Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Goodbye Party and Tokyo Game Show 2014

I'm just going to pick up roughly where I left off with the last post and go over the noteworthy events that took place from then until now. 

On Saturday, September 6th, we had my farewell party.  I headed to Tokyo that afternoon and hung out at Mikado for a bit playing casuals.  They had a tournament going on but my goodbye party was set to start at 8 PM and the tournament wouldn't finish on time.  So, I didn't enter, but I had fun playing casuals. 

After leaving Mikado, I headed to Shinjuku just before 8 pm.  I met up with Andy near the station and soon after ran into Emmet and his girlfriend, Kozue.  We headed to Bar Aqua Z (recently renamed Z RMX) where the party would be held.  I wanted to do it at PSY but it is simply too small for a large party with the number of people I was expecting.  We were the first ones there aside from Yappy, the owner.  Gradually over time, more and more people showed up.  We had somewhere just under 40 people there for the party by the end of the night.  A ton of really awsome friends showed up.  Most of them were all the old main regulars from back in the Rock Inn Current days.  A few other people I also know such as a few GG players (particularly, MIU came) and some other ALTs that I know also showed up.  In addition, all 3 of my wife's sisters came as well.  Unfortunately, my wife wasn't able to come and doesn't really like large parties with lots of people she doesn't know so she just ended up working over the weekend.  At one point I was called up to say a few words on the mic.  I kept it simple and thanked everyone for coming and basically said to just drink a ton and have fun.  I didn't wanna get all emotional and mushy.  Mogi also kept buying bottles of champagne and pouring them into pitchers and we were chugging them together.  In addition, I was drinking gigantic size beers the whole time so as it got late I was pretty smashed and the end of the night is a bit of a blur.  I had a great time talking with tons of awsome people though and never passed out or threw up or anything so overall, the party went great!  The only small problem was that at the end of the night, one of my wife's sisters couldn't find her purse.  We looked around but had no luck.  It turned out that Emmet's girlfriend accidentally took the wrong bag, so at least my wife's sister was able to get it back later.

The next afternoon when I woke up at the manga kissa, I was pretty tired.  I probably only slept for like 5 hours or something.  I was smoking a cigarette in the smoking area and this random foreign guy (I have no idea where he was from, maybe somewhere from the middle east or Mediterranean area) started randomly talking to me.  He claimed that he and I checked in around the same time but I had no recollection of it.  He then asked to bum a square so I gave him one (even though I only had 2 left) but then he broke it (and I dunno if it was on purpose or not) and gave it back to me saying that it was too strong for him and he realized he had his own pack and then he busted out an entirely full pack.  I was kinda annoyed but was too hung over to really give that much of a shit over one cigarette.  Still a little irritating though.

Anyway, I checked out after that and headed to Akihabara to play some Xrd casuals.  I met up with King of Heart there who was at the party the night before but left much earlier and didn't drink any alcohol.  I didn't stay very long though because I was just too hungover and tired to play well and just felt like going home.  So, I said goodbye and headed back home.

Skip ahead to a few uneventful days of recovery later.  I spent most of the next week getting our packages ready to be shipped back to Chicago and preparing to sell some of our furniture.  I spent the following weekend (Sept 12 - 14) in Gunma where I live.  I planned to just play some Xrd in my town.  Since Game Platon closed down, I hadn't played any GG in Gunma.  Those guys told me that they would be playing at M-1 Game Center in Maebashi from then on.  So, I went there on Saturday night at around 7 pm but not a single GG player was there.  The arcade was pretty dead over all.  I stuck around for a little bit and played some KoF 2000 casuals against this one random dude and lost (I don't really play KOF).  My friend Karl Kablisk messaged me saying that he was in Maebashi with his girlfriend visiting her parents and that he wanted to meet up.  So I told him to come to M-1.  He eventually showed up with his GF and her brother and friend of her brother.  Karl doesn't play Xrd since his character (TE) isn't in it so we played 12 games of +R.  After that, we decided to go to Round 1, which is like a huge entertainment / sports center.  Karl's GF's brother drove us all.

Round 1 is pretty cool and I sometimes go there with my wife to go bowling.  They have all kinds of stuff like batting cages, darts, billiards, basketball, archery, target shooting, and even some video games.  We did a whole bunch of various stuff.  We stayed for about 90 minutes.  When our time was up, we went to try the video game section but it was already closed down since it was late.  So, after that, I got dropped off back at M-1 where my bike was and headed home and drank with my wife for a bit at home. 

Skip ahead again about another week.  Once again the following weekdays were mainly just more preparation to leave Japan and playing some casual games at home and stuff.  This brings us to the most recent weekend at the time of typing this which was September 19th - 21st, and it was the weekend of the Tokyo Game Show. 

On Friday, the 19th, I headed to Tokyo again.  I decided to meet up with Emmet and our friend Nick who just recently returned to Japan after being gone for 2 years.  We met up at Nick's and pregamed quite a bit.  Nick had a ton of really good whiskey at his place and he was pouring it quite generously.  After drinking there for about an hour maybe, we headed to an international party.  I don't remember much about it that is worth mentioning.  We just drank and talked to people.  After it was over, we headed to PSY for a little bit.  It wasn't very busy but it was fun just chilling there.  Emmet and Nick left before the last train and I also left to go to the manga kissa shortly after.  Since TGS was to start at 10 the next morning, I wanted to get to bed early so that I could be there on time to enjoy the full day.

