Monday, May 18, 2009

Road to Yamagata

This weekend’s ultimate goal was to enter the SBO qual in Yamagata prefecture. Yamagata is far to the north, even farther than Fukushima. I had never been there before. My team for this weekend would be Junya (the female Dizzy player from Niigata who I had teamed with before last year) and EVE (the ABA player from Tochigi who I have teamed with many times in the past). There wasn’t really much of a point in going anywhere on Friday night so I made plans to just stay home. Matt said he wanted to come out to hang out and play games and drink so he made plans with me to take the train from Tokyo up to my town in Gunma and he would spend the night drinking and playing casuals. These plans were very last minute because I didn’t confirm whether EVE could enter or not until Wednesday night. As a result, Ryoko had already made other plans to go visit her aunt in Maebashi, but when I told her Matt was coming here to chill, she wanted to come over too and in addition, she wanted to invite one of her female friends to sorta meet Matt and see how it goes. Matt recently broke up with Akiko (finally).

Since Ryoko was going to be in Maebashi kinda late, I just made some quick yakisoba for Matt and myself. While I was waiting for him to get to the train station, I made the food. I was microwaving some pumpkin (my culinary skills are ghetto) and I got a call from Rod. He said he was at Vegas and was asking when I would be getting there. I mentioned to him last weekend that I wouldn’t be going to Tokyo and I guess he forgot. I didn’t think of inviting him cuz I was pretty sure he wouldn’t be able to come. I told him if he ran for the train he could still make it and get here at like midnight but he decided since he has lots of studying to do he would just take it easy this weekend. Anyway, while I was on the phone with Rod, I forgot about the pumpkin in the microwave but was quickly reminded when the burning smell filled the room. My microwave sucks so basically the timer doesn’t work right and you sorta have to turn it off by yourself. The pumpkin was crispy black and stuck to the plate. I opened a window to air out he smell and the smoke. Then I had to go get Matt from the station so I just left my window open and headed out. As I was pulling out of my neighborhood onto the main street, I see like 2 fire trucks and 2 ambulances heading in the direction of where I live. I suddenly got the idea that somehow some neighbor smelled the smoke and called the fire department but I also figured that didn’t make any sense so it must just be a coincidence. I picked Matt up from the station and we headed over to Sunmall to buy some beer and snacks.

When we returned to my apartment, there was no sign of the fire trucks and stuff so I guess it was a coincidence. We at the food and then pretty much just drank lots of beer and played Guilty Gear casuals for a few hours. We had it set on like just 2/3 rounds and played a bunch of games. I don’t remember how many matches we played, something around 50 or so. Matt got 7 wins on me. We eventually got drunk enough to the point where we were just busting out random select characters and then we started playing 3rd strike cuz we both suck at it and it was fun to mess around on it while we were drunk. Eventually Ryoko showed up pretty late, around 1 am. She brought even MORE beer and snacks. Unfortunately her friend couldn’t make it cuz it was already too late. The 3 of us then got drunker and watched this one Japanese movie I have on DVD but never watched before called Visitor Q. If you want details about it, go ahead and look it up, but lets just say it was a pretty fucked up movie. After the movie, it was already passed 5 am. Matt went in the other room to go sleep, Ryoko and I stayed up a bit longer and then we went to sleep too sometime after 6 or 6:30.

Ryoko woke me up about a half hour before my alarm was set to go off. Basically the plan today is for Matt and I to take the regular train up to Niigata to play games and drink there. That’s where Junya lives so the plan was to go with her by car to the tournament in Yamagata on Sunday morning. However, Yamagata is FAR so I needed to take the shinkansen back or I would never make it in time. I needed to get my car over to the shinkansen station so that I would be able to drive home once I got back but since I was leaving on the normal train which is at a different station I needed Ryoko to go with me to leave my car. So I took a fast shower, got dressed, and then we headed over to the shinkansen station. After that, she dropped me off back home but had to leave right away because she had to be at work very soon. After that, Matt and I ate some breakfast and then walked over to the train station near my house.

The train ride to Niigata took about 3 and a half hours. I slept most of the way there. We had to stop off at Nagaoka to transfer about half way. We left the station a bit cuz we had time to kill between transfers so we went to this one Daily Yamazaki conbini. Daily Yamazaki conbini’s have a tendency to be pretty low tier on the conbini tier list, but this one was fucking epic. They had a great selection and tons of deals! Stuff was dirt cheap and awesome selection. They should change that specific location’s name to Daily Win!

