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Super Turbo (SSF2X) in Tokyo, JAPAN

What follows is a write-up of my ST experiences while in Tokyo, Japan. Everything presented here is only my OPINION based on nine days of experience. Please do not take my account as fact because your experience in Japan may be completely different.
Minami-senju at sunrise.

To start, I’d like to give a huge thanks to damdai, nohoho, kuroppi, and t.akiba (in spirit) for helping me in locating all of the major ST arcades and providing the dates/times to go. I’d also like to thank mattsun, tonegawa, and sasori for being so patient, friendly, and welcoming despite my horrid attempts at speaking Japanese.

Time Table

[9/5] Arrived in Tokyo, Japan
[9/6] HEY Arcade (no event) and Nakano Royal (800YEN Freeplay)
[9/7] HEY Arcade (no event) and Mi-Ka-Do (no event)
[9/8] Mi-Ka-Do (Meet-up w/ Mattsun) and GameSpot Versus (Danisen Ranking Battle)
[9/9] GameSpot Versus (no event)
[9/10] HEY Arcade (no event)
[9/11] GameSpot Versus (50YEN for 2/3 Sets and East vs. West Team Battle)
[9/12] Mi-Ka-Do (500YEN Freeplay)
[9/13] Nakano Royal (800YEN Freeplay)
[9/14] Returned to Singapore

In-depth information (in Japanese) about the ST events held throughout the week can be found here.

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Arcade Information

H[irose]E[ntertainment]Y[ard]

Location: Akihabara
Event(s): None that I know of
QUICK: Constant competition, an extremely cheap price (10YEN/play) for ST, and you can catch some of the best shooter and beat-em-up players I have ever seen. However, there was only a single ST machine, and the player skill level was not very consistent the times I went.

HEY, where are you?

HEY is a great place to get acquainted with the arcade culture in Japan. Although my expectations were set high with regards to the skill level of the players in Japan, HEY did serve the purpose of teaching me the standard arcade etiquette (with some earlier insights from kuroppi). Basically, when you lose, get up and stand away from the machine for a bit (far enough to allow someone to sit down without bumping into you). Someone waiting will sit down or someone will come from the other side (if you want to be nice); otherwise, you simply sit back down and play. It’s pretty simple, but I had to get used to getting up when no one was around.

Much of my time at HEY was actually spent watching people lay the beatdown in Warriors of Fate, Dungeons & Dragons: Tower of Doom, DoDonPachi, Gundam ExtremeVS, and various hella old side-scrollers (never seen any of these games before) rather than playing ST, so I’m sure I missed out on some strong opponents while I was there.

Royal

Location: Nakano
Event(s): 800YEN Freeplay on THURS @ 19:00
QUICK: Small arcade but good competition on Thursdays. There were three H2H ST setups and quite a lot of room despite the size of the arcade. Normal price is 50YEN/play.

Nakano’s exterior and Super Turbo setups.

Unfortunately, Royal did not have many players show up for the Thursday freeplay nights, but the competition that did show up was pretty fierce. Nakano Broadway, where the arcade is located, is also a very cool place for shopping if you’re into hobby related stuff or anime. I did not go to this arcade on days other than Thursday, so I cannot really comment on the arcade’s off-hour competition. Much like HEY, it is a really nice place to get acquainted with the culture, and the atmosphere is very nice.

GameSpot Versus

Location: Nishi-Nippori
Event(s): 50YEN for 2play w/ East vs. West Team Battle on TUES ALL Day and Danisen Ranking Battle on various Saturdays @ 17:00
QUICK: Decent sized arcade with frequent tournaments and gatherings for various fighting games. ST price is 50YEN/play on off-days and 50YEN/2 plays on Tuesdays (you play a 2/3 match with your opponent). It’s not a huge arcade, it can be a bit cramped on event nights, but the competition is extremely strong for every game there.

(1) A wild Ohnuki was spotted at Nishinippori Versus while looking at its cellphone. (2) Stream station and main H2H setups.

Versus is a very nice arcade with great competition on the event days (which are frequent themselves). Some notables that I ran into here were Abebin, Sasori, Kurahashi, Hanashi, Hakase, Muneo, VIPER, Hiroyan, Nuki (who was playing 3rd Strike), and Shin, and that’s only a few of the players that were there. On the day of the team battle (50YEN/2 plays) there were eight H2H setups that had a top player on each machine, and for the danisen there were six H2H setups which were being cycled at a fast pace. Normally, there are only three H2H setups that are actually empty, but event days are truly amazing and intensely fun. I feel like this was the best place for satisfying the hardcore competitive aspect of my ST adventure in Japan.

On a side note, make sure you are clear in what character you’ll be playing in the team battle; otherwise, you might end up going first against an opponent you aren’t ready to face.

