By: The Dark Gentleman
“Nothing is a free win.”
Hello 64 fans! This is part three of my interview series, Philosophy Corner with The Dark Gentleman, hosted by The Smash Writers. Below is the best of my conversation with BarkSanchez, just in time for Lets Go! The consistently dangerous Pikachu main will be defending his region later on this week.
Dark Gentleman: Bark! Let’s talk a little bit about how you got into competitive 64. How did you get your start?
BarkSanchez: That’s a weird kind of question because if you’re talking competition, I didn’t get into the scene until the end of 2014 when Shears made his famous craigslist post. He basically posted an angry ranting challenge that read something like, “I’m a Smash God in 64, if you can beat me I’ll give you twenty bucks.”
Dark Gentleman: So you really did find out about the greater Smash 64 scene by seeing a craigslist post?
BarkSanchez: Yea basically before that my brother, Darkhorse, and I had been going to a weekly bar tournament with widescreen TVs etc. They had Smash 64 and a lot of other classic games. There was a guy there called “Teflon Ron” who they called the “Smash King.” DarkHorse beat him pretty badly and they started calling [Darkhorse] the “Kingslayer.” That was pretty much the extent of our competitive experience before one of the players at the bar found Shears’s craigslist post. He was basically like, “You guys can beat this guy, right?”
Dark Gentleman: You’re lucky enough to have a brother who is also high level at 64. How much did playing with him in the early days impact your future competitive mindset?
BarkSanchez: Darkhorse and I have been competing against each other our whole lives. We always wanted to beat each other and he always had the upper hand. I’ve always kind of attributed my style to playing with him. He’s very mind game oriented which helped me develop a strong mental game. Earlier on he used to mop the floor with me. You think of all the top players in 2014 when we started, those core top players like Isai, Boom, Tacos, Wizzrobe…they’ve been playing competitively for so long. If we had that level of talent that long ago I’m curious as to where we’d be now.
Dark Gentleman: I’m sure there’s a lot of players out there right now who feel the same. I know I do. That depth of experience just counts for so much.
BarkSanchez: I think if Darkhorse travelled to as many tournaments as I do he would be much closer to my level. Travelling and playing many different players can give anyone a huge advantage. I think that’s why so many people are going to online 64 now since it gives them exposure to more high level players and that really helps.
Dark Gentleman: You are one of the most travelled players in the current meta. Having played so many people, how has that changed your style? How would you describe your gameplay in 2017?
BarkSanchez: Well Revan calls it “dumb.” I’m always looking for something kind of dumb or unorthodox. Back in the day if I saw something I liked I always tried to add it to my game. It turned my game into kind of a patchwork of styles-and most people I play now are not ready for all the different options I use. At this point I’ve tried to move away from collecting styles like that and it’s more about bringing out more original additions to the meta. Introducing new things to people that can work in their game…and mine.
Dark Gentleman: What does it mean to you to expand the meta? Can you say more on that?
BarkSanchez: To explore parts of characters that people haven’t seen yet that can be applied to competition. Think about the down Bs with Pika. Its kind of a dumb move but it’s useful and people haven’t seen that til now. Also, some of the weird up B angles I do with Pika. People have started calling it the “BarkSanchez” when it’s really just a basic angle but not a lot people do them. A couple years ago people just used to up B straight up and straight to the stage. Banze was one of the only ones using innovative zip zaps. Wario was also pretty big for the Pika meta with his ledge cancels and zip zaps.
Dark Gentleman: Are there any practical examples from the Pika meta you can explain for our readers?
BarkSanchez: So in the Pikachu ditto, he has a kind of a rock-paper-scissors triangle in neutral between up air, down air, and back air. Most Pikas will strictly stick to up air, because it’s the safer option with the disjointed hitbox and what not. However, I think a lot of people can actually get destroyed by Pikas that know how to successfully space [and use] back air. It gets beat head to head by up air, but back air has better duration and reaches further. I guess in that regard it’s an example of a less safe option becoming very strong if you really know how to use it. Of course if you run into a player with amazing up airs you might get destroyed, but then you have to mix it up.
