Monday, June 27, 2016

Getting Nashty - Hurdles

The next step on my journey was meant to be Combo Breaker in Chicago, Illinois. I was feeling confident because it was far less distance than Atlanta, and would have easier competition due to not being a “premier” Capcom Pro Tour event. Premier events automatically allow the winner to enter the Capcom Cup at the end of the year, so they naturally draw the best players from all over the planet. Combo Breaker would be more of a national event. Considering I won my pool at the much more difficult Final Round, things seemed to be falling into place.

After my carpool and hotel arrangements were becoming finalized, I was shocked to find out that a family member needed to have sudden surgery. My state of mind became disoriented, and my priorities shifted; traveling had to go on the back burner. New and creative ways of improving had to be found.

Once the medical procedure was done, I heard about a new gaming venue holding tournaments nearby. Approximately the same distance away as Arcade Legacy but with a fresh pool of players. This was exciting because I might have been able to improve my game without devoting too much energy to traveling far away from my home. Most players do not have this luxury. The venue was primarily a LAN center for MOBA games and other team oriented things, which led to a little confusion about tournament standards and prizes. However, I was eager to simply play and improve.

I was disappointed to find that this community was far weaker than the arcade crew, and although a solid Karin met me in grand finals, it won the tournament without losing a game. It might seem logical that one would take this as good news, but for me, it just meant it would still be difficult to find improvement. The next week I won again in a similar fashion, and the third. On the fourth week, a new player appeared. He used Laura, which I consider to be Nash’s most difficult matchup. If a glass cannon is someone who can kill and be killed in one hit, Nash is a glass squirt gun against Laura. We met in the grand finals, and he put up a great fight, but it was another 3-0 victory for me. We had some solid discussion about the game, which can really be just as helpful as playing. I had won four tournaments in a row and was having some fun, but due to the owners unfamiliar with running events I was simply not making enough in prizes to justify the drive and decided to close that chapter and focus on the arcade and playing online.

Hopefully that location keeps growing and develops a few good players.

People have very polarized opinions about playing online in ranked mode. Fighting people in short sets without the face-to-face interactions can really bring out your worst habits. If I could get my head in the right space, I was confident online play could be used constructively. You can't be afraid to lose, and remember that improvement is a priority over winning. At the time of this writing, I am an Ultra Platinum ranked player. The highest that has been achieved is Diamond, one rank above me, and it has only been achieved by a handful of pro players (and hackers).

I find ranked mode to be really fun and a great improvement over Street Fighter 4’s ranked system. On occasion, I have the pleasure of fighting top players that I would otherwise be unable to play against without traveling across the country. Only one or two have beaten me handily. This is not a bad thing because it gives the chance to watch the replay and get a boost of knowledge.

Whenever I come across a worthy opponent, I will ask them to play a longer set privately so we both can learn. This also gives you a little more wiggle room to experiment with new ideas and not just worry about winning the game. You have to resist the urge to use gimmicks to beat someone once and run away with the points! Generally I have found that ranked mode and online lobbies allow me to improve my game. Maybe not as much as playing in person, but it's something for sure.

The biggest event on the fighting game circuit is happening within a month from now. Evolution in Las Vegas. Nevada is known as the “Super Bowl of Street Fighter”. Although I cannot attend, a lot of knowledge can be drawn from simply spectating. Watching matches to get better can be an obscure and difficult skill to get down but it can be rewarding and fun. Always ask “what would I do in these situations”? Try to put the players in different categories based on their tendencies and guess what they will do next. Ask if players’ combos and damage are optimized or not. Of course, there are always instances where a player will unveil new strategies that you had no idea about. This is the usefulness of watching streams.

The most encouraging I can say at this point is that the game is still fun and fresh for me. I get excited to play, rather than looking at it as a chore. My Nash is still far from plateauing, and I intend to enrich my knowledge of other characters on the side. The next character being released is Ibuki. I have struggled against this character in past games due to the specific knowledge of setups and oki to survive against her. Her kunai work is similar to Sheik’s in Super Smash Brothers, rather than a standard projectile, and that looks pretty fun. Her V trigger is a time-based bomb that can be used for combos and resets. It sort of reminds me of Peacock from Skullgirls. These mechanics look really creative and fun. Her trailer also showed her using a new air dash and Critical Art! Maybe I will use her for a while to get a leg up on these tactics.

I predict that using multiple characters will become very important in SFV, as it did in SF4, due to the existence of polarizing matchups. Luckily this is a skill that comes easily to me. If anything, I need to force myself to stick to two or three of them! I had been working on Zangief to help balance out the Cammy matchup, but it's becoming clear that he is simply too weak. No amount of practice seems to make him viable. It looks pretty likely that Ibuki will be taking up some of my time.

I can't say if the opportunity will come for me to get back on the road, but the best thing I can do is try to stay ahead of the curve and be ready if the chance to travel comes. So that's what I will do!

The next goal is Rocket Punch at Arcade Legacy, a tournament where we also watch EVO on a huge projector. It is a lot of fun! I have won it in the past for Marvel vs Capcom. After that, it seems that a new regional tournament is coming to the area...

Editor's Note: 0tter is referring to Civil War: Manifest Destiny, coming September 16-18 in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Nathan Shields PowerUp Founder

Fighting game enthusiast, martial artist, and teacher. Nathan Shields ran three regional events, two of which were part of the Road to EVO Championships in 2011 and 2012. He continues to run local FGC events and supervise the growth of his scene and the PowerUp brand.

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