Edit: I forgot to link the excellent piece Corey did on SS for the ABC. Good shit Corey!
I wake up at 645 AM to catch the Skybus to the airport. I heard from Sol the night before that the first wave of guests arrive at 840AM. I listen to the episode of the Dr. Sub Zero show with Pyrolee, which is a hoot, on my way over to keep from falling asleep.
I get there and the first person I see is Pyro. Apparently he got there two hours before everybody else and he’s toting a nice hand drawn Jay Jay sign on him. Poor Pyro, he got a lot of teasing from everybody. Soon, Igor, Toxy, Carnage, Ramee Ali and Shadowfox show up. Ali asks me “what are you doing here?” and I instantly feel a pall of uselessness seethe through me. I have no car, and thus, have no utility in life.
The guests take very long to come out of the gates, but the first two are Knives and Jay Jay. Jay Jay is cheerful and bubbly as I expected, and we leave her and Pyro to their own devices. I walk up and shake Knives hand. He seems really nice on first impression, and we talk to him a little bit about things.
The next people out are Filipino Champ and DJHuoshen. I’ve met DJHuoshen before when he last came down to Melbourne, and my introduction to him was when I was fiddling around with KOF in the corner at SNL. He came by and actually sat down and immediately tried to teach me the game. DJ is a swell guy, and I was really glad to see him. I also think he looks like a young Christian Bale from American Psycho.
Champ had that trademark smirk on his face. He pumps his head as he shakes your hand and looks away quickly. He seems to have a lot of energy for a dude off a long flight. His strong personality definitely comes through in his body language.
I don’t stay much longer, and get a ride back to Ali’s place with Igor, whose car is stuffed full of gear for his ST tournament, supergun, PS2 sticks and the like.
I get there and see that Leslie, Dakou, Xiaohai and MOV are already there. I love MOV and I’m really glad he came back this year after I heard he was quite upset at the 3rd Strike cabinet fiasco last year. I’m also sure he’s one of the few international guests that actually remember my face. We brought him to table tennis and shit last year, and some of my favourite memories were watching him and Poongko go at it over Bishi Bashi.
Deshiken is also there, and I say hi to him. Deshiken is almost painfully shy and polite and any attempt to talk to him makes him almost bend over in two furiously bowing and nodding his head. He is so damn nice and just…so grateful! I feel bad that he’s always sitting by himself somewhere, I just wish I could communicate with him better.
Champ and Knives settle down for some casuals. Watching Knives really makes me question my team. His Akuma assist and Sentinel assist seem so tailor made for Spencer, way more than my Ammy assist. Not only does he get to mix-up and get into the opponent’s face much easier and from much more of an horizontal plane, the hits knock them upwards which make hit confirming into an up grapple that much easier. His Akuma is no slouch either, coming back several times after people X-factor to kill his Spencer.
I watch Filipino Champ, and his defense is pretty freaking good. He blocks almost everything. He’s probably the most talkative of the Americans, at least when he’s in the mood, because sometimes he puts on his earphones and plays without speaking a word. He talks about strategies and philosophies, about how with the meter gain in Ultimate, people should just kill his first character Magneto, his primary meter builder, and then snap when you get a hit on the second character and go for the Phoenix kill. Knives vehemently agrees with this. I also notice he assigns dash to a button as well for those slap chop Magnus combos.
I like listening to Champ, he’s outspoken and entertaining. And he provides great information and perspective from a top player’s viewpoint. He says that he’s been playing almost exclusively Marvel, and not really practicing much AE anymore. He seems pretty confident about the Marvel tourney, and I definitely consider him to be one of the strong favourites. His Phoenix is definitely no fraud Phoenix, and he does actual Phoenix combos, often opting not to kill with Super and instead with the up flame loops, so that he gets better post-KO oki.
Then the Asian invasion happens. Choco Blanka, Momochi, Gamerbee, Eita, Gachi-kun, EX Mamehara, Eita, and so many more show up. Even though I’m Asian myself, I have a lot of difficulties distinguishing between the guests except for the ones I’ve already met. Eita is a hoot though. I talked to him a bit through Daichi’s translation and he’s quite demonstrative and an unreserved happy dude for a Japanese player. We ask him what his favourite anime is and he spreads out his arms and exclaims “All!” They all settle down and start playing after a while.
I introduce myself to Louis aka Offcast and we talk a bit. He’s a really cool guy. Out of all the guests at SS Louis is actually the dude I was most looking forward to talking to. See, most of the guests can’t speak English, and anyway they’re top players. What do they have in common to talk about with a scrub like me? Actually, that’s not true, they’re happy to talk about a lot of stuff.
But since Louis comes more from the tournament organization side, that’s what I was really interested in talking about with an international. Over the days I would ask him stuff about SoCal, LevelUp and how they do things, and it was refreshing to see that basically tournament organizers around the world share pretty similar opinions or mindset. Be it Ziggy, Loki, or Offcast, I think the type of people that pop up around the globe that build successful communities often share similar personality traits; a desire for organization, a sense of ethics, a keen learning mind, and a kind of selflessness that I see in so many great organizers.
