanto. Let’s focus a little bit on each of those major tournaments. I’d be interested in hearing about Genesis 3, and what it was like to play with Isai.
Wangera: At G3 I felt I was able to concentrate better than at any other tournament. I am excited I was able to perform so well there. I was very happy to battle Isai. I will never forget that tournament.
Dark Gentleman: Your performance there sparked a lot of excitement for your return at SSC. That game five timeout against Dext3r was one of the most memorable moments of the entire tournament.
Wangera: Super Smash Con 2016 was the opposite experience for me than G3. It was the most disappointing event for me ever (I had to sleep on the floor every night of tournament lol). So during my games I struggled to play normally and was always impatient. However, when I won that timeout against Dext3r I was so excited I shouted out. If I go overseas again I will probably book my own hotel lol.
Dark Gentleman: Note to self: Smashers need adequate sleep…can you tell us a little more about tournaments in Japan? What do you think about Japanese tournaments switching from single elimination to the North American standard of double?
Wangera: There are mainly two Japanese events. Kanto is a tournament held in the summer. The venue is in Tokyo. It is the most popular event in Japan. Kansai is the other tournament. It is usually held around March or April. This year the date will be March 19 th and it will be in Osaka. Everyone please come! I also wanted to mention one other event, the Japan Smash Cup. It was a convention held last year. The venue is in Nagoya (just between Tokyo and Osaka). It was the first 64 tournament to be sponsored in Japan. It seems likely to be held a second time, so please come and see us!
The Dark Gent’s Final Thoughts
In this interview Wangera proved to be a man of few words. I suspect that is partially due to our language barrier. However, there are certain pearls of wisdom here to consider. Despite his very high level of play in tournament, Wangera says he plays for growth. Note his responses when I asked when he became one of the best in Japan, and how he felt about winning. Both answers indicated that Wangera prizes personal improvement above placement. He also commented on Jigglypuff being more enjoyable to compete with than high tier characters. This is interesting compared to common mentalities in the USA, where patient, spacing heavy Jigglypuff battles might not be the first style that comes to mind when we think of “fun” types of play. Nevertheless, Wangera turned out to be one of the most captivating players in 2016.
Wangera’s comments on SSC also highlight the importance of good sleep for competitors. Though he was able to place well, he was disappointed with his performance at Smash Con. I don’t view this as an excuse since Wangera still played his heart out and did extremely well. His timeout defeat of Dext3r resulted in one of the biggest crowd reactions at SSC, and mind you that was the end of a set that lasted for thirty minutes!
There is something undeniably cool about someone who breaks the mold. Wangera is doing just that using Jigglypuff. Going into this, I really expected him to tell me that there was some connection between his competitive mentality and his choice of character. That turned out not to be the case, and if anything, Wangera was actually at his least humble when he mentioned his confidence with playing Kirby and Pika. Wangera isn’t an elite player because he plays his favorite character. He simply prefers the challenge of using Jigglypuff, and is skilled enough to do so at the very top.
I think we can learn a lot by comparing Wangera’s answers to his style. He says he doesn’t play to win, yet he plays that extremely defensive, patient style that seems geared around winning at all costs. I think the key to understanding Wangera’s brilliance lies in understanding that apparent contradiction. He does try to win at all costs, but that isn’t where he places the highest importance. The results come second, the effort comes first.
Featured Pic: Wangera after defeating Stranded at Super Smash Con 2016