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!

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