JDCR Uncut: Talks Tekken 7 hiatus, Akuma, living in Spain, USA Top 5 and more
If you ask most people to name their top five Tekken players, you can almost guarantee that HyunJin ‘JDCR’ Kim will be on that list. He won just about every major tournament for Tekken Tag Tournament 2, jet-setting all around the world collecting trophies, checks, signing autographs and taking group selfies. He is beloved and seen by many as “the people’s champ.” But Tekken 7 has been out for two years, and there has been little sign of JDCR. Some think he has retired and has rode off into the sunset. We wanted to know as well, so we caught up with him to see what he’s been up to. Grab a cup of coffee and check it out.
JDCR, thank you so much for agreeing to this interview. What have you been up to these days?
Hello, you’re welcome. I just moved to Spain and am going to be staying here for a few months. I’m going to participate in a few tournaments in Europe, and I’m looking forward to it. (laughs)
It seems as if you have been taking a little break from Tekken and not playing as much as you used to. Why is that that?
Yes, I have been taking a break. There are a few reasons why. First and foremost, Tekken 7 is not yet on consoles, and there aren’t that many tournaments for it yet. Second, personally I feel online Tekken is little bit boring. I say that because I’m always facing the same few players that have the same rank as me. Top players are always playing the same people over and over. We could create new accounts and start over, but people hate it and usually don’t want to do it because it’s like killing weaker players. So, I really don’t think the rank system fits with arcades. As well, I guess some people have quit because online is little bit laggy, and I feel that as well. Anyway, many people have stopped playing T7, and it makes me not want to play it. Plus, the arcade scene is dying, especially in terms of fighting games. So, unfortunately, with no console release yet, and with arcades dying, it’s just not fun to play right now. Probably with a big tournament, or when Tekken 7 comes out on consoles I’ll focus on it in a big way again.
I don’t think anyone has ever asked you this, but what have your parents and family thought of your career as a professional Tekken player?
I think there is no tekken ‘pro’ player and I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a “pro” player, but they always support me in what I’m doing. They especially like the way I get to travel around the world for Tekken.
I know that you started playing fighting games in the 1st grade. How did you become good at playing Tekken?
Yes, that’s true. And I started playing Tekken when I was 13 years old. The first time I won a tournament was when I was 22 or 23 years old. At that time I was very inexperienced with playing in tournaments, and I was also on Army duty in Korea. So, I didn’t take tournaments that seriously at the time. But, I ended up winning this very big tournament, and after that is when I started getting more into Tekken and participating in more tournaments.
Several people have been saying that TTT2 is becoming dead. Why do you agree? If so, why has it died?
Of course, it is dying, and I guess it’s because of Namco’s policy, the way they release the game. Many Asian countries get Tekken 7 before everyone else and as a result they get to play the “new” game before others get to. I think its fine in a sense because Namco needs to test the game before they make the real Tekken 7. But, in this way, it is causing people to lose their interest in playing TTT2. They literally have to play the old game and just watch others play the new game. Honestly, it’s been a long time since TTT2 released and, naturally, it may be the time players start to lose their interest.
From a tournament organizers perspective, it’s not a good time for TTT2 either. Also, EVO is having a Tekken 7 tournament? That’s not fair at all. I’m not saying that Namco is completely wrong, but I don’t understand why they focus so much on arcades today. For example, unlike Namco, Capcom stopped focusing on arcades and actually released a beta version on console. Anyone was able to play it. I think this is the better option to push new games rather than just organizing tournaments like the Tekken Tour.
I remember watching the Top 8 of TTT2 at Final Round and you came into the Twitch chat. Someone asked you why you weren’t in the Tekken 7 tournament, and you said “Not playing T7 at the moment.” I’ve seen Saint, Knee and others travelling internationally to Tekken 7 tournaments. Why have you chosen not to play Tekken 7 right now?
Even though they travel and participate in international tournaments, the tournaments are pretty small. Tournaments right now aren’t worth considering when you factor in flight/travel costs. It’s tough to travel without a sponsor, and not only for me but everyone. As I said earlier, the Korean arcade scene for Tekken is becoming dead, so I have lost interest a little bit.
Are you looking forward to Tekken 7: Fated Retribution, and what are your thoughts on what you have seen of it so far?
