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[ Image courtesy of Tougeki ]

Yo! Finally back in San Francisco now after a three week grind in Japan. I wish I could have updated iPlayWinner more while I was out there but to be honest it's very difficult to sit in front of a computer when all of Japan is right in front of you!

Regardless, I have a lot of updates and news from the trip which I'll cover in this post, and keep an eye out for some new podcasts with some special guests talking about their experiences in Tokyo as well.



After GodsGarden, there weren't any big events to my knowledge until the following Thursday, which was a 5 on 5 Team Tourney for Street Fighter 4 held at BIG BOX Arcade. I'll cover that in a bit, but after Gods Garden and before the team tourney we spent a fair amount of time in arcades playing.

To be honest, I didn't even play as much as I thought I would. There are so many things to see and do in Japan, I felt a bit guilty some days just sitting in front of an arcade cab playing video games. On the other hand, when I was out and about causing trouble in Tokyo, I also felt a bit guilty for not playing more and trying to level up.

Anyway, this week of playing was a bit different for me and somewhat odd to say the least. The reason it was odd is I was actually playing much better when I first showed up in Japan. Initially I couldn't put my finger on why I wasn't playing as well during week two, but after talking to Magus and Lang a bit, I found I wasn't the only one having this issue. Most of us felt like we were capable of playing much better and really didn't understand where the barrrier was coming from.

After giving it some thought, I think it comes down to being over-exposed to the game and seeing so many new tactics from high level players that you want to implement. I think many are under the assumption that you will just show up to Japan and get automatically better. There is some truth to that, but at the end of the day it takes a while to soak in what you are learning and takes even longer to apply it.

Click to read more ...



So I somehow survived the first week here in Japan and still have another week and a half to go. So far the trip has been insanely fun, playing at a number of different arcades trying to boost my BP on my battle card (12k BP with ~55% win percentage). With that being said, it's a bit difficult to update the blog on a daily basis since there is so much going on!

Anywho, as I mentioned in the last post, BIG BOX arcade is the spot for Street Fighter 4 competition so we have been hitting it up on a daily basis, playing some of the best players in the country such as Daigo, Ojisanboy, Bonchan, AC Revenger, Shiro, Nemo, Nuki, Kanbara and Booya. These are just the big names too -- there are just as many solid unnamed players all trying to get their SF4 fix each day as well.

The arcade located on the 6th or so floor of this shopping complex called BIG BOX that has a mix of different shops and attractions on each floor. This is hands down the nicest and largest arcade I've ever seen with virtually every fighting game known to man available to play. It's not just fighting games either -- they have the Gundam games, some crazy Square-Enix RPG game, music games.. the list goes on and on.

The set up for Street Fighter 4 is really nice: a row of 6 head to head cabs, divided up into the "big boys section" and the, well, "scrubs section". The scrub section still has really solid players but I was able to rack up 5-8 win streaks fairly easily. The "big boys section" is a different story though-- I could get a handful of wins here and there but no serious streaks. This is no surprise considering many of the players are ranked top 50 in the country.

My most memorable match at BIG BOX so far was against Daigo, considering I got him to the last round in a 3/5 match. It seemed close to me but truth be told I think he was in control of the match the whole time and could just go into beast mode when he needed a win. This is how it feels against many of the top players here, where even if you are doing well, they can seemingly clutch out a win anytime they need to.

Click to read more ...



Wow! What an amazing night at Gods Garden! Even though the trains stop running at midnight, it was well worth sticking it out the entire night to see all the high level play.

I will have a full write up on the event soon, but in the meantime check out the the Grand Finals between Mago and Uryo!



Yo! Still here in Japan and working on some more updates but truthfully I've been too busy in Harajuku and playing at BIG BOX to make a full on post about the madness out here. So in the meantime, check out these Daigo Umehara Concept Matches from Arcadia Magazine.

For more information on the Umehara Kumite check out Oichi's post on VersusCity.

Also, PLEASE SUPPORT ARCADIA MAGAZINE and order a subscription from Play-Asia.



Most of you who follow this site are probably aware of our never ending quest to travel and level up in Street Fighter 4. First it was LA for Super Battle Opera Qualifiers at Denjin Arcade, then it was EVO in Las Vegas. Now we are taking it to the next level: travelling to Japan to grind it out at arcades such as BIG BOX, attending GODS GARDEN (console SFIV event featuring many top Japanese players) and finishing it off with Super Battle Opera. Thanks to our ridiculously fast internet connection at the Sunroute Hotel, I'll be updating this site roughly on a daily basis giving everyone the scoop on what's going down at the arcades here.


After 10 hour flight and three hours finding our way to our hotel in Shinjuku, Magus1234, ThyAllMighty and myself finally settle in before heading out to Mi Ka Do arcade to meet up with Denjin Arcade players Let Blood Run and Pherai. We spend entirely too much money and time figuring out how the train works but once at Mi-Ka-Do we see other players such as Kim1234, Misterbean and Yuuki. It's nice to run with a squad in a foreign county -- hard to imagine doing this solo!

Strolling in, the main attraction at Mi-Ka-Do seems to be Street Fighter 3: Third Strike with a ton of top players such as Rikimaru, Boss, Momochi, Tokura, Youhei, Pierrot, Ruu, Roah and Veaou. I'm well past my prime in Third Strike so I am obviously out of my league, but it's still dope seeing so many of these players I used to endlessly watch on YouTube back in the day.

