Otaku USA Magazine

I like to think I’m always up for a challenge, otherwise people usually call me a glutton for punishment or my own worst enemy. Such was the reaction when I announced that I would enter the national tournament that Gamestop was running for Street Fighter IV. With the tournament only three days after the game’s actual release, people were justified in questioning my sanity. All the same, it was a heck of an experience that will go down in the history books. Well, mine anyways.

From the day I picked up the game, I was deadlocked in training. My initial plan was to use a character that people had initially written off as horrible to sweep my way to the semi-finals. This backfired horribly as I ended up playing so many characters that the plan was eventually shuffled. My drive and determination slowly turned into doubt as it started looking like I wasn’t making any progress.All I ended up getting for my trouble were stress and blisters. On the last day before the tournament, I tell a friend that the only chance I have is with some sort of miracle or a freak snowstorm.

Waking up at 10 AM, I discover my apparent control of the universe; Milwaukee is covered in 5 to 8 inches of snow with flurries falling fast. Being brought up in Wisconsin, walking through snow isn’t that bad of a concept. Also, the walk to Gamestop from my house on average takes a good 10-12 minutes. With that in mind, I thought that this wouldn’t be too much of a problem. Wrong. The full journey ends up being 45 minutes, on account of the snowfall, ice patches, and the lack of a city ordinance to get people off their butts to shovel. I get through it thanks to Kodomo Band’s so-called 21st Century version of “Heart of Madness, the insert theme for the Fist of the North Star movie. For whatever reason, it works.

One ice pratfall later, I finally make it to the store….a half hour early. This doesn’t prove to be much of a problem as the rules for the tournament state that you need to be there a half-hour early to begin with. Thanks to the snow, a good chunk of the players that had signed up in advance are no-shows. It had gone down from 20-30 some people to only the 12 that were there, including me. I mingle and joke around with the other guys, among them a team of brothers who are Ryu players. The one wearing a Slipknot hat and I get along; He would go on to defeat everybody he went up against. Eventually, we rally together and sign in, “The Shortest Tournament In History,” he calls it. Because of the turnout, even off-duty employees enter the game, knowing full well that their matches won’t count for nothing more than byes. Normally, that means that somebody would advance to the next round without having to face somebody. In this case, it meant that no matter the outcome, whoever the employees faced would go on to the next round automatically. I sigh in relief as it’s starting to look like the odds are in my favor.

The rounds go by pretty fast, the real threat proving to be the two “Ryu Brothers.” Because of the ban on unlockable characters, there were plenty of Ryus and Kens showing up. The fun atmosphere makes me remember what it was like to be in an arcade again. It’s almost sad that tournaments like this are becoming the only semblance of Video Center Camaraderie. I suddenly snap back to reality when I hear my name called. It’s my turn. My opponent goes for Balrog and I’m left clueless as to who I should go with. Ryu? No, he’d be too slow and everybody else is playing him. Viper? Not without a Fightpad. Ken? Hell no! My final choice ends up being Chun-Li, the character whose Super and Ultra Combos I’m incapable of doing. The loading screen clears and I prepare for the worst….

I win it.

My jaw hits the floor. I’m ecstatic. I’m on top of the frigging world! Out of what seemed like nothing came actual progress! As I recover, the matches go on. I get something of a bye as one of the employees is playing again. Carlos calls to see how I’m doing and I report the good news. He’s in just as much shock as I am but just as wrap up our conversation, I get called back over for my next match. Into the ring steps a skinny 19 year-old with a lip piercing and a PSP at the ready in his pocket. He’s a Blanka player. I take a breath, select Chun-Li once more and start our match.

The end result? I get knocked out. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t let down or anything. To tell the truth, I actually felt great about it. Now I would have been mad if I had lost to a Jackass Spam Tactician but this wasn’t the case. What transpired during that match was one of the closest and most exciting fights I’ve had to date and I loved every second of it. The kid would go on to the finals where he would become one of the two guys that would go on to Round 2 the following week. The other guy who made it? Yep, one of the Ryu Brothers who actually took out his sibling in a fight to advance. That too was a hell of a match. After the celebrations, we exchange Gamertags and I wish him all the best, knowing full well that the real monsters of the game are going to rear their ugly heads in the next few rounds.

Walking back home through the arctic tundra that was my neighborhood, I recalled the memories that went by too fast. I almost wish that I had made it to Round 2, if only to meet more people that weren’t content with just shouting at people over a microphone. Ah well, I think, that’s what unofficial local tournaments are for. I guess the question remains as to whether or not I actually would put myself through this again. Slumping back into my computer chair, my answer came from a Twitter post from the EIC; The Fight Goes On Forever.