I haven’t watched Tekken 7 Fated Retribution videos much, but I’m interested in the new systems and how players will make use of it. New systems at first always look awkward, but then later become interesting points. Akuma looks interesting. He really looks cool! (laughs)
Bandai Namco shocked everyone when they revealed that Akuma was in T7FR. Were you just as surprised?
When they revealed him, at first I thought he looked ridiculous! (laughs) I didn’t understand “why” he was in Tekken. But now I think Namco probably wants to get new players from other fighting games. Since Akuma is kind of a popular character in the fighting game scene, I think it will work well to get newbies. Technically, it might not make sense to see a Street Fighter character in Tekken, but personally I don’t care. He looks cool and fun to play.
Did you see any video of Anakin using Akuma against Speedkicks? He used him very well, and made him look lots of fun to use. How do you think Akuma will affect the gameplay in Tekken, especially since he plays exactly like a Street Fighter character? Would you use him?
Yes, I watched him playing Akuma. I don’t know how he is so good with Akuma already. It’s as if he has played with him before. (laughs) Well, since I haven’t played him, I have no idea about that. But, him being in the game shouldn’t affect Tekken too much. In every Tekken series Namco reveals their new system and characters. It looks awkward at first, but later one it always works well and the game is nice. So, it’s going to be nice as always. Of course I will use him. New character!
I remember you saying in an interview a few years ago that TTT2 made top players and average players even because of the Tag system. With Tekken 7 Fated Retribution, do you think top players will dominate once again?
I think I said that in the beginning of TTT2. Now I think differently. What I see now is that technically better players have an advantage when playing against a weaker player. I mean, you basically use two characters instead of one, and so you have chance to see the game much deeper, finding out more about the opponent. So it’s kind of long game, and long game is good for stronger players. It’s like bonus life in Mario series.
Concerning the tag system, I thought at first it would be random, which is bad for stronger players. But as time went on, it turned out that everybody had different points of view about tag. Stronger players always had knowledge about how to tag more effectively than the weaker ones. Still, tag combos make too much damage, and that works in the favor of weaker players. But like I said, I think differently now. TTT2 was good for stronger players, especially long term.
I’ll give you a good example. In T6BR, Americans beat Korean players in tournaments often. Period. But that didn’t happen much in TTT2 tournaments. And one reason is because we made use of the tag system much more proficiently, and in this one way we maintained a more competitive edge.
Shouldn’t playing solo make the game easier? Or does it make it harder? Why?
It depends on the players’ skill level. For a newbie who just started, solo is an easier way to get used to the game. With the tag system, you have to pick your sub character and need be knowledgeable of frames, tag, combos, etc. For top players who want to win more substantially, I guess tag is better. During the era of solo Tekken games like T5 and T6BR, I sometimes witnessed top players losing to the weaker ones. Not much, but it happened. But I don’t think that happens much at all in TTT2 tournaments.
Personally, I’m looking forward to playing solo. I like the tag system, but I believe I’ll like solo much better. Which do you prefer?
Honestly, I don’t care either way. But for sure, I think a solo Tekken game will help it do well, and become more popular. Solo makes the game much easier for people to play and learn.
Some pro Tekken players have been playing Street Fighter V recently, such as Knee, Nin, and there was even a Street Fighter Crash recently. Do you play Street Fighter, and have you ever thought about playing it professionally?
I thought about playing it, but no, I’ve never played it before. But play professionally? Well, I never thought about it seriously because I think it would be very hard. But, maybe I will try later just for fun.
I saw a picture that you posted on your Facebook page after Final Round 19. It looked like a picture of a hotel lobby and the caption said “Miss ATL.” Were you in Atlanta during Final Round? 19? If so, why did you not enter the tournament? Or was that an old picture?
Yes, it was a hotel lobby of Hilton Hotel, but no, I was not there. It was an old picture. I knew that Final Round 19 was going on, and some friends where there. I have fond memories of Final Round and Atlanta. I literally missed ATL at that moment, so I posted it. (laughs)
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The TTT2 grand finals at Final Round 19 between Speedkicks and El Negro was very, very good. Speekicks won two matches, but then El Negro won 5 matches straight and almost won the tournament. Did you see it? It looks like Speedkicks is on the rise to be one of the best American Tekken players. What do you think of him as a Tekken player?
I didn’t watch the whole match up, but I know he came back – so nice! To be honest though, there isn’t much I can say about SpeedKicks because we haven’t played that much. But considering his recent achievements, he looks to definitely be one of the best American players right now. He is young, so he will keep his position as one of the top players in the future as well.
