As I mentioned previously, Season’s Beatings 4 was my first ever tournament experience. I wasn’t expecting to play well for a variety of reasons, so I set a goal of beating just one person. There were 8 pool brackets in total with ~30 people in each. Aside from top players who were seeded so that they didn’t knock each other out early in the double-elimination tourney, the brackets were randomly generated.
Unfortunately for me, my first two matches were against good players who ended up advancing relatively far in my pool. I lost to both players and just like that, I was eliminated. Interesting aftermath: after my losses, I was rooting for both to win and go far in the pool so that I could justify my losses and not feel too badly. Funny how that works.
However, I primarily came to the tournament not to prove myself, but to watch some of the best U.S. Street Fighter 4 fighters battle it out in person. In that sense, this event was a massive success for me and I had so much fun watching the fights. The talent exhibited was breathtaking. I found myself shaking my head repeatedly, stunned by the tricks and clutch performances they delivered. The event was a showcase for the competitors to display the results of dedicated training. It’s hard not to be inspired by the pride and love these players have for their craft.
So… 2 losses and I was out. Not that surprising a result considering I’m a scrub to begin with and didn’t get sufficient training because of school. Going into the tournament, I thought I wouldn’t be nervous because nobody knew who I was, plus I fully expected to lose. That should take the pressure off, right?
But playing at home is SO different than playing in a tournament setting with a crowd of people watching the match and your opponent loudly smacking the buttons (I found this very distracting). Becoming nervous is almost unavoidable for first-time participants. It’s also not easy standing around for hours waiting for your turn to fight. When your name suddenly gets called, you have to go from 0 to 60 in 2 seconds, performing at peak ability right away, on demand. I didn’t think that would be a factor, but I definitely should have participated in warm-up matches if I wanted to be serious about playing.
Balrog (Boxer) is my main character. My first opponent was a Sagat who I felt was straightforward and someone I could have beat if I was sitting comfortably at home. In a tourney environment though, nerves got the best of me and I played sloppily. I was missing combos all over the place and missed headbutt into ultra TWICE, which I normally hit 100% in my sleep. He beat me 2-0 rounds in the first game (matches are best out of 3 games).
I won the first round in the second game. When he took the second round in the second game, I turned to him, ready to shake his hand. That’s how demoralized I was, my head clearly wasn’t in the game. He kinda smiled and said, “It’s not over, man”. Very nice guy, reassured me that it was a good fight afterwards — I hope I didn’t look depressed?
My second opponent in loser’s bracket was superstar commentator Yipes. This was about 1.5 hours after my first match because Yipes was commentating on the online stream and couldn’t come fight me right away. At this point, I didn’t care about my progress in the tournament and just wanted to watch the SF4 3-on-3 tournament to be honest. Yipes beat me 2-0, 2-0 with his Ken. Nice guy also.
After I was eliminated, I was free to wander around and watch other people play. There were some great matches, but naturally the premier fights were during SF4 Finals on the last day of the tournament. The much anticipated Justin Wong vs. Daigo Umehara first-to-10 exhibition battle was held on the evening of the second day. After all the hype, it ended up becoming somewhat of a disappointment when Daigo steamrolled over Justin 10-2. Justin started off strong and gave Daigo a good challenge initially, but faltered and seemed to give up at the end.
It was a different story on Finals day. Unsurprisingly, Daigo and Justin, being 2 of the top players in the world, defeated all their opponents and faced off in Finals of the Winner’s Bracket and again in the Grand Finals. Justin shockingly picked Fei Long as his character against Daigo. Fei Long is an unpopular character in the game due to lack of versatility and power.
But Daigo has minimal experience fighting against Fei, who is a console-exclusive character not present in the arcade version. Japanese players have a strong arcade culture, and so they still play Street Fighter 4 in arcades, not at home on the consoles. That means they get little to no exposure with the console characters.
Justin initially dominated Daigo with Fei Long, capitalizing on his unfamiliarity with the match-up. Daigo had no response to Fei Long and repeatedly fell for the same attacks. The audience was roaring, shocked that Daigo actually seemed like an underdog for once.
But the hallmark of elite players is adaptation. As the match continued, Daigo adjusted to Justin’s tricks and learned counters. This in turn forced a cat-and-mouse game where Justin had to adapt and counter the counters. Mind games is the heart of high-level Street Fighter play, and we were fortunate to have witnessed two of the world’s finest demonstrate this battle of wits and execution in a slug-fest for the championship. Both players evolved before our very eyes. Once Daigo’s adjustment was complete, he prevailed in the end, further building his legendary status.
I had a great experience at Season’s Beatings 4 and feel like I too leveled up, just simply participating in my first tournament. While I have no inclination to become a serious tournament player, the appeal is obvious to me. There’s something inspiring about constantly working to develop your skills and traveling to search for worthy opponents. Everybody should believe in Ryu’s philosophy of becoming a world warrior, always striving to improve and not shirking challenges. For anybody who’s remotely interested in Street Fighter, I would recommend finding and attending a local competition. It’s a lot of fun, even if you’re a terrible player, and you could be taking the first step into a larger world.