A lot of people started to know of Noah "Naitosharp" McCulley during the online era. While most pros were complaining about Nintendo's WiFi, Naitosharp was breaking out and proving himself as a top player.
But Naitosharp isn't just a WiFi Warrior. The Zero Suit Samus main is ready to prove himself in LAN tournaments now that they are finally returning.
Inven Global sat down with Naitosharp at Super Smash Con to find out more about their unique climb up the rankings and their hopes for their Smash career now that offline is back.
How has Smash Con been going for you?
I played decent my first couple of sets. I dropped a game to a Pokemon Trainer, the qualifying match for 256. I'm playing a bit off.
It's weird to explain. Sometimes you play really well. Sometimes you play really bad. Friendlies were good. Then I took an hour-long break before the tournament. Ten I felt I couldn't do anything. My hands get really cold quickly. A lot of the time, if I don't have hand warmers, even if I take a five-minute break, my hands are freezing cold.
Aside from the cold, how has it been being back at offline tournaments?
It's been a lot of fun. Over COVID, I was doing WiFi tourneys and played top players, met a lot of people that I didn't know before or wasn't friends with before. A lot of people became new friends for me that I get to hang out with at this tournament. It feels really nice.
Were you competing before COVID?
Yeah offline, I would go to two to three a week.
Wow, that's a lot! What got you into the competitive side of Smash?
The first time I played Smash was as a little kid playing Melee. I would play Melee and then Brawl when it came out. I got a Wii U for when Smash 4 came out. That's when I found out that they were holding tournaments for Smash games. The first tournament I ever watched live was APEX 2015. I didn't go until the summer of that year. I've been competing for six years now.
What made you want to go to that first tournament?
When I was watching, it looked really fun. I really wanted to get good at Smash. So I wanted to go and practice and learn.
How did you like the Smash community?
A lot of the players I met, especially when I was first starting, were really nice. A lot of them were really helpful too.
Are there any Zero Suit Samus players you look up to?
I learn a lot from watching Marss play. A lot of the stuff I do with ZSS is because I've watched him play or talked with him about the game. A lot of the interactions, the options I use, it's stuff that he has told me to do or that I've seen him do.
You started getting attention while people were playing online tournaments during the lockdown. Do you like online tournaments?
When there's no offline tournaments I really missed competing. A lot of times I'd enter because I wanted to compete in something. It wasn't about enjoying online but rather enjoying competing. I started practicing a lot. I got a lot better from playing online.
Zero Suit Samus is notorious for being bad online. But how did playing ZSS online go for you?
Before COVID, a lot of gameplay was reaction-based. But playing online, that's not a viable strategy for any of my characters. It's a lot harder to react and punish things. I learned to read what my opponents were going to do. If there was anything good about WiFi, it was definitely that: I got a lot better at reading opponents and looking for certain options.
What drew you to playing Zero Suit Samus?
When I play Smash, I appreciate playing neutral the most. A lot of people like advantage state — flashy tech skills and combos. But I like playing neutral. That's what is the most fun for me. What's fun about ZSS and Joker is that they're really good at neutral. They're also super explosive and have those flashy combos.
When the game first released, I played Wolf. I played for about a year or so. I was a Shiek player in Smash 4. I started playing Shiek again in Ultimate. She became my best character. But right before COVID, I decided to main Joker. He was really fun for me and I was starting to understand playing him more. I always had ZSS this whole time. When Ultimate came out, my three were Wolf, Cloud, and ZSS. Now it's Joker, ZSS, and Cloud.
And have you been sticking to ZSS in Smash Con?
I've played all ZSS so far, one game with Joker. I think ZSS is the most fun character in the game for me. I want to get better with her and get good tourney results with her so I've been practicing her the most. But I'm still going to play Joker.
How did it feel when you started to get recognition within the Smash scene?
It felt really weird. Online, there's a lot of people that supported me. But the first person to ask me for a picture at my second tournament back offline.... It felt really weird that so many people were walking up to me, asking for advice or a picture. It does feel nice but super weird. I'm not used to people just walking up to me and asking me for pictures.
Even though you were dominating online, do you feel you're better in person?
I feel like a lot of my characters, main Joker and ZSS, they can play defensive and campy. That's good for online. But they are execution-based and winning in neutral is a lot of execution... It comes down to certain close quarters situations... Those are really important for those characters. They get a lot from fighting characters up close. Hard to pick an option online.
I really enjoy playing in front of crowds. It's really fun for me. But playing at home was nice. You lose, you just go to bed and sleep. I'd just turn around, get out of my bed, lay down twi steps away. Yan't do that at an offline tournament.
What do you like about having a crowd to play in front of?
It gives me a lot of energy, just listening to people cheer and stuff. I enjoy being supported. It's fun when there's a lot of energy in the crowd.
Were you playing online before COVID?
Out of the people playing online, I was one that played a lot online. I was already used to it. Other people sucked for three months. But I was used to it.
Because of that learning curve — and Nintendo's bad internet — a lot of pros have said that online play doesn't really count towards their ranking, or in general. Do you feel similarly?
For certain characters, it doesn't really count for them. Peach, she drops in the tier list super hard online. Fox, too. If you are a really good player, though, you will do good online. MKLeo is the best in the world offline. He's winning every tourney online. Same thing for Tweak. A lot of WiFi warriors, like me and Sonix, Quid... We've all done really well offline too. A lot of people known from the online era have done really good offline.
What are your goals going forward?
I want to be top 5 in New England this year. Getting on the PGR would be nice. A lot of people think I can do it. But I don't know when it's coming back. When it does, I hope I can do good enough. I really want to get Top 8 at a major. That would be really nice.
Esports writer and editor with a passion for creating unique content for the gaming community.