Final Round is never short on salt or theatrics or any shortage of superlative play. This week the FGC Recap jets on down to Atlanta, GA for what is considered the first major event of the year. Not only does it usually feature a completely stacked roster full of the world’s best but never fails to showcase just how competitive the scene is globally. The Japanese elite are, no doubt, worthy of their crowns but the last few years have shown that when it comes to Street Fighter, in particular, the United States is starting to close the gap. Before I’m accused of only covering Ultra Street Fighter 4 in this weekly series I want to say, in my defense, that the only highlights of note lately have all come from the Ultra circuit. Final Round changed that thankfully! We even got our first real glimpse of Tekken 7 in Atlanta as Final Round was the first event in North America where it was actually playable. Enough of the talk. LET’S GOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!
The 18th installment of the annual hype-fest known as Final Round kicked off on the 20th and ran through the weekend. Numerous players were already down South after the SXSW Fighter’s Invitational the prior week including the likes of Kazunoko, Gamerbee, Daigo “The Beast” Umehara, Xian, Momochi and more. Most caught a quick flight over to Georgia, started practicing and prepared for the oncoming onslaught of Final Round. Tournament season is truly underway as of this past weekend. Not only was FR18 a Capcom Pro Tour event but home to everything from Ultra Street Fighter 4 to Smash Bros. Melee. The sheer number of amazing players across the entire spectrum of the FGC made for an atmosphere that was very akin to EVO. Let’s begin our look at FR18 with Under Night In-Birth Exe: Late.
2GB Combo Finishes Off Sushi
First things first, big shoutout to TS Sabin on commentary. He’s been streaming UNiEl a lot lately and really shown himself to be a big part of the growing community for French Bread’s stellar anime fighter. Not only has he proven a reliable source of information regarding the game but playing at the increased speed of this particular anime fighter seemed to affect his game in other titles as well. Nonetheless, the Grand Finals of UNieL came down to 2GB Combo and Sushi. Numerous characters have been “figured out” by this point in the game’s life after release, but tech is still developing for characters like Carmine and Vatista. It’s a young game, in terms of tournament life, but those Grand Finals were among the most intense I’ve seen for an “anime fighter” since the BlazBlue Grand Finals from EVO 2014. Props to 2G Combo for taking another tournament victory.
JDCR edges out Inkognito
TeamSpo0ky took over for streaming duties on Tekken Tag Tournament 2 and the entire Top 16 was full of matches worth watching though few would come close to the dramatic finish between JDCR and KIT 4H Inkognito. JDCR’s team of Heihachi and Armor King catches Inkognito’s Bryan on the ropes. The delayed Tag Crash from him simply wasn’t enough to stop the coming wave of offense from JDCR and a champion is crowned at Final Round 18’s Tekken Tag Tournament 2 event. Kudos to Inkognito, though, as his Bob/Bryan combo is deadly and his play throughout the weekend was superlative but it just felt a bit short compared to JDCR. I can’t help but agree with Markman’s assessment near the end of the broadcast and the idea that there are still more mixups to explore, still more tech to uncover within this game that has (as of yet) to be found. Tekken isn’t dead. Thankfully we’ve got a big release around the corner with the seventh installment soon.
The first of numerous hype moments from this past weekend’s Ultimate Marvel v. Capcom 3 play. I would be remiss to not showcase yet another ridiculous Justin Wong comeback in Mahvel. Wong, member of Evil Geniuses, is no stranger to being pushed to his limit when it comes to his team of choice: Wolverine, Storm, and Akuma. Justin had his back against the wall with only Akuma left and a rampaging KIT Cloud 805 when the seemingly impossible happened. Cloud805 started up what should have been the death knell for Akuma but, instead, dropped the last move and gave the wily veteran an opportunity one should never give. Moments like these demonstrate why Justin Wong is still one of the best in the world at what he does and, deservedly so, will be a strong force to be reckoned with at EVO 2015. Justin would eventually drop the set to Cloud805, but few names in the fighting game landscape can elicit the hype that Wong can. Yipes simply couldn’t handle it. Too stronk.
The Emergence of Online Warrior, KPB Terry Bogard
The dominant performance of KPB Terry Bogard this past weekend was one of the biggest surprises of Final Round 18. He is mostly known for his online play and is, well, a relative newcomer to the offline tournament scene. He showed just how strong his Dante/Strider/Morrigan team is. He blasted his way towards Grand Finals by taking out the likes of heavy hitters like Cloud805, Chris G and more. He demonstrated, far better than most I’ve seen, that netplay can breed true greatness if given enough time. His diligence with teammate Cosmos (a winner at Winter Brawl) paid off it seems though all things must come to an end.