And now, im going to go off on a tangent and make my official Japanese conbini tier list

Top Tier: 7-11, Lawson, Family Mart

Mid Tier: Sunkus, Circle K, AMPM

Low Tier: Daily Yamazaki, Mini Stop

Bottom Tier: NewDays

Also, Nagaoka was just swarming with hot chicks. Must be something in the water up there. We got near Niigata city station but decided to stop off at Kameda station first since that’s where POPY is. I wasn’t sure if it was going to be good or not. POPY is a great arcade but its really far from the station so I don’t think people play there often unless there are tournaments. Matt and I decided to check it out anyway. It was about 5:15 pm or so. We walked and it took about 25 mins from the station. When we got there, we were surprised to see lots of people there. Actually there was a SBO Arcana Heart qual going on. Unfortunately, everyone was there for that, and the GG machines were deserted. Matt and I played one quick game and I won. Then we just decided to say screw it and go to another arcade. While I was there though, one of the guys who works at POPY told me he was going to be going with me and Junya to Yamagata tomorrow so I thanked him and told him I would see him tomorrow. We headed out and caught a cab on the way back to the station cuz it was just a really far walk, and the cabs out there are awesome. I think it only costed like 400 yen.

After 2 more stops on the train we arrived at Niigata station. While we were on the train I talked to Sean (my friend from back in Chicago who used to work for Nova here in Niigata but now has other work and who’s hobby includes DJing… same guy I always visit when I came to Niigata before). He said him and his girl were going to go drinking at Northern Lights (the bar owned by the Canadian guy) pretty soon and said we should stop by whenever we feel like it. First things first, we wanted to play some GG, so we headed over to Chance, the place where I always played lots of casuals before when I came to Niigata. Junya told me she was pretty much busy all day so she wouldn’t be able to meet up with us until tomorrow so the 2 of us just headed there. At first there was just some scrubby Sol playing the computer. I beat him for free and then he moved to the other GG cab to fight the computer again. Then gradually a few other players were in and out for the next couple of hours. There was a decent Zappa, Venom, and Robo-Ky. The Robo-Ky remembered me from last time I was here and even remembered my name. We chatted for a little bit. I asked him if he was going to Yamagata tomorrow but he said he didn’t have a team so he couldn’t make it. I played a total of maybe about 30 games of casuals while we were there, and I only lost twice. Eventually the comp cleared out so Matt and I headed over to Northern Lights sometime around 9 pm.

It took us a bit to find the place cuz I knew the general area but it’s a little hard to notice at first. When we walked in, Sean was DJing as usual. We said hi to him and then grabbed a seat at the bar. The place was pretty packed. Its not a huge place really but they certainly crammed lots of people in there. It was a pretty diverse crowd as it often seems to be in there, lots of people of various different backgrounds and ages. They have a kickass kitchen with a great menu. Matt and I both got these huge cheeseburgers with fries and drank LOTS of beers. They have both regular Yebisu and the black Yebisu on tap as well as Sapporo and Guiness. If you order the large size Sapporo, its like 3 times the size of a Current beer! It’s a fucking monster for only like 800 yen! The bartender there is also super awesome. He remembered me from last time even though its been like nearly a year since I last went out there. He has been doing this for like 4 years now and his bar is really successfull and he says its really not all that hard. I guess having a Japanese wife helps with the whole visa thing though. Matt has long hair and was wearing a hat where the hair was just coming out the back, so the bartender was calling him Mullet LOL! He hooked Matt and I up with like 3 free shots of whiskey. Matt only drank the first 1 and gave the other 2 away cuz he cant handle shots. We had like tons of beers and talked to various people and it was just a chill night and a good time. I didn’t really get to talk to Sean almost at all though because he was busy DJing the entire time we were there but oh well. The place said last call at around 12:30 or so. I had to get up really early because Junya told me she was gonna pick me up from Niigata station at 7 am. We finished our beers and headed out.

While we were at Northern Lights, someone gave us directions to the closest manga kissa, which was about a 10 minute walk from where we were at. By the time we checked in and went to sleep it was already like passed 1 am. The place was expensive but they had really nice sleeping areas so it was comfortable at least.

I woke up to my alarm going off at 6:30 am. I was honestly still pretty damn tired, but I made sure to drink lots of water so I didn’t have a hang over. Matt was also woken up by my alarm. He sent me an email from his booth saying he was just gonna go home. He was debating before he even came out there with me as to whether or not he was gonna go all the way to Yamagata or just go home from Niigata, cuz he sorta had plans to meet up with that on girl, Eriko, that he has that huge crush on back in Tokyo on Sunday. So I just sent him a message saying bye, left him at the manga kissa, and headed for Niigata station.

