Saul Leonardo Mena II, better known as MenaRD within the fighting game community is a professional player from Dominican Republic who is a two-time Capcom Cup champion, having won the 2017 and 2023 editions for Street Fighter 5.
During our time at gamescom asia 2023, we had the opportunity to speak with MenaRD in an interview about all things Street Fighter.
How does it feel to be responsible for so much discourse around Blanka being secretly top tier?
MenaRD: It’s fun making people talk about the character that I play, and it’s not the first time. In Street Fighter V I played Birdie. It was very controversial too. And I like any kind of character. So it’s it’s fun for me.
Considering you were big into Street Fighter 5 as well, how different does it feel competing between the two titles?
MenaRD: It’s a different phase in my life. In Street Fighter 5, I was coming up, nobody knew me and I had to make a name for myself. Here I come as a champion and it’s more of adjusting and trying to keep the standard with good placements.
So that influences it a bit. But I feel like here it’s more chaotic. It’s more new names, more people trying hard and in Street Fighter 5 you already know who was gonna win and you had to like break the mold. There was more control.
Both are still competition and both is still Street Fighter. So there are differences but it’s like playing the same game at the same time.
During your EVO Grand Finals, you switched a bunch between Luke and Blanka, how hard was it training to a point where you were comfortable with both characters?
MenaRD: It’s really difficult. I focused when I switched in [Street Fighter] 5 to Luke from Birdie, I focus on trying to implement the style of the character into my gameplay and not try to put my own style into the character if I play offensive and for example Luke is defensive then I shouldn’t play offensive with him.
I have to adjust to his best tools and for me to learn that it took a few years but now in 6 I have the experience and it’s easier for me to change between characters but it’s still a challenge so sometimes I don’t know what’s the best option in a match and I have to risk a match to see you know.
How did it feel winning second at EVO? How did your loved ones react?
MenaRD: It felt good to reach so high in the biggest tournament in history, but it’s still second place. It’s still not winning and it’s stung a lot. It hurt me and my loved ones, they’re always gonna support me. It’s amazing but they’re used to me winning. They know I can win any tournament that I go to. So it’s like you know “congratulations, keep working hard, keep doing your thing” but we know you could have won and you always have to try to win. So it’s support but it’s not complete happiness but it’s good support.
There’s a lot of discussion about Perfect Parry being too strong now. As someone whose character has a body projectile what do you think about this?
MenaRD: I think it’s definitely too strong. I think perfect parry is really good and Luke suffers from it a lot you can parry and rush to punish the fireball but the many things are really strong in the game like drive Rush is really good and throw loop.
I feel like it’s just how the game is right now in the first season and I know it’s gonna get nerfed, it’s going to get readjusted until they click and make the perfect mechanics. But as of now I think it’s really good, it’s really fun and it it helps counter the strong offense the game has.
With a lot of new blood being injected to the Street Fighter 6 scene. What advice do you have for new players who want to start competing?
MenaRD: My advice for new players is definitely the two things that I always say. Number 1 is be persistent. Make sure to never give up. It sounds cliche, but it really works. You need to see losses as a learning lesson.
Like today, to do this interview, I told you I need time to gather my thoughts because I knew it hurt me losing, but I needed to see the right side. How did I lose? What happened? So I went back to the hotel, watch the video, breathe. Okay, this is what happened. This is how I can learn write it down.
So you need to be persistent and you even if you lose try to see the good side of it. And the second thing is make sure to have fun every time you play the game every time you go to a tournament, make sure that what you’re doing you love it. It’s not forced it’s not because you need to it’s because you want to. so I if you are persistent with the competition and you love to compete then I think that’s more than enough.
Have you tried any Singaporean food?
MenaRD: Yes, something I love to do. As you can see, I love food. I love eating too much and I think that’s how I get to know a lot of places. I go only for 6, 7 days to a tournament and I don’t have a lot of time to go out. Like I hear I went to Marina Bay., but I cannot walk around the 7 days because I have to practice and play.
So I feel like food is a way of connecting with the country or the place I visit. And here as soon as I came here I saw the the mix of Indonesian food, Malaysian food then I see Indian food and I see the variety in Singapore right away so the food blew me away the food is really good I tried many thing.
My favorite thing was definitely the roast pork with the rice and pork belly the food is just too good and I don’t usually eat a lot of noodles it’s not in my culture but every time I come here I make sure like last time I came here and now I just eat a lot of noodles like the noodles are really good there well seasoned.
MenaRD: I would like to say thank you so much for reading the interview and I really wanna thank everyone that made this happen. The team and the people that organize the event and all the country of Singapore for allowing me to enter because I cannot enter all countries.
It’s difficult traveling so I’m really grateful for everything that’s happening and I really want to tell you that I appreciate the support that all of you give me and I hope to see you soon in another interview or another tournament.
We would like to thank MenaRD for taking the time to answer our question. We would also like to thank Capcom Singapore for setting up the interview.