Just two years ago, if you talked about “aMSa”, people assumed you were talking about the Sheik main from the Netherlands and not the Yoshi main from Japan. It’s been quite the journey for Masaya Chikamoto who has become a fan favorite with cheers of “AM – SAH” whenever he lands a parry or devastating combo on an unsuspecting victim and become a source of interesting debate in the community.

aMSa is an interesting player to evaluate on many aspects; He’s had one of the quickest rises from his competitive start to his achieving a Top 8 finish at a super-national, while doing so with Yoshi, a seldom used character in the metagame since the beginning of competitive Melee. The uniqueness of his character spurs us to question whether he’s winning because of “gimmicks” or talent.

My First Encounter

My first encounter with aMSa was back at Evo 2013. Among the sea of CRTs and Gamecubes, chatter began to grow about a mysterious Yoshi player who was in fact quite good. Keep in mind, people have set lofty expectations on other low/mid-tier character mains, only for them to underperform in bracket, so I was naturally skeptical of how good this Yoshi could be.


*Photo Courtesy of Karaface

A crowd began to form during pools on an all-too-familiar 10 inch setup. It was Mew2King playing against who I thought was aMSa, so I scurried quickly and secured myself a coveted “Zhu-seat”, on the floor adjacent to the players. Mew2King won game 1 decisively, abusing Sheik’s chain grabs to rack up easy damage and forward-airs to take stocks. My curiosity in aMSa tapered off and I wasn’t really interested in seeing Mew2King 3 stock another player, as he’s been so apt to do. And Mew2King looked as lethargic (at least in his play) as I did, going for careless grabs and poorly thought out moves. Consequently, aMSa was able to punish these efficiently with the use of parries and never before seen combos. He kept it close and in fact won game 2. The crowd continued to grow bigger and I was thankful to be in the inner layers of the thick semi-circle of humanity that had formed around them. Only with the help of gifted genetics or a chair could you see what was happening at this point. People began to wonder if aMSa could beat Mew2King with Yoshi out of all characters.

Chants of “AM – SAH” began to emanate from the crowd with every kill from aMSa. But just as Ray Allen can shoot a 3 to silence a crowd, Mew2King extinguished the noise with a clean win on Pokemon Stadium; aMSa would be going to the loser’s bracket. The crowd dispersed, but the speculation remained. How good is Yoshi? And, more importantly, how good is aMSa? It was reminiscent to how people perceived Armada at Genesis.

At Armada’s first US appearance, every combo and edgeguard would be met with awe from the large crowds, even inciting HomeMadeWaffles to yell, “What the F***?” during several moments of commentary. No one knew how far a Peach could combo a character or maneuver around a stage. It’s been a while since a player has instilled that sense of awe with a mastery of a character. In the same regard, aMSa mystified everyone with his impeccable use of Yoshi’s swiss-army knife of tools. Every combo and parry made the onlookers wonder about Yoshi’s potential as a viable character.

aMSa didn’t really make it too much further into bracket at Evo although he managed to beat Mr. F, Flow, and Codi. Decent players in their own right, but not players that you would brag to your friends about. He finished in 25th, losing to DaShizWiz.

If we wanted some scale to measure aMSa’s relative skill level, it would be incredibly tough considering that Mr.F would be the equivalent of a collegiate level tennis player and Mew2King was the one that won multiple Wimbledon’s. All-in-all, aMSa was somewhere between the two. In terms of evaluating relative skill, his Evo resume was hardly useful. Confounding the estimate further is the fact that he played an unusual character that had specific mechanics such as super armor and parrying. It was tough to evaluate the reasoning for why he took a game off of Mew2King or 4-stocked SilentSpectre in a friendly. How much was a consequence of gimmicks? And how much due to solid fundamentals and reading the opponent? Even if people didn’t know how to evaluate aMSa, people wanted to see more of him for his exciting style of play.

The Return

Lo and behold, he made his second appearance almost a half year later at Apex 2014. This time a salty suite set and further exhibitions were scheduled so that more players would have an opportunity to face him outside of the tournament.

