Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Nightbird's Song

On Friday night, we had a drinking party at work.  Since this would be my last drinking party with them, it was sort of my unofficial goodbye party as well.  I gave a brief speech and they gave me a necktie with the Gunma prefectural Mascot, Gunma-chan, on it as a parting gift.  I had never been to the place before but it was at a really fancy beer garden within a hotel.  We had 2 hours of all you can drink and eat and the food was really good too.  I went to the after party near the local train station as well.  Overall, the night was really good.  I came home and drank a bit more with Ryoko after that.  I was pretty drunk already though and tomorrow was a big day so I didn't stay up too late.

I got up on Saturday with a very slight headache but it went away pretty quickly.  Considering how much I drank, I got off the hook pretty easy as far as hangovers go.  I packed my bag the night before so after a quick shower I was ready to head out.  I put on my headphones before leaving and hit the "play all shuffle" button on my mp3 player and the first song to come on randomly was "Amorphis - Nightbird's Song".  This was actually the last song that I listened to on my mp3 the day I won my silver ticket and it was stuck in my head the entire tournament.  It's a great song becuase it has kind of a brutal intensity and heaviness but a somewhat uplifting chorus at the same time.  It actually kinda got me pumped and put me in a good mental state during the tournament.  Having it randomly come on like that was a good sign in my mind, though I am not really superstitous or anything.  Still, I couldn't help but think it was kinda cool.  Check out the music video for the song here if you are curious.  (Also cool little bonus tidbit, at 1:40 you can see the bass player wearing a "Music Bar Rock Rock" t-shirt which is the same bar I often drank at in the past on all my trips to Osaka!)

Anyway, I walked to that station, I had a cigarrette by the smoking area in front of the train station and watched some pigeons eat a moldy potato chip off the ground and drink from a water fountain.  I then hopped on the train to Kawagoe, Saitama, which is where today's area final would take place.

I got there at around 3:00 pm which is when the preliminary was just scheduled to start. Right before arriving at the arcade, I made sure to listen to "Amorphis - Nightbird's Song" again to get it stuck in my head for the tournament, lol.  Some pretty beastly players showed up for the preliminary including Machaboo, Osaka B, Hase, 310, OSCA and some other good people.  I will admit I was not happy to see this but I knew it was going to happen to some extent.   Machaboo ended up defeating 310 and Osaka B to make it to the preliminary finals.  I felt bad for Osaka B and was sorta rooting for him.  He has already won like 4 or 5 silver tickets but never has been able to win that gold.  On the other side of the bracket, Hase defeated OSCA to get to the finals on his side.  The final match of Machaboo vs Hase was a good fight.  In the end, Hase pulled out the win!  At that point I honestly wasn't even really sure who to root for since both of them are extremely good and hard to beat.  If you want to see the full bracket from the preliminary, check it here.

And so with that, the 7 finalists were decided.  To summarize they were:
JUN (MI)
ElvenShadow (FA)
FC (VE)
Ishimitsu (SL)
Toruso (MI)
Hanpen (ZT)
Hase (SL)

The preliminary only took about 45 mins to finish, and the area final was scheduled to start at 5:00 pm, so there was time for a little over an hour's worth of casuals.  There were 2 cabs and I got to play quite a bit of matches.  I actually got on and just got a streak of about 10 wins or something and never ended up losing.  Though, the only person who was actually in the finals that I fought was Ishimitsu and I beat him.  Everyone else I fought were people who lost in the prelim.  The other finalists were playing on other cabs.  Just as the arcade staff member was about to begin the tournament, I was challenged for one final match vs a Ramlethal player.  It was a rank up match for me to get my rank 12 back!  It was kind of shitty timing though since he starting calling for each of the finalists to go up to the counter one by one to present our silver ticket and check in.  I won 2 rounds and lost 1 at this point (3/5 total on casuals) and then they called me to go up there, so I had to get off the cab.  FC jumped on and tried to play for me but he doesn't use Faust lol.  I registered as quickly as I could and got back on the cab and there was one final round left since FC lost a round.  I was pretty tense because the tournament was about to start but in the end, I won and got my rank 12 back!  Then, I quickly went around to the other side of the cab and asked everyone there not to play again so that I could end my credit and get my card back for the tournament.  If you go into training mode and hold down start and P, the timer drains much faster and you can end your game if you need to suddenly leave and don't want to leave your card registered on the machine.  A useful feature. 

So, after everyone checked in, they announced the rules.  Every block final has different varations on rules and not all of them have an equal amount of players.  This one had 7, so making a regular bracket would be unfair and having a 7 person round robin would take quite a while, so they broke us into 2 separate round robins with one having 3 and one having 4 players.  The winners of each would face off in a final match for the gold.  We drew random numbers to determine who would be placed where.  It ended up being like this...

