Interview with Alex “CaliPower” Valle
I’ve known Alex Valle since 2001, back in CvS1 days. Apart from consistently being one of my favorite players to watch, he’s also been a great friend and mentor. With SF4’s unbelievable popularity, thousands of new players have joined our community – eager to learn, without any access to old stories. I hope this interview sheds some light on how someone like Valle got started and how he got to where he is today.
Maj: Let’s start off with a little background info. What was the first tournament you entered? Do you remember how well you did?
CaliPower: First tourney I entered, I went out in two, lol. It was an original SF2 WW tourney and I lost to a Guile player and a Sim player.
Maj: Nice, Shotos from the start.
Maj: What was the first tournament you won?
CaliPower: I won some random video store SF2 WW tournament that had like 10 people, I think. I didn’t enter tourneys after that until Alpha 1, where I met Watson.
Maj: How’d that go? What did you think of watts when you first met him?
CaliPower: Cocky guy. Couldn’t beat him. Instant ego. All traits of a champion. I was fortunate that my friend introduced me to him, ’cause Watson had a reputation of just clowning your play from day 1. So it wasn’t too bad when he was beating me, since we were formally introduced. =P
Maj: Nice. Yeah, i’ve heard he was pretty much the king of SFA1. Did you want to be friends with him or did you just want to beat him down?
CaliPower: Lol, I just wanted to beat him. Back in the days you couldn’t sleep if you kept losing to someone in SF. It’s like, “Wtf man… I thought I was good…” ‘Cause I was the best player from my arcade, even versus random new players. So Watson was the only guy that just destroyed me – made me play harder.
Maj: What made him so hard to beat?
CaliPower: He prevented me from having fun, or took me out of my game. Strategy was still new to me somewhat. I just had good reaction time and my execution was great. But Watson made sure I couldn’t land any damaging combos or just simply outplayed me in a way to where I felt noobish. When you’re young all you want to do is have fun, and he took that away from me.
Maj: Damn dude, good answer. Before i forget, what was your arcade?
CaliPower: Beach and Warner Arcade in Huntington Beach, RIP. That was before SHGL.
Maj: Including tournaments, money matches, exhibition matches and all that, what do you consider your most impressive results and performances?
CaliPower: I have a lot, lol.
CaliPower: B4 is one of them. My performance in the first Team USA vs Japan. Me vs Daigo in SFA3, back in ’98. I think those are most memorable.
Maj: That first Team USA vs Japan event was insane, by the way. I refreshed SRK a lot that day.
CaliPower: Me vs Daigo in HSF2 and 3S at Evo2k6. There’s a lot, man. Some ECCs too. I clean swept a lot of those tourneys. Or me, watts and Choi cleaned up.
Maj: Yeah, that was back when you were playing Street Fighter as well as Marvel games, Tekken games, basically anything there was to play. What are your most memorable experiences in the fighting game scene?
CaliPower: Every EVO for sure.
Maj: Obviously Evo is always a big deal. Just being there is a blast. But you’ve also done a lot of traveling to tournaments in other states and countries, right?
CaliPower: Participating in the Bang The Machine documentary was truly a great time. We got to meet the Japanese players on a more personal level. Also, anytime I visit NorCal ’cause thats where my traveling started (in SFA2 B3 days). And of course, SHGL days. =(
I’m trying to bring back those days, but as more of a training session. ‘Cause that’s what SHGL was: the Navy Seals of SF training.
Maj: Man, i’ve got to say, B3 Finals between you and Choi is still probably my favorite tournament footage ever, and i didn’t even see any of it until years after it happened.
CaliPower: Well to be honest, Choi was my ONLY competition. And the match was epic of course. I just felt like I wanted more comp.
Maj: Watching that tape, there’s definitely a huge difference between the matches involving everyone else and the matches between you two.
CaliPower: Not saying Choi isn’t enough, but I wanted to see other great players of our caliber. I could beat top players in my sleep during those days.
Maj: Well, it seemed like most of the other top players were only there because they knew how to play Hyper Fighting really well, but didn’t quite understand A2. But when you and Choi played, the amount of tension and respect is amazing. It seemed like neither of you ever landed a hit that wasn’t 100% earned. This was back when the NorCal vs SoCal rivalry was at its peak, right?
Maj: Before you and Choi became friends?
CaliPower: Yeah, lol. It wasn’t ’til like 1997. MWC is when we became friends.
Maj: Some people have said that everyone becoming friends kind of hurt the competitive scene.