On Saturday, the 20th, I arrived at Tokyo Game Show just a few minutes after 10.  The line to get in wasn't very long.  As soon as I walked in the main hall, just to my right, I saw the Arc System Works booth.  They got a really great spot this year!  This was by far the largest Arc System Works booth that I have ever seen at TGS.  I believe this was my 4th or maybe 5th time going since I didn't go to TGS every single year since I moved here.  Without even giving it any thought, I immediately headed to the Arc booth and stood in line to try out console Xrd with the 2 new characters, Sin and Elphelt, for the first time.  The estimated waiting time was already set at 50 minutes.  There were a ton of people in line waiting to play.  They probably had something like 10 or more setups running Xrd for people to try out.  Nearly an hour later, I finally got to play.  You just had to fight whoever was next to you in line and you only got to play one match, 2/3 rounds, regardless if you won or lost.  I decided to pick Elphelt first and my opponent chose Sin.  I am sure that almost anyone who reads this blog has already seen footage of both of the new characters, so I won't go too much into specifics about how they play.  I will say though that I felt that Elphelt's play style was really fun to me personally.  She has good zoning capabilities and she has quite a unique and original play style with lots of cool tools and interesting stances.  I particularly like her grenade special attack.  One thing that I did get to see that hasn't surfaced in any footage so far online is her instant kill attack.  Unfortunately, I didn't record it, but I witnessed someone else do it.  She pulls a bullet out from between her cleavage, loads a rifle and shoots her opponent right in the forehead.  Then his head drops and he suddenly lifts his head back up and his eyes are now hearts and he is standing in a beautiful field, very much in love with Elphelt.  I thought it was a pretty humorous and cool IK.  Oh yea, and after playing they gave out free GGXrd tote bags and fans which was pretty cool.

Anyway, after I played, it was time to check out the rest of TGS.  I was checking Dustloop on my phone while standing in line and people were talking about how the special GG exhibition matches at the Madcatz booth already started.  I wanted to go to that but I didn't know it started so early.  By the time I saw that, I already invested too much time in line to give up my spot.  Unfortunately, when I finally made my way over to the Madcatz booth, the GGXrd stuff was already over and they were playing DoA.  I did at least get to see a bunch of people I know near there to say hi such as Xie, Junya, Justin Wong, Spooky, Nemo and some others.  I also got to meet the famous cosplayer, VampyBitMe who was dressed as Juri.  I got a photo with her and chatted with her for a couple of minutes.  She was a really nice person. 

In the same area as the Madcatz booth was all the merchandise booths for each company.  I found the Arc System Works merch booth and was hoping to buy one of the sweet Xrd shirts that they were selling.  Unfortunately they were out of all sizes except small and I wear a medium so I passed on it.  They told me that they will have a little more in stock tomorrow so I decided to try again first thing in the morning the next day. 

At some point around then I met up with King of Heart who didn't show up until a bit later.  We went back to the Xrd booth to stand in line to play again.  This time, they were queuing up a different line where you could fight one of the sexy Sol Badguy cosplay booth girls in the center area.  This line was actually much shorter than the other line so we seized the opportunity to get in it ASAP and this time we only had to wait like maybe 20 minutes to play.  You got to choose which of the booth girls you wanted to fight against between the 2 that were standing next to the stage set up (there were 5 Sol booth girls total but they rotated positions gradually throughout the day).  This time, I decided to try out Sin.  You can actually see my match trying out Sin right here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NDmOYUqI0Z8.  I didn't really know what I was doing with the character obviously but I just was seeing how all his normals and specials worked and I was able to get his instant kill in at the end.  Overall, I really like the way that Sin plays, too.  He has a good variety of long range pokes and nice mobility options.  He also seems to do pretty good damage.  In all honesty, I could see myself subbing both Sin and Elphelt when the game hits consoles.  I'll never stop maining Faust, but I think when I move back to the states I will have some time to learn other characters as well.  It will be good for the local people I play with to help them learn matchups and will also give me something else fun to challenge myself with. 

After playing the match, I found Pachi standing near the booth and talked with him for a bit.  I just told him how I was leaving soon and thanked him for all the times we hung out back in the day and for making Xrd and stuff.  I told him I would like to drink with him again once more before I leave and he said he would be happy to but I honestly don't know if I will be able to find the time or not.  I also asked him about the tournament that would be going on tomorrow.  He announced in a video released on the 1st day of TGS where he demoed the new characters that there would be an Xrd tourney on the 21st.  Pachi said it would be held at the Sony Playstation booth and it was capped at 64 players, so I had to make sure I got there very early.  I thanked him for the info and then went off to walk around a bit more and stuff. 

Throughout the rest of the day I pretty much just enjoyed looked around at some other game trailers, checking out booth girls and cosplayers and watched some other Xrd casuals.  I recorded this one as well, which is actually being played on the PS3 version for those of you who have not seen footage of it https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8-NFd90ho88.  I didn't even realize that it was being run on PS3 until after King of Heart pointed it out at the end of the match.  It looks pretty much identical to the arcade version so I think those of you who are worrying about the PS3 version not being up to par have nothing to worry about.  (Note: Both matches I actually got to play were on PS4 though, but still, I don't think the PS3 version will have any problems.)

