Not long ago we conducted a Ninterview with TriForce Johnson, who told us about his journey from being a passionate gamer in the Bronx, New York, to a gaming celebrity famous for being first-in-line for a record number of Nintendo launches. He's far more than a keen video game shopper, however, with multiple world record scores and his own company called Empire Arcadia; the latter runs a successful eSports team, with team members fighting at the top-end of elite competitions in a variety of titles.
One of the team's leading lights is Jason "Mew2King" Zimmerman, who specialised in Super Smash Bros. With this week bringing us a lot of excitement with the Super Smash Bros. Direct for Wii U and 3DS, this was an ideal opportunity to learn more about the competitive eSport Smash scene.
While many of us hope to be good at the games so far and the new entries on the way this Summer and Winter, Zimmerman is currently at elite end of eSports challenging to be number one in the world. When it comes to the intricacies and detail of these games there are few more authoritative voices outside of Nintendo and Masahiro Sakurai's team; Zimmerman's life is devoted to the franchise and, more broadly, Nintendo.
In this interview we learn more about Zimmerman himself, gain insight into the game's technicalities and discuss the continuing rise of eSports.
First of all, can you introduce yourself and give us some background on your gaming history?
My gamer tag is CT|EMP Mew2King, my sponsor is Clash Tournaments and my Pro Gaming team is Empire Arcadia. Since the age of four, I've been obsessed with Nintendo. I beat Super Mario Bros. at age 5, as well as figuring out how to jump over the world 3-3 flagpole. I even got 101% in Donkey Kong Country and 102% in Donkey Kong Country 2 at that age. As a young child in the 2nd grade, when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, my response and goal was to be the “best at Nintendo, Super Nintendo, and Nintendo 64 games".
I've made in depth statistics lists (Mew2King’s Information and Discoveries) and now I’m a strong contender for the number 1 spot in Super Smash Bros. Melee, Brawl and Project M, all at the same time; which is pretty cool. I’m also very good at Mega Man 2.
What were your first memories of playing Super Smash Bros.? When did you realize that it was a game you could master?
I played Smash for fun, not to be the best. However, when I found out about tournaments, I decided I wanted to be the best in the world. It’s simply a matter of finding something you're passionate about.
You compete in all of the Smash Bros. games, which one would you say you are most proficient in?
Overall it has to be Super Smash Bros. Melee. As a whole, I have that game mastered more than anybody and I’m very confident in it. In Brawl, I decided before the game was even released to invest all my time into 1 character. While I’m still considered among the top 3 best players in the world at each game, my OVERALL mastery of Melee is on a much higher level. I am not held back in Brawl because I play the best character, but in Melee my mains are the 4th and 5th best characters (Sheik/Marth).
What are some of your favourite characters to play as in Smash?
Mewtwo, Fox, Sheik, Marth and Meta Knight are my best and favorite 5 characters. Fast characters that can combo and/or edge guard are generally more enjoyable to me. They fit my play style well.
How did you first hook up with Empire Arcadia? What benefits does belonging to a competitive team offer?
I joined Empire Arcadia back in 2009 when Triforce approached me during the Smash tournament at Devastation and asked me if I was a part of any team. I told him no and he asked me if I wanted to join his team. He had a bunch of top players in Empire Arcadia like Justin Wong, Yipes, Sanford and all these other top Marvel players. I thought that it was a good opportunity to start my career in competitive gaming on a known gaming team. One of the benefits for being in Empire Arcadia is the industry, mainstream and social media contacts you open yourself up to.
Since that time I’ve done a lot in the team. I was actually the MVP for EMP last year because I won about 50% of the tournaments the entire team won last year. Guinness World Record updated our award as the most documented tournament winning team in the world. We won 300 tournaments in the 2012 – 2013 season alone and out of that, I won 141 of them; more if you include Project M. Although I’ve won a lot, it’s nice to have teammates that pull their own weight on the team. That’s why I’m glad I have Armada in Empire Arcadia because I’m confident that we’ll be the top team in all the Melee doubles at all the competitions, mainly MLG and MVG.
How many Smash Bros. tournaments will you compete in during an average year?
Every weekend on average, often more.
What kind of prizes are at stake?
The average is about a few hundred a week depending on if they’re local, regional or majors. Every now and then a big tournament like APEX or a league tournament like MLG will come around and put in a few thousands. There is a big tournament coming up in the end of July here in New York called MVG (Most Valuable Gaming: not to be confused with MLG) that will have a couple thousand as well for Smash.
What do you think of the eSports scene in general? Has it matured in recent years?