Not wanting to embarrass myself on the 3s machines, I make my way over to the Street Fighter 4 cabs and soon realize this is not the place for SF4 competition as I rack up a 9 win streak in no time. I'm surprised to be winning at all, fully expecting to get roasted big time -- I am in Japan after all. Apparently the main arcade in the area for SF4 comp is BIG BOX which is right around the corner, but we decide to check it out another day when we have more time.

After a couple more games, Pherai swings by and asks me to help him interview Rikimaru, a top Chun-Li player.

The remaining events of the night aren't really appropriate to post about on this blog (!!), but I'll be back in the next day or two with more updates!


Out of Nowhere: SF2: CE tournament

There have been a lot of fighting game tournaments in the Bay Area over the past few months and it seems like more are announced every couple of days. While most of these tournaments are focusing on the big, mainstream titles like SFIV and HD Remix occasionally something unusual pops up. This past Friday, July 24th, I had the opportunity to attend a small, 16 man, Street Fighter 2: Championship Edition tourney. The setup was a genuine old school CE cab planted right in the middle of a Berkeley resident's front yard. 

Pizza, soda, beer and the usual Street Fighter chat were going around, but the focus was all on that glowing CRT monitor. I had somehow forgotten how good the older games actually looked on their intended displays. The colors were bold and the chunky pixels took me back to the arcades I frequented in elementary and middle school. The controls had a familiar clunkiness and bad spots with one side being favorable to the other. When it came down to the start of the tournament it was more than obvious that some in attendance really knew their championship edition. These weren't just SFIV noobs coming out of the closet to try something old, these were people that practice CE to this day on GGPO and come from Super Turbo to represent older, stronger versions of the cast in all their two or three move glory. Guile and Bison were definitely the top tier here, though I did feel like my CE Vega could have stood a better chance with just a bit more practice.


1. The Unknown (Ryu)
2. Battosai (Guile)
3. Jarrod (Guile and Dictator)

Overall it was a refreshing break from the usual tournament atmosphere and made me wish all video games could be played on authentic hardware in the cool, summer breeze.



Feeling a bit hungry after EVO, I took an hour train ride to Sunnyvale, CA this past Friday for a singles and teams Street Fighter 4 tournament. I was running a bit behind and missed my train so I barely made it in time but it all worked out.

The tournament was held at Country Inn and Suites in one of the ballrooms within the hotel. Street Fighter 4 was capped at 64 people for singles and 32 for teams, which may not sound like a lot, but considering they were running BlazBlue, HDR and some other games, the area was pretty packed out by the time I got there.

I ran through the winners bracket for most of the tournament until I ran into Scunsion, another Sagat player in NorCal who ended up taking the 3rd place spot in the tournament. He's probably the one player I know who may have the Sagat mirror match down better than I do. I went on to beat a couple others before finally losing to OG player Eric Choi who uses Rufus. I was hoping to get top 3 to make some money back from the train ride, but just another top 8 for me, tying for 7th. Oh well! Better luck next time.

It was Jack/Steve playing Ryu and Ricky O. playing Rufus in the finals. I assumed Jack would make it pretty far considering he is one of the most slept on players in NorCal and the fact he was feeling real confident through out the tournament. Of course it was no surprise to anyone to see Ricky O. in the finals as well.

After the singles, most people made their way home, but those of us who stuck around decided to enter the teams tournament which started at 1 AM or something. I was really tired but manned up since Thrust07 and Illiterate wanted to play and found myself a teammate-- Allan, one of the dudes who was running the tournament, who plays Chun Li. He fought hard but at the end of the day I ended up having to OCV about 5 teams to get third place. Thrust07 and Illiterate peaced me out, and they went on to play to Ryan the Filipino Champ and Hydro who took first.

Although the tournament ran really late, all in all it was fun seeing so many new people get into the scene. The ratio of new people to old schoolers was really high and reminded me of when I first started going to tournaments. Considering this event brought a lot of new people into the scene, hopefully they will work out the kinks with the tournament running so late, set up some SD TVs instead of LCDs to reduce lag and throw another one because I think this is a good event for the scene.

Here are the results for the games, check out the official thread on SRK for full results soon!

SFIV Singles

1 Ricky Ortiz
2 Jack Waller
3 Scunsion
4 Eric Choi
5 Anime Dude
5 Crack
7 Haunts
7 One3Six
9 KNice
9 Illiterate
9 DopeUyuu
9 Botsu is
13 JT Moses Sales
13 Boy of Joy
13 Evanda
13 Elcubanoloco
17 LordXBlade
17 Andy Ma
17 Lamerboi
17 Jimmy Tran
17 Magus1234
17 G No
17 MiDangMovement
25 Timmja
25 Jack Zenith
25 Greg Lau
25 Kris
25 Lost
25 Taylor Smith
25 Julio
25 Introvert
33 Eddy
33 Josh S.
33 Nu
33 NabNabDeep
33 John T
33 Thrust07
33 Alan L
33 Snake
33 MisterBiggs
33 Nytemar64
33 Duy
33 Hughey
33 iGauge
33 Kirk
33 Rei Y
33 Liquid Fox
49 Tony ATL
49 TrapperJohn
49 Joseph Jung
49 Darry Dizz
49 Ronnie L
49 Paul Marino
49 Topknot
49 Khoi
49 Vincent Bringas
49 Julikeadobo
49 Andrew O
49 Darry
49 Dase
49 Shino
49 Justin Chen
49 Mike C