Dark Gentleman: Lets talk about some of your results. At Frame Perfect Series 2 you won a huge set against Wizzrobe, one of the best players in the USA. Would you describe that as your biggest win yet?
BarkSanchez: You know, everyone jokes about the Kero win, but this win against Wizzrobe is probably bigger. As a very volatile player, I’m always looking at my opponent trying to figure out how well they’re playing on that day. I can always tell when someone is a little bit shook, or not on their game. When I played Wizzy, I don’t think I got his best, but at the same time, I followed through. I used to be very bad at that. I’d take a game from someone very good, and feel in it, but then I’d let it slip away. I’m getting better at punishing players for not giving me their best.
Dark Gentleman: That’s awesome. Is there anything you can tell us about the mental game in that set?
BarkSanchez: If we’re talking about mentality, I kind of snapped when I first played Wizzrobe that day. In the first set he five stocked and four stocked me. In the second set he was up 2-1 (set count) and was up 2 stocks in game 4. I was just sitting there telling myself “I’ve been here before. Alright, if I’m gonna lose, why am I gonna make it this easy on him?” And I just snapped. Right there. I felt like “I don’t have to let him win. I don’t have to sit here and take this.” And I got the comeback and won that game 4. And I think he kind of lost it after that.
Dark Gentleman: I think there’s a lesson in there for every player, whether they’re going up against the best person at their local, or competing in a major.
BarkSanchez: A lot of people at the higher level will kind of sleep on their opponents. Hopefully I’m opening some eyes here but nothing is a free win. Just because you beat someone last time, and the time before, and the time before that, doesn’t mean you’re going to beat them today.
Dark Gentleman: Are there any players or wins that you’re really targeting for this year?
BarkSanchez: I guess there are two players I’d like to get a rematch with and see if I can’t work some magic. Banze, I played him at G3 and embarrassed myself in the first game. However, times are changing and I’d love to play him again. I also think Dext3r was really fun to play against and I think if I got him on a good day I could take him down.
Dark Gentleman: Let’s Go! is this coming weekend. As a quick wrap up, do you have any predictions for yourself?
BarkSanchez: Shears doesn’t think I’ll place top 8. I feel there’s an outside chance I could make top 3.
Dark Gentleman: I hope to see an impressive run from you. Thanks for doing this interview and I’ll see you at Let’s Go!
First of all let me just say: BarkSanchez is a great guy to talk about Smash with. If you ever have the chance to interact with him at a Smash event, I highly recommend that you do so. And with the great number of tournaments Bark attends, odds are good that you’ll meet him, possibly even in bracket. His commitment to competition is probably one of the biggest defining factors in regards to his status as a high level player. I think Bark is a great example of a player who is simply willing to put in the work and get good. If you play Super Smash Bros. on N64, then BarkSanchez is willing to travel to wherever you are and try to beat you.
Bark is a part of a new wave of high level 64 players who didn’t start competing during the legacy era when tournaments were scarce and the community mostly just existed online. I’d say he’s proof that a Smash player participating in tournaments with friends at a bar can make it to the big stage and start taking some of the big names. It kind of makes you wonder, is that next top player somewhere out there? Is there a future top player still playing on an HDTV in 2017, without having the slightest idea about the competitive 64 scene?
He has an easy-going nature when you talk to him, but Bark is a fierce competitor in-game. He learns from his losses, and builds towards wins. He isn’t a player that wants to coast on his achievements, he embraces the climb. Going into Lets Go!, a tournament in his own backyard that is shaping up to be one of the biggest 64 events of 2017, Bark will be looking to continue his ascent. A lot of talented players will be standing in his way. I’m sure he’s looking forward to the challenge.
Top Picture: BarkSanchez (Right) speaks with Alvin (Left) prior to their match at CEO Dreamland. Credit: Helloitsli Photography