Evolution West was at Comicon this year. I'll talk mostly about the Super Turbo tournament because it was a great tournament. Here's the results:
1) John Choi (Ryu, Old Sagat)
2) Afrolegends (Dee Jay, Balrog)
3) Jason Cole (Dhalsim)
4) David Sirlin (Vega, Honda, Bison)
5) Alex Wolfe (Dhalsim)
5) DSP (Dee Jay, Blanka, Vega, Balrog)
7) Antonio Diaz (Blanka)
7) Viscant (Vega)
My very first match of the tournament was against Jason Cole, two-time Evolution World Champion in Super Turbo. But more to the point, Cole and I were the #1 and #2 finishers at Evolution North, so it was weird to fight him straight off the bat, but we didn't complain, it's all good. Cole would definitely play Dhalsim, and I decided to pick Vega. I think I've played Vega vs. Dhalsim against Cole about 20 games or so over the last couple years. During the "normal fighting" part of the match, I have the advantage (I think). But eventually during each game, there is a part called "Dhalsim does noogie over and over and I die." This is especially hard for Vega to get out of. Counterthrowing is, for some reason, very hard for Vega in this situation. Jumping out is literally not possible if Dhalsim does a correct sequence. Vega can flip kick out (charge db, f+kick) but this is a tough thing to do. First, you only get one shot per loop because it's a charge move and worse, if you are charging you aren't shaking out of the noogie. This means a) you take full damage from the noogie and b) you telegraph that you are going to try to reversal flip kick out.
After losing game 1, I said out loud "fuck this match" and switched to Bison. Cole is too damn good at noogie trap on Vega. Bison in theory is just as screwed, but in practice he can reversal throw out more easily for some strange reason. Anyway, Cole beat me.
I went on to beat everyone else I faced that Saturday, including James Chen who I reminded the
hard way that you can't jump out of Honda's Ochio throw. I advanced to top 8. Meanwhile, Afrolegends ran the gauntlet facing Graham Wolfe, Buktooth, Valle, Choi, Graham again, and Watson. He had to beat all of them (except Choi) to advance to top 8. That's quite a string of top players, and that was just to get to the top 8.
The top 8 finals took place the next day on stage in a boxing ring in Capcom's booth at Comicon. There were hundreds of excited fans equipped with noise-makers and everything. It was a really great atmosphere to compete in. Looking back, I guess that could make someone nervous but I didn't even think to be nervous. I love being on stage.
My first match was against Viscant, a Vega player. I asked Choi if I should play Honda or something. He asked how the match goes and I said whoever gets ahead can mostly sit there or run away and it's hard for either character to make a comeback. He said it's too risky to play a match like that on purpose, so don't pick Honda. I asked about Vega and he said yeah, I have good experience with Vega so I should be ok. I sat down to play and the Ghost of Super Turbo told me to play Bison. Bison has like three ways to beat Vega pretty bad unless the Vega knows exactly what to do. I figured I'd be able to get away with at least one or two of those and it mostly worked. I won.
I then fought DSP (who had just lost to Choi, even though he beat both Valle and Watson earlier in the tournament). Given which characters DSP plays, I figured I'd be best off with Vega overall. DSP had a different way of thinking about his character selection though. I think he started by considering who *I* would think is my best chance overall given his characters and he also figured Vega would be my best bet overall. So he started with Blanka specifically to counter my Vega. Remember, these character picks are double blind, so he had to guess all that. I think he was one yomi layer above me there, and he got to play game 1 with a counter match in his favor. (Note to self: learn how to play Vega vs. Blanka.) Anyway, he won game 1.
I had a tough choice now. Vega was not working, so I needed someone else. I could play Bison, but Bison's scissor kicks don't quite work right against Blanka because of Blanka's hitbox while ducking. Also, Bison can't do anything once Blanka starts crossing him up with jump short. The match is probably in Bison's favor (I think), but there are a lot of ways to lose. I had a bad feeling about it (even though I won this exact same match (Bison vs. Blanka) against DSP in a previous tournament years ago.) I could be a little crazy and try Blanka vs. Blanka, but there's too many things I don't know about the match and I figured I should at least play someone I know what I'm doing with when hundreds of people are watching. Honda could work, though. Honda is good against Blanka but not so good against "excellent Blanka" who knows every detail of the match. I could probably pull it off though. But then I might be faced with Honda vs. Dee Jay in game 3, a very bad match for me. By this time I had to make a decision, so I decided to suck it up and win it with Honda.