I think eSports has always been a great thing for competitive gamers like me. I think it’s just as equally as good for me as it is for the casual gamers because they are entertained by the competitions. If you look at eSports from where it started to where it is now, this thing is getting real big. I’m just glad that Smash Bros. is a part of it. Leagues like MLG, EVO and now MVG are all helping to make the game bigger and bigger in competitive gaming.
It’s obvious that eSports has matured significantly over the years compared to the old time arcades competitions. If you look at eSports now, it’s filling up stadiums like Basketball and Football games. I hope that it becomes bigger than athletic sports one day and at this rate, it will happen sooner than later. We even have our own documentaries, like the Smash Bros. Series by Travis Beauchamp. It pretty much goes through the history of some of the top Smash Bros. players to ever compete. MLG did a big project with them where they did a marathon of the series at MLG headquarters on Twitch. These are all good signs and there’s more to come.
How did you come up with the Mew2King handle?
When I first found out about Smashboards, I just made up a name real quick. Over time I got very good at the game and then became famous really fast in the community, so the name stuck. Plus I like Mewtwo.
You have earned the accolade of "The Return of the King" and been called “The Robot” by other competitors — can you tell us more about these nicknames?
I was considered the best at Super Smash Bros. Melee just before Brawl came out after winning so many tournaments. Then on top of that my name has the word “King” in it. Finally my play style was perfect like a robot, so that’s how people ended up giving me those titles.
You’ve gone on the record and said that Melee is a superior game to Brawl in the past for various reasons. Do you still feel this way, and can you outline those reasons?
Yes, it is the superior game competitively. There is more hit stun, which allows for better combos to work. However it’s not so much like Smash 64, that you can't do anything once you’ve been hit. The directional air dodging and wave dashing allows for more possible advanced movement options, which advance players can use. Although you are not required to use it, it simply adds more options to gameplay and fighting.
I have learned things through experience and experimentation. You can also more easily reach your true potential in something if you are passionate about it.
The shield in Super Smash Bros. Brawl is too powerful and is the best option in too many situations. In Melee, with shield stun being a factor, light shielding and being able to angle your shield all made the shield system a bit more balanced. Finally the ledge auto snapping in Brawl is too powerful and diminishes edge guarding a lot. Keep in mind this is all from the opinion of a super competitive point of view and does not reflect what Sakurai-san was going for overall in Brawl.
You have dissected Super Smash Bros. Melee and understand a lot of the finer nuances of the game now. Do you feel this gives a significant advantage over gifted players who have not invested time in such serious research?
In a way I am gifted because my ability to learn is at a faster learning curve than the average person and I've excelled at video games since a young age. It’s a talent I developed over the years since I grew up playing video games to master them. I have learned things through experience and experimentation. You can also more easily reach your true potential in something if you are passionate about it.
Every one of the pro players today have invested a serious amount of time into the game. I invested a lot of time into useless (as far as tournaments go) things in melee, just for fun or as a hobby. I've also learned things through theory craft but the best and easiest way I learned was by playing a lot of different people at a lot of tournaments all the time. Overall it’s a small advantage but not a large one.
What are some of the most surprising things you have discovered about the mechanics of Super Smash Bros. Melee?
I’ve played Melee so much that nothing surprises me really. In tournaments when random stuff happens the most that will happen is that I find it funny, but not surprising.
What would your advice be to novices keen to win in Super Smash Bros. Melee when playing other similarly inexperienced players? Is there any sure-fire way to beat someone else who is not that familiar with the game?
Yes, most less experienced players are far more reliant on simple tactics because their knowledge is limited. An example would be double jumping at the same time (high up usually) during their recovery, or the same approaches every time. Honestly, the simple answer to remedy this problem and get better, is just play a lot. Playing a lot of people gives you the opportunity to experiment and test out all of your ideas vs a wide variety of people. Gaining experience is very useful.
Can you tell us about Project M, with some detail for those unaware of what it is?
Project M is a hack of Smash Brawl to even be considered similar to Melee. Most people who have played both games tend to agree that Melee is the better game so this was a several-year-project to make a balanced and unique version of a new game similar to Melee but with a lot of original changes. It is overall currently the most balanced Smash Bros game to date. Personally for me it’s almost as good as Melee.
You seem to mostly play Melee (GameCube) and Brawl (Wii), though have recently played the N64 title too. Does the original lend itself well to competitive gaming?
I enjoy all Smash games, but I personally don’t enjoy 64 as much as the other 3 instalments. Melee > Project M. > Brawl > 64 to me. However Melee is old so I have not been playing that nearly as much as Project M lately.
