Last year’s event, which saw big names and past champions, including Daigo Umehara and Seonwoo “Infiltration” Lee, knocked out on the first day of competition, proved the futility of trying to pick an odds-on favorite in today’s game. The field is simply too deep, and, in the best-of-three format, almost anything can happen. Even the most decorated player can potentially run into an opponent they just aren’t prepared for and quickly find themselves sent to the losers bracket. Never mind trying to pick a favorite to win it all, I’m not sure any player coming into Evo 2015 had even odds to make top 8. Rather, with almost every name player in attendance, there were probably at least thirty or so competitors with roughly an equal shot at making it to the money rounds.
Evo’s sheer scale is part of what makes it one of the hardest tournaments to win, but, in the early rounds, that size just means that the seeded players have to endure a greater number of pool matches against nobodies before progressing as expected. The quarterfinals are where the action really begins, as big names face off against one another just to crack the top 32.
The most intriguing matches are those pitting top players against competitors from other regions. In one such case, reigning Evo champion Olivier “Luffy” Hay faced off against Guile specialist Kevin “Dieminion” Landon, one of the best players in New York and in the U.S.
When Luffy won Evo 2014, it was a bit of a blow to the U.S. community’s ego. When the Americans were losing to the Japanese, they could always point out that the U.S. was playing with a clear handicap, since the Japanese tended to receive the games earlier and benefitted from both healthier arcades and faster internet to develop their skills. What excuse could the Americans possibly offer for falling behind the Europeans, who arguably had to start from even further back?
Top U.S. players had a lot to prove, not only against the Japanese, but now also against Luffy, who entered Evo 2015 with a target on his back. They had had to wait quite a while for their chance, as Luffy doesn’t generally travel to the U.S. except for Evo, nor do U.S. players very often travel to Europe. But Dieminion was someone who, as it happened, had traveled to France multiple times, so he was well-prepared take on the European players.
(Video uploaded by StreetFighterCentral.)Luffy would subsequently lose off-stream to Japan’s Hiromiki “Itabashi Zangief” Kumada, who became, for the second year in a row, the man to eliminate the previous year’s Evo champ.
The most exciting quarterfinal match had to be that between SoCal’s Alex Valle and last year’s runner-up, Masato “Bonchan” Takahashi of Japan. Although semi-retired now, Valle was the best U.S. player of his generation back in the days of the Street Fighter Alpha series. Traditionally a Ryu player in every game, Valle had been playing casually a lot of Hugo, ever since the gigantic grappler was added to the roster in Ultra Street Fighter IV. Hugo is a character that still isn’t much represented at the highest levels, but, almost every time a Hugo does make it onto a major tournament stream, something crazy happens.
Grapplers are traditionally mismatched against Sagat, whose projectiles can be hell to navigate for the slow-footed titans. The difference between Hugo and Zangief, however, is that Hugo has some surprisingly quick far-reaching attacks, some of which also advance him forward, allowing him to maintain pressure as he pushes opponents toward the corner.
Both the defending champion and the previous year’s runner-up were knocked out before the top 32, but other favorites remained, including former champions Daigo and Infiltration.
In the round of 16, Infiltration would have to face Taiwan’s Bruce “GamerBee” Xiang, the very player he previously defeated in the Evo 2012 championship match. So much has changed for these two competitors since then.
In 2012, the “Year of Infiltration,” the South Korean was the dominant player using the game’s dominant character, Akuma. In 2015, with Ultra Street Fighter IV’s new Delayed Wake-Up mechanic having severely nerfed Akuma’s offense, Infiltration has become known as the most versatile player in the world, having scored tournament victories with nearly a dozen different characters. Against GamerBee, he would go with Evil Ryu, the character now considered by many to be the strongest in this edition of the game.
GamerBee, long the world’s preeminent Adon specialist, has now also become the top Elena player in Ultra Street Fighter IV. Opinions on the tier placement of this character have varied and shifted considerably in the short time she has been in the game. Without high-damage combos or tricky mix-ups on knockdown, she is not dominating in the ways that Street Fighter IV’s most notoriously powerful characters have been. What she possesses instead is a superior neutral game consisting of quick pokes with those long limbs of hers, angled in ways that make her very hard to approach directly. Her unusually diminutive profile while crouching further stymies opponents’ offenses, since many ordinarily reliable setups specifically will not work on her. This peculiar design, which allows her to effectively control the ground using only basic attacks, has led many frustrated players to declare her a cheap character, albeit not an overpowering one in the conventional Street Fighter IV sense.
