Tournament veteran. Mentor. Entrepreneur. Visionary. Throughout Street Fighter history, Level Up CEO and co-founder Alex 'Calipower' Valle has worn many hats. His tournament expertise spans a broad selection of titles that include everything from the Street Fighter Alpha series to Street Fighter x Tekken where he's secured Top 8 performances.
Ever wondered about the mantra behind "Rush that s**t down?" Yup, he's the direct influence behind that style of play.
Fast forward to the present, you'll find Valle is still engaged on the competitive front amid running his esports business. We recently caught up with tournament legend to offer his thoughts on the new patch, Akuma, meta changes, his perspective on the North American scene, and more.
What are your thoughts on the Season 2 patch?
SFV Season 2 update is definitely a breath of fresh air for some of the cast and a bit challenging for others. The characters I use, such as Rashid and Juri, got some really interesting buffs which makes them more complete characters. Ryu, on the other hand, went from being one of the best characters in S1 to a neutral position. The reduced damage, distant oki, slower normals, and standing light kick nerf forces Ryu to play at a more cautious pace.
How would you describe the direction for Street Fighter V?
I think the direction Street Fighter V is headed for is a slower neutral game. S1 had many characters that smothered you relentlessly with attacks forcing the same type of Rock, Paper, Scissors game which was difficult to react to. With the system wide changes such as slower normals, minimizing midscreen throw loops, and reduced damage, we’re going to see less sporadic aggression, but poise as players get used to Season 2.
Do you feel the game needs additional sub-systems or combo variances to give it more depth?
As a Street Fighter fan I’d absolutely love to see new sub-systems and more critical arts to give the game depth. But as a competitor, I think we’re not ready yet. Street Fighter V still has issues in it’s core gameplay which still need answers. Are light attack anti airs good for the game? Is having more than 4 frames input lag good for the game? Is every V-Skill and V-Trigger really unique for the cast and do they have great utility? Do normals need bigger hurtboxes? Etc.
When the game is at a good spot overall with the community is when we will probably see new mechanics on the horizon.
Within the first week, players consider Akuma strong in Season 2. What is your impression of the character?
When I first played Akuma at PSX2016 I thought he was easily the strongest DLC character and potentially the game. He doesn’t require one frame links or a stellar fireball game, which is the first barrier to entry for learning him. He is very reminiscent of a Street Fighter 4 character which you can activate V-Trigger off his DP and FB just like FADCs.
After using him during the first week of Season 2 release, it was just like riding a bike if you previously used Ryu or Ken. He has easy link combos which sets him up perfectly for more pressure and does a great deal of damage. He also has one of the best V Triggers in the game with his double air FBs to control the screen into even more pressure. His strengths are great but his weakness is about the same.
The biggest hurdle every Akuma player has to overcome is his 875 health which is about 1-2 mistakes or characters that can force a trade, or cover real estate very well. Characters such as Zangief, Guile, and Dhalsim are tough for him since they have an answer to Akuma’s mobility. Overall I think Akuma is probably at the lower end of the high tier characters right now due to the risk involved playing him.
You've been an avid Rashid main last season. What pocket characters would you potentially consider?
Rashid that S**t Down! LOL!
I made it a point to learn a Street Fighter V character moreso than a traditional character in S1 to reinvent my game. I also picked up Juri towards the end of the Season since she does not play anything like her former Street Fighter IV version but like a brand new fighter. I am continuing this trend with the upcoming unannounced Street Fighter V Season 2 characters. Can’t wait to see even more unique playstyles so I can rush people down with them!
North America demonstrated that they were able to hold its ground against international talent. What are some factors that you feel has contributed to last season's success?
North America has stepped up due to online play and same global release date for SFV. Before online play was taken seriously, highly populated regions with arcades or game centers cultivated the best of the best for years. Japan and other location tests had early versions of Street Fighter which gave those players a clear head start.
Not to say Japan isn’t the best overall region in fighting games still, but we’re starting to see a global skill increase due to everyone grinding online as if they were at the arcades. In North America’s case, we have young talent that has taken online as an important part of their training regimen, such as Nuckledu, which gives him access to strong opponents coast to coast. I expect this trend to continue with even more players not just in North America, but all around the world.
Out of the new generation of players, briefly list a few competitors to watch in 2017.
I’m glad to see a lot of young talent come up in the world of Street Fighter these days. The players I see doing very well in 2017 are Nuckledu, Punk, Vagabond, Mena RD, Chris Tatarian, John Takeuchi, and Phenom, just to name a few. There are many more young guns out there and can’t wait to see their breakthrough performances in Season 2.
Several players recently shared their tier list. Which characters do you consider the strongest?
So far the following characters seem really strong at the moment:
Do you feel the update allows players to play a more reactive, neutral style?
I feel the update impacts characters differently. Ryu and Ken for example has to play more cautiously but Balrog and Laura can continue to play nuts. We are still somewhat playing Season 1 with our characters, which will take a bit of time to adjust to the slower normals and neutral styles.
A small consensus of players are calling for a patch update before CPT begins. What's your take on this?
Very good question [laughs]. Changes to some of the characters were a bit extreme for Ryu, Alex, Nash, and FANG on the nerf side making it more challenging to compete vs the cast. Guile, Urien, and Balrog got amazing buffs on top of their already solid Season 1 gameplay making their Season 2 presence much more of a threat. I’d like to see a small adjustment to some of the cast struggling versus the strong characters.
Where would you like to see SF V a few years from now?
I would love to see Street Fighter V as THE entertainment spectacle where every Premier event is at Stadiums and Capcom Cup is the World Cup celebration. Street Fighter has been featured on ESPN a few times now, Red Bull Proving Grounds [have been held] in major cities across the country, and at the Mandalay Bay Events Center, which gives a glimpse of where we are heading. Mainstream is where some people would like Street Fighter to go, which would give even more opportunities to the scene. As long as grassroots members are still running the events, we will be at a good spot.