After that, it was time to leave and TGS was closing up for the day.  On our way out, we passed a street performer outside of the TGS venue and he was playing Holy Orders (Ky's theme) on guitar!  He was pretty kick ass.  I recorded part of the song here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kyt_PaufJZI

From there, we headed to Mikado.  We figured we could make it on time for Mikado's weekly Saturday 3 on 3.  We got there just in time to get put into the brackets.  I teamed with King of Heart and we got placed with a rank 4 Faust player.  For our first match, we had to fight a team of 2 low level Slayers plus Rion, who is now a 14 rank Ky.  The Faust on our team went first and lost, then King of Heart went and lost.  I went last and beat both Slayers but then I lost to Rion.  It was fairly close though.  It was a double elim tournament though.  For our next match we had to fight Satou (MI) / Ain (KY) / FAB (PO).  Satou went first and he ended up OCVing us in the same order as we played in before.  It was kind of a bummer but oh well. 

I stuck around and played casuals till about 10 or 10:30.  I got on stream for a bit after the tournament and rematched Satou.  He beat me again but then I ran it back again and beat him.  Then I beat Roy and then beat Satou again.  Finally, FAB got on and wrecked me.  After that, I wanted to drink for a little because I can't fall asleep at the manga kissa early unless I have some drinks in me.  I headed out alone and went to PSY.

I probably forgot to mention but at this point, it would be my birthday in less than 2 hours (my birthday is September 21st).  Normally I would have a big drinking party or something but I just had my farewell party so it would seem weird, plus I wanted make the most of TGS, so it was just sorta bad timing for that sort of thing.  However, my old friend Mai from Current has the same birthday as me, and I knew that she would probably having some kind of celebration at the Shinjuku Rock Bars so I popped into PSY.  Sure enough, tons of people I know were there to celebrate her birthday.  Most of them realizing that it was actually my birthday as well, a lot of people bought me drinks and stuff and it was a ton of fun.  A lot of them were surprised to see me since we just had my farewell party 2 weeks ago but I told them that I wanted to get that done early since I didn't know when I would be able to see most of those people again (and there were still a lot of them that were not at PSY that night who were at my party, so I am really glad I did do it early).  So, for with some of the people, I got to drink with them one last time.  I made sure to go behind the bar at PSY and take a photo with the staff too before I left.  I left around 12 because I had to make sure that I got to the manga kissa before it got full or else I would be stuck out until like 5 am when the trains start running again and people start leaving, and if that was the case, I would be screwed as far as playing in the Xrd tournament at TGS.  I said goodbye to everyone one more time and headed to the manga kissa.  On the way there, just to make sure I had enough booze in me to fall asleep, I popped into the conbini and bought a bottle of whiskey.  They didn't have any of the small sized ones for some reason so I ended up just getting a 750 ml bottle and took a few quick swigs from it and kept the rest in my backpack.  Thankfully, I ended up being able to sleep well.

The next day I headed out after a quick shower and made it to TGS quite early.  I was told that they would be opening at 9:30 today when I inquired about the tournament at the Sony booth the day before.  This time, the line was in a different place to get in and it was LOOOOONG as hell.  I met up with King of Heart on the way there but we got separated at the station because it was crowded.  So I waited in line mostly by myself.  Eventually, after a long wait, I made it to the security check in.  In Japan, they are always so lazy about checking bags.  They just open them up, see what is on the very top of the main part and that's it.  In the US, they pat you down and search everything thoroughly.  Despite this fact, I still somehow managed to fail.  I totally had forgotten that the whiskey was in my bag and it was right on top because my bag was already so full from free stuff I got yesterday.  So, the chick who checked my bag said, no alcohol allowed and confiscated it from me.  I was a little salty about that but I had no choice.  I wasn't going to let anything stop me from getting into the Xrd tournament. 

After what seemed like eternity (it was actually about an hour) I got into the main hall.  I immediately headed to the Sony booth.  I found the person who was doing registration.  They simply gave out a numbered card that was proof that you entered though they didn't bother to take down any information.  I was number 49 out of 64!  A little bit of a close call but I managed to make it in!  After that, I headed to the Arc System Works merchandise booth where I was able to successfully get a medium size shirt!  The waiting paid off! 

So far everything seemed like it was going great.  I killed some more time watching Xrd casuals and walking around since the tournament was set to start at 12:45.  Eventually, King of Heart made it in and he said he was able to register at like number 58 or something like that out of 64.  Once it was almost time for the tournament to start, I headed to the Sony booth again.  A few GG players I knew were already there waiting.  King of Heart was speculating that this tournament would be free because no one good would bother coming.  I told him that I highly doubted that.  It turns out I was correct, because out of the 64 people there, about two 3rds of them were Mikado regulars.  I was totally fine with this and welcomed the competition, but the next thing I found out did not make me happy.  One of the guys asked me if I can play on pad, and I said, no... why?  It turns out that the entire tournament was to be held on PS4 pads!  Nooooooooo...........  (is what I thought in my mind right after finding that out).  I pretty much never play GG on pad, ever, but I figured I could just make the most of it and hoped that most other people sucked on pad too (and most of the people I asked about it to also did say they suck on pad).  I can do most basic combos and stuff on pad but doing FDC cancels isn't even worth trying.  I would probably do random YRC or Blitz Shield or something on accident if I bothered to try, so my game plan was just to keep it simple. 

