The FGC Roundup returns after a brief hiatus due to, well, things unrelated to fighting games and its community keeping this correspondent busy temporarily. Sorry about that folks! Let’s get down to business. This past weekend was a diverse one in regards to the sorts of tournaments on offer. ESL’s third season of Mortal Kombat X came to a close along with two Capcom Pro Tour ranking events. The weekend ahead promises to be quite interesting as well with Low Tier City 4 and Dreamhack Summer in Jönköping, Sweden kicking off as Europe’s second Premier event. LET’S GO.
The 2DGod Ascends
Hayashi “Mago” Kenryo recently helped Team Topanga triumph over Team Razer in the long-running major team competition, Street Fighter V Crash. His season, so far, in the CPT has been a bit up and down considering his first appearance back at Final Round in March netted a third place finish. His involvement with Crash likely had something to do with it but his international appearances, so far, haven’t been numerous. NorCal Regionals the following week after Final Round was a disappointing 13th though his trip down under brought in more CPT points at third place at Battle Arena Melbourne 8.
Mago, for years, went by the name of 2DGod. It was a calling card of one of the best fighting game pros on the planet. The new era of Street Fighter V meant that even the deities of Street Fighter had some work to do. Taiwan Fighter Major 2016 might be the start of Mago reeling off not only Top 8 finishes but numerous potential wins as well. Mago, make no mistake about it, is one of the most dangerous players on the planet, even when compared to the likes of Infiltration, Tokido, and Justin Wong. His play with Karin is cerebral, and he’s clearly very comfortable doing work with the Oh-Ho-Ho-HOverlord.
It’s a real feat considering just how many killers were present including nearly all of the “Five Gods of Street Fighter” (Daigo Umehara, Haitani, Tokido, and Sako) along with GO1, Eita, Kazunoko, Fuudo, Dogura, Shiro, and MOV. HumanBomb, Hsien Chang, and Jiewa also showed out making this one of the most stacked Asian majors so far this year. The prize at stake? A qualifying spot in the Asia regional finals and 128 Capcom Pro Tour points overall. Mago, using all his intelligent reads and deadly hit-confirms, managed to cruise to Winner’s side of Grand Finals with relative ease.
He faced off against his Topanga teammate, Tokido, and quickly found himself with his back against the wall 3-1 for the reset. Two games to one suddenly had Mago staring down a tournament win slipping through his grasp. The 2D God ascended once more, though, and his patience paid off as it had all throughout the brackets before his showdown with former MadCatz teammate, Tokido. His background with Fei Long and Sagat from SFIV, specifically, showed through as he took full advantage of finding even the smallest crack in any opponent’s armor or approach, capitalized for significant damage and proved he is still the opportunistic savage he’s been in years past. His adaptability throughout was a treat to watch, and it gave me pause. So far Mago is the only person besides Justin Wong so far this year to win a major with Karin. He also managed to do it with one of the most “EVO-esque” roads to Grand Finals one would face considering how every elite Japanese player was present along with China, South Korea, and Taiwan representing themselves well.
That’s not a knock against Mr. Wong or his Karin play, which is still among the very best in the world, but I do wonder what happens at an event like CEO 2016 in a few weeks or Evolution 2016 (where yours truly will be in the field covering it top to bottom). The competition will be at a level unlike any the Evil Genius Pro has faced and that includes Mago-san. I’m already hoping for a dream match of Mago’s Karin versus Justin Wong’s Karin. WHO WILL LEAD THE KANZUKI ZAIBATSU?! Thoughts like that keep me up at night. That and whether or not Tokido will win a tournament this year. The 2DGod beat Mr. Second Place this time. Congratulations to Mago on his big win at TWFighter Major 2016! 128 Capcom Pro Tour points now puts him nearly even with Eita on the regional leaderboard and seventh on the Global CPT standings.
Awkward Wins Again! Xian Takes Moscow Fighting Arena
The 2D God ascended in Taiwan but in Moscow there was but one of the Four Kings, piloted expertly by Razer’s Kun “Xian” Ho. The Singapore warrior has always been a champion of underused and, often, awkward characters. He made Gen work in high-pressure situations at the highest possible level during the days of Ultra Street Fighter IV when no one else thought it was possible. He has shown with his steadily rising trajectory this season that Shadaloo’s second-in-command, F.A.N.G., is not to be trifled with. There was, however, a worry that it would be a walk in the park for Xian in a field lacking in strong competition outside of a few notable EU players.