When I got there, Junya hadn’t arrived yet but after about 5 more minutes she pulled up in her car. From there we chatted a little about various things in the car on the way there. Mostly just stuff about other video games we are currently playing (shes playing lots of Monster Hunter, which seems to be a huge trend right now in Japan). I just started playing Suikoden Teikreis on the DS. She was also telling me how she has a boyfriend who used to play GG but now doesn’t really play anymore. We eventually arrived at POPY where we were to meet up with the rest of the people going with us. I honestly didn’t even know a huge group of us were all going. In addition to me and Junya, the guy from POPY who I talked to the day before was going to be the driver and we were all going in a big van. Then there were 3 more people going with us, so 6 of us in the van total. The other 3 was a separate team going to the tournament. It consisted of the female Sol player who teamed up with Junya back in Fukushima, as well as 2 guys, one was a Testament player and the other was a HOS player. Everyone pitched in for gas money and it didn’t end up being all that expensive at all, way cheaper than taking the train honestly. The road trip out there was pretty long. I would say it took about 3 hours or more. We didn’t take any express ways the whole time, just country mountain roads and stuff. There was a lot of beautiful scenery though. I tried to sleep for a good amount of the trip because I was still pretty tired. I got a little sleep, but it was honestly hard to sleep well in the car cuz it was just turning and curving a lot. The driver was telling us funny roadtrip stories about how when he was a little kid his family would just have him pee in a bottle and they would dump it out the window while they were driving cuz they didn’t wanna stop to use the bathrooms haha. It was a fun car ride though and everyone was pretty nice.

Eventually we made it to Yamagata. It took a few minutes to find the game center but luckily I printed out a map and we were able to find it easily soon after checking it. The game center was called Jack and Betty. Pretty weird name for an arcade but whatever. The place also looked small as hell from the outside. Upon going inside though, it was still small but at least it went far back so there was enough room for lots of games and people and they even had a nice area set up for viewing tournament matches on a big TV.

As soon as we arrived, before even going in, we kinda were just sitting around in front for a bit talking, and then EVE showed up from inside the arcade. He said he had gotten there a little while ago and he took the regular train there from Tochigi this morning and it was a 3 hour trip. Eventually we all went inside. There were rumors floating around that HH had showed up with a team… and those rumors were 100% fact. HH was there, and with him he brought the team of Konsome (PO) and Seta (who was using SL for this tournament). Also, according to Junya, TEN’s team had won the first tournament in this block which took place the day before in Koriyama. Sadu/Kuni/Taku’s team was also at this tournament. And also, that one beastly Faust from the last tournament in Fukushima who was slash backing like crazy was there too but this time he had a different team. They had 2 cabs set up for AC but in addition to that, for whatever reason, they had a Slash cab and a Reload cab too haha. There was a long wait to play so I only got a few games in before the tournament. Almost every single one of them was vs HH. I think I played him about 4 times. The first 3 times, I lost to him, though they were all somewhat close. The very first time I fought him I came within a pixel of beating him but then he came back. He went on to get over a 30 win streak vs tons of people. EVE played him once and came close to winning too. Junya said she didn’t want to play casuals for whatever reason, I don’t know why. I managed to squeeze a game in vs Kuni’s Baiken on the other cab too but I lost. Eventually I made it back to the HH cab where he was still beasting with like over 30 something wins. This time, I managed to beat him and end his win streak and a few people were giving me props. The whole time we were there, the only other person I saw beat HH was some Eddie player. After I won, Seta got on the cab with his SL and I won a round but he beat me. I also played a couple of matches of Slash and Reload for fun but I only used Testament and Ky because I didn’t wanna pick Faust and then start messing up my AC combos in the tournament from playing old versions of him where his pogo combos were drastically different.

After a little more time, they got the brackets set up and the tournament was ready to go. Again, I entered with the name Manga Kissa Warrior! A total of 20 teams entered. Because it was a 20 team bracket, it meant it was set up like a 16 team bracket but with 4 slots having to fight an extra round than everyone else. We were one of the unlucky ones to have to fight an extra match. In addition to that, not only did we have to fight an extra match, but our first match was the very team that we rode up in the car with. So the 5 of us who came together drove over 3 hours to have to eliminate one or the other first match. Shitty luck, but its completely random so that’s just the way it goes. However, it gets worse. I looked who the winner between us would have to fight next, and it was none other than HH’s team. Well, first things first. We were the first match to play in the tournament. Originally, I wanted to go first against that team cuz I know all the matchups well. Then Junya insisted that she goes first, I guess maybe cuz its her friends and she wanted to play them, I really don’t know honestly but I just told her to roll with it. She went first vs the HOS player and she lost in a close game. I was gonna go but then EVE said HE wanted to go, so I just said, fine go for it. Well, EVE went ahead and beat HOS, followed by Testament, and finally Sol all by himself, so I guess I have no problem with that lol. Kinda sucks how we had to take that team out first round like that but I guess since EVE beat them they can at least say they weren’t eliminated by someone they rode up with or something… heh…