Pool 1:  ElvenShadow, FC, Ishimitsu, Toruso
Pool 2: JUN, Hanpen, Hase

The very first match was me vs FC.  I was pretty nervous.  I was making a lot of input errors and just didn't play very solid.  In the end, I lost.  At this point, I still had a chance but it was a pretty bad start.  They then alternated back and forth with matches from Pool 1 and Pool 2.  My 2nd match was vs Ishimitsu.  I was feeling more confident with this one since I beat him before the tournament in casuals.  I played solid and ended up taking the win!  It ended up working out that FC lost to Toruso and both Toruso and FC beat Ishimitsu.  So, what this meant was that if I beat Toruso, I could reset the bracket and the 3 of us would have to play again.  You can watch the match here.  The first round was a really solid performance and I played really well.  I got him down to literally the point where you can't see his life bar anymore.  But I was also in the same situation.  It went down to the absolute wire and after both of us dancing around a bit, Toruso landed the final blow and I lost round 1.  I was a bit shaken and round 2 did not go quite as well and I ended up losing.  Everyone was rooting for me too and I really appreciated the support, but in the end, Toruso just out played me.  FC especially wanted me to win because he wanted that bracket reset just as bad as me lol.  I was pretty bummed out but didn't let it get me down too bad. 

As for the other pool, it ended up that JUN won his pool!  I honestly wasn't expecting Hase to lose but JUN did really well.  So, the grand finals was a Millia mirror match between JUN and Toruso.  Toruso being the better player IMO, I was expecting him to win.  The first round was actually clutch as hell!  JUN was winning by a lot and Toruso was on the ropes, but he made an epic come back and took the round.  JUN knew he should have had that and looked shook up.  I could read it on his face.  He played well and took round 2.  The final round was also pretty close but Toruso took it and won the gold.  Honestly, this was the result I was kind of expecting.  I pretty much figured that if I couldn't beat Toruso, he would go on and win it all.  He looked really really happy, almost to the point of tears.  I felt pretty disapointed but also kinda happy for him since he's a really good player and also a cool guy. 

BTW if you want to see the actual pool results visually...
pool 1 
pool 2 

Once it was over, I had other plans, so I congratulated Toruso, said bye to everyone and headed out.  RIght before I left though, I asked Osaka B what tournament he planned to enter the next day.  There were multiple ones going on with 2 of them area finals.  He said he would go to Chiba most likely.  Knowing that Nakamura and some other really beast players had already made it to the area finals in that one, I considered my other options and figured that for me, going to Shizuoka actually would be a decent option.  I told Osaka B that was my plan and he agreed and said I might have a good chance. 

Anyway, my post tournament  plans were to go drinking with Emmet at a beer garden in Ginza and I honestly felt like having some drinks after that loss to ease the pain a bit, so I headed out and made my way to Ginza.  It took about an hour to get there and Emmet was running late due to a festival going around near his place.  I waited a bit and had a drink and eventually he showed up with his girlfriend, Kozue.  We made our way to the beer garden but it ended up being full and they said that the wait time would be really long, so we gave up on that idea and just decided to go to an Izakaya in Shibuya that has super cheap prices.  The place we ended up going has 2 hours of all you can drink for only 1200 yen!   Not only that, but it's self service, so you can just bring your glass up to the beer tap and fill it up at your own pace!  They have pretty good yakitori too.  The place is called Marukin and there is one in Shinjuku as well that we sometimes go to.  I recommend it for anyone who is looking for somewhere cheap to drink. 

We drank our fill and when time was up we ended up going to a place called 300 yen coin bar.  I had no idea this would happen, but there was a DJ there and he was friends with Scott Popular and Forgenjuro from Final Roundbats, so they were there drinking!  It was cool to see those guys.  I sorta stopped going to FRB for a while since they dropped SFIV and it was mainly just Marvel and i haven't been playing marvel for a couple of years now really.  Especially once +R and then in turn, Xrd, came out, there were just way more GG tournaments to go to and they ended up conflicting with FRB.  In any case, just chilling with those guys is always good times so we had fun drinking with them.  Later on they had a karaoke thing where the DJ just played a song and anyone who wanted to Karaoke it could do it.  Scott asked me if I wanted to do Guns n Roses - Sweet Child of Mine, and I was happy to do it.  I sang it pretty well and it was fun.  Also, that day, I was wearing my Journey - Don't Stop Believin' shirt and so they also asked if I wanted to do that one, so I sang that as well.  Eventually it was starting to get pretty late and since I had to go to Shizuoka the next day, I needed to call it an early night, so I left around midnight and headed for the manga kissa in Shibuya. 

For those of you who don't know or might not remember, Shizuoka a prefecture that is west of Tokyo and it takes about 3 hours to get there by local train.  I went there before with Ryoko for sight-seeing and stuff a few years back.  You can read about our trip there before in this post http://elvenshadowmike.blogspot.jp/2011/04/silent-hill-spring-break-2011.html

I figured that going to Shizuoka probably would still present a very challenging tournament since it is an area final, but I had the time and figured, why not.  I was also able to save a bunch of money by getting something called a Seishun18 Ticket.  This ticket costs about 11800 yen and gives you unlimted rides on all JR local trains in Japan for a whole day, 5 days total, and you can choose whenever you want to use it within a limited time that spans about 2 months.  It is only available during certain seasons but it comes out to about 2300 yen a day for unlimited rides.  Since I would be traveling pretty far, it was a really smart move that saved me a lot of money.  I'll end up using the other days soon, too.

