Friday, June 12, 2009

SBO Qualifiers at Denjin Arcade – 06.07.09

What makes a scrub a scrub? Cause #1: Poor decision making. Doing dumb things like watching the Denjin Super Battle Opera qualifiers for eight straight hours instead of attending your own house-warming party or going to sleep before 5 AM EST.

Don’t get me wrong, it was completely awesome and I in no way regret my admittedly bad choice, but willfully indulging in such behavior probably demonstrates a fatal lack of self-control. Or maybe it just makes me sound like a drug addict.

But enough navel-gazing, let’s talk Street Fighter. First, I would like to mention it was a shame the 3rdStrike tournament did not get any airtime. Obviously there were a lot of technical constraints facing the production crew and they did an admirable job with the few resources they had, but I hope JR Rodriguez uploads his footage soon. 3S might be, as James Chen suggests, dead gameplay-wise, but damn if there isn’t still a ton of hype. Three on three matches hopefully helped prevent endless strings of Yun/Chun fights, and, in spite of its arguably overpowered, boring techniques, it is still a lot of fun to watch seasoned masters play. Despite being 10 years old, that game is not going anywhere.

Standing in stark contrast to that old work-horse is, of course, Street Fighter IV. Holy crap you guys, there was some amazing stuff last night. Skill levels are increasing at such a rapid pace that match videos from a couple months ago are nearly out-dated relics. Everyone is improving their game so much; Evo is shaping up to be one hell of a showdown.

Where to start? East coast deserves mad props for their showing, clawing their way through the losers bracket with nothing but skill, grit and hunger, to take third place. Taking out Momuchdamage was so clutch, I was on the edge of my seat the whole set. Arturo’s Dhalsim was particularly impressive, especially towards the end against Paul’s Sagat and Valle’s Ryu. In spite of all the trash-talk, they really just cut through all the East vs. West bull and played incredibly well; I was rooting for them the whole time and only went to bed after they were knocked out. Not winning is tough, especially after flying cross-country to compete in Simi Valley, but EC can be proud of what they accomplished.

In the end though, Combofiend could not be denied. Much like his character’s feet, Peter was on fire, ripping fools apart with his relentless rushdown. Full disclosure: I have not yet seen the grand finals, so I won’t comment on the last fight with Ed – I, but no one seemed equipped to handle C. Viper played at that level. Ed Ma managed to knock Combo into losers briefly but it obviously was not enough to clinch the SBO spot. CV’s damage output and cross-ups are crazy good and it is great to see that start to show up in America. Not to discredit his performance, it was damn impressive, but I am sure that at least part of Peter’s success was due to general unfamiliarity with the character. It will be very interesting to see how he fares in Japan, with Joe and FZ on the scene. Perhaps this is just my lack of experience talking, but I think Combofiend is going to have to rein it in a bit if he is going to stand a chance at Tougeki; as we saw when Poongko faced Daigo and IYO, reckless offense does not always fly against the Japanese.

Speaking of rushdown, while I have the greatest respect for Valle, I am not sure if he deserved to win last night. Don’t get me wrong, he had some nice stuff, but it felt like he was largely playing Super Turbo. His general skill was really high, but ultras, both missing his own and getting hit by everyone else’s, held him back; in a game where one end-of-round mistake can easily cost you 50%, Alex was not playing safe enough to succeed, especially in Japan. Though I suppose the same could be said of supers in ST, there is something about having so many ways to setup an ultra that makes them even more dangerous. Calipower will probably step up, but his teammate carried the night.

Edit: So after actually doing some research on the grand finals, it seems like that old Valle magic came back with an impressive showing at the end of the tournament. I’ll leave in the above paragraph as a testament to my stupidity, writing about an event without knowing everything that transpired, and make some half-assed comment about standing by the opinions: consistency is important too, you cannot always count on clutch.

Speaking of which, what was up with Mike Ross? The heart-attack inducing swings between sloppy and psychic yielded some of the best moments of the night; baited fireball into ultra was obviously beautiful, but more than anything else his performance highlighted the importance of mindset. You could see how unhappy Mike was with his play, which in turn seemed to make him worse, and the vicious cycle went from there. However, after some pep talk from gootecks and the rest of SoCal, the confidence in Honda’s movements was almost tangible. Once he was on, it did not matter how much damage he took, no one was going to stop him. If I remember correctly, even Combofiend had trouble facing down the sumo might. UFragTV saw fit to train some of their few cameras off the monitors and I am glad they did; seeing the drama in the combatant shots and crowd reactions really made the stream come alive.

This brings me to the production, more specifically the commentary, which seemed to get a lot of unwarranted hate from admittedly flame-prone chat participants. A revolving door of interviews and guest commentators kept things interesting despite the lulls and gootecks and Slasher did admirably toughing out endless hours of broadcast. The latter in particular drew a lot of ire for his unfamiliarity with the scene and perceived douchebaggery, but, honestly, he gave a much-needed outsider’s perspective to the proceedings. On top of which, if I understood correctly, without him we would not have had the privilege of watching a stream at all. So shut yer yaps, ya ungrateful welps!

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