Mike "thxyoutoo" Perlas gives a rundown of the Level|Up Series event, The Specialists 3, which was a 5 vs 5 regional exhibition that took place in Southern California. NorCal and Arizona were special guests for this event, and though team NorCal had strong players on the team, with the team lacking many NorCal "household names", the eventual outcome was one that most people did not expect.
California - a place of sunshine, greenery, and hot babes. In this mythical land movie stars roam free, everyone is always in a hurry, and we all dress the same. In California the people are laid back, some say crazy, while others dare say progressive. It is a strange place to be. This is the image people get when they think of this place. Yet, the reality is that California isn't as easy to describe as a flowchart. Ken would not want to live here...
Being a singular state, Californicators are often stereotyped. We step into a room and tell people, "We're Cali." They just respond, “Ooooh, you're one of those people.” However, things are not as simple as all that! California is the longest and third largest state in America. What does this mean? In reality, California is extremely diverse and almost should be considered two states, with a North and a South. When we introduce ourselves we specifically state “I'm from NorCal” or “I'm from SoCal”. It's our identity.
Having this internalized perception of differentiation within California, a natural rivalry began. We say “Hella”, while they say whatever the [f-bomb] they say in that mysterious part of that region (they totally/probably/most likely say “Heavena”). Yet with these differing identities we share similar and at times identical philosophies, vocabulary, wardrobes, and all eat the same things (In-N-Out Burger anyone?).
So where the [f-bomb] are you going with this, Mike? This last weekend was the Level|Up Series Specialists III. Many of you should already know that this is Alex Valle's current project in progressing and growing the fighting game scene/community. This event was a regional 5 on 5 exhibition, dividing So Cal into 6 regions. Additionally, 2 guest teams from Arizona and NorCal. Yours truly traveled with our team to be a guest commentator at the Level|Up event and be the NorCal cheer captain (not on the bleachers - like Taylor Swift).
I drove down with Team NorCal's Sagat player Sean “200 yen” Pak (formerly known as a top Tekken 5: DR player). It took us 7 hours to drive from NorCal to SoCal. It must be noted many states in other regions of America can be passed through in a fraction of that time. We arrive at the home of Eric “Jesus Kick” Choi, John Choi's little brother and Team Nor Cal's Rufus player (note: Eric Choi's brotherhood with John Choi may or may not be DNA related).
Here we stayed for the night, all the while reading EventScrubs for helpful strategies and playing on the PlayStation Network for that last minute practice. I asked Eric Choi if I could play with him but he said he'd get better and more beneficial practice in G2, which he is currently ranked in on Championship Mode (SF4).
The next day we traveled about an hour and a half to get to the infamous House of Cicada. Let me stress the fact that although we were already in SoCal, it was an unpleasant realization that SoCal is bigger and more spread out than I had thought. Apparently SoCal suffers from the same problem NorCal does, in that top players are spread out hours apart from each other and must travel a lot (if at all possible) to get that high quality practice in. It was a pleasant surprise to find that NorCal and SoCal shared this similarity.
When we arrived, I noticed the rest of Team NorCal was already practicing. I watched nervously as Ryan “Filipino Champ” Ramirez coached Brian “Grimmz” Rincon during his warm up games. Soon, Vance “Vangief” Wu began to please the crowd with his amazing Walking/Standing 720 Ultras. When that died down, Team NorCal relaxed in a room apart from the main area and mayhem to wind down before the event was to begin.
As the main event got under way, it was clear that NorCal was perhaps the strongest team represented in this regional exhibition. Matches were played, intermissions commenced, and Hori sticks were raffled off. During this time Alex Valle gave out a very inspirational speech about how the new game (Super SF4) was to release soon, and hopes that each of us continue to develop our own styles and be true to who we are as players. This tear dropping moment was soon invaded by a room full of howling laughter as someone asked, "What about Yeb?!" (Gen's slap chops got nerfed :sadface:).
Afterwards, the intermission was over and the exhibition continued with some amazing matches. Through all of this Team NorCal continuously won their matches, beating all comers with ease. This was until Team NorCal met with Team San Diego.