SFIV 2 on 2 teams

1) Filipino Champ/Hiro
2) Team Shoulderpads, Shinguards and Boxing Gloves — Thrust/Illiterate
3) Haunts/Allan Chun player


1 Goryus (NU)
2 Rick Ortiz (RG)
3 Chronofreak (BA)
4 John (TK)
5 Andrew (TG)
6 Scunscion (JI)
6 PhaethonH (CA)
8 snake
8 Eric C. (RG)
8 Ginseng (JI)
11 Thrust07 (NU)
11 Botsu (TK)
11 Renegade (NU)
11 JohnT (TG)
15 AnimeDue (NU)
15 Jeff (TG)
15 William (TG)
15 9Kill (HK)
19 Espada03
19 Boy of Joy
19 Roi
19 Alex
19 Knice
19 Lost

HDR Results

1) Eric Choi
2) Battosai
3) Thrust
4) Moses14 (4 is your lucky number!)
5) Andyman/Vestax
7) Darry Dizz/Lam007
9)El Cubano Loco



King of Fighters XII first impressions

King of Fighters XII should be widely available in your local Gamestop despite the official July 28th launch date. Is it worth running out and grabbing a copy right this minute? You might want to wait. Read on...

I have been playing the X-Box 360 release of KoFXII since last night and in many ways the game is fantastic. The new sprites are beautiful, especially when in motion. Offline versus matches are really fun. I am still exploring the new additions to the classic gameplay, but so far it's been very rewarding. With the good comes a little bit of bad though. Most of my online matches have been nearly unplayable. What I mean by that is severe input lag--even on the character select screen. I would say that on average there is a ~15 frame lag on during my online matches. To contrast with other fighting games I play online I'm almost always able to find 4 or 5 bar matches in SFIV and in BlazBlue it's rare that I ever encounter any perceptible lag. In regards to the problems people have been experiencing the KoFXII facebook page issued this statement:

"King of Fighters XII: We understand that there have been some concerns raised about performance during online play. A patch for the both platforms is being worked on which should help with those gamers experiencing issues.

While I don't have an exact date for the Xbox 360 version, the PS3 patch should be available by the street date July 28, 2009."

The game doesn't feature much of a story except for a generic newscast type cut scenes that play between the five matches that make up arcade mode. Aside from that all that is left is versus and practice. The focus in KoFXII is obviously the offline and online versus modes and the latter isn't much use right now. Hopefully a patch will come out and I can give this game the review it deserves, but until then it's offline only for me, and unless I have a friend over, there's just not that much to do.



As many of you know, since I'm sure you watched the stream, NorCal held a qualifier for the final spot on the 5 man team for the 5 on 5 exhibition for EVO. The two who were battling it out for the spot were Filipino Champ (Dhalsim) and LPN (Bison). Each of them had to play not only eachother, but the other 4 members of the team to qualify for the spot.

We were able to record all the matches and now that the exhibition is over, I've decided to post them up to YouTube. Here are some of the better fights, and be sure to check our YouTube Channel for the rest.



Art by Death By Soda Can

EVO2K9 has come and gone and Sagat was no where to be found in the Top 8 for Street Fighter 4. Seems a little odd for a character that even CAPCOM themselves consider to be overpowered to begin with right?

For all the complaining that goes on in forums about how he is "so broken" and needs to be nerfed you would think at least one Sagat player would break into the top 8. Granted there were over 1000 people who entered EVO, so anything could happen, but he is EASY MODE right? How hard could it be?

There were plenty of Akuma, Rufus and Ryu players in the Top 8 but that does not make those characters better than Sagat, not on paper anyway. This also seems to be the case not only at EVO, but many many tournaments in the US that led up to EVO. For months I'd check results and it was pretty rare to see a Sagat actually win a tournament and very few would even be in the top 8. What the hell, isn't this guy TOP TIER?

So what could it be? What makes it so hard to grab that #1 spot with Sagat?

His size and lack of mobility is a bigger issue than many people care to recognize. When playing characters like Ryu, Akuma and Balrog, if you are not careful and let them get close to you, it's a lot harder for Sagat to create distance between him and his opponent without committing to something like an Uppercut or Tiger Knee. Also, since he is so tall, once he is a sitting duck like that, its much easier to cross him up and keep him locked down compared to the rest of the cast.

For instance, Akuma's far standing Roundhouse, a two hit move that leads to some of his more damaging combos, actually hits twice on a low blocking Sagat instead of just once like it does on many other characters. This may not seem like a big deal, but in a match up like this where Sagat has to hunt down a run away Akuma, something that is counter intuitive to his overall gameplan, this is just one more thing that will test your patience.

His slow walking speed also makes it harder to play footsies and be tricky with him because you can't play with ranges as easily as some other characters like Ryu and Balrog. It's more about throwing a ton of Tiger Shots, hoping your opponent makes a mistake and capitalizing on it with your max damage combo. This is fine if you are an extremely solid player, but under pressure it can prove to be difficult to do everything absolutely by the book in clutch situations.

Another point that was brought up to me by a friend of mine is that Sagat is the very first match up that most people learn. No one wants to lose to a Sagat and it's crucial to learn the Tiger Shot game and everything else in his arsenal to even stand a chance. I highly doubt most players put in as much time playing against say Abel and C. Vipers as they do Sagat and this shows at tournaments. I will watch players go up against some of my friends who play these more unorthodox characters and look completely lost, but soon as they meet up with me in the brackets it's like they've been playing the match up for years.

So what do you guys think? Are these valid reasons for Sagat not winning a ton of tournaments or should us North American Sagat players  stop complaining and just practice more?