(Video uploaded by StreetFighterCentral.)
For the most part, Infiltration doesn’t try to approach with his Evil Ryu. That may have less to do with the particular threat Elena poses than with Infiltration’s personal style. He’s always been a cautious and conservative player. The problem is that, if Infiltration isn’t going in, he isn’t taking advantage of Evil Ryu’s main strength—his explosive burst-damage combos. Sure enough, his Evil Ryu looked maybe not ready for prime time, as GamerBee handily took the first game.
As mentioned, Infiltration is a man of many characters, however, as well as one of the tour’s savviest minds. His decision to switch to Chun-Li shows just how deeply he has studied this game. For a long time considered among the least potent characters in Street Fighter IV, Chun-Li had not been brought up as a potential answer to Elena (or to any character, for that matter, other than grapplers). The character’s one strong point, her great ground control, had never seemed to matter in previous editions dominated by top tiers that could deal so much more damage than her in so much less time. Against Elena, however, this strength would be key. Elena is tough because she is a foil to so many conventionally powerful characters, but Chun-Li is one character who excels in the same area and can therefore fight her on equal terms.
Interestingly, although this contest of footwork and poking would be considered unconventional by Street Fighter IV standards, it is a more broadly exemplary Street Fighter match for precisely that reason. With no crazy combos or vortex setups to turn to, the participants end up relying on their mastery of the fundamentals that have been at the core of fighting games since Street Fighter II.
GamerBee was still alive in the losers bracket, but, in order to qualify for the top 8, he would have to win an elimination match against the Evil Ryu par excellence, Daigo Umehara himself.
(Video uploaded by fohstick a.)
In this match between the top Evil Ryu and the top Elena, each character’s strengths are clearly on display. Daigo, a much more assertive Evil Ryu than Infiltration, is determined to advance on Elena, and we see just how hard that is to do, as he repeatedly runs into Elena’s kicks. On the other hand, while GamerBee may land far more blows with Elena, Daigo only needs a few openings to more than erase any life deficit with his destructive Evil Ryu combos.
Daigo takes the early lead, but he ultimately falls due to his continued lack of caution (he never stops running into those kicks) and his failure to respect Elena’s Ultra Combo I: Brave Dance, which can blow through Evil Ryu’s fireballs to punish on reaction.
Last year saw some of the most successful competitors in Street Fighter IV history crashing out early in an Evo tournament that was held, some argue prematurely, on an edition of the game that had been available to the public for barely over a month. I would never try to diminish Luffy’s victory a year ago, considering the list of players he had to beat to get there. But this year’s results aligned much more closely with expectations of a mature competitive scene with an established order in its player rankings. Both Infiltration and GamerBee reached the Evo top 8, each for the fourth time in their Street Fighter IV careers, and they were joined in the final 3 by Japan’s Yusuke Momochi, the reigning Capcom Cup 2014 champion, still considered by most the man to beat.
At the beginning of 2015, Momochi carried the momentum from his Capcom Cup victory into a truly dominant run, where it seemed no one else in the world could touch him. Once the 2015 Capcom Pro Tour got fully underway, Momochi was unable to score any major victories at the Premier level (the highest tier of tournament, next to Evo), but the results don’t tell the full story. Anybody who watched him play would surely agree that he was clearly the strongest player. In the matches he won, it would often appear as though his opponents were moving in slow motion. He would swat them out of the sky or otherwise catch them in situations where the data suggested it shouldn’t have been possible for him or for any human to react in time.
Part of it has to do with his devious “throw tech uppercut” option select, whereby he can manipulate the game engine to read three inputs simultaneously (guard, Shoryuken, throw tech (breaking a grab)) and automatically output only the most advantageous of the three options in any given situation. But Momochi’s form and conditioning are also second to none, likely because he puts in more training than almost anybody else. That means he has the experience to recognize a wider range of scenarios more quickly than anybody else, and he has honed his responses to be instinctive. Basically, he can operate at a faster speed because he doesn’t have to think about what to do.
The players who beat him in 2015 did so by showing him things he couldn’t have trained against, whether it was Bryant “Smug” Huggins’s one-of-a-kind Dudley at CEO, Gustavo “801 Strider” Romero’s patented anti-Momochi tech at NorCal Regionals, or Daigo Umehara playing out of his mind at Stunfest. The idea is to get Momochi thinking by confronting him with situations he can’t just process automatically. When top players start thinking, that’s usually when they lose.
In the Evo 2015 winners final, could Infiltration bring to the table something Momochi hadn’t seen before?