A few years ago in an interview with Aris of Avoiding the Puddle, you named Anakin, Mr. Naps, Bronson, NYC Fab, Kor and Fighting GM as the best American players. Is that list still the same? Many now think Inkog, Kodee and Speedkicks should be included. Who would you say are the top 5 now in 2016?
It’s not the same. I named those mainly because I had much experience with them from Tekken 6 BR. Things have changed a lot since then. Now it looks like some of them have retired and/or don’t travel anymore. So, technically in 2016 it should be different. And it’s probably as you said – Inkog, Kodee and SpeedKicks. But to be honest, I still think those six players you named are more impressive to me. I say that because when I traveled to America and saw them playing for the first time (MLG Dallas), it was so impressive. It could have been due to me not really knowing much about them back then, but from what I remember they played really well. And they won some tournaments that had a few Koreans in them. But, they are now older and have quit, maybe because of life responsibilities and such. But I would like to see them playing again.
You will be going to Spain soon, and staying for an extended time. I hope you enjoy it and that all goes well. What made you decide to stay in Spain for a while? Do you have family and friends there?
I am currently in Spain. Travelling the world, I always wanted to live outside of Korea. It was one of my life’s goals. Of course, it’s tough to live somewhere you don’t know, but I have friends here and they helped me a lot. I can’t say what I’m exactly I’m doing here, but it’s not only for vacation. I was worried about living cost, but I heard that there are some European tournaments going on soon, so hopefully I will win the tournaments! (laughs)
What is the Tekken scene like in Spain? Do they have any fierce competition there? Who are some of the top players there?
I’m not sure, but honestly it looks like the scene is not very active, but there are some tournaments going on. Last year there was a good tournament called Tekken World, and there is a tournament called Arkham Digital Fighting Tournament in May as well. So, of course I’m going to join. (laughs) The top players here? Hmm, I actually only know Caiper who plays Lars and Feng. I think he is the only one who travels from Spain.
If you decide to live there permanently (in Spain), do you believe you could help the Tekken scene become better because a world class player lives there that others can play and lear from?
If I lived here permanently, I think I could. Tekken is such a complicated game that it’s hard to get better playing alone. But by playing with someone better it’s going to be fine and mostly fun. I’m bad at teaching though! (laughs)
Many Tekken players around the world want to improve and get better at the game. What tips would you have for them? Can playing against higher level players help you improve your skills in Tekken?
I think so. But a little bit higher than you. If you play with someone A LOT higher than you, it’s going to be hard to find your leaks and improve your skills. So play with someone on the same level as you or little bit higher.
People probably want to know more about JDCR outside of Tekken. I know I would. So I’m going to ask you some random questions that you can quickly answer. Have you ever been in love?
Of course, so many times. I fall in love so easily. haha.
Do you excercise or workout?
Yes, probably three times a week. Not seriously.
What do you do for fun besides play Tekken?
Usually hang out with friends or listen music. Not Korean music though, they suck. I don’t play any other games.
Can you sing? Good?
I think I’m fine. My friends think I suck.
What is your favorite color?
Navy, black, white, grey, and orange.
What is your favorite food?
Korean BBQ, hot soup, Japanese sushi, a bowl of rice served with toppings, ramen. I’m a fan of Asian food.
What is your favorite drink?
Coffee or beer.
Do you have a favorite TV show or movie?
I don’t watch television, but my favorite movies are Saw 1, Dark Knight, Lord of the Rings, Gravity, Memories of Murder (Korean), The Classic (Korean)
Who is your favorite band or music artist?
Nightwish, and Avicii.
Do you like to shop for clothes?
Yes, I love it.
Do you drive? Can you drive?
I don’t drive yet. I can, but you don’t need to drive living in the central of Korea.
If you didn’t play Tekken, what else would you be doing?
Well, that’s very, very hard to answer. Maybe I would have normal job. I don’t know which field though.
Thank you again for doing this interview JDCR! Hopefully we will see much more of you when Tekken 7 Fated Retribution comes out. Have a safe trip to Spain, and hopefully you’ll win the tournament! I believe you will. Any last words?
This was such a great interview! Thank you for reading and I hope to see you guys in future events!
Oh, one last question! What does Saint think of your being in Spain? Isn’t he like your best friend?
He feels pretty sad. (laughs)