His first test came in the form of Chu Dat, a long time veteran of the game. He also played an unorthodox character in Ice Climbers and it would be interesting to see who could adapt better between the two in a rarely seen matchup. Early on, the match looked painful for Yoshi as any sort of approach seemed to be punishable with a zero-to-death grab combo. I even remember whispering to a friend that this looks 70-30 in the Ice Climbers’ favor. It seemed like Chu was going to run away with the set. We instead would see that it was aMSa’s turn to implement his own techniques.

aMSa’s B attack (trapping his opponent in an egg) allowed him to do one of two things depending on which Climber he got: If the B took Popo, aMSa had a full 2 seconds to kill Nana, which he was quite efficient at. If the B took Nana, aMSa had quite a while to fight Popo, since the CPU-controlled Nana will not mash out of the egg. How amazing! At the end, it was aMSa’s strong use of parrying (which is not easy to do!) and combos that helped him win a down to the wire three game set. The familiar chants of ““AM – SAH” ” exploded as aMSa triumphantly raised his arm in one of the most iconic photos in Melee.


*Photo Courtesy of Robert Paul

He later added victories over Silent Wolf and Fly Amanita in Winner’s bracket before losing to the highly cerebral player PPMD in his pool’s winner’s finals. As the 2nd round of pools were coming to an end, the last matches were going to determine who made it into the coveted Top 8 on the final day. The match between Colbol and aMSa would decide who got to move on.

Colbol, no slouch against mid and low tiers, would have his hands full in the set, realizing quickly the consequences of approaching unintelligently. Lazy neutral-airs were met with well-timed parries that, in turn, led into a string of up-airs and other aerials. Colbol (and many others) learned that attempting to hit aMSa on a platform would lead to a quick shield-drop into a series of juggles and a potential death. This was one of aMSa’s bread and butter methods of starting a combo.

Wisely, Colbol stopped approaching thoughtlessly and varied his timings to make parrying difficult for aMSa, realizing that aMSa has to preemptively position in order to parry given its narrow timing window. He also picked Final Destination, a platform-less stage, so that aMSa could not abuse the platforms. Colbol methodically picked him apart with retreating lasers, multi-hit drills, and shine combos for a solid two stock win. With defeat, aMSa still had the cheers from the crowd as he bowed to everyone in respect. The future looked promising for the Red Yoshi main even though Colbol appeared to find the winning formula for defeating Yoshi. Would others begin to figure it out?

Ups and Downs

The next few months ended up topsy-turvy for aMSa. At his first MLG qualifier, Sumabato DX 11, aMSa failed to win a single set, losing to Sheik and Shippuu. This sparked several questions from analysts. Why are the Japanese players able to beat aMSa? Are they familiar with Yoshi? Does Yoshi have alarming weaknesses that haven’t been discovered internationally? It gave naysayers extra ammo for their claim that aMSa was little more than a gimmick.

Thanks to a generous donation, aMSa was able to play against the Europeans at Republic of Fighters 3. The change of scenery helped significantly as he was able to defeat European powerhouses, Overtriforce and Ice, before losing to Leffen in Loser’s Finals in an intense 5 game set. Leffen, a former Yoshi main, exploited aMSa with up-tilts and up-airs. aMSa’s 3rd place finish was enough to qualify for the MLG Anaheim bracket, but there were still several questions on how well he would do.

The MLG brackets featured an interesting format. Qualified players played in an exclusive round robin pool, showcasing high level matches for the entire weekend. The sets were also best of 5 instead of the usual best of 3, allowing more room for players to adapt. aMSa’s early starts looked promising with several 2-0 game leads against players such as Fiction, Westballz, and ZeRo. His punishes, especially on space animals, were devastating, leading to quick kills. Reminiscent of his earlier Apex 2014 performance, he looked poised to place himself in great position for the final bracket.