You have expressed an interest in helping to design the next Smash Bros game. Given your expertise has Nintendo taken on board any of your suggestions?
I mentioned to Nintendo at E3 last year when I went with TriForce to meet Reggie that I was interested but I never got the chance to give any of my suggestions to Nintendo directly for them to consider anything for the game. All that is probably left now at this point is game testing. I’m interested in testing the game for bugs and stuff like that so I can help in that department since they’ve come so far with the game. However at this point Sakurai-san has done a great job so all that is left to do is test it or even write a strategy guide for the game. I honestly wouldn’t mind helping to write the official strategy for the game.
You have also said that you would like to assist in building the next Pro Controller for Super Smash Bros. Are there any particular issues, in your view, with the current controllers?
I would love to work with a company to help make the next Pro Controller for Super Smash Bros. If anyone has watched how I take care of my controllers it is important that you understand the intricate aspects of how controllers should be handled. To be able to play at the highest level, the quality of your controller can be the difference between a win and a loss. I use my bad controllers or less broken in ones versus most players but then I use my better controllers versus the stronger opponents. I do this so I can preserve my good controllers as long as possible.
If I don’t end up helping to make the next Pro Smash Controller then I honestly think that Nintendo should just recreate the GameCube controller (especially first generation Nintendo brand) and make it for the Wii U. This is what everyone is used to playing on and it is pretty close to perfect. Not only that but it will not alienate all the veteran and casual players who’ve become accustomed to it. If not then at least make a “perfect” official Nintendo adapter so that general smash players can use the GameCube controller on the Wii U.
A lot of players share my view on this and would like something either similar or identical to play Super Smash Bros. Wii U with a Joystick and C stick especially should be similar or the exact same.
Can you share your thoughts on what you have seen of the upcoming Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and 3DS? Does this look set to be the best one yet? Do you have any concerns?
After watching the “Nintendo Direct” coverage of Smash for the 3DS and Wii U, I’m hyped for the release of the game.
After watching the “Nintendo Direct” coverage of Smash for the 3DS and Wii U, I’m hyped for the release of the game. I obviously wish the Wii U version would come out this summer and the N3DS later but I guess Nintendo knows what they’re doing on that. Either way I’ll have to get a Nintendo 3DS now. With all these new characters, modes, stage formats and considerations that Sakurai-san's put into the game, I’m confident that this will be the best Smash Bros. yet. I don’t have any concerns because so far so good by Nintendo. If there was ever any worry it was whether or not Sheik was going to be in the game but Nintendo ended that concern when I saw that she was back.
What do you think of rivals to the Smash Bros series such as PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale? How do they rate in comparison to the Nintendo series?
That game was horrible. No offence, next question please.
What’s your proudest achievement in competitive Smash Bros. gaming to date, and what goals do you have for the future in this area?
There are far too many tournament and set wins for me to just pick out any one in particular. I will be the best at Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and I want to be one of the biggest if not the most popular streamer, both to practice, entertain, and teach others. I eventually want to have a hand in testing Super Smash Bros. Wii U or the 5th instalment of the game.
Are there other franchises that you want to master?
I’m only interested in the Super Smash Bros series for tournaments.
What sorts of games do you play in downtime, when not training for events?
Random old school Mario, Metroid and Zelda games or sometimes new Nintendo games, usually.
For those interested in joining the competitive gaming scene, do you have any advice?
Go to a LOT of tournaments. I can personally try to give tips on my stream too. At www.twitch.tv/mew2king. Play EVERYBODY to gain the MAX experience possible.
Don't listen to haters they will only discourage you. I had a ton when I was starting and I fought through it to get this good and so can you.
Do you have any final messages you’d like to share with our readers?
Thank you Nintendo Life for interviewing me and supporting Super Smash Bros. I want to thank my sponsor Clash Tournaments. I want to thank Most Valuable Gaming (MVG). I want to also thank my pro gaming team Empire Arcadia. I want to thank my teammate Adam “Armada” Lindgren who is one of my closer friends. I want to thank Sky Williams for being there for me and Chibo who has helped me out in a lot of ways because of his streaming. I’m getting closer and closer to my dream to work with Nintendo in some capacity or at least have a direct impact on the next Super Smash Bros.
Thanks to Jason for taking the time to speak to us.
Ninterviews are a series of interviews where we get to know interesting people with a passion for Nintendo. Please contact us if you have any suggestions for future Ninterviews. Click here to see the full series.