Neo Geo And Me File 1: Mitsuhiro Ichiki

Ryo Sakazaki
Magazine: Famitsu
Publish Date: 08/09/2018

Known by his nickname, “The Anti-Air Voice Actor”, he’s a voice actor that loves fighting games. He’s best known for his performances as Shichigen Higurashi (from Basilisk Ouka Ninpou Chou), Yasusada Yamatonokami (from Touken Ranbu), etc.

Mitsuhiro Ichiki, The Anti-Air Voice Actor, talks about his love for KOF!

You’re well known for loving fighting games, but would you tell us about your first encounter with a Neo Geo machine?

(Ichiki) My older brother loved fighting games, so I’d watch him play them. I decided that they looked like fun, and I think the first time I played one was my first encounter with arcade games. The first SNK fighting game that I ever played was KOF ’94.

Where did you play it?

(Ichiki) There was a video rental shop in my neighborhood that had some arcade games. I went in to rent a video, and while I was there I felt like giving it a try. At first I played a match against the computer without thinking about the fact that it was a competitive game, and had an extremely difficult time with the boss. When KOF ’95 came out I had started going to actual arcades and had more friends, and by KOF ’96 I was playing real matches.

Many other fighting games have come out from other developers, so what made you choose Neo Geo games?

(Ichiki) I think the biggest reason is because mostly everyone around me liked SNK the best. My friends and older brother were always playing KOF.

So you like the KOF series then?

(Ichiki) I played Fatal Fury and Art of Fighting, but the systems in and speed of KOF were more to my liking. A new KOF game used to come out every year, so I was in arcades all the time.

Did you mainly play Neo Geo games in arcades?

(Ichiki) We had the Neo Geo AES and CD systems at home. My brother was the one who bought them, and we’d usually split the cost of the games. He bought the action and fighting games that we hadn’t played at the local arcades, and we played them together. We played KOF ’96 on the Neo Geo CD a lot, but the load times before matches were so long that we made a rule that you had to play single (not team) matches and couldn’t change your character. That way you could play as much as you wanted without load times. I’m sure others who had the Neo Geo CD had similar techniques (Laughs)

It seems that you’ve been into SNK fighting games since you were young, but at what point in your life were you most into them?

(Ichiki) They aren’t titles that are included on the Neo Geo Mini, but I played KOF 2002: Unlimited Match (the upgraded version) and KOF XIII to try to compete in them at Tougeki – Super Battle Opera (it was previously the number one annual fighting game tournament in the country). You had to qualify at the competitions held at various other arcades, not just locally but in other regions as well. And then if you won in a match between the winners in the area, you were able to enter the tournament. I lost that match, so I wasn’t able to compete…

Those memories are a part of your history with Neo Geo too, aren’t they?

(Ichiki) I had a lot of friends that I made at those arcades, and I’m still in touch with some of them today. When I’ve traveled around for work events, I’ve stopped into local arcades the day before, or whenever I had free time. I’m known not as a voice actor there but as a player, so I don’t exactly get the same treatment (Laughs)

Mitsuhiro Ichiki - Ryo Sazaki Pose

Ichiki striking his best Ryo Sazaki pose

I can’t tell if that makes you happy or sad (Laughs). Speaking of you and KOF, I know that you have a team of Terry, Ryo, and Kyo Kusanagi. Have you always used that team?

(Ichiki) I have. I really like the cool male characters. I’ve used them a lot throughout the KOF series.

Do you tend to like the series main characters?

(Ichiki) Yeah. I’ve used Andy and Jin Chonshu in the Fatal Fury series, so it’s not like I’m obsessed with always using the main character or anything. But for some reason I really like using those three in KOF. All of them are in the latest KOF, and I don’t think they’re going anywhere. The way they control hasn’t really changed, and I don’t need to re-learn them. I think those are the reasons I continue to use the same characters.

You don’t use any of the female characters?

(Ichiki) Since I like the “cool male characters”, I don’t pick any of the female characters very often. But because Leona’s birthday is the same day as mine, I sometimes put her on my team back in KOF ’96. I always ended up going back to those three guys though.

I see. Are there any characters that you like just based on their appearance?

(Ichiki) Based on appearance, Terry is number one. I like his look with the hat, but I really like I really like the more adult Terry from Garou: Mark of the Wolves. I also like K’. There’s something to be said for someone that’s both a main character and a rival. But I’ve gotten older since then, and I’m probably older than Terry is now… When I think about that, I just kind of go “Wow…” (Laughs)

A Real Obsession With Motions!

Are there any super moves that you really like the motions of?

(Ichiki) My favorite super move ever is Terry’s Buster Wolf from Garou: Mark of the Wolves. It’s so good! I was shocked by how cool it was when I first saw it. Another one is the powered-up version of Terry’s Power Geyser, the Triple Geyser. It’s him hitting the ground with a Power Geyser three times, but I remember being really surprised that the second one is an uppercut in Real Bout Fatal Fury Special, thinking “He can do this even when he isn’t hitting the ground!?”. And the Triple Geyser in Garou: Mark of the Wolves you charge it up and then release it, so it was a bit of a different motion than it usually is. I really like that one a lot too. The sound effect when it hits is really cool, so it feels really good when it connects. For Kyo Kusanagi, I really like the 427 Shiki: Hikigane. It first appeared in KOF ’99 and the motion for it changed from KOF 2000 onward, but I loved doing the Hikigane motion with a heavy attack from that point on. Also, Ryo’s Ryuuko Ranbu and Haoh Shokouken feel like they’re the very definition of super moves! It’s very convenient that the Haoh Shokouken can travel faster or slower depending on the button used, and it feels so good when you get the fast version to hit. And then the Max version of Ryuuko Ranbu varies based on the entry in the series you’re playing, but in KOF 2002: Unlimited Match it ends in an uppercut. So I like that one a lot too.

It seems like people will have different favorite entries in the series, even when it comes to just the super moves. There are a bunch of different games on the Neo Geo Mini, including some KOF, but which titles would you have liked to see on it that aren’t there?

(Ichiki) I definitely wondered why Wind Jammers wasn’t on there. I also remember Waku Waku 7 being a very interesting game, so I would have liked for that to be on there too. And just for a laugh, Voltage Fighter Gowcaizer. In the Neo Geo CD version of that game there were vocal songs that played during the fights, which was really great. The anime director Masami Obari even voiced the character Brider. And apparently while you can connect the regular game pad to the Neo Geo Mini, you can’t do the same thing with the arcade stick. I’d really like to be able to use arcade style controls with it…how about it SNK? (Laughs)