F.A.N.G. can be great in the right hands, but the poison traps of the lanky fighter mean consistently low damage output. Most players tend to hunker down and win the war of attrition through constant toxicity and to chip away at their foes’ health. If ever there is a strong counter to Xian’s character of choice it’s the bonita Brazilian grappler, Laura Matsuda. Wilifried “Will2Pac” Jean-Baptiste is a Laura specialist, with a pocket Nash, and he’s also been making consistently better showings at events throughout the season. It came as a shock to no one really that Grand Finals came down to the team Razer disciple and Melty’s Will2Pac.
Xian is an expert at those horrifyingly long mix-up strings that F.A.N.G. is capable of, mixing those in with constant pressure thanks to repeatedly applied poison makes him a hard matchup for a lot of folks. The character is so underutilized in most tournament situations that I still think some FGC pros are befuddled by how to stop him. Laura, however, has just the V-Reversal to turn the tables and stifle Xian’s mounting offense. The mid-game for F.A.N.G. is rather predictable as well, and even one of the best in the world can only do so much with the toolset given. It was a tense set of games that seemed to favor Will2Pac the longer Grand Finals wore on. Xian, however, proved why he’s considered a consummate professional and a world-class FGC athlete. Adaptation is critical, and Xian simply did it better than Will2Pac in his 3-2 win to take 128 CPT points and a qualifying spot in the EU regional finals.
It was interesting to see the seams in those matches as Xian’s aggressive style seems counter to the way F.A.N.G. is designed, but the constant pressure and poison application can simply wear his foe down. The continuing buttons from Xian also meant that there wasn’t much respect for Will2Pac’s mix-ups. If the brackets had been reset, I feel that jiu-jitsu disciple would have managed to steal the tournament possibly away. Laura is great, people, but we have yet to see just how ferocious she can be. Xian, on the other hand, is yet another threat going forward into this week at Dreamhack Summer, CEO 2016 and EVO soon. It feels as though the elite echelon of Asian talent is starting to get their footing with this game finally and the rest of the world is on notice.
Special shout outs to Team Secret’s Poongko, formerly known as Angry Shirtless Poongko, who seems to be making progress forward after such a shaky start to the CPT season. Seventh place is a big step for him considering how inconsistent his play has been. Look for the Korean star to make some waves in North America soon with his great Guile play and his dangerous Cammy. The EU scene might it’s breakout player this year as well in Will2Pac. The hidden top-tier character that Laura finally gets to be regularly showcased thanks to Melty’s superstar. I can’t wait to see more from him.
SonicFox Wins Third Consecutive ESL Pro League Title
The ESL Pro League for Mortal Kombat X doesn’t get the love it deserves. The matches are always hype and the personalities inhabiting its ranks are diverse along with casters that are second-to-none. It is, sadly, typical of NRS (NetherRealm Studios) games that seem to have fairly short lifespans in general. Can Mortal Kombat XL buck that trend considering E3 2016 was full of news regarding Injustice 2? It remains to be seen but one thing is for certain. The professional scene for MKXL is alive and well, and SonicFox is now a three-time ESL Pro League champion and 75,000 dollars richer after this past weekend.
SonicFox doesn’t hide the fact that he likes to use whichever flavor of the month character is rocking the scene at the moment. The last Kombat Pack introduced the Xenomorph into the mix, and his Toxic variation is tough to deal with. He starts with a high-tier fighter and somehow elevates them further yet he still has superlative backups in Cassie Cage, Erron Black, and a few others in his back pocket as well. The young man’s enthusiasm for the game is infectious and despite his continued dominance he doesn’t seem bored by it. That thrill of victory is quite apparent in his demeanor, the way he trolls his opponents subtly or how he seems to be grinning ear-to-ear most of the time.
His opponent, though, is no slouch. The UK’s AF0xyGrampa, draped in the Union Jack, is a force to be reckoned with as his performance through the ESL season can attest, and his run at EVO 2015 showcased as well. He began to adapt to SonicFox’s abusive poison tactics and evened up the set with Piercing variation Mileena. The back and forth continued with each player taking a match off each other in quick succession. It was like two top-tier tennis pros volleying back and forth at Wimbledon. The tension was mounting, yet SonicFox remained, as usual, calm under pressure and took home the championship belt for the third time. It’s not hard to imagine we’ll see this matchup again in the final four of MKX at Evolution 2016 this year. Perhaps F0xyGrampa can finish the fight in July.
