Since moving to Canada in 2022 to compete in more North American tournaments, Masaya Chikamoto, better known as aMSa, has cemented himself as one of the best Super Smash Bros. Melee players in the world. Apart from hailing from a smaller region (competitively speaking), aMSa is unique among Melee players for one specific reason: he plays Yoshi.
For those unfamiliar with Melee, Yoshi is a character who is a little bit weird. For starters, they lack an up-b that can be used to recover, and instead have an especially high double jump that grants super-armour. Yoshi is also the only character that cannot jump out of their shield, making it more difficult to escape high pressure situations.
To put it bluntly, Yoshi is a character whose moveset, playstyle, and requisite technical skill mean that only the most dedicated of competitors will find success with them. For a player to use Yoshi at the highest level, they must be willing to go through years of losing to better characters, the ability to innovate in every matchup, and a refusal to pick a new main when things get tough.
Fortunately, aMSa is that person.
In 2022, aMSa set out on a warpath. His victory at The Big House 10, widely regarded as the most stacked tournament of all time, was the first time in Melee history that a Yoshi won a supermajor. aMSa would then repeat the feat, coming first at Apex 2022. Rounding out the year, aMSa was ranked 2nd overall, the highest he or any Yoshi has ever been placed. Heading into 2023, aMSa has his sights set on one singular goal: #1 in the world.
aMSa’s first time competing in North America
When this Japanese Yoshi player came to North America for Evo 2013, few expected him to do very well. Many were under the impression that mid-tier characters were viable in smaller regions but could never survive against the top players in North America. However, when aMSa took a game off of Mew2King, one of the five gods of Melee (considered to be the game’s preeminent mid-tier slayer), heads began to turn.
Despite the impressive display, many wrote off aMSa’s win as a gimmick, claiming that Yoshi, while capable of upsetting players who were unprepared for the character’s unique playstyle, could never defeat a top player who has studied the matchup. Still, aMSa placed 25th at the largest Melee tournament in history up until that point, and held his own against the upper echelon of players. If 2013 was aMSa’s debut, 2014 would be his breakout. When he returned a year later for the “Summer of Smash”, he put everyone on notice.
Leading up to Evo 2014, aMSa attended a series of tournaments to prepare. One of them was Kings of Cali 4, a national hosted by Team OXY in SoCal. Once again, aMSa would face off against Mew2King. The rematch was played on stream and the stands were packed with fans eager to see how things would play out this time.
During the opening stock of the set, commentator Lovage asks his partner, Scar, if he “sees aMSa taking a match”. Scar, hesitant to say what most were thinking, simply scoffed at the idea. This was Mew2King after all, the mid-tier slayer.
Against all odds, the next twenty minutes would bare witness to one of the greatest upsets in Melee history. aMSa mercilessly beat down Mew2King, taking a game off his Sheik on Final Destination (which was unheard of), forcing him to switch to Fox (a sign of desperation), and taking the set in 4 games. This win - one of the most viewed Melee sets of all time - cemented aMSa as one of the prestigious few to have ever defeated one of the Gods, and he did it with Yoshi. aMSa would go on to finish 5th at KoC4, just behind Lucky, M2K, Armada, and Mang0.
Throughout 2014, aMSa had other big wins over players like Fly Amanita, ChuDat and Silent Wolf. After a brief furlough at home, aMSa returned to North America for what was shaping up to be another one of the biggest Smash tournaments in history: Apex 2015. There, he would add to his list of wins by beating Zhu, Lucky, SFAT, and KirbyKaze. His run was finally cut short by then-number-1 Mang0 in a set that went to the very last game.
When all was said and done, aMSa finished 5th, just behind Hungrybox, Mang0, Leffen, Armada, and PPMD. To accomplish that feat, at such a stacked tournament and with Yoshi, was inconceivable to most, and yet aMSa had done it.
Becoming a Top 5 Melee player
Despite his success in North America, there was a looming question surrounding the Japanese phenom: how far could he go? One or two good placings with a mid-tier was certainly unusual, but many were expecting that top players could simply study the matchup and invalidate the upstart dinosaur. But was Yoshi as bad as people thought?
In 2013, the eleventh iteration of the Melee tier list had Yoshi ranked as the 8th worst character in the game: lower than Donkey Kong, Link, Ganon, and Mario.
By the end of 2015, Yoshi had climbed 6 spots to 12th out of 26. The credit for this change is directly tied to aMSa’s success at big tournaments. Regardless of whether the character is “good” by conventional standards, there was no denying tournament results.
As Yoshi’s reputation continued to grow, so too did aMSa’s. After being ranked 77th in 2013, aMSa steadily climbed to 22nd in 2014. Over the next few years, he notched wins against the likes of SFAT, Wizzrobe, Ice, Crush, and two more of Melee’s gods: Mang0 and Hungrybox. At the end of 2018, aMSa finally made it into the top 10, being ranked 9th overall. He followed that up by moving up to 7th in 2019 and looked poised to break into the top 5.
Unfortunately, 2020 pandemic travel restrictions momentarily shut down his ability to compete in North America, and he was forced to stop playing high level Melee for almost two years. While he would attend two Smash Summits and the Smash World Tour Asia East Finale (which he won), aMSa was unable to get reps against other pros while the rest of the world was quickly leveling up thanks to Slippi online play.
2022: aMSa moves to Canada
When 2022 dawned and travel restrictions began to loosen, aMSa had a single goal in mind: win a major.
