As the fighting game community grows, the level of competition increases. New faces enter the scene constantly and keeping pace with not only the meta, but the players themselves, proves to be an endless race. To stay above the rest, snap adjustments are in order, especially when the chances of making it into the finals are minimal.
The arena for the Street Fighter 5 Capcom Pro Tour certainly has a different look; this year Capcom has been forced to host regional online events as an alternative circuit. The first place winners of each tournament land a seat at Capcom Cup 2021, while the rest get nothing – a change from the points system normally run. Even with that slim margin of chance, Daigo ‘The Beast’ Umehara came prepped and prepared.
If you’ve kept up with his streams, it’s clear what Daigo does with his daily duties. When he’s not drilling out minute things like character-specific whiff punishes in training mode, he’s nabbing opponent's ranked points and running Battle Lounge based sets with the intent of improving everyone’s knowledge. His dedication to truly understand the game is at a level few could attain – all the more impressive when you consider that at 39, he has well over a decade on most of his rivals.
He'd need every ounce of the abilities gained during his historic legacy to make it to the top of the Capcom Pro Tour East Asia 1 bracket this weekend. Winning meant entrance to the Capcom Cup finals. Second and beyond would receive nothing. To make matters even more dire, dozens of hungry top-level warriors from the region were gunning for that singular spot.
"Those sloppy techniques will never get the job done, soldier!"
The start of the tournament was clean for Daigo. Delivering several 2-0 losses to multiple players on his way, he met his first resistance when Shuto and his Urien stepped up to the plate during Top 16 Winners' Side. Surviving any and all Aegis Reflector V-Trigger 1 mix-ups and employing his signature pressure, he came out on top in the very last round of the set. His reward would be to face Hajime ‘Tokido’ Taniguchi the next day.
The two have had something of a rivalry that has yet to diminish. Prior to the tournament, Tokido and Daigo ran a long set with their main characters. Daigo’s Guile demolished the demon that is Tokido’s Akuma in a 10-0 win. On the day, the stars aligned for a rematch between the two favourites and Tokido would be forced to show off the results of his training since his deafening loss.
The two faced off in Winners’ Semifinals, as Tokido began to pepper Daigo with dozens of medium punches, but Daigo solidly swung the round back in his favour. The next go, Tokido was finally able to tie things up by cornering Daigo and allowed no escape. In the final round, Tokido attempted another push to the other side of the screen, but Daigo used an EX Flash Kick to phase through a Raging Demon and punished him for his demonic pursuit.
Desperate to stay afloat and not sink to Daigo’s strategies, Tokido cycled through his offensive options and landed a critical art to tie up the matches between them. Then, something happened. Daigo’s whiff punish ability – the one he practiced so tirelessly – came into play. Deft usage of Guile’s buttons in conjunction with the heavy zoning from the character’s Sonic Boom move, gave him another match. Daigo increased the aggression like a beast, finding the right moments to throw out reversals, and made Tokido crack. His rival would be put into the Losers' side of the bracket and The Beast would move closer to the finale.
This was the fabled Daigo that many were excited to see and also scared to face. Fighting as if his prime never left, he proceeded towards Hyungsuk ‘Verloren’ Kong and his precise Cammy tactics. Though the first round was in Verloren’s hands, it set began slipping away from him once Daigo sniffed out many reversals from the Cammy player and landed critical art after critical art. The damage was just too much and Verlon quickly fell in a 3-0 Winners’ Finals. Daigo sat in the winners’ side of the bracket, waiting for his last opponent in the Grand Finals. Based purely on his play, it looked like the tournament was his for the taking.
Few could have seen which challenger would emerge to face him from the Losers' side. While rematches were desired by the viewers, Keita ‘Fuudo’ Ai halted the advancement of both Tokido and Verloren. Running the newly buffed Poison, Fuudo’s run was eye-opening. He was routinely known for just falling short of winning tournaments, but recently started breaking that curse. No longer attached to such a concept, his progress throughout the bracket served as a reminder. It mattered little that he would have to take two sets – one for a reset and one to finish off Daigo – for victory. Fuudo was confident and equally prepared.
Daigo started off strongly, taking the first game after a see-saw of a battle. But things went awry in the second match with a mistake in calculation. Not being able to go for the kill after stunning his opponent, the Beast was befuddled and Fuudo took advantage of the situation. From there, a constant back and forth occurred, as the two traded rounds and matches between each other. Fuudo, however, was able to drag Daigo down into the depths with a reset bracket.
Now, it was looking more and more like either top tier player could take it. Daigo had to make the adjustments and slow down Fuudo’s moment. But the trend of trading rounds started up again, as Fuudo capitalized on missed reversal EX Flash Kicks and going for the maximum amount of damage from a critical art and V-Trigger combination.
Able to keep pace, Daigo took the set to the absolute limit. Even with adept reactions to the Sonic Booms, he couldn’t stop the constant damage from the zoning and took the first round. From there, Daigo went into the next round strongly and took a commanding lead. Making Fuudo look helpless, the Beast bared his fangs as he finished Fuudo with a flashy critical art. There was no better way to land his spot at Capcom Cup 2021.
Since the start of the Capcom Cup Pro Tour, Daigo hasn’t missed a single one. A circuit’s end without the most legendary fighting game player just wouldn’t feel right. And with his participation in the East Asia tournament, he’s locked himself in for another ride.