What a weekend. I almost can’t put it into words, but I’m going to try.
Pedro, Ali, Dave, Yale, Pyro, Hamada and I actually drove up to Sydney in a van. (Pedro had to leave in the middle of the weekend because of personal problems. Sorry dude.) Thanks guys for letting me come along!
It was a ten hour drive, and I have to give some props to Ali here for driving the whole way back AND forth, that’s some superhuman shit right there. We drove at night, in the middle of the rain, with Hamada in the middle…oh my god. On the other hand I got to know everyone a little better; we talked about everything from movies to the Melbourne FG scene to Wolverine and Romulus. We even went past the Fat Pizza joint on our way back! I had no idea it actually existed!
Somehow we made it there in one piece at around 4 am, and were told that we couldn’t get our rooms open until 6 am, unless we paid extra. So we huddled together in one room waiting for Brandon, and managed to get a few hours of sleep because we had to head out to register at 11 am. Not a really good way to rest up before a tournament.
We actually got a little lost on our way to the UTS building, but we eventually made our way up the stairs of the looming concrete tower. There were a lot of people already there; there were casual setups at the back, and a big audience area with chairs in front of two big projectors. I found out on the day that the event was going to be streamed, and that got me a little excited.
I was still feeling the effects of sleep deprivation at that point; god knows how Ali and the rest were feeling. I met up with Berserk, who told me Madman were sponsoring the event, and giving some prizes like the Ong Bak box set. We talked some industry talk before I drifted off to meet more people; I saw some Melbourne people like Cactus, Plaasia and Somniac, who seemed pretty cheerful. He informed me about the Daigo casuals on Friday, and how his match went with Daigo.
Apparently he went on a 64 win streak on the entire Australian scene. No one could beat him. The Xbox even went red ring of death on the 50th win because of too much ownage. True story!
Somniac broke down Daigo’s play for me:
-Don’t jump. He will dp everything. Every crossup, every safe jump.
-He never walks back or jumps back. He constantly walks forward terminator-style, pushing you into the corner.
-He doesn’t miss links, and does maximum damage every time, as well as going for untechable knockdowns. He does character specific punishes, such as focus through Chun’s Hazanshu, into cmp cmp cmk tatsu!
-Som also mentioned that every time he tried to do a focus attack and then dashed into a throw; Daigo threw him out of it, which shocked him as he was the first guy to ever do that to him.
-Som also told me a funny story about being in the toilet at the same time as Daigo, and he was checking out whether Daigo washed his hands after peeing. He was kinda bummed when he did wash his hands as he couldn’t go on to spread the rumour of Daigo’s unhygienic behaviour. Lol!
Other things that I noticed of Daigo’s play:
-Daigo does every jump with safe jump timing, and every safe jump with option selects. He also frame traps at every opportunity, and if you press anything on block in the corner, you are going to eat a big fireball fadc combo.
-He does lk tatsu into srk juggle in the corner every time now. He will get one cmp to counterhit, and do cmp chp hado fadc cmp chp lk tatsu hp srk juggle. For massive stun!
-I saw Daigo do a deep anti-air mp srk cancelled into a super that hit the guy’s legs. At first I thought it might be an execution error, but I realised he was doing it a lot intentionally. I guess in vanilla, an early lp dp into super would do 70+300 damage, but with the dp damage nerfs, he goes for max anti-air damage when he can.
-In footsies wars, you can’t whiff anything. Every low forward was punished by sweep. At times he would go from crouch block to standing to thin his hit box, just making the poke whiff, and he would sweep for the untechable knockdown.
-He doesn’t use ex meter, and he builds super scary fast.
-He plays like you would expect, totally expressionless, but he plays very loose, almost casually. He holds the stick loosely, and he makes these sweeping orchestra conducter movements with his hands, smacking away at the buttons. I remember he would lift his arm quite high to a certain height for links, and bring them down for the plink every time.
-His periphal vision/eyes are quite scary. I remember during pool play, I snuck into the third row from the big projector screen to take a secret fuzzy handphone photo of Daigo playing to send to my friends. Even while he was playing, the instant I sat down and looked directly at him, (everyone must have been looking at the big screen), he immediately looked straight at me in the third row! That was quite frightening.
-I saw Daigo do things I never saw before. In Sol’s moneymatch with him, with Sol one hit away from dying, Daigo threw a fireball at him with Sol’s Abel on the ground, fadced the fireball and did instant air tatsu so that he was on the other side of Sol when the fireball hit! That was like Dhalsim’s fireball into crossup teleport! It could have been chip damage that killed Sol though, but the weekend was filled with jaw-dropping Daigo moments like that.
There were so many people there that it was hard to get in some casuals play. I met many people for the first time though, such as Kientan, Brodsta-Au, One, Abel Ali, William, Mr Caesar and too many others to name. (Or I just plain forgot your name. Sorry!)
I got to meet my good PSN buddy baldiebasher for the first time too. He turned to be a cool dude, who just happened to be tight with the three New Zealand guys, Gankatron, Jacksmash and Andy from playing WoW with Gankatron! Gankatron started playing SF4 at the same time as us and look at him now! That shows where dedication can take you.
