Behind the Story

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  • Daigo
  • Daigo: With Kemonomichi, Players Can Focus Solely on Winning.
  • Umehara talks about the changing times and his thoughts on the big bout.

    “He approached me saying he wanted to do this, and I’m grateful for that.”
    He explains that it was Tokido himself who proposed the match.
    “It wasn’t something I could propose from my end. The Infiltration and Xian sets were possible because other people had set the stage. I’m very excited for this.”
  • // Chapter 1
  • Tournaments, Leagues—and Then There’s Kemonomichi
    “Rarely do you get to focus on just one predetermined opponent when you compete.”
    The opponent, date, time, and rules are all set in advance. The event promises players the chance to place all of their focus on their opponent. It’s a different flavor than the typical format.
    Capcom Pro Tour—the primary battlefield for pro players of Street Fighter V. Pro Tour events adhere to a tournament format, with short first-to-two or first-to-three sets in order to accommodate the large numbers of participants. As long as you’re still in the fight, you’ll face numerous opponents in a single day. This is likely the most popular format in common use.
    It’s a format that calls for a balanced sensibility—the intersection of broadly applicable strategies and strong, immediate reactions.
    As a point of contrast, there are league battles. In the league battles Umehara himself has entered in the past, he faced just one or two opponents per day. The sets themselves followed a longer, first-to-seven format, and as such, called for the exact opposite qualities in a player.
    Insofar as the focus is on taking down a specific opponent, Kemonomichi could rightfully be likened to these league battles.
    “That’s right. But similar as it may seem, there are also differences,” Umehara says after a moment’s thought. He says that league battles in the past often left him satisfied. So what is it about Kemonomichi that’s different to him?
  • // Chapter 2
  • Unrequited Rivalry
    “Every player in a league battle has their own perspective.”
    The goal of a player in a league battle is to ascend the ranks, even if only by a single rung. Each player analyzes their current standing against the event schedule, figuring out where to divide their [mental] resources as they practice and make their way through the matches. In some cases, players will expend practically no resources at all.
    Sometimes you get a match that’s important to one player, not all that important to the other. You might call these matches “one-sided.” Their occurrence is inevitable. You also get so-called “throwaway matches”; it’s not a very nice term, but logically speaking they’re bound to come up.
    “Matches in which both parties really prepare and fight with all their might may well be the rarer case, even in league battles.”
    A fight in which both parties devote nearly all of their resources. It may not be obvious to outside observers, but that kind of mutual investment is surprisingly uncommon.
    “It goes without saying, but when both players are invested, it makes for a better match that’s more likely to garner attention.”
    As the schedule plays out, a narrative starts to unfold on its own. That’s probably the main appeal of a league battle. It’s also what leads to these “mutual” rivalries. Still, there’s nothing the event planners can do to control the results of the event. There’s always an element of luck.
    “Because of that, even in league battles you don’t see a lot of those dream matches. But if you were to set it up as a single face-off to begin with, there’d be no avoiding it.”
  • // Chapter 3
  • Days of Our Youth, When we Fought for Satisfaction
    Umehara certainly doesn’t dislike the short-bout tournament format, but he prefers to settle in with a designated opponent. It’s no coincidence that he was an arcade kid.
    “In the arcades, there was no one there to decide who was the winner and who was the loser. There were no rules. All you had to go on were your feelings.”
    That trend was particularly true in the nineties, when arcades were in their prime.
    There were much bigger disparities between characters back then, but people accepted that and prioritized picking a character they liked. That spirit was overwhelmingly prevalent in those days, and the games reflected the idiosyncrasies in a person’s play style.
    Even lopsided play styles that today’s rapid information flow would weed out instantly, were given time to incubate before players reached their conclusions. That grace period carried with it a certain joy. It wasn’t just about being right or wrong—it was about enjoying the process. It was an age where everyone was feeling everything out. And it was that playful spirit that provided the driving force behind fighting games’ evolution.
    Against a serious opponent, things didn’t simply end when you beat them or got X number of wins in a row. At least, that was never enough to convince Umehara that he’d won. He had to confront their style and face them repeatedly, obsessively.
