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:
ElvenShadow (FA)
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...

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