Mi-Ka-Do

Location: Takadanobaba
Event(s): 500YEN Freeplay on WED @ 19:00
QUICK: Amazing competition on Wednesdays and the AMAZING Mattsun on non-event days (whenever he is working). The price is 50YEN per play, and there are normally two H2H ST setups (seven setups on Wednesdays). Also, it seems like there is a tournament everyday for different individual fighting games (Melty Blood and Guilty Gear the two off-days that I went).

A vast jungle of Super Turbo machines along with a stream commentated by Yoshiwo and Tonegawa.

Much like HEY, Mi-Ka-Do is very spacious and houses a ton of old school games. The competition didn’t seem as regular here as it was at HEY, but on Wednesdays it is awesome. They put ST into seven H2H cabinets and all of them had players. Here are some of the players I encountered while at Mi-Ka-Do: YuuVega, Tsuji, Aoki Cyclone, Sasori, Mattsun (duh), ryu, TZW, Yoshiwo, Tonegawa, Nakamu, Tsunoppi (kuroppi’s half-brother?), and VIPER. Keep in mind that this was only a small percentage out of the players there.

Mi-Ka-Do is a great place to go for serious competition and a truly intense ST experience. They throw a single-match, single-elimination tournament while streaming the event, and there seems to be some kind of ranked FT10 series between those who have won the tournament that night and previous nights. I may have misunderstood this though. Also, for those interested, Mattsun sells DVD copies of every X-Mania that has been at Mi-Ka-Do (2000YEN/2-Disc Copy or 9000YEN/24-Disc Collection).
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Overall Impressions

When it comes to the strength of the players in Japan I felt like they had an extremely superior level of knowledge in terms of match-ups and character understanding. As a result it appeared that they would play at a faster pace with much more aggressive tactics (especially when it comes to Dictator). An example is their usage of safe-jumps and cross-ups. These two things were a staple of any knockdown situation with any character. Guile players would ALWAYS do ambiguous jump Short cross-ups or safe-jump Jab setups, Ryu players would do safe-jumps with Forward or Jab depending on the character with almost no cross-up attempts (unless it was a TATSU), and Dictator was just ridiculous. This coupled with an extremely strong understanding of their main characters made winning consistently against the veteran players nearly impossible (for me).

Sasori: X-Mania XIII champion and the artist formerly known as “danpei”

Character usage in Japan was very hard to judge in such a short amount of time with the few places I visited, but I was very much surprised at the amount of Dictator players. He easily took the majority when it came to most popular character in my experience there. And the Japanese flying ability with Dictator was ridiculous at even the most average level. While average Dictator players didn’t have the strategy of their stronger counterparts, their flying, execution, and bag of tricks were just as vast and were extremely spot-on.

Nevertheless, despite the amount of Dictator players between all four arcades, YuuVega seemed to be on a level all his own. His flying was on crack, every button was a mix-up, and he had some serious footsies that could not be cracked by many of the Mi-Ka-Do players.

Mattsun alongside “The Beast” YuuVega.

It seemed that their strength boiled down to character mastery. Most of the players in my experience only play the metagame that is present when you’re reaching a master understanding of your character (counters, combos, match-ups, etc.). And I believe that it’s due to the amount of players that have reached this level that the team tournament format is much more popular. Team tournaments allow players to compensate for extremely bad match-ups, get more matches, and can facilitate the different types of mastery each player has achieved. For example, when I asked how Sasori’s team managed to win X-Mania, I was told that Sasori is extremely strong at a particular match-up while Sashishi was strong at an opposing match-up, so they could compensate for each other’s weaknesses. Another example is when I asked Sasori about his view on the Ryu vs. Zangief match-up. He said that when he plays against Pony, it’s 8-2 or 7-3 in his favor; when he plays Gunze, it’s around 9-1 in his favor; but when he plays Mayakon, it’s 10-0 in Mayakon’s favor.

In terms of the differences in the ST culture of Japan, I found that there wasn’t much of a cutthroat competitive atmosphere. Although there were tournaments and epic team battles, it never felt like anyone was really ambitious about winning, and almost everyone seemed in good spirits during and after their matches (win or lose); everyone seemed to just gather to enjoy the game with people who share a similar hobby.

TZW supporting the game he broke so many years ago with a VHS tape and a controller.

To summarize, the trip was short and sweet (unlike this write-up). It was very enlightening to see the way the Japanese players take on this timeless game, but it was equally saddening that I could not spend enough time to get a true understanding of the ST culture. However, I was very happy to be a part of the ST scene for the limited amount of time that I had. Everyone was VERY friendly and welcoming, especially the arcade operators (Mattsun, the guys at Versus, and the guys at Nakano), and it was truly a blast to be a part of an arcade culture that really appreciates the freedom to play these games and enjoy them in the company of others.

I’ll be back. -Otoko no Mafin

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