So our next match was to be vs HH’s team. EVE seemed a bit distraught about having to fight them but I just tried to stay positive and told him “If we are going to win this thing, we have to beat them at some point whether it be now or in the finals, so we might as well just do our best and get it out of the way now”. We decided that we should have Junya go first. All 3 of us didn’t really want to deal with Slayer, but at least Dizzy is good against Potemkin and Dizzy mirror match could end up with random results even if HH probably has a better Dizzy cuz mirror matches are dumb. Well they ended up putting Seta out there first. They both won a round and it went down to the last round, and Junya managed to pull off a win vs Seta! EVE and I were both super happy about that. Up next, HH was up. Junya actually started off pretty strong against him but eventually it fell apart and she lost. Then EVE went next because he was most worried about Potemkin so we figured he might as well try to beat Dizzy while he has a chance. I don’t remember too many details, he tried and fought hard but he lost too. It was now up to me. The first round was back and forth, really clutch and really close the entire time. At the very end of the round, Dizzy was in the corner and summoned one of those homing ice blade projectiles. If Faust hits her out of the startup of it it goes away, and I get a counter hit. I was pretty close, so I went for a far slash, but the projectile managed to JUST come out as the slash hit, so Dizzy was able to block and I got hit out of the end of my slash and died. We both only had like one hit of life left. I shrugged it off and went for the next round. I started off with a pretty big disadvantage pretty much just getting beat out air to air and he kept squeezing in sneaky air dusts while I was kinda above him. At some point I got back on him and started to get his life down a little more but I pretty much had almost none left myself at this point. I got a knockdown on him. He had about 75% meter and I didn’t have much, just maybe about 1/8th bar. I figured if I went for a mixup he would try to dead angle me so I figured I would do a throw mixup. I did empty FDC jump and was going to go for a command throw, but he busted out Dizzy’s fire super. I was still holding block for the FDC but somehow it hit me! I guess maybe I let go for a split second but I know that when it hit me my hands were still on the stick and buttons. I just kinda sat there shocked for a couple seconds, got off the cab, and apologized to my team mates. So there you have it, pretty ironic situation here. We end up taking out the team I come up there with, then HH, who I was possibly going to actually team up with myself for this tournament, but couldn’t because Junya already played Dizzy, shows up with a DIFFERENT team, only to eliminate me.

After losing, we went outside for a bit and were just talking, and then Junya and some of her group said they were gonna go down the street to this one other arcade that was a 2 minute walk to play more casuals. I got EVE and we all went over there for a bit. They only had one cab set for 2 credits of 3/5 for 100 yen so waiting kinda took forever. I only got a couple games in. My very last game was vs Junya. I beat her, and then they said they were going to be leaving to go back to Niigata now. Part of me wanted to stay and see the end of the tournament, which was still going on down at Jack and Betty. The other part of me said, the station is a really far walk from where I am at now, and I have a 3 hour SHINKANSEN ride ahead of me, which basically means im FAR from home, so maybe I had just best get on my way. It was about a little after 5 pm. EVE needed to get to the station too so they dropped both EVE and me off at Yamagata station. I thanked everyone and said goodbye and EVE and I headed into the station. We talked for a bit and EVE said he might be able to team with me again for a few more tournaments coming up but hes not sure yet. Hes low on money and pretty busy with school so we will see. He went with me to buy my shinkansen ticket which was pretty damn expensive but I had no other choice since I wouldn’t even be able to make it home on the normal train at this point given how far I was. I said bye to him and we split ways as he headed for the regular trains.

I enjoyed the comfortable ride back chilling and playing my DS and enjoying some great views of the Japanese countryside. I made it home fine with no problems. I mailed HH on the way back and told him he played well today and good games and asked him who the winner of the tournament was but he never responded. I didn’t say anything to him and he didn’t say anything to me while we were actually at the tournament. It was a pretty awkward situation honestly and I just didn’t know what to say to him. I cant really blame him for what happened, its just the way it worked out. In any case, at this point I don’t know who won, but if HH’s team won, I guess I can count those Hokkaido plans out, at least until I find a new team to go with me.

Next weekend there are 2 tournaments in Kanagawa so I will be heading back to Tokyo for the usual shenanigans. I still havnt confirmed my team but I imagine it will be comprised of some of the people I usually have been teaming up with for the Tokyo area tournaments. At least I had fun this weekend going somewhere new but I must say I am pretty disappointed by the way it all turned out.

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