So anyway, I headed out to Shizuoka and arrived at about 1 pm.  Just like yesterday, I listened to "Amorphis - Nightbird's Song" right before going into the arcade to get it in my head again. The tournament was scheduled to start at 2 so I had about an hour to practice a bit.  When I got to the arcade, a bunch of people were really shocked to see me.  They all knew who I was but never expected me to show up in Shizuoka.  Among the people there, Roy and Kedako both showed up to enter the preliminary as well.  There was a downstairs area with 2 Xrd cabs that everyone was playing at.  I got one one of the cabs and got a nice win streak of about 9 wins or so, until I was eventually beaten by a Millia player named Bonanza.  I ended up fighting 2 different Zato players and beat them, as well as a bunch of Sols, and I also beat Bananza earlier on.  I was playing pretty well and feeling alright.  Eventually the staff came and told everyone who entered to go up stairs since that is where the tournament would be held.  There was an area off to the side that just had one Xrd cab out in the middle so that people could crowd around and watch.  There was a pretty big turnout for this tournament and it was actually one of the largest preliminarys that I entered so far.

As we were waiting for the tournament to start and people were being called up to choose a random number for bracket placement, there was this white guy there who came up to me and started talking to me.  It turns he is from Russia and has been living in Shizuoka for a couple of years.  His name is Vladimir and he plays Sol.  We chatted for a bit and he seemed like a pretty nice guy.  He apologized for being Russian and talked about how our countries will probably go to war soon.  I just said there's no need to be sorry and I have no grudge against him for being Russian of course and really hope that we don't go to war. 

So eventually all  the numbers were picked at the bracket got made.  I decided that since I was playing too nervous yesterday, I would try a new aproach this time.  I decided I would take a swig of rum from my flask before every match today in the tournament.  This was in an attempt to calm my nerves, and I must say, it actually worked very well!  I was much more focused while playing, my execution was much better, and I just didn't worry so much.  For my first match, I had to fight against a female Axl player.  I won both rounds without much difficulty and advanced.  This match was actually a zero taisen (basically an extra match due to uneven number of entrants) so after winning that, it pretty much just put me even with most other people.  For my next match, I had to fight a Sol player and I beat him as well to advance once again.  Right after that match, next to me in the bracket, was Vladimir's first match.  He entered as "あなたの父" which means "Your Dad" lol!  When the announcer read his name, he sorta laughed a bit and was like "That's a pretty.... amazing name."  Oh and so his opponent was Kedako, so that meant if Kedako won, I would have to fight him next.  Well of course, I was rooting for Vladimir but Kedako was able to defeat him fairly convincingly.  I knew that my next match was going to be really hard considering he is pretty much the best May in the world and many of you know how much I hate May.  Honestly though, I don't hate fighting May that much anymore in Xrd compared to AC and +R May. 

Right before the match, the announcer said that the next match was against 2 famous players and should end up being very exciting lol.  So, for my match against Kedako, I ended up losing the first round.  For the 2nd round, I got a really nice early life lead and he was about a couple of hits from being dead.  He then started rushing me down relentlessly in the corner and was draining my life away with mixups and combos.  I couldn't get away easily but eventually I found an opening, managed to squeeze in a hit and killed him to take round 2!  For the last round, I played a solid zoning game and landed a good solid 6HS combo on him and after a little bit more zoning, I was able to score the final hit and I won!  I couldn't believe it!  I actually beat Kedako in a tournament!  I was pretty happy at that moment, and I could see Kedako looked really upset.  He went and sat down at the bench and just sorta hung his head low with a thoughtful expression on his face.  Vladamir congratulated me on the win.  I asked him if he taped it since I saw he had a camera.  He said he didn't, unfortunately, but then he asked me if I wanted him tape my next match, so I said, yes please. 

It was now down to the final 4.  The remaining players were me, Roy, and 2 Zato players (the same ones I beat in casuals before the tournament.)  Roy and I were on opposite sides of the bracket so we both had to beat a Zato.  My opponent was rank 10 and he was actually also doing announcing during all of the tournament matches on the mic.  I went into the match feeling fairly confident since I beat him before.  During this match, this time, everyone was rooting against me because I guess most of the players were friends with my opponent.  I ended up winning the first round.  For the 2nd round he ended up taking the round.  For the last round, I think I just gave him too much space and room to breath.  I needed to stay on him and in his face more but I just was playing too cautious, and in the end... he won... and that was it for me.  I was once again, pretty bummed out and felt like I could have actually won that but I just let it slip away...  and also, as much as I hate to say it, but I think the rooting against me kinda got in my head a little and messed me up a bit.  I'm not saying that's the reason I lost, but I think I need to do a better job of ignoring that kinda of thing.  It just makes me feel stupid for doing something so hard like beating Kedako and then just blowing it in the next match....

The final match was Roy vs the other Zato player who was a rank 6 and his handle was Himo.  I was expecting Roy to make short work of him, but much to my surprise, Roy choked and the Zato player won!  When top 4 started I really thought the finals were going to be me vs Roy, but then we ended up with a Zato mirror match and I was pretty surprised.  The rank 10 Zato player who beat me went on to win the whole preliminary.  During the finals, people were making tons of noise and everyone was getting really hype.  When he won, everyone went kinda nuts.  I don't really know this guy but I guess he must be pretty popular among the local Shizuoka players and they were all really happy to see him win. 

Here is a photo of the full completed bracket from the preliminary


So, the final list of players who would be competing in the area final were:
Ain (KY)
Chonari (KY)
Akitan (IN)
Ikun (SL)
and the Zato who just won (I can't really make out the kanji from the photo I took of the bracket because it is written with thick pen but I think his name is 環境マン).  His card just said "GG Player" so I don't remember his handle. 

