Day 4 – January 1, 2014
Last full day in Japan and first day of the new year. When it comes to getting the most fun out of limited time situations, I feel like EVO (and an overall hedonistic lifestyle) has given me a lot of practice. I naturally went back to Akiba to get some ST warm up games in for the day, but not focusing on it too much since there’d be a grand freeplay buffet later on. I tried a some Indian fast food for lunch, which might sound terrible on paper, but was actually executed quite well and I was happy with the meal. It was the last day to explore, so I took my time with looking around at all the shops and their vast, impressive selections.
Book Off is a store where they had something like video games on the first floor, movies on the second floor, trading cards on the third floor, books on the fourth floor, manga on the fifth floor and so on. My curiousity led me back to that alley where I heard the chiptune music playing.
The sign outside looked friendly enough.
A narrow stairwell took me upstairs and I started to see more and more video game-related posters and paraphernalia. I wondered if this could be the place…
You’ve probably seen a video on YouTube or pictures somewhere of a store filled with many floors-worth of old video games.
This was the place and I unwittingly stumbled upon it. Just as Book Off has certain floors dedicated to specific media and the arcades have floors dedicated to specific genres, Super Potato has floors dedicated to video games. Shelves and floors filled entirely with video games. A part of me, the old console gamer, wept. In another life, I would have had even more appreciation for all those games than I actually did while being there. Japan had these places I had only seen in my dreams or on YouTube and the forgotten lore of my brother’s game ‘zines. I didn’t have much money for splurging, but I was definitely buying something before walking out. On the floor with Playstation games, I believe the second, I searched for a game I never got to play. I loved the original, but I never had a chance to play the sequel, which is now worth a lot in English. It took me a long time to read and sort out the games since my knowledge of Hiragana is so rusty. But I did find it and bought the cheapest used copy among maybe three or four copies total, each varying in collectibility condition just as a memento. Suikoden 2 only cost me about $6.
On the top floor they actually had a small arcade with a lot of classic games. There was a lot of smoke, so I didn’t stay long. They actually had ST on there and some guy was clearing the game with Gouki. One or two cabs away from it sat Final Fight. I wanted to try and solo 1cc it with Haggar, but by the time I decided to do it and fished out a coin, someone else had hopped on. Oh, there was also a giant statue of Solid Snake near the door and by the snack counter. It was a beautiful place to stop by and I enjoyed my time looking around, thinking of all the memories I have playing games and seeing the old ones I recognized displaying their demo/attract modes. And they always had some video game music going on. I loved it. As I left that little arcade, I saw some gachapon machines and one of them was for Mother 2 (Earthbound). Several friends recommended Earthbound to me before I actually played it and the first time I played it I didn’t like the initial difficulty (maybe a biproduct of today’s plentiful market). But when I gave it another chance later on and played it all the way through, boy, that game made me cry. It’s definitely one of my favorites so I couldn’t resist dropping a ¥500 coin in. Five bucks is pretty steep for these keychains they were giving away, but this is Earthbound (and Japan) we’re talking about here. I gave the knob a twist and received my small, plastic egg. I didn’t open it and I still haven’t, but it’s Jeff. Jeff is the character I am probably most-similar to, though Poo is the one I like best (he’s like Ryu). I was satisfied with having spent (only) $11 and went on my merry way.
Nothing notable really happened until it was 7PM and time to hit up Mikado’s Â¥500 freeplay. I got there and, as Shu had prophesied the day before, there weren’t too many people. I guess a lot of people must have been all ST’ed out. Maybe there usually just isn’t a big crowd there unless a big tournament is coming up to encourage people to train. To be completely honest, I was getting a little ST’ed out, myself. But a chance to play Mattsun always something to be excited about. I arrived as they were changing the setting to freeplay and saw a sign-in sheet with the coin collection box next to it. I waited and watched a bit before rushing into things. I made it a point for Mattsun to see me as I stood watching the little CRT so I could sign in and drop my ¥500 coin.
Just as I saw him earlier in the day at Hey and throughout the previous days, Isaji Cammy was there. He was everywhere, always practicing. With the same red hoodie. I respect that hustle. A couple more players rolled in as time went on. Shin was one of them. But I saw a new face that I was certain I had seen on the ST Revival Bio page. I asked Mattsun who the man with the glasses was for confirmation. It was the grand combovideo wizard himself, TZW. I was really surprised and happy to see him there, playing on the ST freeplay on the first day of the year. His Guile wasn’t as annoying to fight as Kotaka Shoten’s, but his combos were definitely on-point. It was a pleasure to play against him.
