Favorite Fighter Profiles: Zeku ft. BushinStyle & Sanford Kelly

Favorite Fighter Profiles: Zeku ft. BushinStyle & Sanford Kelly

The 38th Successor of the Bushinryu Ninjitsu School via Street Fighter V

Street Fighter V's final DLC character of Season Two gave the game a unique twist: A practitioner of Bushinryu with the ability to control his aging. However, SFV wasn’t this fighter’s first fighting game appearance--this ninja first appeared in Street Fighter Alpha 2 as a non-playable character, as the tutor to Guy. Zeku is the 38th successor of the Bushinryu Ninjutsu School, and is well-known for bending the rules. After refusing to kill his master, as the school’s statues warranted, he went on to create his own flair on the school’s traditional Ninjutsu style by implementing Taijutsu tactics. After reaching middle age, he decided to take on a successor, and came upon Guy as he was being ambushed by a group of thugs in an American city. After training Guy and dubbing him the 39th successor of Bushinryu, Zeku disappeared, only to return in SFV looking for a use for his traditional techniques in the modern world. Near the end of his story, Zeku decides upon the name “Striders” for a new, modernized style, implying that Zeku also begat Capcom’s “Striders” group. The story costume for his Younger iteration likewise suggests this development, leading to some interesting theories from fans. Zeku is more than a stance-changing character--his two modes essentially render him two characters in one, providing an intriguing and challenging addition to the SFV cast. I spoke with notable Zeku mains Sanford Kelly and BushinStyle to get their take on the party-going Ninja, and to see how he measures up against the rest of his peers.
What about Zeku appeals to you, personally? Is it his design, personality, story, playstyle, or all of the above? Sanford Kelly: I like that he has two forms, meaning different styles he can apply in a match up. I can express my gameplay in different ways, meaning Old form with some zoning, then with young being strong offense against characters with no reversal or 3f attack button. In my opinion, he's the coolest looking character in SFV, and is currently the sole reason I play it. BushinStyle: His unique design and party-going personality makes him really interesting, and makes him stand out from the rest of the cast. His honest rushdown is very fun as well. All of the above for sure. He is awesome. You’ve had a troubled relationship with Zeku--you’ve gone back and forth from maining him to kicking him to the curb. Explain this relationship, and why you can’t officially keep him as your primary fighter. Sanford Kelly: I choose Zeku because he's a complex character to use effectively. You're required to be extremely on-point with him, and that's a challenge for me as a player to overcome. I've been discouraged using him at times losing due to him not having a strong V-Trigger. I've been trying to work my way around that by LANDING the V-Trigger only when I have super stocked. This way, I can close out rounds and do good damage. Zeku is a struggle but so rewarding for me when I win! You don’t just main Zeku--you also put in major work with Rashid, as well. What are the differences between the two that cause you to pick one over another? What’s your counter-picking strategy with these two fighters? BushinStyle: My gamertag in tournaments has been BushinStyle ever since I entered the scene 6 years ago. I chose this name because I love the Bushin fighting style, and Guy from other Street fighter games was my favorite growing up. His ninjitsu was unmatched. Former student to Zeku. I loved Rashid for many reasons. One was, it is my last name, plus his rushdown reminded me of Guy a little. His goofiness was funny and trollish too, which I loved. I picked up Zeku afterwards because of my handle in tournaments being BushinStyle and to continue the trend since there is no Guy (YET) in this game. Over a month, I started to love Zeku more than Rashid, and decided to make the switch despite all my success with Rashid at WNF and other events. I was focused on making Zeku work when no one else thought he was good (pre-3.5 patch). Since I dropped Rashid completely to focus on Zeku, my counter-picking strategy is using old or young zeku more in a matchup, dependent on which version does better. If neither does well, I just rough it and learn from it to hopefully make the impossible matchups feel possible. Remember, It is always the player that makes the character, and not the other way around. I have faith that he can get it done as long as you play solid. Zeku is a new character, released in SFV as DLC. As a practitioner of Bushinryu style ninjutsu and Guy’s master, it makes sense that he’d have sneaky ninja tactics good for mixups. How does he match up with the rest of the cast? Do you feel that he’s a good fit for SFV? Sanford Kelly: I feel Zeku has always been a solid character, but it takes a PRO to get great results with him. Most pros would rather use a better and easier character, considering how tough the competition is at these Capcom Pro Tour events. I'd say Zeku is currently mid-tier, and can fare decently against the cast in SFV Season 3.5. BushinStyle: He has about 8-9 bad matchups that he struggles pretty bad in. Otherwise, he has a lot of even matchups, or him slightly winning a match up. He has a few clear winning match ups too, but more even-ish or slightly winning than anything else. He has the tools to fight the entire cast, but utilizing them right and being on point with it is the key to overcoming any match up with him. Originally, he didn't have all the good stuff the top tiers have. However, he still fits very well with the system for how different he is to the entire cast. For one, being two characters in one is a big thing that goes unnoticed. Being able to change play styles and moves on the fly is a unique and cool aspect that can throw people off. Zeku was popularly regarded as a weak character upon