Majestros from Sonic Hurricane put together an awesome Ryu combo video for EVO this year. I was lucky enough to catch it when they aired it live at EVO, but if you missed it, it's now online to check out.

...and yes, we're back after a long weekend in Vegas! Stay tuned for more videos and write ups from EVO2K9!


For the New Challengers

So, you're new to the scene? You're on that Street Fighter IV hype with everyone else? Then please keep reading. There are a few things I'd like to address.

Hopefully after you've finished reading all this, you'll know what it means to be part of the competitive fighting game scene.

Choosing a Character
The tricky part about writing on this topic is that it always leads into the tier discussion. Really, the target audience I'm writing to are people like this. My response to the thread is on the first page. To summarize, you must ask yourself the question Ryu is always asking himself.
Why do I fight?

The answer is on you. Think about it in your downtime and try out the whole cast. Do your research and see what every character is capable of, as well as their general gameplan. Which style of play suits you best? If you've tried all of this and still can't come to a decision, keep playing. I'll admit this is a natural process for many, but in the end, we all have our reasons.
"Some people play to win and others play to play."

While we're on the topic of characters, let's talk counter-picking. Sure, it's a fine strategy and it's normal to see in both online and tournament play. It's actually considered as part of the American school of thought in competitive Street Fighter goes since our tournament standard is typically best two out of three games. But there won't always be the opportunity to counter-pick, so it is wise to root yourself in one character and know them inside-out. Lastly, doing random select is unheard of in high-level tournament play (unless it's the theme of a particular tournament, of course). Everyone tends to try to play their best in tournaments since you’re playing for keeps.

Personally, my stance on tiers and counter-picking goes somewhat against the grain. If Alex Valle and Kuni Funada don't believe in tiers, then that's good enough for me.
I respect anyone that goes straight to their character on the selection screen every time by giving them my best in return. I actually think that counter-picking isn't too far away from ability insecurity, but that's another discussion.

If it's in you to pick a character based on their tier placement, don't let me stop you. The same goes for counter-picking. Everyone has their own ego and it really shows in the fighting game community. Whenever you play against someone, you’re playing a completely unique entity. What I mean by this is that no one plays Sagat the same exact way that haunts does. Or no one plays the same Sagat as Mago. If you’re a Sagat player, no one plays him exactly like you. All players have their own unique playstyle and thought process.

Tournaments and Competing
Just as everyone has their own playstyle, everyone has their own belief on how to approach a tournament. Some players try to play as much as they can right up until the tournament starts. Some players read guides and study match footage videos in preparation. Some players believe it’s best to take a vacation before a big tourney.
Even Daigo has his own idea of how to think of them.

Click to read more ...




During the last few weeks, there has been a lot of commotion about the 5th and final spot on the NorCal team for EVO. In response to the commotion, John Choi (team captain) decided to have a playoff for the current candidates (Filipino Champ and LPN) to square off against the current representatives of team NorCal:

  1. John Choi (Ryu)
  2. Ricky Ortiz (Rufus)
  3. Crackfiend (Boxer)
  4. Magus1234 (C. Viper)

Just to give you guys a little background on these two guys, LPN (Bison) is one of the next-gen Street Fighter players in the community. Street Figher 4 is the first competitive game he's ever gotten into, and he's been competing for less than a year while being a consistent placer and performer in NorCal.

Filipino Champ (Dhalsim) has been in the scene for 6+ years and is a high level MvC2 player. His switch to Street Fighter 4 was a rough transition, but has translated itself well by quickly rising the ranks of NorCal with his unique style.

We are trying to setup a live stream (again), and most likely won't run into the same problems we had last time, since the playoff will be at my apartment. This is the playoff format, as stated by John Choi:

"A playoff between LPN and F. Champ has been set up to determine the 5th remaining spot.

The playoff will consist of those 2 players running a gauntlet against the other 4 team members, and finally playing vs each other. Whoever has the best record overall is on the team.

LPN and FC will stick with their primary characters of Bison and Dhalsim the entire time. The 4 team members will use their primary and secondary characters (when applicable) during the gauntlet. The proposed character lineup:

Choi - Ryu/Sagat
Ortiz - Rufus/Chun
Andry - Viper/Blanka
Crackfiend - Boxer/TBD

This should give the broadest character exposure and determine who is more rounded for the team.

The playoff will take place on Monday night at Crackfiend's pad. I'll put up results ASAP.

Good luck to both!"

Stay tuned with iPlayWinner for more updates!

When: Monday, July 13th between 7:00 - 8:00 P.M. PST



Tomorrow there will be the last tournaments in the Bay Area before EVO held at Drom's Comics & Cards in Davis and also The City Coffee house in Sacramento. Be sure to check them out to get some last minute practice!

Davis, CA

Drom's Comics & Cards
231 G Street, Suite 4 in Davis

Street Fighter IV Tournament
Saturday, July 11th @ 1PM
$10 entry, $2 to venue with 70/20/10 prize structure.
Playstation 3's will be set up.
Official Thread on

Sacramento, CA

The City Coffeehouse
8235 Laguna Blvd

Drinks are pretty good and prices are decent, and the area is fairly spacious.. It's in the same area as Red Robins.
Game area is a bit cramped if everyone's watching, but it's not too uncomfortable. Free WiFi for you laptop/iPhone people.

