We have a new challenger approaching! Some people may have speculated this, but we’re finally signing a new player for SSBM! Brought up in a small area in California, the 20 year old Azel, who is a Fox and Sheik main, will be representing us in upcoming tournaments.
A little history lesson on SSBM. The game released in 2001 and is the second instalment of the SSB series. It has sold 7.09 million copies as of 2008 making it the best selling GameCube game. The game received an abundant amount of attention and was included in the roster of games in the well known organizations everyone knows as MLG and EVO. The major tournaments ran from 2004 to 2018 and was eventually dropped by EVO in 2019, but TO’s around have been able to sustain the competitive scene since then.
Azel has some interesting stories to share as we now move on to the interview segment!
Could you give us an introduction of yourself?
Hi! My name is Joseph and my tag is Azel. I am a Super Smash Bros. Melee player and I have been playing competitively since around early 2015. I'm currently 20 years old, so I've been playing and attending events since I was around 13 years old. Despite living in California, which is widely known to have one of the biggest scenes in the Smash community, I actually come from a much smaller region. While I am considered to be part of NorCal or Northern California, my actual region is much further as I live out in the Central Valley of Cali, in which there are a few amount of players present. I am currently a Fox and Sheik main in Melee, but actually started out as a Falco player for the first three years of me playing competitively. As a Falco player, I was able to achieve some success by reaching the Top 100 in 2018, in which I was literally ranked #100 on the MPGR2018 list.
Who is your least favorite matchup?
So in terms of my least favorite matchup in Melee, I actually enjoy playing against and even as all characters. I enjoy playing all of them when I'm not competing and just playing for fun. Though, I will say that there are matchups in which I struggle in at the moment due to lack of experience and knowledge. These matchups specifically are fighting against Peach and Falco. Since my region has never really had any local Peaches for me to practice against, I would struggle a lot simply due to inexperience. And with Falco, I've just been trying to learn how to fight against him since switching mains. When I played as Falco, I considered myself to be pretty decent at the ditto so it actually became more difficult when I switched to Fox. Now, even though these are my toughest matchups, I still enjoy them a lot and will improve at them for sure!
How did you get into fighting games? Was SSBM always your go to fighting game?
So, as a kid, I grew up primarily playing Nintendo games, so I enjoyed playing Mario, Pokémon, etc. I was first introduced to Smash through Brawl, which I played casually for many years. Later on when Smash 4 for the Wii U/3DS came out, I obviously wanted to play those games a lot too. I remember playing online for the first time on For Glory and getting absolutely destroyed. This was the moment that I decided that I really wanted to get better at the game. So, a friend of mine pointed me towards a website called Anther's Ladder, where there was online matchmaking and people could play against each other using the competitive ruleset. This was also the point in which I started learning more about the competitive scene and watching videos of tournament matches. Now, at some point, I had come across videos of Melee gameplay, and while I had played it a bit as a kid, I had no idea of the possibilities that this game had. The techniques, such as wave dashing and l-canceling were all things that I didn't know existed. The combos and movement that this game had were things that I had never seen before and as a Smash 4 player, I was just so intrigued because none of this was possible in the game that I was currently playing. This was when I decided to look into the Melee scene more and I wanted to learn how to play Melee competitively. So, basically I went and got a netplay setup and started to just play Melee on Anther's Ladder and was immediately hooked.
Since you have played for over 7 years, it must have been eventful. What were the most notable events and rivalries you've come across?
The person who actually introduced me to the local scene in the Central Valley was Spark. In 2015, we met each other through Anther's Ladder and because you could have your city/state present when looking for matches, he noticed that I lived relatively close to him. He then told me about local tournaments happening in our area and this was when I actually went to my first ever event. It was a tournament at a card shop and I actually had to get my parents to drive me out to it. They were very suspicious at first because it was in kind of a not so great location, but I was just elated to see Melee setups with actual people playing because at that point, I spent the majority of time playing on netplay, so I never really got to play Melee with anyone in person. Anyway, for this being my first ever tournament, I actually performed pretty well. I ended up getting third out of, I wanna say around maybe 15 people or so? It was the also the first time that I got prize money for something. It was like, $10 or something that I won, but it's the most memorable $10 I've ever gotten so I'll take it lol. Spark was at this event and he ended up taking first, and this was basically the beginning of our friendship/rivalry I guess you could say. We've played at countless events and we would play a good amount on netplay as well. I definitely consider him to be my closest friend in the community and it's thanks to him that I was able to discover this amazing scene.
In terms of notable events, I've had quite a few. I'd say that 2018 was the beginning year of me actually improving a lot. I actually went from being unranked in NorCal to being ranked in the region, shortly after winning the NorCal Arcadian, which was a tournament for unranked players. I remember winning a good amount of money, like around 600 bucks or so, and getting my first ever trophy for a Melee tournament. Following that, I became ranked top 100 in the world after going to some larger events later in the year. So that year was definitely notable for me.
With the controversies around Nintendo handling tournaments as well as any other situation, what drives you to continue pursuing this game?
What drives me to continue pursuing Melee, despite whatever circumstances arise, is simply just the love of the game. To me, improving at Melee is one of the best feelings ever and almost nothing can really compare.
Do you have anything you would like to say to the community?
Well, I'm very thankful for the opportunity to be a part of the Rectify organization and I'm extremely excited to be able to compete as much as possible for the remainder of this year. Melee will forever be a passion of mine and I can only be but appreciative of the fact that this is allowing me to further pursue it!