Anyway, I don't know why they decided to do it this way, but even though the prelim started at 2 pm, the area finals weren't schedule to start until 7 pm.  I honestly don't know why they would need to allow 5 hours between the tournaments but it kinda screwed me over.  From Shizuoka to where I live, it is about a 5 hour train ride on local train.  If I was to stay to watch the final tournament, I would not be able to make it back home that night.  Had I won the tournament, I was prepared to just stay there but since I lost, it seemed like a better idea to just go home.  So, I stuck around for about another hour or so and played a bit more casuals but I had to eventually call it quits.  I said goodbye to everyone and said I would love to stay and watch but my trip home would take 5 hours and they laughed and said bye and thanks for coming. 

So, I walked to the station and spent the next 5 hours on the train, playing 3DS and drinking.  By the time I got home I was pretty damn drunk, but otherwise nothing bad or noteworthy happened.  I spent the remainder of the evening with Ryoko at home.  I actually had the next day off and today, as I type this, it's Tuesday and I had today off as well.  I had 2 more vacation days left and wanted to use them before my job ends.  Tomorrow, it's back to work for 2 more days and then my contract is actually over, and I will be unemployed. 

Next Saturday, I will go to Kanagawa Prefecture and try again at another preliminary that is on the same day as the area final.  I expect tons of killers to show up and am not gonna get my hopes up, but I certainly am not going down without a fight.  Till next time...



Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Goodbye, Game New Platon

Since my current job will be ending on July 31st, I only have a few more weeks left of work, but I still have some vacation days left so I ended up just making this past weekend a 5 day weekend since Monday was already a national holiday.  So I just took Friday and Tuesday off as well.  I spent most of Friday just relaxing with Ryoko.  We drank at home and watched Howl's Moving Castle.

On Saturday, it was the very final tournament at my local arcade, Game New Platon, ever.  Unfortunately, it seems that the place just wasn't making enough money.  Game Platon is quite a large arcade as far as space but it isn't quite as packed inside compared to a lot of arcades you would find in Tokyo so there is a lot of space to move around.  The building also seems like it is quite old.  The location is also quite inconvenient.  It is located in Isesaki City, a small city in Gunma, and it is very far from any train stations.  The closest train station is about an hour walk and the area surrounding Game Platon is mostly just some old run-down shops and a whole lot of rice fields that stretch almost as far as the eye can see.  Also, considering that the place was opened 24 hours, 7 days a week, it is no wonder that they probably were not making enough money to keep the business going.  Platon did have a very dedicated Guilty Gear scene and everyone would meet up every Saturday night and play from about 8 pm to 4 am.  On average, there would be about 15 - 20 players in there for GG.  They also had a decent KOF scene and some people also played BB from time to time. 

Anyway, so I was able to use the car that night so I left my apartment at around 7:30 and drove over to Platon.  Unfortunately for me, the neighboring town of Tamamura was having its summer fireworks show that night.  I knew about it and it was schedule to start at 8, but I didn't think it would mess up traffic so bad... but it did.  Most of the main roads to get to Game Platon from my place are surrounded by long stretches of rice fields the closer you get to Game Platon.  When I got to one road, it was completely backed up and moving at a snails pace.  I waited on the road for quite some time but eventually I gave in and said screw this, and I just turned down some dark narrow side street that cut through the rice fields.  I sorta just went where the road took me but honestly wasn't sure where I was going.  I ended up going way out of my way only to end up in another maze of rice field roads and there were a ton of cars just parked on the side of the road to watch the fireworks, making it very difficult to get through.  Roads in the Japanese countryside are already narrow as it is, so when trying to get through with all those cars parked on the side and when oncoming traffic is also trying to get through, it makes things go very.... very... slow. 

So anyway, I eventually got to Game Platon at like 9 pm.  Yes, what normally is a 20 minute drive took well over an hour.  When I pulled into the parking lot, a bunch of people were watching the fireworks from a distance and the show was just finishing up, so I just watched like the last few minutes.  Thankfully, the tournament wasn't scheduled to start until 11 pm, so I only missed some casuals time. 

There was a good turnout that night.  About 30 players came to play Xrd and some +R as well.  I did well in casuals for the most part, winning the majority of my matches.  The tournament format was random 3 on 3 teams.  We ended up getting 9 teams, so 27 players entered.  I got teamed with a Bedman player named TooL who has / had (dunno about now) the 2nd highest ranked Justice in arcade +R.  Unfortunately his Bedman was only rank 2 and I don't think he has played much Xrd.  He's also a Dream Theater fan so we had a nice little chat about Dream Theater and the fact that they will be coming to Japan for Loud Park this year.  Our other teammate was an Axl player named Shyuu, ranked fairly low.  Our opponents were a rank 3 PO named Amino, a really strong Zato named Sarakusu, and a mid level Faust named 9999.  Our Axl went first and lost to PO and then TooL Bedman went and also lost to PO.  It was up to me to pull off a reverse OCV.  I handled the PO no problem winning 2-0.  Now against the Zato, when Xrd first came out I actually had a hard time beating him.  He hasn't been around so much lately and perhaps he was a bit rusty, but I ended up beating him 2-0.  Finally, I had to fight 9999 in a mirror match.  At this point in the night I probably already played him about 5 times in casuals and won every time.  I dunno what it was, perhaps I was being too cocky or something but I ended up just barely losing to him.... I felt pretty shocked afterwords since I really should have had that easily.  Perhaps going into the match with that mind set is what caused me to become a bit careless and lose.  I'm going to take this loss and look back on it as another reminder to never get careless against anyone, ever.  In any case, it was kind of a bummer to lose the very last Platon tournament, but in the end it's just a regular tournament and has no importance other than bragging rights.  I guess I can just be happy to know that I won about 80 - 90% of all GG tournaments I entered at Game Platon over the roughly 2 years I played there. 