So Daigo finally shows up, and the atmosphere of the room changes. On first glance, I thought he looked pretty tired, but he was like a rock star, all the eyes in the room were on him. It was kinda funny, in how he would walk across the room, and much like how a incredibly hot girl walking across a room will draw everybody’s eyes and then everybody would pretend to look away, that was exactly the effect he had on a room full of guys!
He soon sat down for casuals, and a huge line to play him instantly formed. I couldn’t even get to play him despite lining up because of the huge line.
But let me tell you, watching Daigo on youtube and videos doesn’t do him justice. Watching him in person is like witnessing street fighter magic being performed. You seriously cannot imagine watching the man live. It was truly a once in a lifetime experience getting to see arguably the best SF player in the world strut his stuff.
Pool brackets were soon up, and I was in Pool C, along with other guys like Sol, Cactus, and Heavyweapons. Poor Dave was in Pool A with Daigo! But we were telling him that at least he gets a chance to play Daigo for free. My pools started at 7, so I basically had nothing to do but watch some pool matches and play casuals all day.
I think I watched every Daigo match, and he pretty much breezed through Pools. After each match he would be whisked somewhere backstage, where I imagine masseurs and makeup fluffers attended to him.
In casuals I was pretty much getting smashed, in fact I would assume that I was probably the scrubbiest player in the tourney. After all with an entrance fee of 45 dollars for SSF4 Evo last chance qualifiers, and a prize of a paid ticket to Evo Las Vegas, I assume everyone in the brackets was probably the cream of Australia’s SF crop.
I was getting smashed to the point that I started playing Hakan exclusively, and I actually had some success! I remember playing Kientan, and when he saw Hakan he was nice enough to switch to his joke character Cammy, which I actually got a round off!
I think most people had not seen meaty DDT setups before, which was part of my success. Of course dudes who knew about it like Dave, would just beat it with wakeup crouching jab every time. Zzz!
Pool matches came and went, and I cheered for Pyro and William who both lost agonizingly close matches in mirrormatches, Rog and Ryu respectively. Pyro looked really bummed, and I could understand. Who the hell enjoys Rog vs Rog? Getting hit by TAP to ex headbutt to lose both first rounds must’ve really sucked too. William’s match came down to him having a lead, trying to hold it, and getting hit by a delayed dp fadc ultra which counterhit him to a sliver of life. Both of them had no life left, and William jumped in to bait an SRK with an empty jump, but he messed up his execution, doing an ex fireball instead of an ex srk and he lost narrowly to that Ryu. Which correct me if I’m wrong, was Wizbore, who apparently went on to be the only player whose matches drew visible cheering from Daigo.
My own pool matches came up, and I promptly lose to Kuma’s Abel. Baldiebasher gave me some nice moral support, but I just got outplayed. I was doing okay, and was even autocorrect dping his crossups, but crucially in the last round I missed a big autocorrect dp, and that was it. Kuma gave me a firm GG and handshake after.
Before I could feel too bummed about it, my next match against a Boxer was up, and he was really nice too. It went back and forth, but I think I showed my focus attack bait too early, and he became too wary of them, and I could never land a FA on him. He killed me with ex upper to hb to ultra combo through a fireball, and that was it. I was out of the tourney just like that, and like I expected.
I headed off to play some casuals to wash my sorrows away, but I was called back unexpectedly. Turned out they screwed up the brackets, and I had to play one more match. It was a Guile, and I have a lot of problems with that matchup. I remember he was very good at teching throws, and I wasn’t aggressive enough in getting in. In the end I did a stupid un-fadced uppercut, in which he blocked and just killed me. The Guile gave me some tips during the match, but when the match ended he looked kind of distracted as I said GG. Probably in his eyes I was too much of a scrub to invest too much brainpower in fighting, and I can’t blame him for it.
I was finally out of the tourney. Hey, at least I can say that I was the only player to lose thrice in an double elimination tournament, to go an unprecedented 0-3!
None of the other guys I rode up with were having much success. Dave lost to a boxer that he apparently plays a lot, and he told me that they didn’t let him have a second chair to stack up to put his stick on, and that affected his execution a lot, because he’s used to a certain position of the stick. Trust me, the guys even brought a custom stool with them, so I believe it played a part. I thought them not letting him do that was a bit dumb, but maybe they had their reasons? I really don’t know.
Ali didn’t do too well, I believe he lost to two Ryus, Pyro also lost, Sol lost too, Cactus went out, it wasn’t looking too good for the Melbourne people. I guess the long drive really affected the TEC brothers. Better luck next time guys, I believe in you!
All three New Zealand guys went through though, which pleased Baldiebasher greatly as he was cheering from them. Gankatron even eliminated Pyro. I guess there is always two sides to losing and winning. You always want your buddy to win, but the other guy is also playing for the people who believe in him. The pain of loss, and the joy of winning, has such a fine line.
Daigo moneymatches started at 6pm, and I was actually one of the first to play him. Daigo was in one corner of the room, absolutely surrounded by a massive crowd of people. His moneymatches were being shown on a big screen TV on the side as well, and let me tell you, I immediately felt some pressure when I sat down!