Leading off with Evil Ryu was probably not the best decision for Infiltration. This was not a character he had used very much on the Capcom Pro Tour, but, against the strongest player in the world, perhaps he felt he needed the edge of the strongest character. Unfortunately, as powerful as Evil Ryu is, many people believe he actually loses head-to-head against the other Shoto characters (Ryu, Ken, Akuma), the problem being that his longest-range pokes are just slightly slower than their equivalent attacks, meaning that he tends to lose neutral exchanges. Even setting that aside, Momochi was clearly playing more cleanly and confidently.
Infiltration’s switch to Abel was a desperate move but, in classic Infiltration fashion, also an inspired one. Perhaps he remembered how 801 Strider had beaten Momochi with Abel at NorCal Regionals.
It was a great call, but a little too late. Responding to Infiltration’s response, Momochi in turn was allowed to switch characters going into the decisive game, and, of course, with so much on the line, he went cheap with Elena.
Now in the losers bracket, Infiltration would have to face a runback against GamerBee. Their last match showed off Infiltration’s ability to quickly regroup to counter a formidable tactic from GamerBee. Given two days to revise his game plan, how would GamerBee answer back?
It was a match that truly showed the game at its best and its worst. In what was quite probably the longest best-of-five match in Street Fighter history, both players pushed themselves to their own limits and to the breaking point of the game itself.
What GamerBee remembered this time was that Infiltration is, by nature, a low-risk player. Infiltration’s strategy had been to hang back and, instead of dealing with Elena’s stifling defense, waiting for her to come after his Chun-Li, who was capable of turning the tables on Elena with her even better control of the horizontal axis. On review, the problem with that strategy was that it amounted to countering a counterpuncher with a better counterpuncher. What happens if nobody actually threw a punch? That was the question that broke the game.
In a lot of sports, two sides take turns switching between offense and defense. One player strikes first, and then the other player must respond or risk falling behind, and the rest of the contest all proceeds from that. But what if nobody takes that first turn? You actually see this situation a lot in combat sports. Instead of immediately going at one another, the two fighters dance around one another for a bit (or a lot). It’s called respect. Not respect for your opponent’s quality of character, mind you, but for the threat they pose. If you attack them, then you’re not defending yourself, which puts you at risk. If you see that they’re not attacking, it tells you they’re on defense, which means that they’re safe. When the stakes are high, everyone would rather be safe than at risk, so nobody wants to attack first.
There’s always been an element of this to the “footsies” in fighting games, but never to this degree. Maybe the stakes had never been so high. For most of every round between Infiltration’s Chun-Li and GamerBee’s Elena, neither side would assertively engage. In many respects, it was probably the highest-level Street Fighter match ever played. There’s a reason that Floyd Mayweather is the most successful boxer, the richest, and frequently praised as the smartest, even if spectators can’t stand watching him do the opposite of fighting. Now just imagine two Floyd Mayweathers squaring off against one another. Boxing aficionados would wet themselves at all that insufferable brilliance.
It was like a game of chicken in reverse, where each side was daring the other to start, and nobody knew for sure what would happen if neither did, but one side was a little more terrified to find out. In this case, Infiltration was the one cracking. He was the more naturally conservative player, therefore the one in the more unfamiliar position, faced with an opponent who, for once, was at least as risk-averse as himself. He would fire off projectiles, theoretically one of Chun-Li’s key advantages over Elena, in a desperate bid to make GamerBee move. But GamerBee wouldn't budge. He simply absorbed the temporary damage as fuel for Elena’s Ultra Combo II: Healing.
Healing is the other part of Elena’s game that makes her so demoralizing. Even though it heals Elena instead of damaging her opponent, it has the same net effect as other Ultra Combos: it adjusts the health differential in her favor. But, while other Ultra Combos are best used to punish opponents not being careful enough, Healing alone has the ability to punish someone for being too careful. With Infiltration staying in his own corner, GamerBee could perform Healing repeatedly almost with impunity, effectively giving Elena limitless health.
I’ve said that GamerBee’s strategy here was about avoiding risk, but, in another way, I suppose it was a huge gamble. The clock was still a factor, which, with neither player gunning for the KO, would eventually decide the outcome of each round. That meant every round would come down to a last-second scramble to finish with the life lead. GamerBee was betting on himself to win most of those scrambles. He was betting his Evo life on the chaos of a few seconds. But this was the plan he had settled on. Confident or not, he was committed, and that gave him the edge.