As for the rest of the tournament, it was pretty much full of upsets!  The other strongest players there are FC (VE) and Sol Sempai (SO).  Sol Sempai lost to Ein, a PO player who actually can play several characters fairly well.  While Ein certainly isn't a bad player by any means, I would have really expected Sol Sempai to beat him.  Another big unexpected occurrence was FC losing to a Chipp player named Mahir who I had never seen before.  Apparently he came from Tokyo just to play tonight.  He had a 12 rank Chipp and was actually quite good.  Venom is pretty bad vs Chipp it seems though, so I can see how he lost.  However, this leads me to the last upset of the tournament.  In the grand finals, Mahir had to face another Venom player named Ideo, who is ranked much lower than FC and not quite as good.  While Ideo isn't by any means a bad player, after handling FC, I would think that Mahir would have had no problem beating Ideo's Venom, especially since it is a good match for Chipp.  So in the end, Ideo's team won (Ein was also on this team.)  Pretty surprising results but they earned it so congrats to them.

For the rest of the night, I played casuals until about 4 AM.  Usually when I go to Platon, I play against FC quite a bit.  However, the elephant in the room was the fact that we would be fighting against each other in the area finals next weekend so we ended up playing against each other only twice.  I wasn't necessarily trying to avoid playing him and there were a lot of people, so I just played on whatever cab was open when I had a chance usually.  He played me one match and picked Zato and I won.  Then, later on he finally picked his Venom on me.  Casuals are set to 3/5 rounds and I ended up winning twice out of the first 3 rounds, but then he got the last 2 and beat me.  I didn't get to rematch him.  In the tournament, you just need to win 2 rounds and that's it, so honestly it could go either way.  I also played a bunch against Sol Sempai.  He actually ranked down me to rank 11 the last time we fought, which was the night before I won the Arc Revo Cup qualifier that I have the silver ticket for.  This time I did much better against him and won more than I lost.  I wasn't able to get back to rank 12 yet but it will come so it's not big deal.  I played a few games against Mahir's Chipp as well.  I probably lost a little more than I won but I did get some wins on him.  He seemed like a solid player.  By the time 4 am rolled around, a lot of people were gone or half asleep.  Before I left, I thanked the staff for their hard work.  Then, I headed home.  Thankfully this time it only took 20 minutes.  Game Platon was a great place and I enjoyed playing there.  Now that it is gone, the Gunma players will start playing at an arcade called M-1 in Maebashi.  This arcade is actually much closer to where I live (only about 10 minutes from where I work) so in a way, it works out well for me.  I'll miss Platon but at least the local scene will live on.

The next day, Sunday, there was another Arc Revo Cup qualifier for the block that I qualified in.  The location was Takasaki, which is the city next to the one I live in and it is only a 15 minute train ride for me to get there.  So, even though I couldn't enter, I decided to go watch and play some casuals.  My friend Andy (Capps) met up with me there as well and decided to enter.  The turnout was pretty low and only 5 people ended up entering, so they just ran a round robin.  In addition to Andy, Ranzu (ZA), Hanpen (ZA), R (CH) and another May player whose name escapes me entered.  Ranzu and Hanpen have been going to most of the quals that I have been to before.  In fact, I had to beat both of them during the tournament I won.  R is a solid Jam/HOS player from back in the day but he plays Chipp now.  He isn't ranked high yet but he has good solid fundamentals.  FC also came to watch and he did commentary.  In the end, Hanpen ended up beating all of his opponents to take the tournament convincingly.  I wasn't really surprised by the result.  There was a qualifier for the same block in Saitama the day before but I was at Platon so I didn't know the result.  I asked Hanpen and he said that the winner was Toruso, one of the highest ranked Millia players over all.  I was not happy to hear this news.  The last time I fought Toruso was during a Shinjuku Sportsland tournament.  I made it to the grand finals after somehow defeating FAB and I had to fight Toruso in the grand finals.  You can see the video here.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fa48FGeFqUo  As you can see, Toruso read me like a book at the very end there when he grabbed that gold burst.  Either way, I'm just gonna have to man up and play solid as hell against him next week.

Once the tournament was over, I played a few casuals.  FC only played against me one time and picked Zato and I won.  Otherwise, I played against most of the other people who entered the tournament. I won all my matches except R beat me twice out of several games against him.  Andy left ahead of me because he had some work related event to go to.  I left after losing my 2nd time since it was 100 yen for 2 credits and I actually had other plans.