And of course Louis and Champ ended up being fed a proper Upfield kebab. Also, I think Knives is the first vegetarian Street Fighter player I’ve ever met! He was telling me that he was trying to lose weight and get in shape the last couple of weeks, and I think that is pretty commendable. I know I will probably follow my great granddaddy, bless his soul, into the grave with stomach cancer with all the shit I eat. I’m not even kidding.
Soon, it’s time to start bringing them to the St Kilda apartments where they will be staying for the weekend. Ali asks Daichi to translate for him to the Japanese players, to ask them to whether they want to leave for the apartments. Daichi tells Ali that they want to stay and play.
I think that might be the result of the “polite Asian” factor, by which I mean when you go ahead and ask one of them something, they don’t really want to trouble you, so they just go, “it’s okay, it’s okay”, not realizing that not making a decision or staying pat actually creates more problems, schedule and logistics wise. It’s like, when you have a shower free, you’ll go ask someone to go shower and they go “it’s okay, it’s okay,” when actually if they go shower now, it clears up shower time for other people afterwards.
I think Ali should have just used the voice of command and just ordered everyone out of there. But as it was, they all hung around until late in the afternoon when basically we had no option left but to ferry them straight to Box Hill. And then all their luggage becomes a new problem.
Carnage and Igor had gone to pick up Justin Wong and Airtola, so we had not that many drivers left. Chris, Fox, Sol and me started to organize them into small groups and getting them into the cars, which was a job in itself. Some of them like Gamerbee had massive, fit-a-corpse-in-there kind of luggage bags so that meant that we couldn’t even fit all the car occupants’ luggage into the boot and we had to break up the luggage. It was raining and it took an hour to get everyone sent off in their cars but we eventually did it.
H and Igor came back with Justin and Airtola, and they took me and Toxy in their car to Box Hill. In that car ride I had basically my only conversation with Justin of the weekend, and I asked him a bunch of things, about food, Marvel, Skullgirls and xTekken. He said that he was eager to test himself at this tournament against the tournaments so he would know where he stands and what he needs to practice/fine-tune before EVO. He said he had been travelling a lot recently, and he was definitely happy to hear about Box Hill because accordingly to Justin, he’s the type of dude that has to have rice every day. Hm kind of like my mom. He definitely felt like he had some defence barriers or mechanisms around him at first, but he’s a pretty straightforward guy when he starts going.
I definitely saw why he has I guess, safeguards in place, later in the weekend when people were really getting at him, sticking to him like glue and talking his ear off non-stop. Justin has been famous for a really long time, and I can’t imagine how tough it must be to deal with the constant attention. This also happened last year with Mike and Gootecks as well. I saw that people were coming up to them non-stop and it actually made me feel bad for them. It made me feel like I didn’t want to be one of “those guys”. So I pretty much left them alone for the rest of the weekend, and I did the same with Justin as well. I know quite a few people felt and acted the same way like me as well.
Airtola is really young; I think he was only eighteen! It’s pretty cool that the first time he got to travel outside of Cali; he came to the land down under. And to a country that the legal drinking age is 18 instead of 21! The other interesting thing about the Americans was they seemed to have no fear of Morrigan whenever I brought it up. Champ would say just pick Strider assist, bring her down and “kill that bitch” and DJ would shrug casually and say; “I got Super Skrull.”
So we got to Box Hill, and I wasn’t really interested in playing. It had been a really long day, and I haven’t been practicing at all the last week or so with all the SS preparation.
But it’s fun to be back in the arcade where the sick pre-SS tourneys have been happening over the years, and my stomach starts pulsing reminders of the delicious Asian food to be had in this suburb.
I spend most of my time watching MOV practice up his Bishi-Bashi. If I thought MOV was godlike before last year, and Poongko just a step in front, MOV has definitely stepped up his game this year. Me and Cactus’ minds were blown as he navigated his way through the mini-games. He hit basically SSS rank in everything and was in Monster Mode basically every game. He would get the bonus 3000 points from crazy situations that Cactus and I would never dream off. We kept looking at each other and saying “how the hell does he know this shit?!!?” Like for the shaved ice challenge he would stop mashing the red green and blue buttons and mash the yellow button for a specific bowl that would cause a bruise to happen on the characters head and he would get an additional 3k points. On the “move the ground up and down for the bike to go through” game he actually manipulated it so that the bike would move backwards, back through the starting line and hit a bonus point behind the starting line before moving forward!
What the fuck??? How did he know all this shit? He must’ve researched it from a site or something.
On the “level the paintings” challenge he would shake the Mona Lisa back and forth on purpose and something would fly out and give him points! Mind completely blown. MOV would keep pointing out and telling us how to achieve all these Bishi Bashi secrets. Training for the salty runback with Poongko!
He showed us a notebook, and how he basically memorized entire sequences for some of the challenges! He would do them so fast you couldn’t even see the symbols pop up on the screen! For the “Menu challenge” he even wrote down the location of the food items in his notebook, because MOV can’t read English! The dedication. No wonder the Japanese are the best at Street Fighter.