Before the tournament started, there was the finals of a previous tournament that was held there earlier for some Drive Club racing game.  I had little to no interest in it and it took forever.  They had the 4 finalists race against real pro race car drivers.  It would have been fine, but it just dragged on and on with too much talking and stuff, and I was just tired of standing all day. 

Anyway, eventually it was time for Xrd.  The format for this tournament was nothing like I had ever seen before.  They had 16 PS4 setups for the tournament, all on pad only.  Based on your card number, you were told to stand at one of the stations.  Since there are 16 setups, obviously only 32 (or half of the total players) would be able to play right away.  The other half had to wait in line.  I was one of the ones who had to wait.  At the start of the tournament, everyone who was playing or standing in line was given a paper GGXrd medal to wear around their neck.  Once they said to start, the rest of the tournament was timed and the people who were on the setups started playing.  If you won your match, you got to stay on and you received the paper medal from your opponent.  If you lost, you gave up the medal and went back in the line and got a new medal to try again.  Eventually after waiting in line, I got to play.  My first opponent was Endo (CH).  I did OK against him but I lost.  The main thing that screwed me was when he was attacking me and I timed a scalpel kancho super reversal perfectly, but my double 236 motion didn't register on pad and I got pogo and he hit me out of it which was a big turning point.  So, I was sent back in line and lost my medal.  For my next match after waiting, I had to fight Kedako.  I was pretty sure I was going to lose but I ended up winning!  From that point on, for the duration of the entire tournament, I never lost another match!  When time up was called, I had 14 wins and 1 loss, so I had 14 of those paper medals.  I was pretty sure I did fairly well. 

When it was over, they asked everyone to count up their medals.  It turned out that 14 was just short of enough to qualify to advance.  In the end, the top 3 finishers who advanced to the stage finals were Rion (KY), Ain (KY) and Nage (FA). 

I just wanna say that while this system was kind of fun and interesting in it's own way, it was also pretty damn unfair.  The players who had cards that were 1 - 32 were able to start earlier than everyone else and had a huge advantage because they had more time to get more medals.  Also, some opponents took longer to make their way up to you to fight you or select characters and stuff or change buttons, and it also reduced the amount of time you got to get wins.  Even if I had won EVERY match, I probably still wouldnt' have made top 3 because everyone else who got top 3 didn't lose a match either, but they started earlier so they got to play more matches.  I felt a little screwed over but I realize that the main point of the tournament was to promote and market the game and draw hype, and it was also free to enter, so I can't really complain, but I still feel a little salty about it since I actually did well... on pad...

Anyway, I'll stop bitching now.  The top 3 finishers went up on stage and then 3 special guests were also called to the stage, and they were FAB (PO), Hasegawa (IN), and Gazou (FA), all of which placed very high at Arc Revo Cup, with Gazou being the 1st place champ.  I don't know exactly why they chose FAB or Hasegawa over say, Nage, who got 2nd place actually and entered the regular tournament, but perhaps it was his own personal decision.  It doesn't really matter since at this point it was more of just an exhibition with the chance to win some prizes.  Each of the 3 finalist fought one of the 3 special guests.  Rion lost to FAB while Ain defeated Hasegawa and Nage beat Gazou (in a runback from Arc Revo finals.)  Nage and Ain won so they were able to win a prize.  There were 3 prizes total and each of them would only get one of them decided by drawing a random card.  The prizes were GGXrd PS4 version, the new GGXrd official arcade stick, and a brand new PS4.  Nage drew first and was unlucky to get GGXrd which was the cheapest prize.  Ain got super lucky and got the PS4!  Finally after that, Pachi played an exhibition match showing off each of the new characters.  He used Sin vs FAB and Elphelt against Gazou.  You can see all 5 matches here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yPVJfUwkHlY and here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CHPesijN_wo.  After seeing Pachi play those matches, it made me really see more of the potential that each character had, especially Sin.  The way he used the special cancels and followed up combos with Sin's pole vault command jump move to keep pressure going was really cool.  Pachi barely lost to FAB and seemed pretty salty.  The match vs Gazou seemed less serious as Gazou was just trying to kancho Elphelt as much as he could, but they were both entertaining and showed off the characters more which was the whole point. 

So, despite the unbalanced tournament rules and it being on pad, the event its self was done well as far as a means of marketing the game and drawing hype, which is really important.  Given how many people were waiting in line to play Xrd at TGS and how many I saw walking around with those free tote bags you got after playing, I can tell that this game is going to be VERY popular and sell quite well.  So, here's looking forward to a bright future for the GG series and the competitive scene. 

I left after the tournament was over since it was my birthday, I wanted to spend some time with my wife.  King of Heart decided to leave too.  Before getting on the train, I decided that I wanted to try and get that whiskey bottle back because, damnit, it's mine!  So, I returned to where I first entered and found the security check in area.  They had all of the confiscated items in clear plastic boxes so you could see what was inside.  Sure enough, there was my nearly full bottle of whiskey.  I told the guards what happened in the morning and they simply believed me and just gave me back the bottle, no questions asked!  I was absolutely shocked how easy it was!  Happy birthday to me!  I got on the train after that and rode with King of Heart as far as Tokyo Station where we parted ways.

