On Saturday, April 18th, the biggest fighting game competition in history came to an epic conclusion. Well over a thousand fans turned out to Pier 39 at San Francisco’s Fort Mason Center to watch the battle between the 16 finalists, boiled down from thousands of tournaments across the entire country.
All 16 finalists automatically qualified into the EVO World Finals , but were battling for GameStop prizes, their very own Street Fighter IV arcade cabinet, and a chance to face the best in the world by representing the US in the International Exhibition. The winner of the US tournament would move on to face 3 masters from the international scene, Poongko, the Korean National Champion, Iyo, the Japanese National Champion, and legendary Street Fighter Daigo Umehara.
The finalist competition was full of clutch execution, masterful mindgames, and amazing comebacks. The finalists were a great range of familiar tournament vets as well as some new faces, including Antwan Ortiz, who made it to the Final Four playing a silky Balrog before falling to Grand Finalist Mike Ross and his trademark E. Honda. On the other side of the bracket was 2-time EVO winner Jason Cole up against another repeat EVO champ and SFIV superstar, Justin Wong. Cole’s Balrog drew first blood with an exciting first round, but only seemed to strengthen Wong’s resolve, as he came back to take the next four rounds to move into the Grand Finals. The crowd was great and cheering along with every second, including the trademark ” Raise the Roof ” for the ending to Rufus’ Ultra Combo (you can see the crowd in sync with Rufus himself on the picture at the top of this piece, credit to Brett at GamesRadar ).
The Grand Finals were a great display of non-standard characters, with Mike Ross continuing to rep E. Honda vs Justin Wong’s relentless Rufus. Although Honda has a very strong defense, Wong made the most of his opportunities, and put the offensive burden on Ross with careful spacing that required Honda to move forward to attack, thereby preventing Honda from also using his two best threats (torpedo and butt-flop, both of which can’t be charged while walking forward). After a brief celebration with his EVO Golden Ticket and the GameStop SFIV Champion Cup, it was time to face the best the world has to offer.
First up was the Korean champ and crowd favorite Poongko. He took his combo-machine Ryu and Focus-Attack tricks to the next level, but couldn’t win the mental game against Iyo, Daigo, or Justin, and went a disappointing 0-3. After defeating Poongko, Iyo Dhalsim played a truly epic match against Daigo.
It went the distance, and featured one of the most amazing moments to date in SFIV history, with Daigo emerging on top. Justin’s Rufus was once again able to make the most of a challenging matchup against Iyo’s Dhalsim, eating a lot of attacks to try and force his way inside to mix things up (where Rufus is at his best), and proved victorious.
With Iyo going 1-2, that meant Daigo and Justin were both tied at 2 wins apiece, and the winner of their final match would claim the international title and an all expenses-paid trip for two from anywhere in the world to the EVO World Finals. Justin played well, but Daigo made expert use of standing jab, standing roundhouse, and uppercuts to deny Justin’s Rufus the airspace he needed to attack with Rufus’s killer divekick. After the night’s long battles, Justin may have been spent, and Daigo dominated the matchup to take the International title.
Thanks to all the competitors, fans, and the people working behind the scenes for coming together to put on the most epic night yet in Street Fighter IV’s history. A special shoutout to Unity members who made it out to the event, and click here for more pics (just check youtube for finals–we’re working on the better videos for you too!)
J. Wong: 2-1