EVO is still underway, but tournament gameplay for Tekken 7: Fated Retribution concluded yesterday. The two days of tournament play was filled with multiple upsets and some surprising turnouts that some people may not have imagined.
Things to Consider
Here are a few things no-one expected:
- JDCR did not make the Top 8
- Anakin did not even make the Top 50
- Poongko, a Street Fighter/non-Tekken player, came in 3rd place
- Korea had four players in Top 8
- Korea took 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place
- Most of Japan’s top players did not perform as well as expected
- Last years EVO champ, Nobi (JPN), was eliminated by USA’s Geesemaster
- Top 8 included two players from USA, compared to one last EVO
- USA had players in 4th and 7th place
- Geesemaster was a dark horse who placed higher than Japan and Speedkicks
All of the above were unexpected and has left many scratching their heads asking why. First, let me explain what was not the reason for this outcome.
Jet-lag or Fatigue?
Some have speculated that maybe jet-lag from travelling, fatigue or tiredness may have been the cause for Japan’s performance. But quite a few traveled from far and wide to get to EVO, including Korea. And when you saw our Japanese friends, they were smiling, happy, energetic, taking photos and much more. It is highly unlikely that fatigue or anything of that sort was the cause. Most of the international players from Asia actually arrived on Wednesday, and some on Thursday, so there was time to get rest. Now, if some chose to enjoy Vegas, that’s an entirely different story. This is an eSport, and just like any athlete you have to consider that you have a task ahead of you. I don’t believe this had anything to do with the performance of the Japanese players. Two of them made the top 8. When they do not do well, we shouldn’t discount those who placed better by presenting theories for why some under-performed. Even if some of the Japanese players may have been jet-lagged or somewhat tired, they have had the game for almost two years or more now, while USA and others has not had it really at all. The only access USA has to Tekken 7 is the Tekken Tour and one small spot in Schaumburg, IL. With that, shouldn’t Japanese players have some type of edge? Honestly, I don’t think Japanese players would want any excuses made for them.. Even Shudy Jinlee of Japan said that they will be back next year. This isn’t only about Japan though. This about all of the things listed above.
A New Game
There is one reason why this EVO turned out the way it did, and it’s all game related – Tekken 7: Fated Retribution. Tekken 7FR being allowed at EVO put all players on equal footing for the most part. And by “equal footing” I mean that everyone was subject to the same random, unexpected, unfamiliarity of the game that others were. While there were still many familiar “Tekkeny things” with the game, there were many new things as well, and this is what evened things out. You see, up until Tekken 7FR many of the game mechanics and fundamentals of Tekken have remained pretty much the same. But with Bandai Namco wanting to make the game more appealing to casual players, and not just hardcare Tekken fans, some new mechanics, characters and effects have been introduced. With Tekken 7FR we have changes to rage mode and the introduction of rage drives. In Tekken 7FR a player can now enter rage much quicker. It now kicks in when at 70% health. As well, rage drives allow you to execute a series of attacks upon your opponent that deal a good amount of damage. And the lower your health, the more damage you will inflict. We saw this change the outcome of matches often.
The introduction of new characters allowed players to walk right into EVO and place well. Akuma has only been in Tekken 7FR for two weeks, so knowing how to fight against him has not been fully”downloaded” yet. This is one reason why Poongko, who is a pro Street Fighter player, was able to walk right into EVO to compete and get 3rd place. Akuma is an offensive character like we’ve never seen before, able to throw a barrage of attacks at you one after the other. Tekken players aren’t accustomed to this type of thing. But unfamiliarity has more to do with it than anything. Also, when you consider the usage of Claudio by Narakhof against a high-caliber player like Speedkicks, Speed had no answer for him. He didn’t have enough Claudio experience. You can get by with unfamiliarity to a certain point, but when you come to face to face with someone using a new character at a high level, you’re pretty much toast. Speedkicks isn’t alone when it comes to facing a Claudio player. Rip faced one who reset him in the Grand Finals at Wizard World Minneapolis and won. Had it been any other character Rip was facing, he probably would’ve won.
Delete Claudio from Tekken 7
— Rip (@reepal) May 8, 2016
These factors explain Speedkicks’ 7th place placement, Narakhof’s 5th placement, and definitely Poongko’s 3rd placement. It may also explain why Knee was able to use Akuma against JDCR and take him out of his element. JDCR had no answer for Knee’s Akuma.