I knocked back like 10, 350 ml cans of beer on the train on the way home.  I made it home around 8 pm and I went out for yakiniku and lots of drinks with Ryoko.  After that, the 2 of us went to do some karaoke together for a few hours.  The place we went to was really small and didn't care if you brought your own drinks, and I just happened to have that whiskey bottle on me, so we ended up finishing nearly the entire bottle together while doing karaoke.  They had free soft drinks and among them was apple slurpees so I was mixing it with that, and it was good as hell!  I didn't  remember walking  home when I got up the next morning, Ryoko played me a recording of me rambling drunk on the way home which was pretty hilarious.  All in all, it was a really fun day though so I can say I had a good birthday. 

And with that, I will go ahead and conclude this really long blog post.  Thanks for reading.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Japan Gamer's Live - Arc Revo Cup Finals 2014

It has been exactly one week since I last posted on here.  A lot has gone on in that one week.  On Friday, August 29th, there wasn't anything in particular going on in Tokyo, so I stayed home and had a nice night out with my wife.  We went to a nice fusion dining restaurant and got like an 8 course meal and drank a bunch of alcohol.  It was a great night. 

I got up at a reasonable time on Saturday morning to head out to Tokyo Big Sight where the Arc Revolution Cup final event would be held as part of a larger event called Japan Gamers Live.  Unfortunately, tickets to get a seat in the crowd area for Arc Revo were already sold out when I tried to buy them a few days before the event.  I was too focused on actually winning qualifiers up until recently that I didn't bother thinking of buying a seat ticket until it was too late.  Luckily, they had a free open area in the very back.  I wasn't sure how full it would get so I made sure to get there at about an hour before the actual Arc Revo part of the event started.  When I got there, there was a small line waiting outside to get in.  Just as I entered the line, they started letting everyone in right away.  They gave away free double sided fans with GGXrd/BB characters on them as well as some character post cards and a program guide that had the brackets and player information.  It turned out that there was plenty of space inside the free area.  They had no chairs but at least you could see the stage and the 3  giant screens displayed above the stage very clearly, so it was all good.  I had some time to kill so I chatted with some US BB players that were there and had a smoke outside etc while I waited.  The venue space was a little smaller than last year's Arc Revo finals but overall it was set up nicely and was done very professionally with (almost) no major problems.  After a few words to open the event, they started off by just running the first round for all 3 games (GGXrd, BBCP, P4U) all at the same time.  They had one screen showing a match for each game all going at the same time, though there were several other cabs for each game with other matches going on as well, so not every game was shown on the screens.  They also took turns featuring which game the announcers would focus on but each game got a chance to be in the spot light.  Naturally, since BB was a 2 on 2 tournamnet, it took longer to finish up the first round of the bracket than GG or P4U, so that one went last. 

After the first round ended, I chilled with some of the US BB players a little bit in the hall way.  Also, there was another section of the venue that had some games you could try to play for free next to the merchandise selling area.  Among those games was the PS4 version of GGXrd.  I hadn't had a chance to try the console version yet until now so I decided to just try it out.  The line was short to play since most people who care about GG were in the main Arc Revo area at this point.  The people in line in front of me didn't want to play against me so I just played one match against the computer.  The game was being run on giant laggy Sony TVs so of course there was a little lag but I am sure they game runs perfectly when being played using proper equipment.  Otherwise, the game seems exactly the same as the arcade version for the most part.  I didn't have time to really mess with other modes but one nice thing was that you can set your buttons at the character select screen and it is really quick and easy, so no more button checks at GG tournaments come December.  I could have played longer but one match vs the computer was enough to give me a taste of what to expect.  The game will be available to play at TGS with Sin and the newly announced character, Elphelt, and if I can make it to TGS this year I certainly plan to try them out in more detail.  I also got another free fan for playing!

After the short break, the Arc Revo brackets resumed into the 2nd round of the bracket, or top 16.  They had large brackets for each game updated out in the hallway so it was easy to see who was eliminated off stream.  The announcers also mentioned it as well.  When I went inside the hall again, I ran into King of Heart, a foreign GG player who I originally met during the Xrd loketests, so we watched the rest of the stuff together.  The next phase pretty much went just like the 1st one with all 3 games going on at once and each game getting its turn in the spot light.  As the event was streamed and I imagine there are a lot of vids or at least there probably will be, I won't bother going into detail about each match.  The full brackets are also available online so it would be easier to just look at them rather than me typing it all out.  Once the top 16 ended, there was another short break.

I chilled a bit again during the break and then when things started up again, they did the top 8 for all 3 games one at a time, showing every single match.  The order went P4U, GGXrd, BB.  Top 3 in P4A all ended up being Kuma (Teddy) players.  I stopped playing Persona a long time ago but when I did play it briefly, I used Kuma, so it was kinda entertaining to watch since it was a character I sorta knew, though I have yet to even try Suplex Hold and haven't been paying attention to it at all so there were also a lot of new things I didn't recognize. The only major problem that happened with the event was during the finals of P4U and that was when one of the players had a button stop working so they had to stop the match and run it back from the start of the previous round which delayed things a bit.  Also, throughout the tournament, one of the card readers on the main cab wasn't working properly so sometimes people had to play without their card. 