Saturday @ 2:00 PM

-All characters allowed
-Double elimination format - 2/3 rounds, 2/3 matches.
-All finals will be 2/3 rounds, 3/5 matches (losers finals, winners finals, grand finals)
-If a player loses a match in a set, they can change their character
-Winner can not change character
-$7 entry fee - 5 to the pot, 2 to the venue
-70/20/10 payout
-Two PS3 setups

Official Thread on



Richard Li over at sent me this video just yesterday that is not only a very good Ryu tutorial, but does an excellent job of breaking down spacing and zoning in Street Fighter. Knowing when and where to throw out certain moves is crucial when trying to push your opponent into the corner and gain the advantage in each round.

 Check out more tutorials over at Mickey D's YouTube Channel.



Avid reader and supporter of iPW, Rodney aka Avatar2 dropped by to tell us a bit about his entry into the Street Fighter 4 tournament scene. After the release of SF4, not only is he a tournament player, but he also organizes local tournaments in Columbia, South Carolina. Hopefully this article will inspire some of you to throw your own tournaments in your local area no matter how small you think your scene may be.

Check out Columbia, SC's Tournament schedule at

I have been playing Street Fighter since Street Fighter II: World Warriors hit arcades in the early 90s. I still vividly remember as a small child hanging out in the mall arcade while my parents shopped. As a kid I never had much money, so I usually watched the action on one of the long rows of SF2 machines. I watched others play and watched the game’s demo reel, all the while imagining that someday I’d be able to play against others. One day I’d know what it is like to show off my skills and to beat another live person.

Fast forward to late last year. The release of Street Fighter II: HD Remix with its excellent online code gave me a taste of that dream. The lobby system in particular really brought back those arcade memories. Six people would be in the same lobby room and players would take turns trying to knock the winner out while the other players who are not in the match watched and chatted. It rekindled that childhood desire to not just play, but to be competitive.

All the while Street Fighter 4’s release loomed and the more I learned about it the more this competitive desire grew. Through blogs, podcasts, and YouTube videos I watched the small but fascinating SF4 scene in California and wanted to be part of something like that. Like most players in this country (no local arcades), I had to wait for the release of the console version to play it but I knew that once it released in February 2009 the Street Fighter scene would explode nationwide. I also knew that since only a handful of SF4 arcade machines are even in this country that virtually everybody would be starting over with this game. The playing field would be level enough for me to finally get into the tourney scene and to experience the thrill of playing against others live and to meet other players.

Before Street Fighter 4’s release I had never been to a tournament but soon after I got my copy I took my first steps into the scene. I played in the first round of the nationwide Gamestop tourney and got first place in my store. I started looking at tourney threads in various forums and discovered that SF4 tourneys were happening all the time, even though they were mostly in a neighboring state. I missed Final Round XII in Atlanta because I was ignorant of the fact that it was *the* tourney to go to in the South-East and instead opted to go to Impact Clash IV, which was also in the Atlanta area. It was here that I experienced a real tournament setup. It wasn’t an optimal experience (it started really late) but the number of players that showed up inspired me to not just be a tourney player but to perhaps even be a tourney organizer at some point.

It’s fortunate that SF4 has pretty good online code, aside from glaring problems in its player matching search capabilities. Since there was no local SF4 scene to my knowledge at this point, I was forced to use online to hone my skills as best I could. I thought I was getting pretty good. I remember when I ran into Dave Sirlin, a known talented SF4 competitive player (who even wrote a book about playing to win) and the excitement I had after that very narrow victory. Sure it was online and lag is an issue with tourney players, but it was still huge for me.

There came a point where I hit a wall in my progress as a player and here is where the game’s online really helped. I had discovered iPlayWinner at some point and was a frequent visitor. One day I noticed the training section and gave it a look. They offered a training session with pro players and I was thrilled. I got to play for over an hour picking the brain of Magus1234, one of the best Blanka players out of California over Xbox Live and that experience was invaluable. I also got to play against Haunts, which was also amazing. That experience lifted not only my play ability but also my desire to play in tourneys.

I noticed that there was a very small tourney happening in Mid-May right here in Columbia SC. I had plans to travel to Augusta for another tourney which was happening on the same day but decided to go to this one just for the sole purpose of hopefully meeting local SF4 players. I’m so glad I made this choice. The tournament was much larger than I expected it to be with 14 players. That does not sound like much but I knew that this was primarily a Smash Brothers tourney with SF4 thrown in at the last second to see what interest there was. Even with no advertizing we got 14 players and I got to play against and to meet many local players.

I got 3rd place in the tourney but that was not as important as the people I met. I found that there were really good players right here in Columbia that are just as excited as I am. At that tourney I think the Columbia SF4 scene began to take off as we all talked and planned after the tourney about how to grow. This tourney not only inspired me as a player but also as a tourney organizer. I learned that you really did not need to go to a large tourney to find competition and to have fun. Not only that, but I learned that running a tournament, while it does require some know-how, was not as daunting a task as I envisioned and really could be a lot of fun. When the next tourney in the same venue was announced for the 6th of June I quickly volunteered to organize and run the Street Fighter 4 portion.

I threw myself into the task with excitement. I put up and maintained the tourney thread and tried to get the word out. I found that the traditional method of advertizing tourneys in forums was daunting and confusing to casual players so I created a small blog website dedicated to tourneys in our state ( so that organizers like myself can point new players to one place for tourney info.

