Tyler “Tyler2k” Bustinza has had the fighting game bug since Mortal Kombat III was released in arcades. He originally played at Vallco Tilt, and he made the permanent move to Sunnyvale Golfland as Tilt closed its doors. Tyler’s first competitive fighting game was SoulCalibur II. He transitioned over to Tekken once SoulCalibur III was released, and was introduced to Tekken Zaibatsu through his activity on the old soulcalibur.com fan forum. He has been active on Tekken Zaibatsu ever since, and is currently a moderator for the Dragunov, Raven, and Jinpachi forums. Two years ago, Tyler launched his own fighting game blog, www.tyler2k.com. Earlier this year, he launched a second blog, www.tyler2k.info, which is devoted to general gaming/tournament strategies and FGC-related articles.
Q: How long have you been playing Tekken?
Tyler Bustinza: I've been playing competitively for about six years. As a fan, I've been playing since Tekken II, but at the time I was more serious about Mortal Kombat and Killer Instinct.
Q: What do you like most about the Tekken series?
TB: Definitely the depth. It's the intangibles that make the game so much fun. Knowing a lot about the game and being able to apply it is really interesting, and something that most fighting games don't do or don't do well.
It's not like other games where you have to learn different combos for a heavy character or a small character. Usually universally in Tekken, it's not that stringent, but there are things like one character being a little bit taller than another character and being able to squeeze out a little more damage. It isn't as dumb -- for lack of a better word -- as a Marvel game where you'll have to some kind of crazy combo against a bigger character just to be competitive.
Q: How would your describe your playing style?
TB: Relentless. That's probably the best word. When I was playing Rene (Maistry), you know Kor, he was saying that I love to push buttons. And that's probably true, but I do it for a reason. I just don't do it randomly. All the characters that I play are very momentum-heavy. Once I taste the blood in the water, I just go for the kill. That's definitely the way I like to play.
Q: So you said you like momentum-heavy characters. Who's your favorite and why?
TB: The one that I've spent the most time with is Sergei Dragunov. Aris (Bakhtanians) and I had a mini-argument about who was going to do Dragunov for the guide, but I ended up giving it to Aris. I just like Dragunov's play style; you can just play relentlessly with him. His throw game is very strong. He just lets you keep your opponent on his toes. Dragunov is interesting because once he has that momentum, it's very hard for him to lose it. At the same time, because he's so momentum-heavy, if you don't have momentum then chances are you're going to lose. It's really incredible. He's one of the only characters in the game that's so momentum-heavy.
Another one off the top of my head would be Anna Williams. She has a little more low tricks than Dragunov does.
Q: Are there any characters that you don't use competitively, but you like to play as for fun?
TB: Yeah, actually. In Tekken Tag Tournament, I'll be running Raven and Bruce Irvin until Evo. That will be my main team, my sandbag team until the tournament. This is mostly because Raven is a very fun character to play as, but he's lacking a good amount of things that put him at that competitive level. Now granted, in Tekken the game is very balanced in that you have a chance no matter which character you pick. However, he's definitely missing a lot of juice, but I love playing as Raven. So that's who I'll be playing as a long time.
Q: Are there any characters you like facing off or don't like facing off against?
TB: That's a tricky question. Going back to what I said earlier, Tekken is pretty balanced, so you can get destroyed by anything if you don't see it coming or if you're not expecting it. Interestingly, I didn't like going up against Steve Fox in Tekken 6 because he had a lot of tools and he was pretty high-tier. In Tekken Tag Tournament 2, because he's lost a lot of his gimmicky, crushing nonsense, he's much easier for me to play against so I don't mind facing him so much. It's the same with Lars Alexandersson. He was pretty much a counter-pick for Dragunov in Tekken 6, but because they nerfed a lot of things for him he's not so...for a lack of a better word, B.S. in Tekken Tag Tournament 2. In Tekken 6 it was definitely Steve and Lars that gave me a hard time, but in Tekken Tag Tournament 2 I don't mind so much because they lost a lot of their nonsense. They're still very good characters, don't get me wrong. It's just that they lost a lot of their nonsense again my character.
Q: What would you say is your most notable achievement on the competitive scene?
TB: Oh man! I love tournaments, but I think I have some sort of tournament curse against me because I usually do very poorly in tournaments. Getting away from that, I try to go to every one around me and usually the only reason I miss one is because of a scheduling conflict. So at these tournaments, you have your celebrity players. People will recognize Aris (Bakhtanians). People will recognize Rip (Reepal Parbhoo). People don't recognize me by face because I tend not to do video podcasts or streaming. I do more tutorials and writing. So I have my name on my stick and I still have it there for this very reason. One time I was playing and someone I've never met before in my life came up to me and said, "Hey! You're Tyler 2K." So we started talking and I found out that he was familiar with my writing. That's actually happened to me a few times now, so I purposefully left my name on my stick from that day. It's the original packing tape and I'll never remove it.
Q: What are some of the biggest mistakes you made by Tekken newcomers?
TB: Beginners and people that brush Tekken off think it's just a combo-heavy game. In Tekken Tag Tournament 2 especially, because ground-to-hits do more damage, punishment is very, very important. You don't have to hit a combo to win a match. You can just let your opponents hang themselves and punish them accordingly. It's a little tricky because people say you need frames to know when to punish, which is a little true. But if you start at a very basic level -- just doing a 10-frame punisher or just jabs or whatever your character may have -- and just build on that, your game will elevate so much. The opponent will realize that they can't just throw random things at you and realize that they can't just juggle you to death, because you're blocking and punishing. In my opinion, this is something that goes over a lot of beginners' heads -- not even doing maximum damage punishing, just punishing in general. It stops the opponent from doing so many things.
Other than that, frames are important, but they're not so important that you need to learn them at a beginner's level. Start with the basics. Find out what you can punish with -- with just jabs. Find out what you can launch with. If you can learn the ability to launch and jab-punish on reaction then you'll be a better player, faster.
Q: How about tips for players with more experience?
TB: First I would say don't drop combos -- especially with the new system in Tekken Tag Tournament 2, tag assault. If you drop a tag assault combo, not only will you do no damage, but you'll also give your opponent rage. I've actually seen it quite a lot. The momentum just goes completely in the other direction, so don't drop combos.
I'd also say to get familiar with two characters first. With the new solo system, you can get familiar with one. Now that you've advanced from a beginner, try to get good with just a few characters. Tier lists don't matter. Allegiance chart doesn't matter. Just get really familiar with those two characters and you'll start learning the game through osmosis.
Q: Are there any players you admire on the competitive scene and why?
TB: For technical skill and knowledge, I'd have to say Jimmy Tran -- Mr Naps -- from Northern California. For pure trashing talking, I'd have to say PokeChop in Georgia. For all-around skill, I'd have to say Crow, but I'm not sure if he plays anymore.