    It’s not something you can measure with a digital win-loss counter. You have to face the opponent and fight until satisfied. Umehara always felt a distinct thrill from this unlike that which you can get from a one-and-done tournament match.
  • // Chapter 4
  • From Subjectivity to Objectivity
    The current state of the scene is a far cry from the nineties. Game balance has improved by leaps and bounds, and the player pool has grown. With the ubiquity of information and an overall raising of the bar, games no longer have the flexibility to reflect those idiosyncratic, lop-sided play styles. In other words, it’s an age where results speak for themselves.
    “You could say there’s a clearer distinction between winning and losing than there was back then.”
    There’s the digital fight, and then there’s the analog one which takes place in your mind. The disparity between those two has gotten smaller. Figuratively speaking, it used to be a difference of meters—now it’s centimeters. To put it plainly—things have simplified.
    That should come as welcome news, of course for the players but also for spectators. It’s no coincidence that in making that shift from a subjective to objective world, [fighting games] have become a form of spectator entertainment with their own audience.
    In keeping up with these changing times, Umehara and Tokido each took a stance.
  • // Chapter 5
  • Tokido and Umehara—A Perpendicular Pair
    “With Kemonomichi, I can place my entire focus on getting the ten wins, so in that regard it’s a load off. With Tokido I should be in good shape.”
    How does one define victory? What does it mean to win? For Umehara, who grew up grappling with such questions, the single-set format of Kemonomichi 2 feels like a vast simplification.
    For Tokido, it’s the reverse. “Unlike Daigo, I never used to be introspective as long as I was winning. That gave him a big lead over me.”
    For him, the arcade days were far simpler. He embraced a “just win” philosophy and racked up the win streaks. From there he went pro, hit a wall, and for the first time starting thinking about what it actually meant to win. Now, as he continues discovering these answers and meanings for himself, he’s set to face Umehara, the man he’s been tailing all along.
    Two men who have approached fighting games from perfectly opposite stances will now cross fists. I don’t think I’m the only one who feels a sense of inevitability to this. The time is ripe.
  • // Chapter 6
  • I’m the Challenger
    “Tokido is unquestionably one of the best players right now.” His performance as a pro gamer is also ahead of mine, so I think of myself as the challenger. It’s the more exciting position and it suits me better.”
    Having worked his way out of a slump through sheer gumption, Tokido is approaching a second coming. Gone is the naïvete that said, “I’m winning and that’s good enough.” He won’t make for an easy opponent.
    “I think that’s true. But I also wonder….As of now, I’m not really getting stuck on what needs to be done.”
    What needs to be done. He’s talking about the guiding principles for this match-up. These will form the core pillars of his approach—if he gets them wrong, the whole fight will be compromised. For Daigo Umehara, this is the fight’s most important element.
  • // Chapter 7
  • Quiet Confidence
    After going pro and despite his experience, Umehara continued to struggle to produce answers for a handful of match-ups. In the SFIV days, this included such match-ups as Ryu vs. Sagat, Ryu vs. Akuma, and Evil Ryu vs. Ken. It took long days of trial and error for him to arrive at answers that truly felt correct.
    “I wasn’t content with facile solutions, so it took some time. But I did eventually reach conclusions for those problem match-ups that left me relatively satisfied.
    “Compared to those of the past, this match-up hasn’t really given me that much trouble. So I don’t picture myself losing. As of now, anyway.”
    I sense a quiet confidence in these words. However, nothing is certain in the ring. We can count on Tokido exploring every possibility and showing up prepared. There’s always a chance he’ll strike a mental blind spot.
    “We haven’t had long with the game since the title update, so I’m sure it’s possible. But in all honesty there’s still a difference in strength between us, and I have a feeling he’s about to learn that.”
    There’s just under a week to go. In Umehara’s non-chalant response, we get a glimpse of his self-confidence. It seems he’s doing his homework and will be fully ready to shoot down this formidable foe when the time comes.
    “This isn’t even my final form. It’ll be a day to look forward to.”
    What will he show this top-tier opponent? This is a match not to be missed.
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  • // Other Story
  • ・STREET FIGHTER 5 :: Daigo

    ・STREET FIGHTER 5 :: Tokido