Just like Colbol before, his opponents figured out that camping aMSa and mixing up attack timings paid off in dividends. aMSa’s zealousness in fishing for parries and shield drops ended up being his downfall as they found out that aMSa’s ability to approach and close space was poor. As his free openings from parries and shield drops decreased, his game fell apart completely. Later in the final bracket, he played s2j, a hyper-aggressive Falcon player from Southern California. The story remained the same. aMSa took the first two games by taking advantage of s2j’s over-reaching approaches, but then lost three straight games as s2j switched tempo. Finishing 17th, the lowest place possible for him, things did not look great for aMSa. This was further amplified a few weeks later at CEO where he failed to qualify for the bracket, losing to Wenbo and Porkchops. A discouraged aMSa tweeted out that he had many things to work on if he wanted to become better. I’ll touch on his great attitude for improvement further down.

The Summer of Smash

Evo 2014 seemed to be the most reflective performance of aMSa’s skill. He had decent wins against Lambchops, Swedish Delight, and Tai, but lost to s2j and PewPewU. PewPewU, in particular, abused Yoshi’s lack of good approach options by laser camping and using Fox’s down-air to prevent the use of parrying. If Colbol’s Apex performance were the blueprints on how to fight against Yoshi, PewPewU perfected it.


And it seemed as though his 22nd place on the SSBMRank was a perfect compromise to the polarizing views of his skill. He wasn’t quite top 8 as some hyped him up to be, but he wasn’t outright awful as some would think (back in the summer of smash). However, it was clear that he wasn’t quite as good as the players in the top 20 as the results demonstrated. aMSa definitely had potential, defeating Mew2King at Kings of Cali 4, but also showed great inconsistency as well. He needed more experience and tools if he wanted to beat upper echelon Fox and Falco players.

There was a high probability that the summer of Smash was the last chance we would all see aMSa in the United States. aMSa needed to move on with different priorties in his life, which included a full time job. Fortunately, no one really ever “quits” smash and we had the pleasure of seeing him once again at Apex 2015, another half year since Evo 2014.

If there’s anything you can say about aMSa, it’s his legendary work ethic and “no-johns” approach to improvement. In terms of technical skill and execution, I argue that aMSa is among the best. He was one of the first players to incorporate shield dropping into his game play. His control of Yoshi’s double jump cancels (djc) is impeccable, allowing for him to extend combos into the TAS-esque. His parrying is so consistent that you forget about the narrow 6 frame window (or 1/10 of a second) to properly execute it. Not only that, it also requires reacting to the opponent’s attack timing to successfully parry, yet he makes it look simple. It’s his dedication to being so precise that has enabled him to take Yoshi to a new peak. When he does a down-smash or an up-smash to score a kill, he already knows that it’s a kill. You know why? He’s meticulously tested the percentages and created charts to know exactly when each character dies on each stage from each move. Although I thought aMSa lacked some core fundamentals to have an argument for being in the top 15 of melee, I knew that 6 months was going to be enough time to see new technology from him.


Although aMSa practiced multiple games (Smash 4 and Project M) at a high level, he still looked like his usual self in Melee on day 2 of Apex. As expected, he won his round 2 bracket pool, defeating Laudandus, a no-nonsense Sheik main from Northern California. In the Top 48 bracket, he faced off in what could have been his worst-case matchup in Leffen. Game 1 was close, but Leffen’s expertise in the match-up proved to be too much for aMSa. Once again, it looked like aMSa’s Yoshi may not have enough tools to deal with players who knew the match up and could abuse the Yoshi’s lack of mobility.

After losing to Leffen, aMSa was set to play against Zhu, a fundamental player who thrives on playing safe and methodically. All in all, it looked like aMSa was going to go home in 17th. But as the match started, aMSa capitalized immediately, suffocating Zhu’s Falco with stage control and shield pressure. Even when Zhu opted for lasers, aMSa found ways around them whereas Zhu could not find any openings. For once, it looked like “just running away” was not going to work as aMSa dismantled Zhu’s defensive style with a 3 stock win. His next round would be against Lucky.