When this tourney came I was as excited about the tourney as I was about running the tourney as I was about playing. This time 20 people came for SF4 including 5 players from Augusta, GA. There was a lot of really great talent at this tourney. SonGohanX from Myrtle Beach, SC won the last Columbia tourney and has a strong Blanka. Battle Walrus won the recent Atlanta Revival tournament and shows you why Rufus is top tier. Dr. Hat from Columbia is one of the best Vega players I have ever seen (in online play or in videos) and takes a bottom tier character and makes you wonder about that placement. Druseph, one of the Augusta players, has a wicked Balrog.

It was an amazing experience. I got to see the new friends I made at the last tourney and made some new ones. The matches that occurred as we got towards the Grand Finals were epic and it really made me wish I had some sort of video equipment there so that I could show the world the caliber of players we have down here. That was my big regret but I’ll fix that next time. The Grand Finals between Druseph and Battle Walrus were particularly exciting as character switching was utilized. In the end, Battle Walrus took the win in a lengthy back and forth struggle.

I know I’ll never be known nationwide for being a Street Fighter player like an Alex Valle but I already cherish my tourney experiences. You cannot match the experience of playing in a tourney by playing random names online. There are likely tourneys happening in your area and you may not be aware of it. Visit Shoryuken (insert appropriate link) and browse their tourney sections as well as their regional matchmaking sections and see what’s coming up. The biggest thing I’ve learned is that you don’t need to go to a huge tourney like EVO to have a great tourney experience. Even a very local one out of some house somewhere can be an awesome time, but you’ll never know if you don’t try.

As for the growing SF4 scene here in Columbia, SC we are excited about the foundation that was built and are eager to build upon that. We’ve scheduled SF4-fests at each other’s houses to work together to improve our skills and are actively planning future tournaments for our town. We’re planning to have the upcoming home releases of BlazBlue and King of Fighters XII, the re-release of Marvel vs Capcom 2, and possibly even UFC: Undisputed at our next one. As a newborn competitive player and tourney organizer, I can only imagine the good times that lie ahead.




I sat down with both Andry "MAGUS1234" Kane and Anthony "Crackfiend" Nguyen at the last NorCal Fuddruckers tournament to get their thoughts on the tournament and new players entering the scene. For more interviews with players such as LPN, PhillipinoChamp and Kaizer be sure to check out our YouTube Channel!



Since fighting games have come back into the main stream, it seems like all I hear lately is "I want a high-def 2D game that gives me a diverse set of characters, promotes aggressive game play and has solid netcode." Well, ARC System Works and Aksys Games have answered your prayers, kids—enter BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger.

Rebel 1 - ACTION!

Over the past six or so years that I've been active in the competitive fighting game scene, I've always tried to give Guilty Gear a chance, a game that BlazBlue is often compared to, but it never seemed to click with me. For whatever reason with every release there seemed to be this barrier of entry that I couldn't get around. Perhaps it was the cast of characters (I never could settle on a main), the complex game play system or maybe even the fact that the competitive scene was so far ahead it seemed hopeless to get into it.

I assumed I would have a similar experience with BlazBlue, but after playing it over the past two months or so I can say that is not the case. With it's rich HD 2D graphics, interesting set of characters each with their own unique "Drive" moves and easy to pick up combo system I found myself looking at the clock and wondering how 6 hours had already passed each night I would play it.

Yes, you have been warned, this game is very addictive. As mentioned before, the game heavily promotes aggressive game play, so once you learn a few combos and mix ups with your character, you will start to see that there is seemingly an endless amount of rush down options at your disposal.

For instance, when I first picked up the game I settled on Ragna to get a grip on the game play system and after learning about his simple B button to C button chain combo I soon realized either on block or hit I could continue with numerous other follow ups to continue to pressure my opponent. Following C with D, his two hit Drive move, I could either cancel out of the hit and dash in or simply cancel the hit with quarter circle back and D which acts as a defensive barrier to give me a little breathing room before rushing back in.

This is just one simple example of how you can mix up and pressure your opponent with Ragna. You will find similar strings and set ups for virtually every other character in the game that you will continually want to add to and refine. The fact that there are so many ways to approach and engage your opponent—ground dashes, air dashes, Rapid Canceling special moves; the list goes on and on—is just one of the many reasons I've been interested in the game for this long. No staring contests in this game, it's all about the rush down in BlazBlue.

Gameplay System

It seems people can be a bit intimidated by BlazBlue with all it's air combos, life bars and meters, but the game is a lot easier to pick up than it looks. Most aspects of the game, with exception to the wake up game, are fairly easy to understand and execute.

BlazBlue uses a 4 button layout for attacking, A B C and D. Buttons A through C are more or less normal attacks that each have variations depending on which direction you press on the joystick while attacking. D is your character specific Drive move that has it's own properties that are vastly different than the other three buttons.

Throwing is a big part of BlazBlue and is performed by pressing B + C. This feels pretty awkward at first due to the button layout and having been trained for so long to press another set of buttons to throw in Capcom games. However, the throw break window is fairly large in this game so it doesn't take too long to get used to breaking throws.

As far as movement is concerned, you have a ground dash, back dash, super jump, double jump and air dash. All of these different movement options allow you to attack or retreat from your opponent in many different ways.

To give you a quick break down of the HUD in this game, at the top of the screen you have your life bar, and below that you will see a Barrier Gauge. You can hold back and A + B to perform a push block, which will give you some space between you and the attacking opponent, and as you do this the Barrier Gauge will deplete. You can also press all 4 buttons to perform a Barrier Burst that will use up your Barrier Gauge completly. This is more or less a combo breaker to get you out of damaging combos and give yourself another chance to bring back the round in your favor.