NorCal had a very strong team, yet Team San Deigo was an extremely big threat. NorCal was beating player after player until Shady K (Akuma/Gouki) stepped onto the plate and began to reverse OCV Team NorCal; defeating Filipino Champ, Grimmz, Vance and Eric Choi, things were looking grim (pun intended). Finally, NorCal and San Diego were on their last team members in 200 yen and Shady K. In the match 200 yen made it look almost free, toying with Shady K and attempting Kara Uppercuts through Shady's fireballs. Though Shady K had a terrific showing, his endurance was not enough to beat 5 NorCal contenders and 200 yen saved NorCal from, what would have been, their first defeat.
The night was far from over, as Team NorCal had yet to face off with the strongest SoCal team in the tournament: East Los Angeles. This team consisted of Keno, Mike Ross, Vic the Slick, KillerKai, and Combo Jack. This was no team to take lightly - Asians are deceptive and tricky and you should always bet on black.
In what was considered Grand Finals for the event, the undefeated NorCal team faced off East LA (which had 1 loss). East LA needed to defeat NorCal to tie it up, enabling them to run it back for another set to determine the true #1 team in this exhibition. Long story short, Combo Jack was the only player to win his match against NorCal, and defeated Filipino Champ and Vangief. Eric Choi and 200 yen do not enjoy facing off against Sagat players; in knowing this, I was not confident in the rest of the teams ability to win now that Filipino Champ had lost. It was his job to defeat Sagat players and he had failed.
Already admitting defeat, I continued to watch and commentate the matches. Though two of our players had been taken out by Combo Jack, we still had a glimmer of hope with three remaining. Next up was Grimmz who had been playing top notch the whole day. To put my emotions and thoughts into perspective I must go into a little more detail about Grimmz and my (former) opinion on his presence on Team NorCal.
Grimmz was one of two players considered to join the team in place of John Choi who could not attend the event. The other player, Anthony “Crackfiend” Nguyen was also considered for this same spot. Grimmz and Crackfiend had to face off in a first to 7 to determine who would represent NorCal. When I had heard Grimmz beat Crackfiend I was heart broken and shocked. NorCal has had many tournaments and Grimmz was a newcomer and had never done well in any of the tournaments where big names were present. On top of that, he had never had experience in high pressure situations. In other words, this player had no resume.
This being true, I considered Grimmz's match up with Combo Jack already lost. I thought to myself Grimmz won't be able to beat Combo Jack, I don't think Eric and 200 yen can, and I hope in the next set we can somehow pull it off. Yet, while thinking this, Grimmz shocked me with the impossible as he was leading NorCal to victory. His jump ins were perfect, his execution was on point, and he knew when to do what. Grimmz beat Combo Jack, winning the Level|Up Series event for Team NorCal. Team NorCal began to celebrate in their victory among a house full of SoCal members who were less than pleased.
Pride was hurt, salt levels increased, and eye contact was averted. Yet, the dust settled and people began to talk and GG's were given. People smoked outside and talked about the matches and complimented each other. Despite the upset people had fun. I talked to and thanked many friends down there for having me such as AJ Papa, Keno, James Chen, Ultra David, Alex Valle, and Mike Ross. All great guys and always welcome to NorCal.
If you want a happy ending please stop reading here. Although the event was fun, I am very upset about some of the words that had been exchanged as a result of this event. It is understandable to be upset when losing, but totally inappropriate to be offensive and personal about it. Although top players and friends of ours in SoCal were respectful, I saw much disrespect come from scrubs and general haters.
One thing that is specifically upsetting to me is NorCal was criticized for having a stacked team of all “pro” level players while SoCal was divided into specific regions. NorCal was not limited in this sense. Many were complaining that NorCal was cheating or acting like bullies. However, Arizona was constructed the very same way as NorCal was, yet people did not complain about their team. Do you know why? Because NorCal [f-bomb]ing scraped the [f-bomb] out of SoCal teams while Arizona lost the majority of their matches. Nobody cares if you stack your team if you lose, but the moment you win, people bring the noise.
Ridiculous? I thought so. It is a real shame that such a great event and showing from NorCal was derailed by something so meaningless. It was a "for fun" event after all. Regardless, congrats to the NorCal team and thank you so much to the welcoming arms of SoCal. The good things far exceed the bad and make events very worth it for players and fans all around the state, nation, and world. NorCal and SoCal may be rivals, but it's all love. This event really energized me and I know the next time I head down there it'll be... super. Sorry I had to end on a joke.