Anyway, as I am sure you all probably know, GGXrd top 8 results were
1. Gazou (Faust)
2. Nage (Faust)
3. Uki (Sol Badguy)
3. Hasegawa (I-No)
5. FAB (Potemkin)
5. Tejinashi (Faust)
5. Toruso (Millia)
5. Daiji (Ramlethal)

Though I am absolutely not trying to talk down on any players, I must say that I was surprised to see Uki and Tejinashi get top 8.  They are just simply players that are not as well known and I just wouldn't have expected them to get so far given how many other killers were amongst the 32 finalists, but huge props to them for getting so far.  Also huge props to FAB (as always) for getting so far with Potemkin and putting on such a great performance.  Given that he is using the worst character in the game, he really pulled off some amazing stuff.  People have already mentioned a lot by now that there were 3 Faust players in top 8, with top 2 both being Faust players.  I honestly was not happy to see this because now Faust will most likely get nerfed in the next version.  There is no doubt that Faust is absolutely top tier, but so are Zato and Ramlethal (and depending on who you ask, Sol and Millia) so I just hope that in future rebalances, they just don't single out Faust alone with the nerf hammer simply because of these results.  I'm not saying he should be buffed by any means, but if they do eventually rebalance the game (which won't be for quite some time I am sure) I would rather see them buff weaker characters instead of nerf Faust really bad. 

Anyway, I honestly was expecting Nage to take the whole thing, but Gazou stepped it up and won 2-0 and he deserves the victory for sure. 

Finally, they ran BB top 8.  I watched the whole thing and it was fairly entertaining.  I don't really play BB much, just a little bit online from time to time since I can't really play at arcades on weeknights, but I respect the game and the scene and think that CP is one of the best iterations of the game for sure.  I was mainly hoping to see a Dogura vs Gallileo runback from EVO the entire time and I got my wish.  This time, as you all know, Dogura was able to get his revenge.  I really respect Gallileo as a player after seeing his amazing performance at EVO but I also had to kinda root for Dogura/NO seeing as how they are GG veterans. 

Once everything was over, and the players gave their speeches and got their prizes. Gazou got the best prize of all, a new PS4.... though compared to EVO prizes it doesn't seem like much.  Given the fact that Japan can't legally give large cash prizes, its all good.  The real prize is the glory of victory and being the champion, and that is something no amount of money could ever buy anyway.

After that finished, everyone started heading outside.  I stood off to the side with King of Heart and some of the US BB players.  There was a discussion about what was going on next and Junya (a BB player) mentioned that they would probably be going to the BB after party.  Even though I have gone to the GG one after SBO and stuff almost every year, for some reason it completely slipped my mind this time, so I was glad he reminded me.  I figured I would just wait for someone I know to walk by and ask them.  Sure enough, after a few minutes, good ol' Osaka B was heading our way so I asked him about the party.   He said it was being organized by Taka (SL) so he said to follow him as he went to try to find Taka.  King of Heart followed me and the BB guys sorta just ran off to the conbini to get booze so I never saw them again after that.  After walking a bit, we eventually did find Taka and he said it was totally fine to add us to the list.  I asked how many people were already on the party list and he said like 90!  He said there was still room for me and King of Heart to join though so we headed out with a giant group of GG players and all boarded the train together.   On the train, we also ran into another foreign player from China (I think... or it was somewhere near that area of the world... sorry) who wanted to get Woshige's autograph.  He had no interest in joining the drinking party but he wanted to tag along so I told Taka and it was OK for him to do so.  We talked a bit with other players about various stuff on the train ride as well. 

Eventually, we made it to Takadanobaba which is where the izakaya where the party was going to be held was.  When we arrived, most people were already there.  It was pretty insane how many players there were there!  There were a few random seats open scattered around the room so I sat at one of the tables that had 2 open seats next to each other so that King of Heart could sit with me.  I asked the dudes sitting there if it was cool and they were all super friendly and were like "yes, please sit down, sensei!"  I didn't really know any of the guys at that particular table very well but they all knew who I was and some of them were even saying stuff like "Please teach me Faust!"  One of the guys was super nice and ordered us some drinks as soon as we sat down.  I actually had been drinking all day.  I had a couple of beers on the train on the way to Arc Revo and then I brought a full flask of rum into the event that I was sipping on throughout the entire tournament.  I finished it by the time we left Big Sight but at this point I hardly even had much of a buzz anymore. 

Once the final people all got their seats, a few people gave some short speeches, such as Nage and some others.  A little bit after that, Gazou showed up and everyone gave him a bit round of applause and he gave a victory speech as well.  Then suddenly, an idea struck me.  I had not planned on doing this at all, but shortly after Gazou finished his speech, I walked up to the front area where he was and asked if I could please have everyone's attention to just say a few words while they still hadn't gotten into another deep conversation again yet.  I got the attention of mostly the whole room.  I simply told everyone that in about one month from now, I would be looking for a new job in the US and that I would be moving back to Chicago for good.  I told them that I just wanted to take this opportunity to thank them all for a great 7 years of playing together.  I didn't want to make a huge deal out of it but didn't really know if I would ever have a chance to thank them all before I left at an easier time, so I just kept it short.  As soon as I said I was leaving, a chorus of "Eeeehhh???!!!" echoed across the room (which is the sound Japanese people make when they are surprised by something.)  As I walked back to my seat, everyone started chanting "E-le-ven! E-le-ven!" over and over, and they were all raising their glasses to toast with me.  I honestly wasn't expecting anything like that and was overwhelmed by how kind everyone was.  I honestly just wanted to thank them and let them know I was leaving.  When I first came to Japan, a lot of people had no idea who I was.  Many of them even laughed thinking I must just be some scrubby foreign player.  Of course, others were very friendly right from the start.  Over my 7 years here though, I can honestly say that I am glad to know that I managed to gain the respect of almost the entire GG community, and so many people know who I am that I don't even know.  I may not have ever qualified for the final event at any SBO or Arc Revo, and there are TONS of players who are still way better than me here, but I am just happy that all of my effort over the past 7 years as far as GG goes, was not a waste of time.  At that moment, I felt like I actually did accomplish something, and I wasn't just some scrubby American living here.  Though any respect that get from most of these guys, they deserve a ton more considering how hard they worked to get to the level they are at in GG.  I am just happy to have been part of such a great scene for 7 years. 