In fact, the players traded games, and, had they persisted in this manner, it could have gone either way. But Infiltration didn’t have GamerBee’s faith or his commitment. He needed to try something else. He needed to pull out one of his signature momentum-shifting plays, instead of continuing to play along with the dynamic imposed by his opponent.
Returning to the character select screen, he hovered over Decapre, the closest thing he’s had to a main in 2015, but he must have realized this would be a bad idea. This was another character based around sitting in the corner. Infiltration next considered Rolento, which the crowd strongly urged him against. Maybe it was because they had just one match earlier seen GamerBee dismantle Naoki “Nemo” Nemoto, the top Rolento in the world. I think it’s more likely they didn’t want to see Infiltration’s dry style of Rolento. After the longest timeout ever, the former champion ultimately assented to the crowd pressure. As tense as this match had been, Infiltration went against his own better judgment and selected Juri, proving himself forever the people’s champion.
At a glance, GamerBee was the one ruthlessly working to win by any means, while Infiltration was willing to play to the crowd and entertain. But the Juri pick probably only worked because of the crowd. At first, she certainly looked like a downgrade from Chun-Li, gaining better projectiles that made no difference in this matchup, while losing the ability to go limb-for-limb against Elena. But, whenever he activated Juri’s unpredictable Feng Shui Engine, the crowd’s cheering basically willed the guesses to go in his favor, so that he could land those critical combos that finally put Elena down.
Just as it was against Momochi, however, Infiltration’s opponent would get the final word on character selection. At last, GamerBee brought out his signature Adon. After his Evo 2012 grand final loss to Infiltration, GamerBee would never again play Adon against Infiltration’s Akuma. Despite conventional wisdom that Adon actually had the advantage against all Shoto characters, GamerBee had zero confidence in that matchup and would (usually unsuccessfully) try to counter Akuma with Yun instead. But with Infiltration himself having mostly dropped Akuma, now was Adon’s time to shine once more.
In an almost tragicomic finish to the most grueling match in Evo history, after Infiltration finally managed to force GamerBee to switch away from “most disgusting character in the game” Elena back to his usually honest and aggressive Adon, still the final round would end in a time over, and with GamerBee’s scummiest play yet at that. He blatantly robbed Infiltration using the “timer scam” technique, whereby a player activates their Ultra Combo during the final seconds of the round, exploiting the canned cut scene animation that momentarily freezes the opponent in place but doesn’t stop the clock from ticking down. Thus did GamerBee book himself a place in the grand final against Momochi.
It’s a credit to the reputation GamerBee has built for himself as a fan favorite that, even after what he just pulled on Infiltration, the crowd was now fully on his side in his match against Momochi. They understood, certainly, that GamerBee was coming from the losers bracket, and they wanted him to reset the bracket just so they could witness more action. But, beyond that, GamerBee is simply that kind of player you can’t help but root for. That was true from the moment he made his Evo debut as an unknown Adon player in 2010.
I spoke before of Momochi’s conditioning. Without question, the Japanese player was the fittest competitor going into Evo 2015. Nine times out of ten, it is the fittest competitor who wins, but he’s not the guy that people cheer for. Though famously hard-working in his own right, GamerBee is a different kind of player. True to his name, he’s a gamer, and I mean that in the sporting sense. Lacking perhaps the analytical mindset or the resources to replicate Momochi’s training regimen, GamerBee has learned to match the geniuses of the game through mettle and sheer determination, along with a touch a shrewdness and guile (no, not that one). He overcame Infiltration by fully committing to a strategy that even the hungriest of competitors would have had a hard time stomaching. No player had ever pushed the game to that brink before. Perhaps nobody had ever wanted it so badly. Nobody had ever cared so much as GamerBee.
I’ve painted GamerBee as the underdog in this match against Momochi, and indeed he was, going by the player’s respective records in 2015. But I should also point out that, historically, GamerBee has always been Momochi’s hardest matchup—his demon, if you will. GamerBee won his first major Street Fighter IV championship, Season’s Beatings: Redemption in 2010, by trouncing Momochi in the grand final. In the Capcom Cup Asia Finals in 2013, GamerBee demolished Momochi in a seven-games-straight shutout. Just a year ago, GamerBee also defeated Momochi at Evo 2014. The Momochi of 2015 is a different animal, but, even so, GamerBee dominated their most recent match at NorCal Regionals in April, doing so through repeated use of basically just one button, Adon’s standing heavy kick, which happens to directly outclass Momochi’s favorite entry tool, Ken’s step kick, at the same range.