DSP completely destroyed me first round. I think this confirmed everyone's fears that I had no idea what I was doing and that Honda was a terrible choice. Furthermore, I got hit by whiffed roll into bite and hop into bite. I think this must have looked like I was too old and had too bad of reaction time to stop it. Actually, this is not at all true. I knew he would jab roll into bite. I knew he would hop into bite. I can prove I knew because if you pause the game, then quit out to the main menu (of Capcom Classics Collection 2) then go to Street Fighter tips, you'll see these exact two maneuvers listed there, and I wrote it and took screenshots. Maybe DSP looked it up there! Ha. Anyway, I'm sitting there waiting for it, see it coming, and I have stored Ochio throw ready, and I mash on punches. And somehow, he got all the bites anyway. Ochio throw beats almost anything in the game, but Blanak's bite is so damn good that it actually beat the Ochio throw.
After the first round, I thought to myself "Hey, WAKE UP! You are one round away from being eliminated in a match you have every right to win! Don't just play mindlessly on instinct, THINK about it. Counter jump ins with jab headbutt. Jump or flying butt into Ochio, then mixup!" So I did. I turned off auto-pilot and did all those things and won. As expected, DSP then switched to Dee Jay and used the first round to demonstrate exactly what you do to practically perfect Honda. Ouch. I knew I had to break out of this pattern of being trapped at full screen by his projectiles, I did my best to get those next rounds off to a different start. That match is hard enough that I think I'll keep to myself what few tips I know about winning it.
I then faced Afrolegends, a man forged in fire. Now, I saw Afrolegends beat Graham Wolfe's Vega the day before. Afrolegends had magic powers with Dee Jay's low forward kick and probably did 50% of his damage against Graham with that move alone. Graham kept doing Vega's low strong, perhaps not believing that it could *really* lose to that stupid low forward kick, but it kept losing again and again. Armed with this knowledge, I was extremely careful to not get hit by it, and I did once right at the start of round 1! Then, ready for it, I tried to slide against it and I think I got hit by it anyway. I then even more carefully slid and actually hit him and carefully low stronged and actually hit him. But somewhere, things went really wrong and I lost big time. I turned to Choi, gesturing that I didn't know who to pick. Choi said "No more Vega," after seeing how soundly I was beaten. I agreed and switched to Bison (Even I'm not crazy enough to try Honda versus Dee Jay two times in a row). Game 2 was 1 round to 1 round and during the 3rd round, Afrolegends accidentally paused the game just as he was starting a crossup attempt. This foul means I win the round, and thus the game. Ouch. Afrolegends stuck with Dee Jay and showed superior knowledge of the match, and he won, eliminating me.
My two losses were to afrolegends (the #2 finisher) and Jason Cole (#3 finisher). Choi was #1.
Other highlights of the top 8. TWO people played Blanka (normally would be 0). TWO people played Dee Jay (normally would be 0). Someone played Honda. There were 3 double KOs, 2 in one game! This is more double KOs than I've seen in the last 5 years or so in ST. The two in one game was Jason Cole (Dhalsim) vs. Alex Wolfe (Dhalsim). First round, double KO. Second round, Cole won. Third round, double KO. In this situation (final round), the game automatically gives each player one round win total, meaning Alex Wolfe got a win marker even though he hadn't won a round yet! This was crazy stuff.
The tournament was topped off nicely with Choi pulling of several miracles versus Afrolegends, then Choi transforming into some kind of Korean Inferno against Jason Cole. By the end, Cole was completely thrown off his game and Choi dominated in a scary way. Later, Cole said to me "I can't believe he uppercuts at such risky times! Doesn't he know how risky it is! And he always hits. He's the luckiest mother fucker around, haha." Then Cole theorized that Choi actually conditions his opponents to act a certain way, then does his "risky" stuff only when he gets to a high pressure situation when the opponent is likely to play on instinct rather than thought. Later, James Chen theorized that Choi can "smell fear like a dog." Actually those were my words but Chen's idea. Anyway, he meant that if you make a mistake against Choi, Choi then puts pressure on you and tries to pressure you into making more mistakes. Maybe both theories are right. I had an alternate theory that if we could look into his mind, we'd see a rainbow, a floating panda and a Hello Kitty.
One last note about Guilty Gear: I hate team tournaments a lot and hope we're done with them.