As the night went on, I ate some good food and drank some more drinks.  Several players came up to me and talked to me about various things such as why I am leaving and saying that they were going to miss me and that they hope to play me again before I leave.  Even players who I thought looked down on me actually gave me props and said they are sad to see me go.  Later on in the night, Kawin, who now works for Arc System Works (previously known in my blog as Spikey Hair Potemkin and also goes by the name Akira but is not the same as Axl Akira) showed up at the party.  He came and sat next to me for a while and he was talking to me and King of Heart about a lot of stuff.  I told him that when I go back to the states, I am going to do everything I can to promote GGXrd and build up the US scene.  I told him about Frosty Faustings and stuff and said how I plan to travel a lot.  I plan to teach new players as much as I can about how to play Xrd and help people understand the game.  He said he might see me at Evolution since he wants to go as long as Xrd is a main game (which I am sure it will be.)  We discussed how overall, most people seem to agree about how they handled Xrd's design and changes from previous versions.  He also agreed that he wishes that they could add more characters but he says all of the staff are aware of the demand for more characters and are doing their best to get more characters in the game in the future.  This, of course, is a general statement and I have no details about anything in particular so don't take this as some kind of announcement.  He pretty much was just stating what has already been said in countless interviews, but from talking to him, I could honestly tell that they do see it as a real issue that needs to be addressed and they really want to work hard to see Xrd grow more and more over time.  It was nice talking to him about it and I can honestly tell he and the rest of the staff care about GG and keeping the game true to the roots, so I know that the series is in good hands.

Throughout the night, I talked to a bunch of other people but I won't go into detail about every conversation I had with every person because it would just get redundant and too long, but basically it was a really awsome party and one of my best memories here in Japan.

The party ended at 11:45 and lasted 2 hours total.  Most people were heading out after that, so I decided I would just go head to Shinjuku to drink at PSY and Aqua Z before the trains stopped running.  King of Heart rode the train with me but went home, so I headed to the bars alone.  The bars were full of people I knew though so it was a good night.  PSY was having a special Jagermeister night and everyone was wearing orange Hawaiian leis around their necks that the staff was giving out.  Also, Michi was there wearing a bright orange Jager top that showed tons of cleavage and was chilling behind the bar with the rest of the staff.  A nice older Japanese guy who looked maybe in his late 50s or 60s was there and he bought me a free drink right away simply because I was from the US and he used to live in LA.  In addition to that, the staff was giving out TONS of free Jager shots.  I got 4 free shots the entire time I was at PSY and a free beer.  It was pretty insane!  I had fun talking to various people I knew there as well. 

After a little more time, I headed to Aqua Z because this was the last night that my friend Heidi would be in Japan where I could say goodbye as she would be leaving a few days later.  I also wanted to talk to the owner, Yappy, about my farewell party that would be held there next week.  A lot of people I knew were at Aqua Z as well.  I worked out the party details with Yappy and played a bunch of games of darts as well with some people there.  There was this one guy who was super good and was kicking everyone's ass every game but it was still fun.  When I was saying goodbye to Heidi, I was sitting at an empty seat at the bar that someone was sitting at earlier but they seemed to be gone at the moment.  Suddenly, some random dude comes back and taps me on the shoulder, and I was like "Oh sorry man, was this your seat? Here you go." and I stood up and gave him his seat back.  So then I was still talking to Heidi and the guy interrupts basically being like "Yo, who the hell are you?" and he was like accusing me of hitting on her, LOL!  I've known Heidi for nearly 7 years and shes a good friend of mine, and this guy who I have never seen in my life comes up to me acting like Mr. White Knight or something when all I was trying to do was say goodbye to my friend before we both leave Japan.  I try to explain calmly the situation and he just accuses me of trying "one-up" him and that I am turning this into a competition.  Basically, I just laughed it off and finished saying goodbye to Heidi and said, go ahead dude, talk to her all you want.  After that, I played a few more games of darts and once the guy confirmed with Heidi that I was telling the truth he tried to apologize but it didn't come off as being very sincere at all but I didn't really care. Eventually I went back to PSY where I had fun talking to Chip and some other people and drank until like 7:00 AM.  Once PSY closed, I went to bed.

The next day, I had no plans except to get in as many Xrd casuals as I could.  I headed to Akihabara to play.  King of Heart wanted to join me so I sent him a message and he met me there.  Another guy I know named Alex showed up to hang out as well.  We played back and forth between Club Sega and Hey.  There were some really strong players there as well as some weak ones.  It was a good mix of levels though and there was plenty of competition.  I got a ton of matches in and had a good time.  I played until about 10 PM and then I had to get the last train back home.

