This week's Capcom Pro Tour tournament saw some of Asia's top pros head down under to Battle Arena Melbourne 8 in Australia, where they proceeded to stomp all over the local scene. Despite some impressive performances from locals like Adric “Falco” Middleton and Dailou, it was Tatsuya "Haitani" Haitani, Yusuke "Momochi" Momochi, Kenryo "Mago" Hayashi and Kun "Xian" Xian Ho who took the Top 4 spots.
But only one person qualifies for the Asia Regional Finals at the end of the year, and only one character in the game can dunk like a champ. Those two facts may be more closely correlated than you think.
Qualified This Week: Haitani
Tatsuya "Haitani" Haitani flew to Australia for one reason and one reason alone: to remind everyone that Necalli is a ridiculous character.
Well, the prize money and the Capcom Pro Tour points probably also had something to do with it — but mostly it was the Necalli thing. In all of his matches, Haitani showed his incredible durability under pressure. Necalli needs to get beat up a little before he can pop his all-important V-Trigger, which can lead some players to go wild, but Haitani kept it cool. Even after a reverse-sweep from Momochi to reset the bracket in the Grand Finals, Haitani stayed the course and took the second set 3-1.
With V-Trigger live, Necalli is arguably the best character in the game. The problem is that most players reserve it for a big moment, then end up wasting it when the round ends. Haitani popped V-Trigger early and often, making sure to keep up pressure as long as he could with as many buttons as humanly possible. It's worth noting that Ken's rushdown can stop Necalli from getting started. It didn't.
Haitani hasn't dropped out of the Top 8 at any tournament he's attended so far, including two premier events. He's looking stronger and stronger at every showing, though it's tough to see it through the constant rushdown. It'll be interesting to see how he fares at Stunfest this weekend. Any good rushdown has a counter, and France has some of the best Lauras in the world.
Big Winner: Momochi
Momochi's Ken is slowly climbing back to form. In Street Fighter IV, Momochi made a name for himself with aggressive yet innovative rushdown, constantly finding new ways for Ken to expand openings or take space on-screen. Now, despite a very different Ken and an early dalliance with Chun-Li, the King of Ken is finding his footing, and it seems to be right in his opponents' faces.
The most interesting thing about Momochi's Ken is that it's remarkably different from the infamous trinity of North American Ken players. Julio "Julio" Fuentes, Chris Tatarian and Brentt "Brentiscool" Franks have all developed a high-aggression, low-defense playstyle. Julio is the most reserved of the three, but even he looks hyperactive compared to Momochi. The Japanese player takes his time, stares his opponent down and builds an appropriate amount of meter before he begins to fish with max-range standing roundhouses and dash-up grabs.
It remains to be seen if this more reserved Ken will win out against his more aggressive cousins in NA, but it looks like Momochi's SFV Ken is here to stay. At least until they add Cody back, that is.
Who to Watch: Mago
Like Momochi's Ken, Mago's Karin is beginning to develop an identity all her own. While Justin Wong has been dominating North America with a high-tempo, V-Trigger hungry Karin, Momochi spent most of his BAM8 games focusing on the damage he could get in the moment over the damage he could pick up later.
Wong tends to end his Tenko juggle combos with a Meioken to build V-meter fast over taking the guaranteed damage and helpful setups. On the other hand, Mago was almost exclusively ending the same combos with Orochi, gaining damage and space, but skipping the setups. Mago always wants players in Karin's footsies range, and whenever Momochi or Haitani started up blockstrings, he got very trigger happy with the V-Reversals. Mago barely ever had enough meter to use Gurren Ken in either matchup, and when he did he was often punished for misusing it.
Mago's Karin is incredibly strong, but the defensiveness looks like it comes from his time playing Fei Long, a character who could hunker down and play out of the corner. Fei also had access to the deadly Rekkas at any time, while Karin's limited to having them when she has V-meter, which Mago prefers spending on solidifying her defense. Mago also pops her EX-bar pretty often, opting to always EX-Ressenha for the anti-air instead of saving up for a big, damaging super. All of his resources go to Karin's defense, while he lets her buttons do the actual fighting.
It's interesting, but like Momochi's conservative Ken, it remains to be seen how effective it will be. When he's on point, Mago's Karin resembles his Yang: fast and frenetic, yet always in control of the neutral game. But a more Fei Long-like playstyle isn't necessarily a bad thing; with a little more patience, Mago's Karin could run circles around Haitani's blockstrings.
Back to the two-tournament lifestyle, and back to the Premier grind. In North America, the ranking tournaments return as Toryuken hosts Canada's Pro Tour debut. Meanwhile, Europe's first premier tournament will be Stunfest, in Rennes, France. Will we witness the glorious return of Daigo? Will team EG take our points and our poutine? Fists will fly from May 20-22.
Daniel Rosen is a news editor for theScore esports. He can't stop hitting standing roundhouse, send help. You can follow him on Twitter.