Just south of Takasaki is another City called Fujioka.  Today they were having their summer matsuri (festival).  So, I decided to go check it out since I had never gone there before.  Andy would meet up with me there later.  It wasn't a very big festival but it was fun enough.  We walked around a bit and I had 2 kebabs and drank a bunch.  Unfortunately, it ended up poring rain pretty bad so the festival kinda got screwed towards the end.  Good thing I had an umbrella.  I went home around 9 but unfortunately my train got delayed from rain.  After that, I drank with Ryoko at home.
The next day, Ryoko and I got some really good local ramen and then decided to go check out another festival, this time it was in Saitama in Kumagaya.  I also had never been to this festival but it was way bigger and better than the Fujioka one.  Not much to really talk about but we had fun walking around and drinking, getting food, watching some street dancers and other stuff.  It was a long day and we were pretty exhausted by the time we got home.  We were there for probably like 6 or 7 hours.  On the way back on the train, Andy gave me a USB that contained recordings of matches from past quals I went to that he came to as well.  Some of the matches are vs JUN and Hanpen, so they will be useful for me to review before the tournament. 
Anyway, that's about it for now.  I go back to work tomorrow and have a 3 day work week and then on Saturday, it's showtime! 
The finals will have a total of 7 players, most likely a round robin format.  They are
JUN (MI)
ElvenShadow (FA)
FC (VE)
Ishimitsu (SL)
Toruso (MI)
Hanpen (ZA)
???? (winner of preliminary the day of the area finals)

It won't be easy, but I think I definitely have a shot!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Encore!

Welcome back to my blog!  It has been a pretty damn long time.  As some of you may have heard (and others have no clue) I will be moving back to Chicago soon.  Permanently.  If my blog up to this point has been a concert setlist, then I just got back from walking off the stage to do some shots and now it’s time to return to the stage for the epic (hopefully) encore!  So… ::skims most recent blog post:: …October, 2011… huh… right… Usually bands don’t make the audience wait that long but I guess I am pulling an Axl Rose here.  Mengomengo.  Well, here we go.  I’ll do my best to summarize the last 3 years of my life in a few short paragraphs…

As you would expect, a lot of things have happened in my life in the last 3 years (and if that wasn’t the case, my life would be pretty damn boring.)  Those of you who know me fairly well probably know some of this stuff but I will go over some key things real quick here to get everyone up to speed.

Sometime around the middle of 2012, my favorite bar in the world, Rock INN Current closed it’s doors forever.  There were various reasons why it had to close down but I won’t get into it.  They had one final epic party and it was the most epic bar party I had ever been to in my life.  The whole place was packed from wall to wall and people were flooding even outside on the stairs area drinking!  Just about everyone I met over the years there came to drink that night (aside from those who moved away from Japan) and it was a very fitting last goodbye.  At one point, 7 girls decided to spontaneously dance topless on the bar as well.  I will never forget that place but all of my best memories from there are on this blog so at least I can always revisit it with a good nostolgic read.  Thankfully the other bars I frequent like PSY, GODZ, etc are still rockin’ hard.  Actually, after it closed down, my friend Emmet and I almost ended up trying to buy and re-open the place!  I even talked to Sushi about it in great detail but we fell short when it came to start up costs because we couldn’t get a good guarantor.  We asked Ryoko’s father but he was against the idea.  In retrospect, it is probably best that we didn’t end up doing it since I think that life style every day would have ruined my marriage…

Oh yea… speaking of which… Ryoko and I are married now!  After dating for like 5 years we finally got it done on July 2nd, 2012.  We had 2 weddings.  One was in Japan in March of 2013 and the other was almost a whole year later in Chicago in July 2013.  Lot’s of reasons involved why we had to space everything out so much (planning a wedding is hard work, try planning two international ones.)  One of the reasons we got married so soon before the wedding was that as of the end of July 2012, my old job on the JET Programme came to an end due to JET’s 5 year limit.  I got a new job in the capital of my prefecture as a teaching advisor, working at the main government building, so we moved to Maebashi City which is about an hour south of my old town (which put us closer to Tokyo!)  Ryoko’s father, being very traditional, didn’t want us to live together until we were legally married, so we got that part done early even though the actual wedding wasn’t planned until later.  Either way, the weddings were awsome and everything turned out great!

Another benefit of moving to Maebashi was that there are actually some arcades sorta near where I live now!  In fact, I found a nice arcade with a thriving local Guilty Gear scene called Game New Platon in Isesaki.  Perhaps some of you have seen vids from them as they often record tournaments and casuals and upload them online.  Since then, I have been a regular at Platon and have won almost every tournament there that I entered with a few exceptions.  People only really play at Platon on Saturday nights (and it is a 24 hour arcade, so people play from about 8 pm to 4 am) but I still go to Tokyo a few times a month and play at the old classic spots like Mikado and Club Sega.  Platon is about a 25 minute drive from my apartment which isn’t bad, but sometimes Ryoko needs to use the car (and we share only one now, no free BOE car for me anymore) and so sometimes I ride my bike there, which takes about 45-50 minutes.  It’s all good though, a little exercise can’t hurt and it’s a small price to pay for all night GG sessions!  The ride home at 4 am always sucks though.  Sometimes my old pal Andy (Capps) joins me there as well.  I am one of the highest level players that plays there (not to say others can’t beat me at all) but there is one other player, a fairly well known Venom specialist (can play Johnny and Eddie too) named FC, who also is a regular there and we have developed somewhat of a nice competative rivalry.  Kind of reminds me of a certain Venom specialist from back home in Chicago that I used to play all the time, except without the BlazGreen side tournaments.