The next day on Monday, I actually had a lot of work to do.  Ryoko's visa interview was scheduled for the following day, (Tuesday, Sept 2nd) and we had to make sure we got all of the final documents in order and practiced the interview questions that they might ask. 

On Tuesday, we got up at like 4:30/5:00 AM because we needed to take the shinkansen all the way to the US Embassy all the way from where we live in Gunma.  Her appointment was at 8:30 AM and we managed to get there about 40 minutes early.  We had a lot of trouble sleeping the night before and were really exhausted but we were running on pure adrenaline and coffee so we were OK for the time being. 

When we got to the station near the embassy, we found a locker and put all the stuff they don't allow you to bring inside in the locker.  We got to the main entrance and thankfully there were only a few people in line waiting to get inside before us.  They checked our name off the reservation list and we made it through security with no issues.  Once we got inside, we got our number assigned and sat down in the waiting area.  Ryoko was super nervous but I told her to just relax.  Interviews are not done in a private room, but rather the waiting area simply has several windows that you walk up to and talk to one of the staff, sorta like a bank teller window with thick glass separating you but there are microphones and a space to slide documents through.  The first time we were called up, we submitted all of our documents.  In our case, we had to bring ALL of the documents required with us, since we got expedited through the National Visa Center phase of the process.  Without boring you with too many details, basically you have to send in 2 giant, thick packets of documents and information but since the NVC is so backed up right now they never even looked at our stuff that we sent before we were (luckily) granted an expedite, so we had to make new copies of everything and bring them all to the interview ourselves, so I had like this gigantic stack of papers that weighed a ton.  We submitted the documents, sat down, and then they called us back and told us all of our documents were in perfect order!  They called Ryoko back again and took her finger prints.  Finally, they called us back to another window for the actual interview questions.  The interviewer told me that I had to go sit back down and she had to answer everything her self.  All of the questions were asked in English and Ryoko's English is not exactly amazing... but we practiced so, after being asked about 15 different questions, he gave the thumbs up and said our visa was approved!  I could sorta hear her responses from where I was sitting and was watching them the whole time.  As soon as he approved it I could tell, and this huge feeling of relief and accomplishment struck me. I doubt most of you know how complicated, long and stressful applying for a spouse immigrant visa actually is, but let's just say it was a HUGE pain in the ass and knowing that we finally had finished the long, grueling process was a huge weight off my back. Ryoko came walking back to where I was with a huge grin on her face and we were good to go!  She said that the man told her that they would mail her passport back to us in about a week with the visa inside of it, and with that, we were free to go for the day!

It turned out that they didn't need to keep the majority of the documents we submitted so I took them back with us and we got my backpack out of the locker and I put them all in the bag.  At this point it was only just past 10 AM (so the whole thing only took like less than 2 hours!) and so we had the whole day to do whatever we wanted in Tokyo.  All 3 of Ryoko's sisters live in Tokyo so we decided to try and spend some time with them.  One of her sisters, Naoko, works near Tokyo Station, so we went to her building and had lunch with her at an all you can eat buffet and it was pretty good.  After that, we went to Ueno and grabbed some drinks while we shopped a bit.  Ryoko found a store that sold bags / purses / brief cases and had a sale that everything was marked down to 3,000 yen from prices that were originally like 20,000 yen and stuff.  I dunno how legit this was but either way, I found a really nice brief case for cheap that was clearly at LEAST worth more than that and I needed a new one anyway so I got it.  She picked up a purse for herself (which she didn't need cuz she already has like 50) and one for her sister, Reiko, whose birthday it actually was on that day, so it was worth going there. 

After shopping, we contacted Reiko and she said she wanted to meet up with us later.  We had a little time to kill, so Ryoko and I went to Ueno Zoo.  It was only about an hour before closing time, so we only ended up being able to see about half of the animals there, but it was still kinda fun.  I had never been there before and Ryoko loves animals so why not, right?  Towards the end though, her feet were killing her and she was getting murdered by mosquitoes so we left when they closed and headed back to Ueno Station where we met up with Reiko. 

We headed to Kanda and went to a restaurant called Devil Craft.  I don't remember if I have ever mentioned it before, but this place is a Chicago deep dish pizza restaurant in Japan and they also have about 16 craft brews on tap!  The prices are quite high and the pizza isn't QUITE as good as real Chicago deep dish (being from Chicago I am allowed to say that) but the guys who own it (they are from California) do a pretty damn good job and the beer selection is amazing.  Reiko really loved Chicago deep dish pizza ever since she tried it when she visited Chicago for our US wedding so she was really happy.  Their other sister Makiko also joined us there later on.  We drank a lot and had a some good pizza and talked for a while.  Reiko liked her present and we had a fun time.  I was glad to see the Ryoko got to spend some more time with her sisters since we will be leaving Japan soon. 

Eventually, it was time for us to head back to Gunma.  We said goodbye and had some more drinks on the train on the way home.  Overall, it was a very tiring but really fun and successful day! 

At the time of typing this, it is now Thursday and we already got her passport with the visa back a few hours ago in the mail!  So, with that, we can officially leave Japan at any time and go back to Chicago.  Ryoko had a friend who is having a wedding in early October here in Japan and wants to go to it, and we still have a lot of things to take care of before we leave here, but I probably only have roughly a month or so left before leaving Japan at this point.

In any case, it has been a great week and I am looking forward to my farewell party and will do my best to make the most of my final time here.  I will post again on this blog before I leave.  Thanks for reading!