(Before reading this, understand that I expect you to know a little bit about Street Fighter IV. You don’t need to be a king, but hopefully you know the roster and perhaps even some of the professional gamers I’m talking about. If you don’t, please don’t read this article because you will be very lost and very bored.)
Professional video gaming is surging into mainstream audiences; Major League Gaming has catered to hyper-popular games such as Halo, Call of Duty and Starcraft and it seems as though fighting games such as Mortal Kombat and Marvel vs. Capcom 3 aren’t far behind. Leading the charge for these fighting games in the U.S. is an event called “Evolution” or EVO for short, the U.S. Open of fighting game tournaments which headlines the revamped Super Street Fighter IV Arcade Edition.
While U.S. players such as Mike Ross, Ricky Ortiz, and American ace-in-the-hole Justin Wong have continually made deep runs in the tournament . . . the Street Fighter scene has solely belonged to a player so legendary he is simply known as “The Beast”: Daigo Umehara. In the past years the slender Japanese pretty boy has dominated EVO, routinely spanking top American players utilizing his signature Ryu. But now, American players face an even more daunting challenge.
Mago the King is coming.
Understanding the significance of this needs a little background into the fighting game scene.
Most mainstream fans may not know a lot about Japanese pro gamers simply because they keep to themselves. They’re not anti-social, it’s just that gaming is already so established in Japan that even when events as big as EVO roll around they tend to stay in Japan and rake in tournament money there. It’s a dirty secret however that the best fighting game experts are in Japan. Not only that, but there is a much greater variety in the number of characters that they use.
Many of the top players in the U.S. use Abel, Rufus, and Balrog and Crimson Viper sparingly. Not Japan.
In Japan, the top players frequently use the aforementioned characters AND Akuma, Sagat, and Seth. And they use them at a godly level. Mago meanwhile uses Fei Long, a high damage high execution close combat specialist and pays homage to Bruce Lee. He has not only been teammates with Daigo but also beaten him in competition before. He’s that good.
On TOP of that however, Super Street Fighter IV Arcade edition made some significant alterations in the characters’ rankings. Fei Long is now considered one of the best in the entire game, ranked in the “S-tier” by many professional gamers in Japan (such as Daigo). In fact if you watch youtube videos, Mago’s Fei Long absolutely decimates Daigo’s Yun (another S-tier character) multiple times during their run at the local arcade.
As much as I wish American players best of luck at EVO 2011, I’m genuinely excited to see what Mago can do at the event. This is the equivalent of British superstar boxer Lennox Lewis finally taking on Mike Tyson, or Yao Ming coming to the USA to prove he’s one of the best centers in the world. Mago’s arrival will finally prove or disprove the allegation that the best fighting gamers hail from Japan, bringing the argument from living rooms to the big stage of Las Vegas.
It also turns EVO 2011 from what was expected to be Daigo’s stomping ground to what may be a matchup between former allies, as the audience watches the twin titans of Street Fighter collide.
Strap yourselves in folks, and find yourself an online stream of the tournament. On July 28th, Street Fighter reaches a whole new level.