Behind The Stick: An Interview with Rino

I had the chance to sit down and talk to Rino, a premier BlazBlue Cross Tag player. Rino just recently placed second at CEO and was gracious enough to sit down and chat with me about several topics including: His history with fighting games, his recent run at CEO 2019, his thoughts on BBTAG, and his plans for the future.

Q: First, I just want to say thank you for taking the time to do this interview. I’ve been out of the game for awhile and this interview has been a long time coming between you and I. Glad we are finally able to sit down and do one. How are you doing today?

Rino: I’m doing really well. I’ve been feeling really good about everything lately. I hope your day is going well too.

Q: Great to hear man! I’m doing swell. Happy to be back in the interview game after a break. Let’s hop right in. For those who are unaware of who you are could you give us a brief history of your career in fighting games?

Rino: I’m really glad to. I’ve been around for a couple of years. I played Street Fighter 4 for a year, played MKX, Smash 4 and Marvel Infinite for about 2-3 years total. I’ve been playing competitively for about 5 years with BBTAG being my main game right now.

Q: Quite a variety of games there. What was it about BBTAG that really drew you in over, say, another anime fighting game like a Guilty Gear, BlazBlue, or Under Night?

Rino: I actually really didn’t like BBTAG at first lol. It really grew on me over time. I’ve tried all the games you mentioned but none of them ever clicked with me. Once I tried BBTAG I was hooked. I think this game is the most “team game” out of all the team games that are out. That and I mean there’s so many characters and options both offensively and defensively. It’s actually mad addicting lol.

Q: Yeah, I’ve only played it briefly but it seems like there are a lot of options and setups you can do. Similar in a way to a game like Marvel 3. So you mentioned the characters in the game. I know in recent times you’ve been running Mika/Carmine. Why those characters/that team? Were there other characters you were considering?

Rino: I think that team is like really godlike and Carmine’s best team. I was considering Izayoi for a while and while I was playing Jin I kinda wanted to play Ragna/Jin and still play him. But I think I’m locked into that Mika team for sure.

Q: You’ve seen pretty good success with it so no reason to fix what it isn’t broken haha. You ran that team recently at CEO 2019 to great results. Tell me about that run. Were you confidant going into the event or did you surprise even yourself making it all the way to Grand Finals?

Rino: Considering I only played that team for less than a month, it was more like me playing in a lot of netplay tournaments and other tournaments. I won a netplay tournament and got second at the pg keys to Evo bamboo battles one, but I entered those for experience really. I wasn’t surprised really, I think it’d because of the mentality I have with the game, and not allowing myself to expect a lot or less out of myself. This is a game where you can lose to everyone but beat everyone at the same time. So beating Fenrich and Bace when it mattered really put that into perspective. Plus my strength as a player due to my mentality.

Q: Would you consider this your crowning achievement so far or is there another event that holds more weight for you? Why?

Rino: I don’t think any other event holds more weight. Not just in competition but also on like a mentality state. I think this was the hardest NA tournament to date and everyone who was there had something to give it, even those that didn’t make it out of pools. They were still strong like Mastastef and Ultimox.

Q: So you’ve mentioned a few people previously but is there anyone you think that really helped you as a player. Someone who pushed you to be better whether as a friend or as a rival?

Rino: This might be a really hot take to say or to really make people feel bad. But nobody in this game really pushes me. I have friends and I have people who I’ve lost to, but I think I’ve carried myself and pushed myself more than anything. I think new York is the best state to play BBTAG and they’re the best this game has the offer, bar none.

Q: That’s interesting. I think there is always that East vs. West mentality. Do you think that sentiment holds true on a global scale?

Rino: I think America vs Japan is definitely a thing in this game and the gap between us isn’t far off. I think we’re on the same level as everyone else there. NA is very strong.

Q: How do you feel about the scene as a whole? Do you think it is going strong? Does it have more room to grow? Are there changes/additions you would like to see to the game that you think might help facilitate that?

Rino: I think the scene needs a lot of changing. I think we need to start respecting tournament players more, and to adapt better mindsets. It’s really wack to have to deal with egos on monumental levels when you can just explode. I think the community has a lot of room to grow, but I think it’s still young. But right now we gotta get our shit together and be more respectful towards each other no matter the level of play. I think the game is in a good spot. Just remove Vatista and the game is perfect. She’s another can of worms. I think Merkava can use some tuning but I’m ok with the state of the game. Very explosive and spectator friendly while also requiring really good neutral to excel in.

Q: Interesting. I’ve come to hear that sentiment shared a bit in other fighting game scenes. I’m not quite sure how to combat toxicity on such a high level like that. The obvious answer is to not condone it but to get a group of people to push it out on such a large scale is no easy task. But I think if we were able to accomplish it to an extent it would certainly make newer players feel more welcome.

Rino: I think the best way to welcome new players is to treat them the same way you wanna be treated. And yes this applies to other games too. It can be fixed though. I think you can definitely fix this issue.

Q: I want to shift gears and focus more on you outside the game. A big part of why I like to do these interviews is to get a more intimate look at the player to put more than just a name on the screen when people tune in to events. So with that we’ll start with the basics. Why did you end up going with the name Rino?

Rino: Well Rino is actually my real name. It’s a short version of my name Pelegrino, so you just take the last 4 and it’s rino. I definitely like it more than my real name so people just call me Rino in real life.

Q: I won’t lie, I thought for the longest time your name was pronounced like Rhino until I heard someone say it for the first time haha. Seems like a lot of the names people go by are either old XBOX live names or variations of their actual name. So obviously you are pretty big into fighting games but what are some of your other hobbies that you like to do?

Rino: That happens to everyone. It’s totally fine haha. I actually really love cooking and cleaning. I have a plant that I’ve been taking care of as well. I also am really big into film as well.

Q: Shit, I could really use some of your work ethic. What do you do for work and what are your career plans/goals?

Rino: I am a crew member at trader Joe’s. I really love this job, I get to be really expressive and I can be myself without any faults with it. I definitely want to go back to college for film and pursue in writing my own short film and hopefully developing a following from that and creating films that I’ve always wanted to make.

Q: That’s awesome man! I’m sure you’ll do great! So what other things does the future hold for you? Do you plan to travel and compete more? Are you more focused on other things outside the game?

Rino: I definitely want to keep traveling and competing. I don’t think I’m done competing and I will definitely be more focused on finishing school but I think I can juggle everything and make it all work.

Q: Hopefully we will get to see you sometime in the near future. That’s all I have for you today my man. It was awesome to sit down and get the chance to chat with you. Before I let you go is there anyone you want to thank or give a shout out to?

Rino: I want to thank you for interviewing me of course. I also want to give a big shout-out to my team/sponsor Will 2 Win gaming. I want to thank the NE uni community for being there for me lately as well as the NY SamSho community.

Be sure to follow Rino on Twitter @RinoNYC

And as always you can follow me on Twitter @itsfrail

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