At Evo, GamerBee would lean on this one button again. Momochi would manage to win some of the exchanges just by being the cleaner player, but GamerBee stuck to his guns and ultimately came out ahead to reset the bracket, overcoming Momochi’s immaculate Ken through unwavering commitment to a simple but shrewd tactic.
After such a mentally taxing marathon match against Infiltration, you had to wonder if GamerBee would have anything left in the tank. But now, suddenly, he even looked like he had the upper hand in the grand final against the best player in the world.
Momochi, once upon a time known for his skill with multiple characters—a rarity among top Japanese players, who are typically character specialists and loyalists—finally broke through last year to win Capcom Cup 2014 while sticking with Ken the entire way. Here at Evo 2015, against GamerBee’s Adon, it seemed we had reached the limit of Ken. If Momochi was going to cross that finish line, he would have to leave his signature character behind. And if he was at all disappointed about that, victory would surely help him get over it. His opponent clearly had no shame about exploiting character matchups, and Momochi himself had already had to switch to the game’s dirtiest character, Elena, to beat Infiltration. Now he would turn to Evil Ryu, the game’s strongest.
GamerBee, although he too had the option of switching characters for the second set, opted to go the rest of the way with Adon. It was a bit of a surprising decision. After all, GamerBee had beaten Infiltration and Daigo’s Evil Ryus with Elena. Maybe he felt Adon was the better matchup against Momochi the player. Or maybe, on the cusp of his long-awaited Evo victory, he was feeling sentimental and wanted to ride or die with the character that brought him to this same stage his first time at Evo.
Either way, Adon, as stated, is generally considered to have the advantage against Shoto characters. One major factor is his Ultra Combo I: Jaguar Revolver, which can blow through projectiles at long range. It’s not Adon’s preferred Ultra Combo in most other matchups, since it has less reliable damage potential than his Ultra Combo II: Jaguar Avalanche, but the threat of it serves as an effective deterrent against projectile characters, shutting down one of their key options.
Against Momochi’s Ken, GamerBee actually didn’t even bother equipping Jaguar Revolver, probably because Ken’s fireball is slow enough that GamerBee didn’t feel the need to respect it. Evil Ryu’s fireball is much better, however, and that surely informed Momochi’s strategic switch. In a way, there’s a deterrent on both sides. When Momochi has a projectile option that demands GamerBee’s respect, GamerBee must forgo his own biggest weapon in favor of Jaguar Revolver, which he’ll probably never even use. Thus, Momochi doesn’t get to utilize Evil Ryu’s long-range option when Jaguar Revolver is in play, but GamerBee has to give up Adon’s combo into Jaguar Avalanche. One could say that both characters were having to fight at half strength, which was kind of poetically representative of how drained the players too must have been by this point. And this final match would yet ask a lot more of them.
GamerBee could no longer as comfortably spam standing heavy kick. The risk would be too great, because Evil Ryu’s high damage meant the punishment for any misplaced kick would be severe. Without any other cheap tactics left to game the game, GamerBee had to fall back on his oneness with Adon, a character whose every facet he was sole master of. When we analyze in relative terms at these highest of levels, we usually think of GamerBee as more of a grinder than a technician. It’s easy to forget that GamerBee is still more technically skilled than 99 percent of all players. That gave him a fighting chance even against the best player using the best character.
It also helped that Evil Ryu was not Momochi’s main character. When I say Momochi is immaculate, I suppose what I really mean is that he is immaculate when using Ken, the character he has poured most of his training into. His Evil Ryu was a lot rougher, and suddenly he looked more like a really good but still mortal player, who was even maybe succumbing to the pressure of the moment. On match point, in the third round of the fourth game, he would fail to complete a combo that would have sealed it. Then, almost immediately after, he would get another chance, only to drop it AGAIN and have GamerBee steal the round and the game back. That’s the price of Evil Ryu. Those combos are devastating, but they’re also the hardest to perform. Nobody, not even Daigo, can nail them with more than 75 percent reliability.
What’s extra amazing about that sequence is that, when you review the footage, you can see that Momochi thought it was all over. He exhales deeply, looks momentarily lost, then raises two fingers at GamerBee to confirm that the score was only now 2-2. He had thought the score was already 2-2 in the last game and that he had just lost Evo on a twice-flubbed core Evil Ryu combo. But it turned out Evo wasn’t done with him or GamerBee yet.
“Not Like This”
As amazing as all of that preceding action was, including a match I earlier called the “highest-level Street Fighter match ever played,” Evo 2015 will likely be remembered for one unfortunate moment above all else: the pause.