E3 2016: So Many Great Fighting Games On The Way
Injustice 2, the follow-up to the popular superhero brawler from NetherRealm Studios, looks to bring more characters into the fray including Supergirl, Gorilla Grodd, Atrocitus and more. The trailer, however, hints at gear and Ed Boon confirmed that Injustice 2 will feature a gear system that allows for further character customization.
Most fighting games only offer alternate costumes or colors while Injustice 2 will offer variety by the boatload to each and every character. Some were quick to compare it to the gem system from Street Fighter x Tekken, but Boon provided clarification on what the gear does. It only modifies attacks, offering cosmetic or differing move sets depending on the gear equipped but only in specific modes or online queues that players must choose to enter. Regular competitive play will be equipment free as to ensure that the playing field remains level. The gear system feels like a natural evolution of what the Variation mechanics in Mortal Kombat X were. They offered differing styles and moves for characters while this gear will provide greater aesthetic variety and gameplay with far more options available to players.
The game remains similar in regards to mechanics with a few new additions. Interactive object attacks are now blockable, and a combo breaker mechanic is being implemented. That is a huge addition considering the first game didn’t have much of a neutral game and it should change the way the game plays in the professional scene. The well is deep for DC Comics characters to draw from and. Hopefully, the tail on Injustice 2 is far longer than prior titles from NetherRealm Studios.
King of Fighters XIV is only a few more months away at this point, but more info continues to pour in regarding SNK’s return to the scene. Mr. KOF and EVO 2013 Champion, AS|Reynald went hands-on with the latest build at E3. One thing has started to emerge, above all the other info regarding rosters and so on, about KoF14: this is a game about strategy and less about linking moves. The exhibition put on by two of the best in the KoF scene showcased this very fact. The 3-on-3 competition is the same as it ever was but newer players will be able to jump in far easier than before. The game will release in the West on August 23rd.
The Xbox press conference only briefly touched on changes coming to Killer Instinct, but chief among there is the character General RAAM. The Locust leader from the Gears of War franchise will be free to all players regardless of whether they own Season 3 content for the game or not. Microsoft Studios also mentioned that they will funnel 100,000 dollars into the Killer Instinct Ultra Tour that culminates in the World Cup finals in January of 2017. It remains to be seen how that is all distributed, but it is great to see more support given to this criminally underplayed game.
The other big news out of E3 regarding Killer Instinct regards the games single player mode, Shadow Lords. The game’s single player will be a mix of arcade mode meets story that is confirmed to be finally making its way to the game later in Season 3. More info can be found at Ultra-Combo.
— BornFree @ PokéStop (@BornFreeTweets) June 14, 2016
Capcom was also at E3 this year with more info on the upcoming June update for Street Fighter V that includes Ibuki, the cinematic story mode and more. One of the biggest bits to come out of the showing, though, has to be how some of the newer DLC characters look and feel so far. Balrog, shown above, looks great though it’s tough to get a full impression of him as he isn’t a finalized version yet.
Ibuki was also heavily featured with reports rolling in regarding how she plays and people already figuring out tech for her. Steven Chavez of EventHubs was at the show and spent a lot of time hitting the SF5 setups to get time in with the kunai-wielding shinobi. The conclusion? What Rainbow Mika does in the corner? Ibuki can do it mid-screen with command-dashes and V-Trigger bombs. She does not play the same as she did in the days of Ultra Street Fighter IV as her game now relies on trickery and resets. It will be interesting to see the tech that develops for Ibuki after the June update launches later this month.
I decided to finish up the E3 section with Harada-san’s latest, Tekken 7. The game has always looked great, but it remained to be seen whether it could deliver the goods. Tekken is a series that hasn’t exactly been relevant for years now but that is about to change. The more we get to see of Tekken 7 the more it seems that this will be the fighting game title that will hit the scene like an atom bomb.