In the middle of the screen between the two life bars you will see a guard meter. As you block your opponents attacks, this meter will fill up and once it reaches max you will be guard broken and unable to defend against attacks for a short time.

At the bottom of the screen you will see your Heat Gauge which acts as your super meter in this game. Once the meter reaches 50% you can either perform a Distortion Drive (super move) or a Rapid Cancel. A Rapid Cancel allows you to cancel out of a special move much like a Focus Attack Dash Cancel in Street Fighter 4 or a Roman Cancel in Guilty Gear and is executed by pressing A + B + C upon impact of a special or normal move. Once the Heat Gauge is at 100%, in certain situations you perform an Astral Finish which is more or less an epic super that finishes off your opponent.

Once you are knocked down you can quick rise, which is an important and advanced aspect of BlazBlue. You can also quick rise forward or backwards depending on where you want to position yourself on the screen.

Negative Warning is another interesting game play aspect that actually penalizes a player for being too defensive. if you run away and turtle too much you will see red streaks along your character and the text "Negative Warning" will appear on the screen. At this point you will end up taking more damage than before so be sure to stay active and always be pressuring your opponent to avoid this status change.


What really makes BlazBlue so special and fun to play is it's unique cast of characters. This is really the first time where I've been very torn on who to pick up and play considering no character in BlazBlue plays like any other and yet they are all so interesting and full of depth.

As mentioned earlier, each character has their own unique set of Drive moves which adds a lot to their individuality and game play. Ragna's Drive allows him to steal life from the opposing player and bust out some insane juggle combos in the process. Rachel can control the wind which will manipulate not only her move set but the positioning of the other player on the screen. Arakune can curse his opponent which allows him to send bugs flying all over the screen that in turn set up some very dangerous combos and corner traps.

So as you can see, even though there is a basic game play system in place, no one character plays the same and you really have to rethink how to approach each character when you pick up someone new. This adds a lot to the replay value of the game and also makes knowing match ups extremely important if you want to be a competitive player.

When starting out with BlazBlue, I personally recommend that everyone pick up Ragna at first to get a feel for how the game works. He is fairly straight forward with some very easy combos so you will find yourself able to compete right off the bat once you have a couple combos and mix ups down with him.

After sometime with Ragna I started to branch out and I have now settled upon Arakune. Due to his insane zoning abilities, high/low mix ups and a virtually inescapable corner trap I figured he would be a good choice for me. What can I say? I love cheap characters in fighting games.

I started to rack up the wins with Arakune using the tactics I learned from the tutorial DVDs included with the game, but before long I started to run into some very skilled V-13 and Rachel players who made me realise that there are no free wins in this game. Even with Arakune, one of the most powerful characters in the game, there is still a serious need to understand every aspect of the opponent and what they are capable of.

Right now I am trying to refine my Arakune game, but looking forward I would really love to pick up Rachel. After that, who knows? Like I said, every character is worth sitting down with and learning some basic combos and set ups.

Raising the Bar - Online Matchmaking and Netcode

I've been lucky enough to spend a lot of time playing BlazBlue online and it is truly one of the most impressive aspects of the game itself. Of course, the most important thing is: does it play smooth online? After playing people on the West Coast, East Coast and even out in Japan, I can say that in my experience so far it plays much smoother online than any other fighting game released on console thus far.

Keep in mind it wasn't always this smooth. When I first started playing online, anyone who wasn't on the West Coast seems to have a bit of lag, but since Aksys Games has rolled out an updated patch for the game everything runs much better. Once you start your match online, the pre-fight load screen will look like it's lagging a bit, but once the match starts it's extremely smooth. I'm not sure what they did with the netcode in the update but it works and that's all that matters.

As if smooth online play wasn't enough, BlazBlue contains more options for creating lobbies and playing others online than any other fighting game out there right now. The lobby system allows to create custom rooms and rotate through and play everyone that you invite, but as an added bonus, those who aren't playing can spectate and chat about the ongoing matches.

Another interesting aspect of the online play is you can reassign your spot to another player even if you are up next to play. So for instance, if you have a fat win streak but receive a phone call, you can give up your spot to another player and let them battle it out with someone else in the lobby while you handle your business. This is just one example of the many innovative aspects of BlazBlue's online match making system.

When playing a Ranked Match, you can simply have the system search for an opponent for you. Once the system finds the opponent you will see their "player card" that displays their main character (character who is chosen the most), win ratio, level, number of incomplete games among other interesting details about the opponent. After the match is completed, win or lose you will be presented with details of the match such as who landed the first attack, whether or not you used your barrier burst and how close you are to the next level.

Let's not forget that you can save replays of your online matches as well. This is not dependent on your rank or anything else - every last match that you play you can save to your system. This is obviously an extremely welcome feature within BlazBlue in that not only can you view epic matches that you won, but also analyze matches that you lost and figure out where you need to improve.

All in all, BlazBlue has raised the bar for online play for a fighting game. We can only hope other developers are taking note of all the options within BlazBlue's online match making system and implement many of the same features into future fighting games.

Training Mode

As enjoyable as it is to battle it out with others, there of course is always the need to practice your combos on a dummy, and that is where training mode comes into play. Much like the online match making system, the training mode in BlazBlue goes above and beyond what is typically seen in a fighting game.

The amount of options available to you is pretty overwhelming at first; there are about 6 different pages of options within the training mode. This will allow you to manage the training dummy to prepare you for all sorts of different situations that may occur in a real match such as tech rolling forward or back wards or escaping an attack string that is not a true combo.