CaliPower: It’s a myth. I see players every Wednesday night, hungry as fuck – and we’re all friends today. After Choi and I became friends, me/Choi/watts ruled the late ’90s to early 2000s. Grudges make you play harder too, but they’re unecessary in my opinion.
Maj: When you enter multiple games in a major tournament, how do you keep them all straight?
CaliPower: That depends on your practice regimen. You have to keep up with every game, all the new findings etc. Raw talent is not enough to do this. I practiced about 8-12 hours a day in my youth.
CaliPower: Execution is part of the training regimen. If you enter multiple games seriously in a tourney, you have to prepare for every change.
Play some warm-up matches before your real match, if you can. “Warm-up matches” is such a common sense answer, though. And it doesn’t explain the work beforehand to truly prepare for multi games.
Maj: And if you don’t get the chance to play warm-ups, there’s no tricks or shortcuts, huh?
CaliPower: Heh, nope. That’s your fault if you dont prepare. Like pro athletes before the big game – stretching, jogging, etc.
Maj: What was the hardest match you ever played while at the top of your game? (Trying to play an old game for the first time in two years doesn’t count.)
CaliPower: The hardest matches are against the Japanese in 3S, lol. They’re just too good at that game!
Maj: Everyone knows you made your name with SFA2, basically going undefeated in tournament play all the way up until after SFA3 was released. Looking back, which specific games have been your strongest?
CaliPower: My strongest games during my prime were SFA2/SFA3, SF3/2I, Tekken 3, SFEX1/2, and XvSF.
Maj: Which ones were your favorite to play?
CaliPower: A2/A3 and Tekken 3.
Maj: How about now?
CaliPower: I like SF4 and Tekken 6 right now.
Maj: It’s pretty much impossible to talk about SFA2 Ryu and ST Ryu without your name coming up. Very few people have won tournaments in as many different games as you have. Which characters would you say you’ve mastered?
CaliPower: I’ve mastered Shotos on just about every Street Fighter since the Alpha series. And Gief on A2. =)
If I had to go against the grim reaper I would use Akuma from vanilla ST, lol.
Maj: Before you won your first SFA2 tournament, the big names in the US fighting game scene were guys like Mike Watson, Jeff Schaeffer, Jason Nelson, and John Choi. Suddenly you showed up onto the scene and these guys stopped winning tournaments. What did you have that they didn’t have?
CaliPower: Good question. I believe the Alpha series catered to my style of play (rush down aggressive). Being aggressive opens doors with those games where I could innovate with new discoveries such as “Valle CC” from A2 or “Alex Combo” from A3 – that’s what the Japanese called the knockdown reset combo I did on Daigo during A3 World Championships. The Golden Era OGs were pioneers for their time, but I felt it was my time during Alphas.
Maj: Why did you quit MvC2?
CaliPower: Real life started catching up to me at the time, so I moved on from playing games for a while. My mini-retirement phase. I couldn’t play a game much longer knowing there’s no time to practice.
CaliPower: I was disappointed at first when I played it. I wanted to see new innovative things for this game but it seemed very slow and basic. Being a gamer, we critique games unfairly these days because we had to endure the worst games and make them fun. So expectations are very high. As I continued playing this basic game, it became clear to me that the things I loved in the past are actually here. Why mess with a good formula?
Maj: Which characters would you recommend to a beginner or someone who’s played fighting games casually before but wants to get serious with SF4?
CaliPower: I would recommend the character that relates to their personality. Next, the player has to find their strengths and weaknesses to develop a strategy. Street Fighter is a game to find out what kind of player you are, then apply what you know without messing up. =)
Maj: If you could re-enter any one tournament for $500, would you do it?
CaliPower: Haha A3 World Championships for sure!! Daigo and I were supposed to play another match but we ran out of time. =(
Maj: With the exception of MvC2 and a few other titles, Japan has been dominating the Street Fighter tournament circuit for a long time. What do you think it would take for an American player to win the marquee game at this year’s Evolution and SBO events?
CaliPower: Street Fighter 4 is nowhere near 3S to compare Japan’s dominance. With that said, I believe we’re not too far away from taking this game from them. 2010 will be our year!
Maj: As the man who coined the phrase “rush that shit down” what do you say to someone who wants to play an aggressive style in a defensive-minded game like SF4?
CaliPower: Rush down like this is the last Street Fighter game you will ever play!
Alex “CaliPower” Valle has placed within top 8 at ten Evolution tournaments, in addition to winning the historic B3 SFA2 tournament and becoming overall B4 tournament champion. As founder of the Level|Up group, Valle will be making his debut as tournament director at the SoCal Level|Up Tournament on Feburary 27th, 2010 at the Block at Orange.