Evolution 2016 saw the Street Fighter V scene reach new heights. This year’s tournament saw record entrants and a new standard of production values as the EVO Top 8 graced ESPN2. We’ve hit the halfway mark for the 2016 Capcom Pro Tour. We’ve seen exceptional highs from the community as we march towards the same standards as other esports, but the community is also going through some growing pains as serious adjustments become apparent. As the community changes, the SFV meta is changing and there is an arms race for who can dethrone the current champion, Seonwoo “Infiltration” Lee. I’d like you to join me as I take a look at the current state of the CPT and talk about the path ahead.
I noted in the previous article that Street Fighter V did not enter the scene with grace. The game launched unpolished with missing features in an attempt to meet the start of the 2016 Pro Tour. We’ve seen features and characters added to the game since release that have added stability and variety to the game. Street Fighter V stands at a crossroads, especially with the 8 frames of input lag currently plaguing the game. Input lag is a factor that affects a player’s ability to react to various situations and excessive input response time is a hindrance to both top and mid-level players. It enables the abuse of techniques and strategies that are only viable in the unstable nature of online play. Common examples include the use of dashing at another player and either throwing or sweeping them because they cannot react fast enough. It’s what caused the Hajime “Tokido” Taniguchi to be thrown 4 times in a row during CEO Grand Finals.
As of right now, Capcom has addressed the issue and has reported that a fix will not be live until after the 2016 Pro Cup has concluded. Luckily, this situation hasn’t been dire enough to affect the blossoming competitive scene. The 2016 Pro Tour has seen a constant rotation of finalists. Both the North American and Asian scenes are currently in a renaissance. The North American players have managed to step their game up after spending the majority of Street Fighter IV’s life-cycle being dominated by European and Asian players. There is also a massive shakeup from the Asian scene as well with many top SFIV players unable to successfully transition to SFV. While the field has begun to even out, there is still a definite struggle from the Americas to prove themselves.
North America was a strong presence at this year’s EVO. We saw hometown hero, Joseph “LI JOE” Ciramelli place 5th in a tournament of killers. While LI Joe has consistently performed well in this year’s CPT, Evo saw him ascend to the world stage. The Jersey native would eventually be eliminated by Japan’s Fujimura “Yukadon” Atsushi, but LI Joe cemented himself as a people’s champion for the tournament. LI Joe was joined by EG’s Justin Wong as an American standout. After being eliminated by notable Canadian player, Henri “Chi-rithy” Oung, Wong cleaved his way through both notable wildcard, Martin “Marn” Phan, and Street Fighter legend Daigo Umehara.
Wong wasn’t Oung’s only victim in the tournament. Chi-rithy worked his way through a stacked bracket that resulted in him eliminating Red Bull’s Marie-laure Norindr and Justin Wong before being sent to losers by LI Joe. Level Up’s Alex Valle would eventually send Chi-rithy home, but his performance sets him above his Canadian peers. We saw an excellent showing from the Americas this year, but the Asian scene is still leading the competitive scene.
The Asian Street Fighter scene is in the midst of a vicious power struggle. Korea’s Infiltration is the undisputed king of Street Fighter V and has recently won 3 CPT qualifiers. The only player to have handed Infiltration a loss was Tokido at CEO 2016. Infiltration was sent to loser’s bracket at Evo 2016 by Razer’s Keita “Fuudo” Ai, but Infiltration went on to eliminate Yukadon then reset the bracket to win the tournament from Fuudo. We’ve seen both new and old players attempt to dethrone Infiltration with Tokido being the only successful player to do so. There is an arms race in the Asian scene to defeat Infiltration’s solid fundamentals and exceptional knowledge of the game.
We will see the release of Juri, Infiltration’s old character from IV, in July. As the Asian and American scenes race to find anti-Infiltration strategies, we could see the current champion make a mid-year character switch. As of right now, the best hope at combating Infiltration’s Nash is Tokido. Tokido and Infiltration did not meet at Evo. Time will tell if Tokido has started to find cracks in the Korean champion, but the Asian scene is pushing to close the gap. We may also see a return from Red Bull’s Daigo Umehara. Umehara himself admits that he wasn’t ready for CEO or Evo and that Tokido is the superior Ryu player. Daigo has period where he flounders, but I fully believe that the former champion can return to form.
As the CPT enters its’ second half we must look at the state of the FGC. Right now some of the biggest issues lie in tournament organization. This year’s Evo, Final Round and CEO have all had difficulty accommodating to growing entrant counts. The problem started at Final Round 2016 when Street Fighter V hit the entrant cap of 1024 players. Brackets were run non-stop from 8am until midnight and some players didn’t learn of their bracket until 4am the previous night. We saw the same growing pains at CEO with the Smash Brothers entrants and at Evo with over 5000 Street Fighter V entrants. While I was critical of Final Round, they did attempt to remedy the player count by running brackets through popular bracket software, Smash G.G. They were caught unprepared for the player count and their attempts at using the new software only exasperated the issue. Evo’s paper brackets also caused disorganization and a delay in result reporting that hasn’t been finished almost a week later. Representatives from CEO, Final Round and Evo have stated plans to address this next year and this will cause other events to follow suit. As the FGC works their way into modern esports, the organization must follow suit.
Despite a rocky start, both the FGC and the Capcom Pro Tour have exciting things on the horizon. SFV has its’ final DLC characters release over the next two months. Their release has the potential to change the current meta as well as the current characters we see dominate tournaments. While Capcom is slow on correcting errors, we start the second half in a much better place. The appearance on ESPN is the start of great things for the community. As new players seek competition and the tournaments bolster their growth as players, we are at a golden age of fighting games. Next week marks the debut of something I’ve been working on and Killer Instinct fans should be excited.
Seth Hall has been playing fighting games for the last four years and writing for the last two. He can be found on twitter @themanseries and will be competing at The Fall Classic in Raleigh, North Carolina.
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