EVO 2011: From the Floor

Hey kids, I just realized that I ‘m going to be driving to Kansas aaaaaall night long, and my usual post schedule is going to be disrupted. Shit.

I came on to post about the EVO winners this year, and it seems Q has beat me to it. Double shit.

But, I do have one distinct advantage that he does not: I was on the floor for the Grand Championships.

The room was packed. While the Rio, this year’s venue, does not have quite the touch of elegance that last year’s venue, Caesar’s Palace, does, it does provide a bigger stage in its convention hall. So, Evo this year suffered from a shortage of secondary game demos and TVs, vendors and release events. But the display on stage was perfect for the 1000+ spectators there for the finals.

Click the jump for some fight videos, and some pics from the floor.

The last matches were intense. Daigo Umheara has a cadre of worshipers in the audience, and as a two-time champion, simply a beast with an arcade stick. His matches started as slaughters, but through the day, there were some definite weaknesses beginning to show through. Street Fighter fatigue?

The crowd goes nuts for a 'Perfect'

Crowd favorite Poongko was running Seth, and he had that down to a science. The combo was brutal. Throw a fireball. 9/10 times, an opponent would either block or jump over it, when they did so, Seth would do his vacuum maneuver and suck opponents into melee range. He’d then open up on them with a heavy combo, usually they’d take a hit or two, then block. Of course, he’d time that block into a perfect grab-and-slam maneuver. The opponent, now down about 25% health, would then fall back into perfect fireball range. Repeat.

There were a few Seth players in the top brackets, but only Poongko had the timing down so perfectly, and knew also how to turn the few players who eventually saw through the pattern back to the defensive. His precise pattern and expert timing would have given him the win.

… but not quite. (Here you can see Fuudo vs Poongko, one of my favorite matches of the night)

 

Ultimately, it was the relentless assault of Latif’s C. Viper and Fuudo’s Fei Long that were able to surpass Poongko and meet for the final round. C. Viper was a favorite, with a powerful combo set that had gotten 3 players into the top 8. Fei Long was a wild card, for sure. The crowd was in Latif’s corner, chanting, USA! USA! USA! Latif had beaten Fuudo earlier in the evening, and sent him to the losers bracket to hope for a comeback. Everything seemed to be on Latif’s side … but the game went to Fuudo (Food).

I can’t complain about this at all. I was with the crowd, wanting the local guy to win (well, actually Latif is a student from Saudi Arabia, but he plays for the US now. “He fights for the user!”) but I can’t deny the absolute expertise of Fuudo. I saw it with my own eyes, Fuudo would usually lose his first match against every opponent. Why? He was studying them. By the end of one round, he knew their power combo, their play style. We saw Fuudo’s Fei Long battle against another C. Viper in the finals bracket, crushed in round 1, but by round 2, he’d guessed the pattern, the distance, and was able to stand just shy of where all of C. Viper’s combos would hit. He’d then unleash a nigh unstoppable counter attack.

By the time Fuudo had reached the last round against Latif, he’d already seen enough C. Viper players to know exactly what combo set Latif has going to use. He’d lost to this player once before. Now he knew exactly what he was going to do. There was hardly a question as to who the winner was going to be. Fuudo would move in Fei Long as if to attack, stop just shy of the counter, and then begin for real. It was feint maneuvering on an epic scale.

So, hats off to you, Fuudo. You truly are a master, and it was great to watch you at work.

And congrats to all the other finalists as well. I’m not a bad Street Fighter player, but you could all whip my ass into oblivion at that game. You’re just effin’ scary, frankly.

Pic of Champion Fuudo from Shoryuken.com, a sponsor site where you can find full brackets.

 

One last glance at the stage. This is where it all happens my friends. Epic.