(Video by Hold Back to Block.)
More accurately, it was a stick malfunction triggering an automatic pause (the game's way of letting you know that your controller has turned off), which the tournament rule book treats the same as any pause. Whoever was responsible must forfeit the round. They can’t just unpause and resume, because the round’s natural rhythm has been compromised. Without some penalty, unscrupulous players would just pause every time they felt a need to interrupt the opponent’s momentum.
What makes the ruling so harsh, in the case of a stick malfunction, is that the player really has no control over that. You can argue that a competitor must take responsibility for their own equipment, but, beyond making sure that your controller is officially licensed and hasn’t been dropped on the floor a bunch, what measures can you really take to ensure that it won’t fail on you?
Even worse, Momochi actually didn’t even have full control over what stick he carried into tournaments. His sponsor, the eSports team Evil Geniuses, had been in turn sponsored by Razer. All of their Street Fighter players had been contractually obligated to use the Razer Atrox arcade stick. Now, EG’s partnership with Razer did terminate just a month before Evo 2015. The team’s new peripherals provider is SteelSeries, which doesn’t manufacture arcade sticks (or any console stuff). I suppose, as of a month ago, Momochi has been free to switch to any other stick of his choosing. But why would he have? The Razer Atrox was officially licensed, highly reviewed, and built with literally the same exact joystick and buttons as pretty much every other Japanese-style arcade stick from any other manufacturer. There was no compelling reason whatsoever for him to switch from a stick he’d already been using and winning with in favor of any other basically identical stick.
But, ultimately, it was Momochi’s stick that crapped out, and he was the one responsible for it, even if he kind of wasn’t. (Is there anything in the warranty about Razer being liable for winnings lost as a result of equipment failure?) If you never imagined both sides in a competition could get robbed by the same ruling, well here it was. I don't blame the judges, mind you. It was an impossible situation. No proposal could possibly have turned back or rectified a cosmic unfairness that had been created by a freak occurrence.
The only consolation you could take from it was that at least this didn’t decide the game and match. It handed the round to GamerBee, tying up the game at one round apiece, taking us to the final round of the final game of the final match of the biggest tournament in Street Fighter IV history. Of course, that didn’t happen right away. To scrub the lost round as cleanly as possible, the judges couldn’t allow either player to build extra meter after they unpaused. Once the stick issues were sorted out, they would have to sit there and wait for the round to end in a time over.
As the clock ticked down, the seconds felt both interminable and yet insufficient, the tension building and building to a slow crush. And then, finally, after all the work these players had put in, it would all come down to a single round—a single round that they were going into cold. It felt wrong, and it sucked.
When Momochi won it by wiping out about a third of Adon’s health in one single Evil Ryu combo, the new Evo 2015 champion barely even celebrated. He must have felt pretty good in that moment, but only from a tremendous sense of relief, not triumph. There would be none of the latter for anybody this day, though GamerBee at least got to hear the crowd chant his name. Five years earlier, when a theretofore unknown Adon player defeated Justin Wong to qualify for top 8 at Evo 2010, the crowd chanted GamerBee's name as though he'd won the whole damn thing. Now they were chanting it again after having just seen him lose the big one. It was the definition of bittersweet.
If you want to look for a silver lining, I suppose it was in the small ways that even rivals pulled together to deal with that difficult moment. When they realized Momochi’s stick was faulty and needed to be replaced, Infiltration’s was available. It was also a Razer Atrox, but, as it turned out, a personally customized one, because Infiltration famously prefers the bat-shaped Crown joystick (“eggplant,” the Japanese call it) over the more typical Japanese Sanwa lollipop. On to plan B (or was it C?), Momochi had to instruct his nearby girlfriend and EG teammate, Yuko “ChocoBlanka” Kusachi, to run and seek out his friend Hajime “Tokido” Taniguchi (whom he had beaten just a few matches earlier in the top 8), who would provide (courtesy of his own sponsor) the MadCatz stick that ended up winning the day. Most interestingly, with oddly no designated Japanese translator on hand from either the Evo staff or Momochi’s own people during that crisis, it fell to the apparently trilingual GamerBee to interpret the judge’s directions, given in English, and translate them into Japanese to let Momochi know what was going on. Perhaps the true beauty of the game is how shared passion unites competitors into community.
At the end of the day, as disappointing a finish as that was, it was also definitely a one-of-a-kind Evo moment—an unforgettable way to close the book on seven years of Street Fighter IV at Evo, which I suppose is all we could have asked for.