You can also set the dummy's life to either recharge or simply completely deplete so you can see how many combos it takes to actually kill off the opponent. Once the training dummy dies off, there is a quick pause and they will be at full health again. Subtle aspects of the training mode like this will help players refine and develop their game in the long run.

Tutorial DVD

By now you may be thinking to yourself "Wow, Haunts, you sure do know a lot about this game for only playing 2 months!" but I will admit I did not figure out most of this on my own. The limited edition version of BlazBlue comes with a phenomenal set of training DVDs that were put together by the pros over at

Each character has their own section for strategy, combos, explanation of moves among other little tid bits of information to help you level up your game. To my knowledge, nothing like this has ever been released for a fighting game on this level.

After watching each characters video it's very easy to jump into the game and start using them the way they should be played. This helps a lot with getting right into the game and feeling comfortable with your characters move sets so you do not feel the need to just mash out attacks hoping for the best. This is just another example of Aksys Games going above and beyond for their fans and their dedication to bring new players into the fighting game scene.

Although I am sure creating these DVDs was an insane amount of work, I hope other developers follow Aksys Games lead and provide similar tutorials in the future. Whether tutorials are offered in-game or on a separate DVD, this is a crucial aspect of being able to easily pick up and play a fighting game such as BlazBlue.

Desired Changes

Although BlazBlue is an excellent game, just like any other fighting game in it's first iteration, it is not with out its faults. The main aspect that needs to be improved is character balance. There needs to be some changes made to some of the top tier characters such as Arakune and Rachel or maybe some buffs added to some of the lower tier characters such as Tager.

I am not an expert at the game but I can already see that some characters such as Tager have a very, very difficult time competing with these top tier characters due to their incredible zoning abilities. Again, I am still relatively new to the game so I am not sure what specific changes should be made to remedy this, but there are some areas that need to be tweaked to balance the game.

Also keep in mind this is more of an issue with high level game play. At a a low level or even intermediate level of play it will be hard for most people to see these imbalances between characters so don't let this stop you from picking up the game.

I also would love to see more characters added to the roster. Even though each character is a lot of fun and is very unique, the over all roster is fairly small compared to most fighting games. Adding new characters can always mess with game balance, but with such a small roster in BlazBlue, a handful of new characters would be a welcome addition.

One last, small gripe is about the sound effects, which I personally find to be a little over-the-top. The English voice acting is fine, but there is a sound effect for virtually everything in the game. For instance, anytime you land a counter hit you will hear a woman yell "COUNTER!". With BlazBlue being such an aggressive game, counter hits are a very common occurrence so this can get a little annoying after a while.

Final Thoughts

Overall BlazBlue is the complete package when it comes to fighting games: interesting and enjoyable set of characters, smooth online play, solid user interface and a robust set of options. Throw in the tutorial DVD and soundtrack and it makes it difficult to think of what else ARC System Works and Aksys Games could add to improve the game.

BlazBlue is also a welcome departure from what else is currently on the market with it's fast paced aggressive gameplay and 2D graphics. So if you're looking for something fresh and new to add to your fighting game collection go out and pick this up as soon as possible so you don't miss out on the limited edition version of the game.

iPW SCORE: 9/10



With over 170 entrants trying to prove themselves before EVO, over $1500 on the line and the top floor of Fuddruckers which felt more or less like a sauna made this NorCal's hottest tournament yet! NorCal has come a long way since the first Fuddruckers tournament with the level of play from all players much higher than most of the country is probably even aware of at this point - Las Vegas, here we come!


Street Fighter 4

1. John "ChoiBoy" Choi (Ryu/Sagat)

2. Ricky "Hello Kitty" Ortiz (Rufus/Chun-Li/Balrog)

3. Anthony "Crackfiend" Nguyen (Balrog)

Street Fighter II: HD Remix

1. John "ChoiBoy" Choi

2. Graham Wolfe

3. Jason Cole

[ Full results will show up in the official thread on SRK ]

Some highlights from the tournament:

  • Out of towner Jason Cole made a surprise visit, placing well in both HDR and Street Fighter 4. This is a good first step towards creating a major tournament in NorCal! ( SoCal - where you at!? )
  • John Choi taking 1st place in Street Fighter 4 and Street Fighter II: HD Remix.
  • MAGUS1234 sending Jason Cole to losers with C. Viper and overall dominating in many of his matches through out the tournament. His performance also sealed his spot on the NorCal 5 man team for EVO!
  • Over 170+ players entered SF4 - that's more entrants than the Devastation tournament in Arizona!
  • Andrew "Lamerboi" Nguyen making 5th place using Guile... on a PAD!

Here are a couple videos from the tournament itself - keep an eye on the YouTube channel for more match videos and player interviews!




I Got Next is a fighting game documentary put together by Ian Cofino who followed players such as Justin Wong, Gootecks and L.I. Joe as they travel all over the country competing in Street Fighter 4 tournaments. I had a chance to check out the movie not too long ago and really enjoyed all the interviews with both new school and old school players. The editing is top notch, the movie is filled with tons of hype from tournaments such as Final Round and Sinsation and it does a great job of showing all the different mind sets and aspirations of these different players. If you are into fighting games, this is something you must see, do not miss it!

The movie will premier tonight at 8PM EST/5PM PST at UFRAGTV.COM.

Also, if you're like me and the movie leaves you wanting more, don't worry - there will be an extended cut that follows the players up until EVO that will be available later this year!