Before I sat down, I personally witnessed the first guy to beat Daigo in a game; Kientan/Melvin! He was playing some nasty ground game with his Chun, with his standing mps. In fact, I actually was eavesdropping on his conversation with his friend about that exact tactic, and I witnessed that strategy unfold successfully. When he won, the room erupted, and this crazy guy started running around going “MELVIN! MELVIN!” with his heavy accent, causing many Melbournians to think that “Melbourne” had actually won a game. Kientan was over the moon too. It was so funny watching Kientan when they told him his match had not been recorded. He tried to go to the replay channel, but it doesn’t record offline versus matches, and his whole body just deflated. The sydney people were immediately going “Melvin is salty!” He looked so bummed, but it’s okay Kientan, WE ARE ALL WITNESSES!
But I have to put this into perspective; Kientan won a game off Daigo, but lost in his best to 7 games moneymatch. That day I witnessed Daigo go on two 60-70 separate win streaks in moneymatches only losing once to Kientan. That tells you something about that guy. Try beating 140 actual humans in a row in best of 5 or best of 7 games and only losing ONE GAME.
I was only watching Daigo closely when Kientan won, he gave this little smile. I thought to myself, being Daigo has its price. For one, you have to stand up after EVERY moneymatch, pose and smile in a photo. And he must’ve played close to 150 of them. And every country you go to, people are cheering for you to lose. And it must be kind of lonely being a country for three days not being able to speak to anyone at all! I actually felt a little sorry for him. Then I realised 150 of $50 on average moneymatches = $7500!
But back to my match. I sat down and shook Daigo’s hand. I felt the weight of the crowd bearing down on me. Now, I just witnessed Daigo destroy many top players right before my eyes. I decided that I would never jump at Daigo, and just basically try to play this super safe ground game against him with cmk fireball.
I actually thought I did okay against him; at least I didn’t die very quickly by doing stupid stuff like jumping at him or anything. I played with discipline, and basically tried to fight a losing battle pitting my ground game against Daigo. Another thing I noticed was Daigo counterhitting the hell out of everybody who pressed crouch tech for massive damage, and I told myself to not press anything out of panic, and just block. Because of that, I think I actually lasted much longer than I should have. I didn’t die instantly when I got to the corner.
However, I experienced my first big time straight up mistake in a pressure setting. I actually got two big punish opportunities on Daigo. The first one was one I baited a dp from Daigo with an empty jump. And the second one I can’t remember but I think was also a big opportunity. And both times I punished with my heavy punisher; chp, hp srk, fadc ultra.
And. Both. Times. I backdashed out of the fadc and did ultra which missed completely!!!!!!
It was so humiliating, hearing the crowd around go Urghhhohhhh when I did that, and both times Daigo just got up and Ultraed me back and killed me. The second time he chuckled a little bit, got up and killed me. I remember the commentator saying “And even Daigo’s laughing now”.
Urgh. That was so shameful. The rest of the match I was actually proud of my play, but those two big mistakes were major mindfucks. I actually thought I played quite calmly, because I saw many people shake they heads and let go of their controllers when they missed something big and Daigo would then murder them with a big combo. I vowed not to do that in my match, and lose my composure. But in the end I made those two big mistakes.
Daigo also showed me some trademark adaptation skills. At first he gave me some leeway, trying to figure me out, trying to play cmk and fireballs against me. Afterwards he saw straight through my tactics, and quickly put me away by focusing through my fireballs for heavy punishes, dash Ultraing through my fireballs, and supering through my fireballs. He just adapted so fast. I remember he killed me with an almost spiteful Kara throw; I was turtling in the corner, and I remember the sound of him smacking the buttons so hard, and he just Kara threw me for the win so decisively.
When it was over, I took my photo with him and shook his hand and got the hell out of that crowd. It was still such a buzz to finally play my Ryu idol Daigo, and if I had the chance I wish I could play a hundred matches with him! One in a lifetime experience, and one that I definitely savoured.
One last funny thing about my match that I remember was that Daigo didn’t jump at me at all. As I’m sure many of the people who play me know, one of my major weakness is very slow anti-air reaction time, which is ironic, because I play a shoto. I always let people jump in on me, and I struggle to be on point with my dps. Now I think Daigo saw me playing a patient, grounded Ryu, and thought that hey, this guy is a defensive Ryu who is trying to get me to jump, and has great anti-air reaction time. But ironically I don’t have a good anti-air game! And I’m pretty sure if he jumped in on me, the matches would take less than 30 seconds for him to KO me! (Video of my match will be posted when they’re up.)
Somniac was one crazy guy though who actually moneymatched Daigo multiple times. I think he must have sunk at least $500 on matches with Daigo. He even asked Daigo to use Guile, which is the worst matchup for his Bison! But I can understand the feeling, even when you get trashed by Daigo, there’s this buzz, this feeling that you’ve experienced just how damn good someone can actually be at street fighter, and you just want to experience this summit again and again.
So Daigo left after his money matches, and I watched the rest of the pools. At this point I was just so tired, and was just happy to be finally heading back to the rooms for some sleep…
To be continued.
Update! Video of my MM with Daigo: