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.

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