I went 0-2 right away in the tournament, losing to Eranzo, and eating two Ultras to the face to lose crucial rounds, which left me with a very, very, very salty taste in my mouth. But I played like shit anyway. I hope to do better in my next match, which was against Kenji.
With his missus looking on, I played much better and winning the first two rounds, before choking away the next three, even falling for the classic Kenji “jump over and crossover but do a Jaguar kick just as you go over his head to make his DP whiff land and ultra” trick that I should have seen coming from a million miles away. Very salty. I shook his hand begrudgingly but I can’t be mad at Kenji.
I should’ve warmed up. What was I thinking? Anyway no excuses the main reason is because I suck big hairy donkey balls. I went off to go eat with Kevin, Exis, Rob and Nickerz at Teahouse to cull the salt.
I had this godlike bowl of popcorn chicken over a rice mound with salted veg and minced meat. It was awesome. I normally have bulgogi at that place as it’s a Korean place, but that bowl was magnificent and really hit the spot. The new milk tea shop right next to it was pretty good as well.
I come back and hear that Pyro brought Jay Jay, Justin and the guests to Tram Tracks to “troll them”. Huh. At least I had fun shitting on Pyro in front of Jay Jay for bringing her to such a basically generic food place. Man, is it always that fun to shit on a guy because of his lady? Now I know why you assholes always do it to me… Screw you guys!!!
So the tourney went on with Vitriol doing his thing and Chris doing his usual Superman Organiser thing. I caught up with a few folks like George, Khon, Baz and Ben, James, Combomaniac and the like and the other really pleasant surprise was when I saw Jeff there! I found out that Kilok and Yusuke had basically driven directly up to Jeff’s office and dragged him along! Heheheh. But he got top 16 in an incredibly stacked tournament, so stong, so stong. Jeff is too good.
Kilok I think did the best out of the “Bluehouse three”; I think he lost to a Adon? So it could possibly be EX Mamehara. I saw poor Huoshen playing KOF ’98 at the start of the tournament, and he basically conked out right in the chair of the cabinet halfway through the tournament, his sleeping head bent back over the seat. Double elimination anything with AE takes pretty much forever!
So the Marvel players didn’t really have much to do. But Knives who I’d overheard talking to Rob about music, had said how excited he was to go to this rave party after Shadowloo Showdown, and he seemed pretty pumped about DDR as well. So at least he had something to do and was dancing away at the machine.
But the AE tournament was really good. I saw Champ beat Momochi, Dakou and Michael Tan really impress with their shoto play, but in the end Xiaohai straight beasted on everybody.
Such solid footsies, and once he got the knockdown all the unblockable setups and ambiguous cross up dive kicks would come out. Another thing he kept doing over and over again was to hit counterhit low fierce from basically half screen away and link into full Ultra. He kept hitting it! People were making jokes that who needs meter to combo into his Ultra when his BnB was basically counterhit fierce into Ultra anyway. He really dominated, and even though I think he lost winners final I think to a Sagat with both of them on no life, and the Sagat doing EX tiger knee into low short low short for the win. But he came back two sets to win the grand final against Gachi-Kun. Eita got top eight as well playing with a lot of personality making strong reads and killing people extremely fast.
I mentioned Michael Tan and Dakou previously and when I asked Toxy that day which guest had impressed him the most when playing them in casuals and he said Michael Tan was the hardest by far. He’s relatively unknown compared to some of the other famous internationals but damn he is so strong and solid. He would get you to block a low forward and Kara grab you on the first possible frame just before you get pushed back out of range. I didn’t get to talk to him much, but he seems like a pretty quiet guy. And Dakou, goddamn, his Ryu footsies were amazing. He was beating Leslie in casuals and doing really well whenever I took the time to watch him play. With Xiaohai and Dakou I think China really showed that their level in SFIV is at a really high level, and everybody should probably be on their guard if they show up to Evolution this year.
After the tournament, everyone started dispersing. I stood there thinking about the last few years and wondering if “the curse of Box Hill” would strike again. No one who has won the pre-SS tournament has gone on to win SS itself. I think Tokido or Mago won the first year but lost to Gamerbee in the grand finals. And Momochi dominated last year at Box Hill with his Yun and really impressed everybody, but we all knew how that turned out with Poongko taking it out. I wonder if Xiaohai would be the first to carry over his dominance from Box Hill on Sunday night.
I got a lift from Kilok who was sending Jeff home. Jeff lives basically right next to me so it’s pretty convenient for me. After dropping off George at CQ they wanted to grab a bite to eat…and before I knew it we ended up at Bluehouse for one or two Ryu vs. Chun matches! I guess they wanted to forget about their salty losses at Box Hill heh.
We ate, and I tried to encourage Jeff to come for SS. He said he would think about it. (His mom is here.) So we left for home after that, and even got stopped by the cops on our way back for “random inspection” aka the Muttons factor.
I hit the sack hard, determined to grab as much precious sleep as possible before the “hell weekend” starts.