Another weekend passed, another three Pro Tour tournaments to look back on. The grind for points is nonstop by now, and it won't end until the regional finals in November, but at least we have a few more online events to examine and figure out. Europe hosted the only non-online event this week, VS Fighting in Birmingham, which had its own set of drama going on and of course, another win for Chun-Li.
Who wants to talk salt? Younes "CCL" Lazaar's win from the losers' bracket over Chris Tatarian inspired quite a bit of salt from the newly-sponsored Ken main. While Chris T. was quick to apologize for his Twitter comments about CCL, they do show off an issue we're seeing right now: people seem to think that Chun-Li is a lot stronger than she is. To be fair to the anti-Chun crowd, Chun-Li does seem to be the strongest character in the game by quite a bit. She has every option the game can offer her, from strong anti-airs to strong wake up options to great damage to fantastic pokes, and does it all with a relatively decent health pool and a spectacularly annoying V-Trigger. Pros generally agree that Chun has been the best since Day 1, but the results haven't been coming until recently, when the top Chun players began to master her more complicated execution.
However, Chun-Li is not absolutely busted. While she is definitely better than the rest of the cast, she isn't exactly holding down the positive side of any 7-3 matchups. SFV Chun-Li isn't nearly as strong as Vanilla Street Fighter IV Sagat, who was infamous for mowing down enemy health bars with one bar and one jump-in. Chun-Li needs full V-Trigger and Critical Art stocked to deal about 50 percent damage off of one jump in. Sagat needed one meter, and Ultra if he wanted to deal 75 percent with one jump in. Arcade Edition Yun was so powerful, dozens of top players dropped their characters and switched to Yun just to stand a chance at EVO. SFV Chun isn't even the most broken incarnation of the character. Third Strike and Alpha 2 Chun-Li had all the annoying options Chun has in SFV, plus a few game-specific options that made her even more infuriating. Third Strike Chun-Li had amazing damage, great combos, amazing pokes, spectacular meter build plus parry and a very long-range kara throw. Alpha 2 Chun lacked the parry, but had the world's most ridiculous custom combo and air blocks.
Chun-Li is definitely the best character in Street Fighter V, with Ryu and Ken vying for the second spot thanks to having meterless reversal options and great damage output. They're all likely to get nerfed after Capcom Cup, but for now? SFV Chun is by no means the most broken character in a Street Fighter game. Street Fighter IV took two or three tries before the balance was good (let's all forget Arcade Edition ever happened), and Street Fighter V feels a lot more balanced than even later versions of IV. Chun can and has lost, and she will continue to both win and lose. The game isn't broken until someone finds an infinite, and that's pretty unlikely to happen.
As for the tournament itself, it was relatively uneventful. CCL played very well, displaying a remarkable amount of patience in the face of Chris T's rushdown, and his losers' bracket run was marked by an ability to make hard reads and immediately capitalize on the ensuing situations. Meanwhile, top SFIV players like Olivier "Luffy" Hay and Ryan Hart are slowly climbing back to the level of consistency they had last year with diligent appearances at plenty of ranking events.
Online Ranking Event: Asia-Oceania 1:
Here's where we get back to the weird stuff. Kun "Xian" Xian-Ho continues to dominate despite his wacky character choices, and it's starting to get harder to explain. In an interview with Capcom's Matt Edwards, he theorized that his main, FANG, would likely be a better character if YouTube didn't exist. The character is so built around mixups and weird interactions that if someone were to just study him for a while, they could figure out how to beat him fairly easily. Obviously, that hasn't quite happened. Xian took second at G-League and ninth at EVO with a character even he believes is relatively weak. That's not to say that Xian is wrong about his assessment of FANG, just that it seems like it's harder to crack the poisonous wall than he anticipated.
Though, Xian has picked up a pocket Ibuki, presumably to deal with FANG's rougher matchups. Ibuki, like Chun-Li, is a character who seems very strong on paper, but hasn't picked up results yet. However Ibuki doesn't just need execution, she needs some serious resources that she has a very hard time building. Ibuki needs time to build her very powerful V-Trigger, time to find the right setup, time to throw and restock her kunai, and time to build the meter she needs to extend her combos with EX attacks. Ibuki is a strong character in a slower game, but SFV isn't very slow right now. Xian tried her out against MindRPG in the last game of their Grand Finals set, and while he put a dent in MindRPG's Necalli, Ibuki jsut doesn't cut it against the hardcore rushdown Necalli brings to the table.
Interestingly, Thum "MindRPG" Homchuen also has an M.Bison he was playing earlier in the tournament, but swapped to Necalli after Xian sent him to the losers' bracket. Bison is another relatively weak character who can bulldoze his way to victories if he manages to get the resources he needs, but Necalli does it all better for now. In fact, Necalli aside, the whole Top 8 was full of lesser-played characters that conventional Street Figther wisdom says shouldn't work. Vega and Cammy took third and fourth, but then we saw another FANG, a Dhalsim and a Zangief. That's a pretty decent example of the game's balance, but it also goes to show that with all the top Asian players attending the Topanga Charity Cup this weekend, the second tier of Asian players are free to experiment with stranger picks and see how far they can go. Xian may have won, but he won with two strange character, in a bracket full of other strange characters. It'll be interesting to see if that Ibuki can keep up though.
Online Ranking Event: Latin America 1:
Latin America is something of a forgotten region on the Pro Tour this season. Unlike last year, we haven't seen a huge breakout star like Keoma "Kemoa" Pacheo put the region on the map, and just like last year, foreign players are invading the region to take all their points. Since the online event is closed to just residents of Latin America, it should give us a slightly better look at what the region's top players look like, but again, without the knowledge of who the breakour stars are, they mostly look like a list of player names.
Antonio "Kusanagi" Medrano, who won the tournament, comes from an anime fighter background with results in Guilty Gear, Melty Blood and Under Night In-Birth. He was also on Patrick "DaFeetLee" Lee's early list of Street Fighter V players to watch out for online. Otherwise though? He placed third at Japnoawa X, behind Chris T and Julio Fuentes, which is quite good, considering he beat out Eduardo "PR Balrog" Perez and Brentt "Brenttiscool" Franks. Kusanagi plays a very, very aggressive Karin, and seems to like mid-screen command dashes to close distance combined with heavy application of Karin's V-Reversal to push off opponents' pressure. It's very different from the high-tempo midrange styles we've seen from Justin Wong and Kenryo "Mago" Hayashi, but it worked, particularly against his Grand Finals and Winners' Semifinals opponent Eltigre.
Eltigre's Laura play was equally aggressive, and he did very well keeping his calm while on the defensive. Even in the very first round of their Grand Finals set, Eltirgre made sure to get small counter-hits here and there to keep the life even during Kusanagi's rushdown. Kusanagi took the set 3-1, but the individual rounds were often very close, despite Laura's struggle against characters with strong pokes like Karin. Eltigre doesn't have much of a profile, at least not publicly, and it's hard to say how he'd perform at a major, non-online event. The Latin American season is far from over, but the region needs a hero soon if they want any representative at all at Capcom Cup.
Daniel Rosen is a news editor for theScore esports. He wants Puzzle Fighter to be on the Pro Tour. You can follow him on Twitter.