As I am sure you are all aware of, SBO (Super Battle Opera) has been gone for quite some time now.  But last year, Arc System Works started their own version of SBO for their own games called Arc Revolution Cup!  Of course, the first Arc Revo Cup featured the new revision of the GGXX series, Guilty Gear XX Accent Core +R, which I played extensively during it’s roughly 1 year run.  I went out to the arcades a lot after it was released and enjoyed playing it online at home too!  I really had a great time going through the qualifier season that year, and the tournaments were 1 on 1 so I didn’t have to worry about finding a team (and if you have read my past blog posts, you know how much of a pain in the ass that was sometimes.)  I ended up winning a preliminary match and getting a silver ticket in +R.  The block finals to qualify and win the silver ticket were in Gunma where I live.  My opponent was a pretty strong May player from Tokyo who goes by the name GoDolphin, though at the time, his name on his card said Magnum Sabre.  You can see the match on youtube if you just google Elvenshadow vs Magnum Sabre.  I fell JUST short of qualifying in one of the most regretful matches of my life, but life goes on and you just have to learn from your mistakes.  I ended up not qualifying for the final event in the end, but I DID attend it as a spectator.  It was a pretty great tournament and in the end, long time top player Kishya took the win.  After the tournament, my old friend Rob Gray (old Current regular) who works for Epic Games was sitting next to me in the audience.  I was getting a little drousy since I was drinking the whole time, but he tapped me on the shoulder and was like “You are going to want to pay attention to what is about to be shown!” and oh boy… was he correct!  This was the moment when Guilty Gear Xrd was revealed to the world!  They showed the trailer and I couldn’t believe my eyes or contain the hype.  EVERYONE was going NUTS after seeing that. 

As I am sure many of you know, as time went one, more was revealed about the game and there were a total of 4 location tests spaced out over several months.  I went to every single one of them and reported as much information as I could about the game.  Now that the game has been out in arcades since February of this year, I have been playing it A LOT.  As of this time, I have well over 2000 matches on my card.  I am currently ranked 2nd place in the world for most wins with Faust.  So yea, I really love the game and have been playing it a lot.  Iplaywinner.com did an interview with me about my early impressions of the game, so if you want to know them and haven’t read it yet, go ahead and check that out.  I won’t bother repeating myself in this blog post for the sake of eliminating redundancy. 

Overall though, my life has been pretty much the same as far as what I am all about.  I have had plenty more awsome adventures, but I won’t bother to try to recall all of them (nor do I think I would be able to!)  In retrospect, I wish I could have posted detailed accounts of all the amazing times I have continued to have here over the missing 3 years but there simply is no time for all that and I don’t think I would be able to do them justice without having the details fairly fresh in my mind.

Anyway, now, to bring things up to speed to what has been going on recently, let’s get back to the topic of Arc Revolution Cup!  Once again, this tournament series is back and has been going on since mid June.  Once again, the format for Guilty Gear (which is Xrd this time) is 1 on 1.  I have entered several qualifiers and have been doing fairly well consistantly over them, getting to the finals of some and eleminating some well known top players in some tournaments.  However, on July 6th, at a tournament in Saitama, I finally pulled out the win and got another silver ticket, winning the preliminary!  You can see the finals match on youtube.  So now, I am currently waiting for the other preliminaries in my block to finish up to decide my opponents for the block finals that will take place on July 26th.  This block has a total of 7 preliminary spots, meaning that the block finals will consist of 7 players all fighting each-other in an epic round robin tournament format.  As of right now, only 4 out of the 7 have been determined.  They are me, JUN (Millia), FC (Venom), and Ishimatsu (SL).  JUN is a solid Millia and I had to face him in a past preliminary where I actually defeated him the first time we played, but I lost to a Zato player who was defeated by JUN, and it resulted in a 3 way tie, so we were forced to reply and then 2nd time through I beat the Zato but lost to JUN, but since JUN beat the Zato, he took the tournament.  This was the day before I qualified and I ended up beating the same Zato again at the one where I got the silver ticket.  So, while he is certainly a strong opponent, I feel confident that I have a chance against him.  FC and I play regularly and are always butting heads, so it could go either way and should be an interesting fight.  As for Ishimatsu, I am not familiar with his Slayer but it will be interesting to see how that pans out.  The remaining 3 opponents will be decided this coming weekend and the final one the day of the finals before it happens.  I am waiting in anticipation to see what develops. 

So, now that I have brought things back to the most recent weekend, I’ll just give a brief summary of what went down.

Friday night, I went to Shinjuku and played in a Sportsland Xrd tournament.  This was just a regular singles tournament, and not for Arc Revo Cup.  I got to the grand finals and lost in a close match to a Ramlethal player.  There will probably be vids of it online soon.  After that, I drank with Emmet all night at a new Rock Bar called “From Dusk Till Dawn” which is a pretty nice place.  They were having some kind of Metal DJ event so we went to check it out.  The party had already kind of died down by the time we got there but there were still a fair ammount of people there.  Shortly after we got our drinks and sat down at a table, they announced a special performance.  Some dude came in dressed like Sun Wukong the Monkey King, except they introduced him as the Mushi King “insect king.”  He proceeded to sit down on the floor on some blue tarps and pulled out several plastic containers.  For his first trick, he pulled out live earthworms, stuck them up his nose, and ate them by snorting them live!  For his next trick, he pulled out another container filled with live cockroaches and proceeded to eat them all in various ways like biting them in half and pulling them apart, or just bite-size popping the whole thing.  For his grand finale, he pulled out a giant beetle.  At first he put it up to his face and let the beetle pinch his nose and eye brow and hang from his face.  He cringed in pain but seemed to enjoy it.  Then he held the mic up to his face, took a big bite, and the epic crunch sound echoed from the loud speakers surounding the bar.  He then enjoyed the rest of his meal and went on his marry way.  I pretty much couldn’t think of much else the whole time except “W…T….F…”  Emmet was acting like it was no big deal and said he would eat a roach for a free beer.  I tried to call him out on it and ask them if they had any more bugs but it seemed like the dude consumed them all.  It would have been pretty great if Emmet did it but oh well.  The rest of the night we drank at PSY and I got really drunk and don’t remember much.  Passed out at the manga kissa around 5:30.