I was determined to get good value out of that ¥500, so I played as much as I could against the few players that were there. TZW didn’t stay that long, but there was this guy playing Zangief (hold, black color). Goddammit if DJ v. Gief isn’t my favorite matchup in the game, but I could not fucking beat this guy. He gave me a lot of trouble with the okizeme option-select of cr. Jab tick into down+strong for either the abdominal claw grab or cr. Strong to beat dread kick. Roybisel taught me to just counter-throw that, but I was having a hard time with it. I had similar trouble in the same situation against Snake Eyez in the past. But even with Sim, this guy would always find a way in. His spacing and execution were too strong for me to handle. He must have had like a 50 game win streak on me by the time I got up and moved on. When I did finally stand up, I was trying not to make eye contact, but he looked over. Smiling, he simply said “sumimasen.” I could only laugh.
I took a long break before leaving and ate a lot of ice cream from the vending machine. I watched a lot of games and even Isaji had some trouble against that Zangief guy, though Cammy v. Gief is at least 8-2 in Cammy’s favor. The hours ticked down to a time when I had to leave to catch one of the last trains and make it back to Kiba in good time for some much-needed rest. But before I left, I looked at the glass case at the second floor’s counter and motioned to the clerk, pointing at the X-MANIA 7 DVD case proudly on display. It cost me about $30, but it’s certainly a souvenir worth having. It’s like six hours worth of footage. “The Big Time” the cover says. I had to have it. I said Sayonara to Shin and went down the stairs.
And that’s pretty much the trip. Regarding ST being a part of Japanese culture, one of the people standing around at Hey on my last day was some older lady with a small wheeled cart. She was watching the games and I was surprised when she sat down to play. She picked O. Chun and I wondered it she was Inro or something, but I think she was too old to fit the profile. She really was just some random old lady playing ST. The game itself is a cheap thrill and Street Fighter II has been an important part of my life.
It was my pleasure and honor to jam with the best. Now, I’ll indulge in some afterthoughts about Japan that don’t really fit anywhere else, but you’ll find some of my fighting game philosophy here, too.
One of my favorite little memories that keeps phasing in and out of my consciousness happened when I was sitting on a subway train. The doors opened for a stop and everything was calm, quiet. There was a guy sitting not too far from me who was packing up his stuff at a normal pace and then he stopped moving and making noise for a moment. Then, he abruptly bolted out of the train, suddenly realizing the train was at his stop. It was just one of those things that happens so quickly it almost doesn’t register, which is why I forget about it sometimes. I guess the absence of mindfulness from that guy’s action transferred over in a weird way. It’s also fun because I’m pretty sure I’ve seen this happen at least once before in my life and I’m sure I probably even did it myself (though on a bus). It was one of those things about civilized life that translates beyond language.
If I had only two words to describe Japan, they would be expensive and overstimulating. When I got back to Korea, I shared my amazement of Japan’s currency with a friend, who also recently went to Japan for the first time. He put it rather eloquently: The dollar equivalent is a coin because a dollar doesn’t mean anything in that country.
I saw some Japanese button mashing methodology that I first saw with Kusumondo at ToL. What they do is sort of scratch horizontally (left-right) the fingertips instead of the fingerprint area. I saw several players do this, including Mu, who did it for Dee Jay’s MGU.
One of my university professors liked to say, knowledge is provisional. I feel like many Japanese players approach the game in this kind of way. I’m not sure why this is the case. Part of it could be due to the overall older population of the playerbase who already know just about everything there is to know about ST. But at the same time, they have played each other so many times that they focus more on playing the player than the matchup. Playing in this manner develops more personal style than playing in a set way based on matchup.
In the end, it’s about how well you can play, but that conclusion can be reached in many different ways. Some people are like computers and try to mimic the game itself as such. Others read the opponent and others just play on instinct. It’s more than just playing in a trance and more than taking the time to evaluate every situation instead of just acting. It’s more than just playing with your head and more than just playing with your heart. A good player is capable of all of it along with some reflex and execution.
I know that I need to stop looking up to other players. It’s one thing to admire, but if I’m always looking up I’ll never rise above my plateau.
If anyone has questions, leave a comment and I’ll do my best to answer. But the best advice I can give is to go to Japan for yourself. Make the trip because your experience will be different than mine. I’ll be booking my next trip to Japan shortly. Look for me in the last Versus team battle of February 2014! In the words of DNGR S PAPERCUT from the Tournament of Legends I program,
Thank you for reading this.