As soon as he was able, he began making plans to move to Vancouver, Canada to attend more tournaments. Now, rather than flying in from Japan and attending events jetlagged and a little rusty, he would have a homebase in the Pacific Northwest where he could get solid reps on Slippi and solid sleeps as well. The world was about to see what peak aMSa could do.
Prior to fully moving, aMSa attended a slew of North American tournaments at the beginning of the year. At Genesis 8, aMSa showed that he was still an able competitor, finishing 5th. He followed that up with a 3rd place finish at Pound, and 4th at Battle of BC 4. After a minor dip at Get On My Level, he would make history by reaching grand finals at a major for the first time in his career.
Double Down 2022, hosted in Las Vegas, played host to some of the top players in the world - Zain, iBDW, Hungrybox, Fiction - and aMSa went the distance. Unfortunately, he fell short to current number 2 in the world, iBDW, after a heartbreaking misexecution led to his loss. Despite not winning, Double Down marked the first time that a Yoshi would compete in the grand finals of a major, and aMSa was pixels away from resetting the bracket.
Following his success in Sin City, aMSa traveled to the United Kingdom to compete at Fête 2, a European “super-regional” that featured the likes of Professor Pro, Mekk, Bbats, Pipsqueak, and Spark. Despite fierce competition, aMSa was considered the favourite by a wide margin. Coming through winners, aMSa prevailed and notched his best tournament win to date.
In the eternal words of TurnDownForWalt, “it’s not if, it’s when will aMSa win a major”.
aMSa wins a major
After a 4th place finish at Lost Tech City, aMSa would officially move to Canada. A week after his arrival, his apartment still in various stages of being unpacked, he would fly across the continent to compete at arguably the most stacked tournament in the history of Melee: The Big House 10.
With almost every top 100 player in attendance, the road to victory was littered with potential upsets, there would be no safe passage to grand finals. Survival meant working for every single win. For aMSa - the only Yoshi to make it out of pools - an objectivist would have deemed it an impossible tournament to win. The odds of a mid-tier character pushing through and beating a bracket full of Sheiks, Foxes, and Falcos, sounded like a fantasy at best. But for aMSa, who has been defying reason for nearly a decade, it was another day at the office.
Coming through winners, aMSa dispatched Krudo, KoDoRiN, Hungrybox, Soonsay, and Mang0 to secure his spot in winner’s side of grand finals. Waiting patiently, aMSa would once again face the player who cut his Cinderella run short all those years ago at Apex 2015: Mang0.
Early in the set aMSa took a convincing lead, closing out the first two games with little trouble. But Mang0 - a fifteen year veteran of the main stage - is well versed in handling pressure. He fought back and won two games in a row, and looked on the verge of resetting the bracket. After being beaten on Dreamland, many expected aMSa to choose the stage that he was undeniably most comfortable on: the aptly named Yoshi’s Story. Instead, aMSa did the unthinkable: he counterpicked Mang0 to Final Destination.
Conventional wisdom tells us that Yoshi is only a good character when they have access to platforms. It gives them more movement options, more mixups, and the ability to extend combos. Final Destination, with no platforms, takes all of these away. So not only did aMSa hamstring his own character, but he did so against Fox, one of the fastest characters in the game who thrives on FD. Putting his chips down, aMSa was betting the house on one thing: his punish game.
For years, there was one player who was said to have the “touch of death”. When a Fox or Falco was grabbed by Mew2King’s Black Marth on Final Destination, it was tantamount to having your controller unplugged from the console. Echoes of “ay, ay, ay” were heard through many venues as fox and pheasant alike were mercilessly thrown skyward. Maybe, when aMSa won that Kings of Cali set back in 2014, the touch of death was transferred, because for one beautiful game, aMSa gave us a glimpse at what perfection looks like.
After three back and forth stocks apiece, we have both competitors on their last life. In the immortal words of Bobby Scar, “it had to be last stock.”
After getting an early opening, Mang0 racked up a quick 50%, but aMSa answered back, knocking Mang0 to the ledge. Mang0 jumped from ledge and immediately began a firefox, hoping to catch aMSa off-guard. As Mang0 hurtled towards him, aMSa gambled the game on a parry: a 2-frame input which, if executed incorrectly, would allow Mang0 huge opening. aMSa wouldn’t be denied though. The parry landed, and aMSa proceeded to unleash one of the greatest sequences in Melee history.
For the first time in 21 years, a Yoshi had won a major. A Super-major. A tournament widely considered to be the most stacked in Melee history. He came from a smaller region, playing a character deemed too weak to compete at the top level, and managed to defeat some of the greatest players to ever touch a GameCube controller. aMSa is living proof that dedication and heart are that which comprise a champion, and did what many believed to be impossible: he won
The road to #1
Following his success at The Big House 10, aMSa would win two more huge tournaments: Apex 2022 and Ludwig’s Scuffed World Tour. Now that he’s succeeded in winning not one, but two Melee majors, aMSa has his sights set on a new goal: #1 in the world.
Living in Vancouver, he’ll be able to travel to more events, and train with some of the best players around. On his 2023 tournament slate, he’s already registered for Canadian majors like GOML and Battle of BC. If he wants to achieve his goal, he’ll need to continue winning tournaments, but it’s not hyperbole to say that a Yoshi might just win the title in 2023. It won’t be easy, players like Jmook, iBDW, Mang0, Hungrybox, and Zain are all contenders as well, but if anyone has the drive and ability to make it happen, it’s aMSa and his red Yoshi.