The Heel of MvC3, FChamp, Brings The Thunder
You either love him or hate him. FChamp is a divisive personality in the community. He is good. Damn good and not afraid to let anyone know it. His team of Magneto, Dormammu and Doctor Doom has been known to induce terror and so much salt against whoever he plays. A small handful of names in the UMvC3 scene that are considered the cream of the crop: FChamp, ChrisG, and Justin Wong. The theatrics of Wong’s comeback against Cloud805 earlier in Top 8 play were thrilling indeed but paled in comparison to the domination of Ryan “Fchamp” Ramirez.
Terry Bogard’s play up until Grand Finals was so on-point, efficient and refreshing. He took down any and all who stood in front of him except Ramirez. Fchamp’s status as one of the best in the world at Marvel was affirmed with the absolute dismantling of Bogard in the Grand Finals. His Dormammu is, without a doubt, one of the best there is but his mobility with Magneto rivals even the outlandish movement of the likes of MarlinPie as well. It was a bit anti-climactic when looking back at the lead-up to the penultimate match but, for those in the know, this was a clear demonstration of the very best at the top of his game. Marvel v. Capcom 3 ultimately gave way to the most surprising and stacked event on the roster for Final Round 18 this year: Ultra Street Fighter 4.
The Resurrection of Arturo Sanchez
This is a good place to start. Long-time veteran of the scene, Arturo Sanchez (known as TS Sabin/NYCFurby) has been a Dhalsim player since, well, ever. He is a fan-favorite as a community personality with his recent expansion into UNieL and other anime fighters giving him a chance to work on his overall skill as a player. The faster speed of those games contributed to what can only be described as a legendary run over the course of Final Round 18’s USF4 brackets. He was faced with a dire situation against the best Zangief on the planet in Snakeyez. He was down on health and backed into a corner when the unthinkable. Gief jumps and the punish is intense. A simple mistake leads to an Ultra 2 finish and a character switch. The coming Evil Ryu rally is held off and Arturo eliminates Snakeyez (who scored a major win over Bonchan earlier in the tournament) from contention.
There were simply too many fantastic moments to count when it came to TS Sabin’s play throughout pools and into Top 8. He did so using Dhalsim, of all characters, who is a noted low-tier wonder. It just goes to show how effective any character can be when they’re piloted by the right person. He did not waver in the face of an aggressive Tampa Bison, EMP’s Hiro or even the likes of EG| Momochi or Rzr| Xian. The Dhalsim play was outstanding overall and though he placed 5th there is plenty to celebrate. His performance, along with numerous other American players showed that North America is closing the gap steadily between Japan and the rest of the world.
Xian Slays A God
Razer’s Xian faced off against Momochi at last year’s Capcom Cup. His heartbreaking loss has been a chip on his shoulder for months now. Momochi’s Ken is, well, dominant and his performance since the Capcom Cup finals in 2014 has been nothing less than spectacular. He looked nigh invincible going towards Top 8 play but Xian had something to say about that.
The Grand Finals came down to EG|Momochi (Ken) v. Rzr|Xian (Gen). The matchup for Gen against Ken isn’t stellar but, again, when in the right hands Gen is as deadly as any character. Xian showed his prowess with the elder kung-fu master in the Winners Semi Finals which bounced the SXSW Fighter’s Invitational champion back down to Loser’s Bracket. Momochi clawed his way back and the stage was set. It wasn’t just that Xian had this massive chip on his shoulder regarding Momochi but, rather, a burning need to show just how good he truly was on an international stage. He did not disappoint.
The back and forth of the Grand Finals are telling of the talent on display with Momochi using those patented step kicks to get in close into fierce Dragon Punches as are his signature at this point. Xian’s Gen, however, had Momochi off his game at crucial points. This is where those new to watching tournaments or fighting games in general don’t quite understand the importance of the mental aspect of the game. These Grand Finals matches are like chess matches. The footsies, the spacing and the overall mental acuity needed to squeeze every advantage possible from each move. Momochi, despite, some truly fantastic plays throughout the last matches in the set simply couldn’t hold up to Xian’s superior play with Gen. Not only was the demon of Momochi exorcised that day for Xian but, also, a statement made to the rest of the FGC that Razer’s Xian is here to show 2015 is his year. Fantastic play all around.
That will do it for Final Round 18 and the FGC Recap this week. Shoutouts to Team Spooky, Capcom Fighters, FunkyP, SixFortyFive, Kombat Network and Smash Studios for hosting all of the events online this weekend. It was the first major of the year and it was a doozy. The tournament season is now in full effect with NorCal Regionals on the way and Hypespotting 4 in Scotland on deck. Back next week with more sweet victory, mad hype and so much salt.