"Just hit him out of the air" – Everyone who hasn't played FR. pic.twitter.com/OIVaJ6vii9
— Stephen Stafford (@Speedkicks) July 17, 2016
1v1 vs Tag System
Another thing that has changed is a return to the 1v1 system – the heart and soul of Tekken. Yes, Tekken 7 was at EVO last year, and it too was 1v1, but one of the differences is that most in the USA at that time were still accustomed to the tag style of gameplay of Tekken Tag Tournament 2. Asian players had been playing Tekken 7 for a little over a year. It takes time to get calibrated from one system to another. Speedkicks is even on record as saying that when he was at CEO, he was still approaching his Tekken 7 matches with a tag mindset. 1v1 Tekken is played fundamentally different. Speedkicks then went into the lab and started practicing 1v1 by playing Tekken 6. Still, he faced a Claudio player, and nothing about Tekken 6 could prepare him for that.
All the T6 in the world couldn't have prepared me for that. Rough lol
— Stephen Stafford (@Speedkicks) July 16, 2016
In our interviews with Fighting GM and JDCR, they both also state how the tag system and the 1v1 systems make for two completely different games. The tag system allowed players, newcomers and veterans, to get a way with many things you can’t get away with in 1v1, and especially in Tekken Tag Tournament 2. The presence of a second character, the long juggles and high damage allowed a player to end even the best of players. A lot of the fluff allowed for not having any fundamentals. But 1v1 Tekken? It’s all about fundamentals. In a recent interview with The Main Man, JDCR says that one reason Asians were able to dominate in TTT2 was due to their great use of the tag system. But now the tag system is gone and players must simply know how to play fundamental Tekken. Could this be one reason why Korea did so well, as well as USA? Do they have a good grasp on the fundamentals? Think about it. Poongko was reckless with Akuma and just dominating his opponents, but when he came up against Knee and Saint, he looked like a church mouse. He had run up against two players who were fundamentally sound. Yes, JDCR faced an Akuma too, but this Akuma was used by a Tekken player who plays at the highest level. His name is Knee. This year USA has been highly focused on the 1v1 system. Players have been attending the Tekken Tour to get some hands-on practice. They’ve been playing Tekken 6. And they’ve been playing one character matches in Tekken Tag Tournament 2.
Cooking Your Goose
So, what about Geesemaster, you may be asking? He didn’t use a new character, and he didn’t face a new character, so how’d he win? Geesemaster did face Nobi, last year’s EVO champion, and considered to be one of the best in the world. He was also using Dragunov, and is declared to be the #1 Dragunov player on the planet. So what’s up with that? There is always room for newcomers, and that’s why I love fighting games, because you can’t count anyone out. If someone puts the time in to train and hone their skills, the sky is the limit. Geesemaster didn’t get to where he ascended by accident. We saw some very good gameplay from him – and none of it looked like luck. Simply put, he beat Nobi fair and square. He beat all of his opponents fair and square. He displayed great understand of the game – defense, combos, proper punishes, sidestepping, spacing, backdashing, mixups and more. And it may not mean anything to some, but he is also a qualifier for the King of the Iron Fist Tournament at the end of the year. He was the very first to qualify actually. Simply put, give the man his props.
geesemaster proving hes not only the best west coast player but also best in usa.
— Bronson Tran (@brnsntrn) July 16, 2016
That Explains It
So there you have it. That explains why this years EVO went the way it did. And even with the randomness and unfamiliarity of things, Korea still obviously has a great grasp on the game of Tekken. This is why they hold the top three spots this year. Even Poongko being in the 3rd place shows just how “interesting” Tekken 7FR has made the game for everyone. Next EVO will be even better than this one! Everyone will have had their hands on the primary game and had enough time to practice and learn the ins and outs. There won’t be any excuses, moral victories, or anything of that nature. It will all boil down to what it has always boiled down to – skill. Hopefully people have a better understanding of this years’ EVO now. Tekken 7FR shows just how well everyone can do when everyone is on the same page. This year, the page was called “unfamiliarity,” and everyone had plenty of that. Finally, a word from Speedkicks.
USA will win Evo next year.
— Stephen Stafford (@Speedkicks) July 16, 2016