release, but recent buffs in Season 3.5 have players feeling optimistic. What do you feel are Zeku’s greatest strengths and weaknesses in this season? How did you feel about his performance previously? Sanford Kelly: Zeku was only "weak" in SFV S2 because of how strong the top tiers were. He was basically nerfed from S2 to S3 because of VT damage scaling. In SFV Season 3.5, the scaling is still there, but now he's got stance-changing combos that lead into better positions for setups. This version is the best he's looked so far I'd say, but it's also the toughest Zeku to use so far optimally. His strengths are his ability use so many situations to his advantage. The stance-changing sets up continuous pressure on their wake up and control with a life lead. BushinStyle: His strengths are character unfamiliarity to the players playing against him, the two characters in one constantly changing the approach and gameplay of the match ups, his damage and stun output is very high in both forms, and he has very good set ups in both forms as well. He has good Anti Airs as Old Zeku with an invincible DP option on wake-up, which is handy. Young form has a delayed back-rise to throw peoples meaty timings off, along with a 3 frame jab. His weaknesses are people who can out-neutral him, people with good fireball/keep away game like Guile, Menat, and Akuma to name a few. He has a lot of pushback on his normals, which can make it hard to convert counter hit combos at times with both forms. His previous performance was very underutilized, even to this day. There is SOOO much to learn with both his forms and it only motivates me to continue the discoveries and learn more and more tech to help in matches. His performance will improve over time as more and more people stick it out with him and learn more. Zeku’s V-Trigger 2 is widely regarded as one of the worst in the game. Why is this? How does it compare to his V-Trigger 1? Sanford Kelly: Zeku’s VT2 was buffed and nerfed at the same time, in my opinion. In SFV Season 3, it took 180 [damage], but only had 1 use. Now, it takes 140 with two uses, and has a timer for the 2nd use. It being 140 damage is good for getting out of the corner and positioning but bad for closing out rounds. He can't really kill with VT2. If it did 180 like it used to and had two uses, then I feel I'd be good. Right now I don't think VT2 is good. VT1 is a lot better, because you can cancel any attack into special move and you have way better confirms. You also have Slide into VT1 activation in Young! BushinStyle: It doesn't do much damage, it scales when combo'd into. As an anti air, it works well for Young Zeku as he is lacking good consistent anti air options, but at a certain distance in the air, it will whiff, causing you to get punished. Mainly when the opponent is right above the middle of your head, it will whiff. It doesn't have any invincibility on start up either. His V-Trigger 1 is better, as you get a free slide into its activation which is plus on block giving you a lot of options afterwards, good damage on the combo you get from its activation while in its trigger state, and just overall better uses. Only downside to VT1 is that it is only a one time use as oppose to a two time use like VT2. What are some of Zeku’s most difficult matchups, and how do you handle them? What is your winning strategy? Sanford Kelly: F.A.N.G. has always been a tough MU for me because of his buttons and him having a lead when I'm poisoned. I try to get the lead first, then let him approach me. Zangief is tough for me due to Gramps not being enough to keep him out a whole round. Young gets mauled and jumped in on. I do the best that i can to keep him away! Akuma can be difficult for me, too. BushinStyle: Guile - I have to play super patient, hardly jump as he can flash kick me, and super smart with what buttons I stick out. I use Young in this match up because of his mobility and good rushdown when he gets in, causing Guiles to resort to DP'ing with Flash Kick. Menat - VERY hard to get in when she throws her orb out. Same strategy as the Guile match up essentially. Good thing is that when you do get in on her, she doesn't have an invincible reversal. Akuma - Air fireballs give Zeku trouble. Only when he has meter, he can EX DP his air fireballs with Old causing the fireball to dissipate while also hitting him. Generally, you have to rely on Young in this match up to overwhelm Akuma. Old can't really do anything in the match up outside EX DP. Also, Akuma's EX Demon Flip gives both Zeku forms a lot of trouble and forces him to guess between overhead, low, and grab, all of which are plus (unless grab whiffs). These are a few of many hard matchups he has to deal with, but ultimately not impossible if the player using Zeku is playing super solid. It all depends on the match up, but generally, I LOVE to rushdown and assert my dominance over the opponent to scare him. Once I have a game lead, I am able to switch it up and play more defensively causing the opponent to switch up what he thought he needed to do to adapt only to have to adapt again. Changing up the pace and flow of the match can work wonders even in bad matchups. If you could give Zeku a buff, what would it be, and why? Sanford Kelly: I'd give Zeku a far low that you can cancel into a special move. He has trouble with characters having fast walk-back speed and back-dashing. Him also having the original 180 damage VT2 with now two uses would be great as well. I see no real reason to currently use VT2 over VT1. Young Zeku needs a way to effectively stop jumps and do decent damage, at least. BushinStyle: If I can only choose one of the many buffs I would like, I would choose to have two uses for VT1 as opposed to one use of it. Makes it more deadly and helps when you need an ace in the hole from a life deficit that you need to come back from. This would very much improve his comeback factor and only make him more solid than he already is.
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