The inclusion of Akuma is far more significant than just a “cool get” for Bandai Namco. The trailer showcased at the Microsoft conference displayed a showdown between the Mishima patriarch, Heihachi, and the demonic Akuma but, more importantly, it gave the world a great look at the seamless transition between gameplay and story that we’ll be getting a lot more of in the game’s story mode. The Street Fighter character fits so naturally into the 3D world of Tekken that one has to think that the notion of Tekken x Street Fighter isn’t as far-fetched as it used to be.
The game will launch with a robust story mode and judging by the matches and info dished out at E3 this will be the game to watch in the future. The fights are fluid, the graphics are crisp and gorgeous and spectating the matches are a delight. We’ll get our first real glimpse of the future of the competitive scene this year at EVO 2016, but 2017 will be the year of Tekken likely. I will be waiting in the wings with King in my tiger mask until then.
What To Watch this Weekend
The EU’s second Premier event for the Capcom Pro Tour kicks off this week in Jönköping, Sweden at Dreamhack Summer 2016. Some notable players are making their way to DH earn their way into the Capcom Cup finals later this year including EG|Momochi, Tokido, RZR|Fuudo, Mago, BX3|Phenom, MJS|Haitani, RB|Luffy, Twitch|Daigo, RZR|Xian, MOV, RSD|CharmingRogue, Itabashi Zangief, BX3|Duppsko, Reiketsu, Ryan Hart and a whole lot more.
This will be the first of two back-to-back Premier event weekends with CEO 2016 coming up on the horizon but, first, Sweden will become a war zone with so many killers all out in force to grab that Premier spot and 128 Capcom Pro Tour points for a win. Momochi, Tokido, Xian, Fuudo, and Mago are likely candidates to Top 8, but there are some dark horse warriors out there that could easily slide in alongside some of the JP elite. Itabashi Zangief, who was recently sponsored by DetonatioN Gaming, could be a big surprise this weekend with his aggressive play and success with Zangief so far in non-ranking events. He comes in with 1 point so far off a 13th place finish at last week’s TWFighter Major 2016, but he is dangerous as not many are representing the Iron Cyclone in the scene right now. His hard reads, willingness to commit to frame traps and the like could mean big dividends to the Itabashi.
The the other main challenge outside the usuals of Daigo and the like? Ryan Hart. The EU golden boy has had some trouble finding his footing so far this year, but his performance in the most high-pressure situations has been fantastic. The stage is set and the time is right for the prodigal son to return and this weekend is prime time for that. Could this be the uptick the EU needed in the global scene or will Asia, specifically Japan, continue its dominance? Haitani could also buck the trend of seeing the usual names in Grand Finals as his earlier work in the CPT season was superlative, but he’s gotten lost in the shuffle of the major names coming up in the ranks. His Necalli is one of the best in the world, and he aims to prove it this weekend.
There will also be Super Smash Bros. Melee, Mortal Kombat X and Pokkén Tournament in the mix this weekend as well. All the Street Fighter V action can be found at CapcomFighters, NetherRealm for MKX, DreamHack Smash and DreamHack PT for Melee and Pokken. Brackets can be found at Toornament this time around.
APEX 2016 might be back but the real Smash action to watch this weekend will be live from Plano, Texas courtesy of Low Tier City 4. The talent assembled across all three variations of the game is staggering with major names like HungryBox and Mang0 vying for supremacy. Others such as Wobbles, Tai, ESAM, Javi, and Wizzrobe will also be in attendance along with Texas’ finest for Melee. ZeRo, Nairo, and ESAM will also be duking it out for that top spot in Smash4 this weekend and it marks the first time all three will be in attendance at the same time with ZeRo’s recent surgery recovery, ESAM’s surge this summer and Nairo’s up and down play. Project M’s finest will also be in attendance and all the action kicks off this weekend at TLOC’s Twitch channel for Melee and Smash4 and PM Central Hitbox for Project M. Brackets can be found via Smash.GG.
That will do it for this week’s FGC Roundup. It was more of a combination of the two weekly articles into one due to time constraints, and the regular schedule will resume next week with a Recap on Monday and the Roundup to close out the week. Lots of questions will be answered this weekend, but many more will remain. Who will secure that Premier tournament spot at DreamHack Summer but what does it mean going forward to CEO and beyond? How will America handle the incoming international players in the coming weeks? The hype will be plentiful along with the salt. Get ready. A fight is coming your way, warrior.