With three tournaments again this week, we're trying something different for the format of this column. There'll be one section each for North America, Europe and Latin America. It should be easier to keep track of what's happening, though there aren't many surprises in NA or LatAm. Justin Wong is straight-up unstoppable in the West, and Mexico was a free-points paradise for Southern California players this week.
Europe is where things get interesting. Unknowns dominated the Top 8, while veterans sucked it up in Top 16. I'm not sure what happened there, but we'll find out together — right after we establish that Vega is being slept on, and might actually be a stronger character than anyone thought.
North America: Combo Breaker
Justin Wong rules North America with an iron fist, and it doesn't look like that's changing anytime soon. Justin took his fifth ranking tournament win of the season at Combo Breaker, with some of North America's toughest fighters vying for the top spot. Justin remains the only Karin at the top of NA; no one else picked her up early, and unless someone goes for a hardcore course-correction at this point, he's going to remain the only dominant Karin in the region.
In second place we have Peter "Flash" Susini. This is Flash's second appearance on the Capcom Pro Tour this season, and his first since dropping the back half of his old tag. The man formerly known as Flash Metroid is shaping up to be an impressive Street Fighter V player, and perhaps the strongest Vega in the world right now. Before this weekend, the highest ranked Vega on the Pro Tour standings was Mordesai, who placed fourth at Cannes Winter Clash. Flash is now the top Vega on the standings, but no one else is really using the character.
Vega is certainly a different kind of character from his Street Fighter IV incarnation, but Flash jumped around between a bunch of characters back then, so he's not coming from the old charge character archetype. Flash showed a remarkable level of matchup knowledge, using Vega's Claw stance and high walk-speed to punish Du "Nuckledu" Dang's Nash at range and beat out his Moonsault pressure. When Du switched to Mika, Flash dropped the claw and kept things at close-range to punish whiffed grabs and unsafe pressure. Flash showed that the new Vega is being slept on as an amazingly versatile character. Second place is good, but both Flash and Vega look like they can do better.
Europe: FFM Rumble
We may have traveled back in time, because all the progress Europe's top playerw have made since the mess that was Cannes Winter Clash looks like it's been undone. That's not to say that Younes "CCL" Lazaar and Cem "Halibel" Ceken played poorly, not at all, just that we know that Ryan Hart, Wilfried "Will2Pac" Jean-Baptiste, Arman "Phenom" Hanjani and Olivier "Luffy" Hay can do better. Much better.
CCL took first with the same sort of aggressive Chun-Li archetype we've seen develop at the Pro Tour so far. It's worth noting that this is the first time a Chun-Li has actually won a Pro Tour event, despite the community saying for months that she's the best character in the game. CCL took that theory and put it to the test, playing a little safer and a little lamer. He shut down rush down attempts from both Ryan Hart and Halibel's Kens multiple times.
He's new to the Street Fighter scene, but CCL is putting in work, with 13th at Hypespotting V and 17th at Stunfest. It will be interesting to see how he develops as a player, particularly when Europe's top tiers are in proper form.
Speaking of the top tiers, after finally figuring out how to play his own, footsies-oriented R. Mika and taking first at Kakutop League, Luffy choked at a tournament that he was poised to blow up. He ended up playing both Ryan Hart and Benjamin "Problem X" Simon in Top 16. Running into other pros early certainly makes things difficult, but Europe can do better than an almost completely unknown Top 8. Ryan Hart made it, but everyone else has to shape up all over again.
Latin America: Japonawa X
Latin America is slowly developing into the region that North American players go to when they need some points. The entire Ken trinity drove down to Tijuana for Japonawa X, though Brent "Brentiscool" Franks didn't fare as well as his Ken brethren. Chris Tatarian and Julio "Julio" Fuentes played each other in the Grand Finals, giving us yet another Ken show.
It's hard to keep finding new things to say about Ken, so I won't. Ken players have settled into a very familiar close-to-mid-range style that relies on pressure, hit-confirms and big openings from EX-Air Tatsumaki, and this weekend, Tatarian was better at it than Julio was. Both are solid players, and have been doing well recently, but one has to wonder how much the strength of Ken is doing for them. Julio's fundamentals are strong, but he can't seem to stop diving in when he smells blood, while Chris Tatarian has a passive quality to him that, at times, leads to him taking a little too much damage. Both problems are solveable, but they're also easy for the top Asian players to abuse when they run into each other at premier events. For now though, Chris T. is joining Justin Wong at the Latin American regional finals.
It's also another tournament where Eduardo "PR Balrog" Perez didn't quite make it. Fifth isn't bad, and 'Rog is going to keep picking up points, but he's missing something. At Toryuken, he told theScore esports that he's not feeling SFV yet, so maybe he's waiting for something to click. Or maybe he's waiting for Balrog. Whatever it is, Rog needs to figure out the game if he wants his learning year to be something bigger.
Daniel Rosen is a news editor for theScore esports. You can follow him on Twitter.