If Zhu’s Falco wasn’t an adequate test for aMSa, then most certainly Lucky would be, defeating aMSa 3-0 at Kings of Cali 4. The first two games were nail-bitingly close as they split victories. Whereas aMSa would get camped in the latter portions of sets back at MLG, it seemed as though he revamped his neutral game enough to have a presence nearly everywhere on the map. This time around, it was a Yoshi and not a Fox that posed on the victory screen. It was clear that laser camping would not be enough to beat aMSa. You were going to have to play him honestly if you wanted to win.

The top 12 portion of the bracket allowed aMSa to return to the main stream, where hundreds of enthusiasts eagerly awaited for the red Yoshi on the giant projector. In highly unfavorable matchups, he made SFAT and KirbyKaze look rather pedestrian. It wasn’t gimmicks such as shield-dropping and parrying that solely gave him the victory; He out played them in every facet of the game from finding openings to dictating the tempo. Even in demeanor, aMSa seemed much more confident and at ease whereas KirbyKaze and SFAT looked frustrated and nervous to figure out how to deal with him – a total 180 degree turn from less than a year ago.


*Photo Courtesy of Robert Paul

aMSa’s road to the top 8 would continue with Mango. To no one’s surprise, Mango took two quick games, albeit close ones. A savant at adapting, Mango made it look as if this was going to be a quick “3-0” set. In unexpected fashion, aMSa showed his own prowess at adapting, reading Mango’s movement and techs to take the next two games and tie the set. There was a new found grit to aMSa’s play, an extra layer that extended beyond a base “gimmicky” game plan. And although Mango managed to win game 5 (he is the GOAT for a reason after all), aMSa placed 5th overall at the largest tournament of all time, tying Hungrybox and beating out Mew2King in placement, and only losing to Leffen and Mango, two members of the coveted “Big 6”.

Don’t forget that this was with Yoshi – a character that was widely considered mid-tier at best and a “gimmick” when aMSa had showcased him for a year. With a character widely known to have huge matchup deficiencies against Sheik and Fox in particular, aMSa has managed to beat nearly every top Sheik (aside from Shroomed, whom he hasn’t played yet) and has added several trophies to the collection of top Fox mains that he’s defeated in tournament.

Looking Ahead

If you’re a new player looking for inspiration or a smash enthusiast looking for someone to root for, look no further than aMSa. He embodies everything that you want to see in a competitor and in Smash in particular; He’s the underdog story, taking a character in a 10+ year-old meta that had no place among the top. His technical ability with Yoshi is immaculate, arguably more impressive than what you see from Westballz or Hax due to his consistency. You’ll rarely see him drop a parry or a double jump cancel. His control of the character makes him seem like they were interlinked.

He demonstrates what a great work ethic can do in terms of performance, even in the notoriously difficult game that is Melee. Similar to what you would see from Armada, PPMD, or any top tier player, he’s found a way to maximize every aspect of his game, whether it’s discovering how to maneuver around the stage as quick as possible to finding an extra hit to a combo. He does his research and doesn’t make excuses.

Like several other top players, he could have attributed his losses to the following:

1. Travelling
2. Time Change
3. Playing Multiple Games
4. Whatever miscellaneous reasons that may have made him make a mistake

Yet he chooses to find a way to make it about learning and self-improvement rather than belittle his opponents. Most importantly, he’s also having fun when he plays. Watch his demeanor and you can tell that he simply loves Smash and learning about the game.

Looking ahead, it would be absurd to not put him in the top 15 of your rankings. In fact, he has an argument at #7. Yes, he doesn’t perform as well against his local training partners at home. Heck, people may figure out how to deal with Yoshi by next year. Maybe his performance at Apex was a result of variance that so happened to play in his favor. Maybe he’ll level off in the future. At the very least, Apex proved that aMSa can go toe-to-toe with nearly anyone, including Mango. And the scary part is that he continues to improve and we don’t even know what his peak is. Hopefully, we get another opportunity to see him back in the states.