The next day leads us to the reason I came to Tokyo last weekend in the first place! When you already win a preliminary in a block for Arc Revo Cup, you are not allowed to enter any other preliminaries in other blocks until your block finishes.  So, while there are tons of tournaments going on right now every weekend, I sort of have to put things on hold as far as Arc Revo Quals until I either win it all or lose and start over.  This did result in one nice benefit though.  Two years ago, Arc System Works had a live Guilty Gear x BlazBlue music concert, which I went to with my friends Matt, Andy, and Kyle (Stunedge).  It was pretty epic stuff.  Well, they just had another one last weekend.  I originally wasn’t going to go but now that I couldn’t enter any quals, I figured, I might as well get drunk and listen to video game metal.  So, I bought a ticket just a day before it was sold out.  I must say, I am very glad that I was able to go, because quite frankly, that shit was EPIC!  Below, I have provided the 2 hour setlist.

1. Chronophantasma (BBCP Opening)
2. Six Heroes (BBCP VS. Six Heroes)
3. Does the Sheep Count the Sheep? (GGXrd Bedman)
4. Black & White (BBCP Ragna vs. Hakumen)
5. The Lily of Steel (GGXrd Millia)
6. Starry Story (GGXrd May)
7. Sector7 (BBCP VS. Sector Seven)
8. Bang!Bang!Big!Bang! ~Feat. Tsuyoshi Koyama~ (BBCP Bang Fu-Rin-Ka-Zan)
9. Reppuu ~Feat. Tsuyoshi Koyama~ (BBCT Bang Vocal)
10. Revenger ~Feat. Toa Ikinari~ (BBCP Bullet Vocal)
11. Blue-Bloom ~Feat. Toa Ikinari~ (BBCSE Story Credits)
12. Diva (GG2 Valentine Final Form)
13. Dissonance (BBCP Valkenhayn vs. Relius)
14. Still in the Dark (GGX Millia vs. Zato)
15. n Justice (BBCP Hakumen vs. Izayoi)
16. Ride the Fire ~Feat. Naoki Hashimoto~ (GGXrd Sol Dragon Install)
17. Lily ~Feat. Naoki Hashimoto~ (GGXrd Credits)
18. Heavy Day ~Feat. Naoki Hashimoto w/ Daisuke Ishwatari on rhythm guitar~ (GGXrd Opening)
19. The Re-coming (GG2/XX Sol vs. Ky)
20. Under Heaven Destruction (BBCT Ragna vs. Jin)
21. Rebellion BBCT (Ragna) *encore*
22. Holy Orders (GG2/XX Ky)*encore*
23. Magnolia Eclair (GGXrd Ky) *encore*

For Heavy Day, Daisuke Ishiwatari himself came out on stage and played guitar with the band!  Sick stuff!  This was one of the best concerts I have been to in Japan (maybe only topped by the live Final Fantasy one where I met Nobuo Uematsu and they played Dancing Mad) and I probably will never have a chance like this again, so I am glad I was able to check it off the list.  I met a few Saudi Arabian GG players at the show and they wanted to play some Xrd casuals, so we went to Akihabara Club Sega afterwords since it was on the way home for me.  I only had time to play a few matches.  I was really drunk since I was drinking most of the afternoon and finished a whole flask of rum during the show, so I was not playing at 100%, but I thankfully still won all of my matches.  I realized that my last train home was leaving in a matter of minutes so I had to leave really suddendly unfortunately.  I would have liked to stick around longer but too bad.  I had to actually work on Sunday so nothing much else worth mentioning from the weekend.

So, after nearly 7 years here, as much as I love it in Japan, I need to move on to other things and find a job that is more relevant to my future and has opportunities for advancement.  Originally, the plan was for Ryoko and I to move back sometime in August (as I announced at our US wedding in front of everyone.)  That would have been nice, except for the fact that getting a US spouse visa takes WAAAAYYYYY longer than I had originally anticipated, and so now we are in the process of waiting for Ryoko’s visa.  My job ends on July 31st and I cannot continue it without committing to another full year contract.  I don’t want to leave Ryoko behind, so we decided to just wait it out a bit longer in hopes that the visa comes fairly soon.  As of now, it is looking like we might get it in late October if we are lucky.  I won’t bore you with any more of the fine details but basically, I won’t be staying in Japan any later than the end of October.  The benefits of this situation are, lots of extra time to go to festivals during my last few months here, and the ability to stay for the duration of the Arc Revolution Cup, with the final event being held on August 30th and 31st.  The down side is it certainly isn’t making it any easier to set up a new job for when we move back, and having no income means cash is going to be really tight, but I might as well make the most of it.  So, stay tuned and I will be updating (fairly) regularly again until the end of October or until the US National Visa Center gets their heads out of their asses and processes our visa application.  Whichever comes first.  As always, thanks for reading!