Although ELEAGUE’s announcement last month of the Street Fighter V Invitational was initially surprising because Turner had previously stuck to FPS games (Counter-Strike and Overwatch), upon closer inspection it makes a great deal of sense. The Fighting Games Community has a rich underground history that spans more than two decades. The game itself doesn’t require much contextual information to enjoy. The scene also has a special arcade atmosphere to it: there is no need for booths as it is a game of perfect information.
Of the 32 players who will participate in the two-month long tournament that starts Monday, here’s a look at 14 who particularly interest me, for one reason for another. Here’s Part 2, and you can read Part 1 from Thursday.
Hajime “Tokido” Taniguchi
Also known as Murderface, Tokido is one of the most intense competitors in the FGC and has been seen meditating before big games. He is a multi-game talent and infamous for deconstructing every game he lays his hands on, allowing him to rapidly become a world-class player at it.
He has an aggressive and smart play style that made him the second best player in SFV for a long time. His only obstacle was Infiltration. He was unable to beat him in the first three tournaments of the 2016 Capcom Pro Tour, getting crushed in the finals every time. He finally overcame him at CEO, though Infilration still won the tournament. After Season 2 came along, he switched from Ryu to Akuma. One of the most famous celebrations in FGC history is Tokido’s Raging Demon where he imitated Akuma’s winning pose in real life.
Notable Rivals: Infiltration, Daigo
Keita “Fuudo” Ai
He was originally a Virtua Fighter player, but the scene was incredibly small so he switched games to fulfill his competitive spirit. In EVO 2011, he was a brick wall, eventually winning the entire tournament off of fundamentals and sheer defensive capability. Throughout SF4 he earned a reputation for patience and a meticulously suffocating play style, which was why everyone was stunned when he mained R. Mika in SFV. Her explosive mixups didn’t seem to gel with his approach. Fuudo didn’t particularly care, though; the reason he chose her was because he thought it would be fun. Despite R. Mika’s more volatile options, Fuudo has still retained strong fundamentals with that character as well.
Ryan “Filipino Champ” Ramirez
Filipino Champ, like Justin Wong, is more known for his MvC3 prowess than his Street Fighter skill. Despite that, he is still highly regarded as a top player, especially because his character, Dhalsim, was considered bad in SF4. As a player, Filipino Champ excels in controlling space and frustrating opponents with slippy shenanigans. He also seems to have a good matchup against Daigo and has beaten the legend in high-profile matches. Filipino Champ is just as well known for his villain persona and plays it up whenever he can.
Notable Rivalry: Daigo
Kun “Xian” Ho
The winner of Final Round XX and one of the best players in the world, what makes Xian compelling is his obstinance as a character specialist. In Street Fighter 4 he took Gen, a character considered too technical and finicky to be viable, and won EVO with him. He nearly did the same in SFV 2016 with the dumpster fire that was Fang, utilizing whatever tools at his disposal. Even Xian couldn’t make Season 2 Fang work, so he switched out for another technical character in Ibuki. At Final Round XX he demolished the competition with never-ending mixups and aggression. He is one of the best players in the world and a favorite to win ELEAGUE.
Kenneth “K-Brad” Bradley
Among all of the players listed, K-Brad is the most entertaining. I don’t’ mean that in the gameplay sense, though he is probably the second best North American player right now. In pure antics and dramatic flourish, he is the most electrifying Street Fighter player. He knows how to amp up the hype and never hesitates to pull out his bold celebrations or entrances. One of the most famous was his CEO entrance last year and his famous pop off against Wolfkrone at Final Round.
— SMUG (@SmugDaBeast) March 12, 2017
This is especially juicy as he is in the same group as Wolfkrone.
Notable Rivalry: Wolfkrone, the entirety of EchoFox
Du “NuckleDu” Dang
NuckleDu is a curious figure. When he first arrived on the SF4 scene, no one was quite sure what to make of him. He was good and displayed potential, but if you go back to the old VODs, no one touted this guy as the future champion of the world. Even when he was among the top three North American players in the final years of SF4, he was more known for in-game antics like putting on shades, which people called disrespectful. Whereas some people called it disrespectful, NuckleDu thought it was just another mind game — and one that clearly had results.
Despite reservations, he has convinced the entire North American scene to recognize him through the lens to which all haters must bow: victory. At the end of 2016, he was undoubtedly the best player in the world. He won tournament after tournament, culminating in his dominant victory at the Capcom Cup Finals. The scariest thing about NuckleDu is that he can play Street Fighter and Street Fighter. He can switch between the smart, well thought out plan and the crazy gambling style that throws the former into disarray. NuckleDu uses both with ease and excels at both better than anyone in NA right now.
Zhoujun “Xiao Hai” Zeng
The best Chinese player in terms of results, Xiao Hai is a bit of an enigma because his best performances against international competition have generally been in China. On the other hand, he usually doesn’t get the same level of results when he travels. This duality changed in SFV. He began to show his optimal level of skill with his victory at SCR and second place at Canada Cup.
Cover photo courtesy of Turner Sports/ELEAGUE