Guilty Gear -Strive- not only had the monumental task of opening up for Red Bull Kumite this weekend, but also defining what international competition for the latest game in the storied franchise would look like. The result was something special, as the audience in Las Vegas was treated to some amazing upsets and an online legend making a statement on one of the FGC’s grandest stages.
Watch the Guilty Gear -Strive- Invitational at Red Bull Kumite
Pool A: Rise of the Off Meta Characters
The first match between Apologyman and Gobou set the tone for the pool; any competitor unprepared for the shenanigans of a Guilty Gear game would be punished. It was a wild 2-1 victory for Gobou in a matchup of Zato-1 vs Faust, with each working their offense through complex mixups and clutch item draws for Apologyman. The name of these initial games was understanding the situation and capitalizing on it and these two competitors showed that they were on top of their game.
The match for the other competitors in the pool, BNBBN and Skyll, showed us the opposite. It was a Sol vs Sol slugfest, with Skyll imposing his will on BNBBN by landing a blinding fast perfect on his opponent. In the fast and furious match of these offensive juggernauts, Skyll would be the victor by a 2-1 margin.
A match later, Apologyman made his way into the gauntlet ofSol players. His Faust was able to hold its own against the pressure of his first Sol opponent, Skyll. Even with some impressive defense, Skyll was able to find his way in, even getting a chance to use Apologyman’s own Faust tools against him a number of times. With Apologyman on the ropes, fate would eventually swing his way. An unfortunate wall splat that was a little too high for Skyll to capitalize on gave Apologyman enough of an opportunity to clutch the round on a sliver of health, putting him in a decent position to get out of the group.
Gobou, on the other hand, had the Sol competitors under his control. He completely oppressed BNBBN and Skyll in a pair of 2-0 victories, showing his familiarity playing against both Sol and his fellow Japanese competitor. He would be ready for the next challenge waiting in the semis. The Gobou win over BNBBN set up Apologyman for a chance to make it out the pool.
Apologyman’s opponent BNBNN has been his key rival in another anime fighter, Dragon Ball Fighterz. With a solid opening game, Apologyman was in the driver’s seat for the series. Unfortunately for the BNBBN eventually found cracks in the American player's game and secured the second game of the set, but it wasn’t enough. The great Faust experiment was too much for BNBBN to solve, earning Apologyman the victory over his DBFZ rival.
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Pool B: A Story of Upsets
Few could have predicted the results of Pool B. While there were questions about SonicFox’s ability to perform due to their recent lack of showings in -Strive-, the consensus was that Daru I-No would be in the grand final. Meanwhile, Diaphone’s early 2-0 victory over Uriel Legion was a very early hint at what his I-No would do to the competition. It was aggressive, visceral, and just showed the level of preparedness that the LCQ winner put in. Uriel Legion would have to already get himself into next gear to keep up.
Daru I-No looked to be on the way to the grand finals after his display of power over SonicFox. He wasted no time dispatching SonicFox's Leoand forcing them to switch to Jack-O. The switch allowed SonicFox to show some interesting set ups, giving the crowd a taste the uniqueness of the character choice. But ultimately, Daru proved himself to be ready for any surprises. The 2-0 victory for Daru was set.
The losses must have woken up Uriel Legion and SonicFox because their next match against each other was a back-and-forth bout. Uriel came out the gate swinging with Nagoriyuki, scoring a perfect round on SonicFox with the explosive character. SonicFox responded with a wave of aggression and left-right mixups to make havoc for Uriel to take a key game. Unfortunately for SonicFox, it wasn’t enough for them to get fancy with the mix. Uriel regained his composure for the 2-1 victory. That composure would carry over well in his next match.
But first, an I-No mirror match between Diaphone and Daru I-No.
The best I-No in the world, Daru looked flustered in a match against his own character. The wildly offensive display seemed to suit Diaphone better and the result was an astounding upset victory over the favorite. Daru was still in the mix and would only need to beat Uriel for a chance to get out of pools. But Uriel was not having any of it.
Daru I-No opened with a perfect in the match against Uriel Legion, but Uriel bounced back putting the pressure on Daru. Despite Daru fighting hard, a bad Burst ultimately sealed his fate, allowing Uriel to take the upset victory over the favorite. The field was now completely open as Diaphone took another clean 2-0 victory over SonicFox, securing a perfect 6-0 game record in Pool B.
The Gobou Show Commences
Coming into the semifinals, Gobou and Diaphone became the new favorites. But it was Gobou who showed in the opener that he was on another level. His level of control was immaculate, putting together a stylish prefect that showed his Zato weaving in and out of Nagoriyuki’s ranges. Gobou dominated the set 4-0. With Daru I-No no longer a threat, he could put on a wry smile at the prospect of potentially becoming champion.
Before he could be crowned king, his opponent needed to be determined. Apologyman and Diaphone gave us one of the closest matches of the night, a back-and-forth series that went the distance. Apologyman opened up by giving Diaphone his first game loss of the tournament. The two would trade victories throughout, with one game going to mere pixels for both competitors in favor of Diaphone. Locked at 3-3, an unfortunate Burst by Apologyman essentially sealed the deal for Diaphone to win the set 4-3. The grand finals were set.
For Gobou, it was time to retire Zato, the character that got him all the way to grand finals. It was GoldLewis’ moment now. The hefty alien-carrying character has been in the pocket of the world renowned Zato player and most believed that it wouldn’t be seen because the Red Bull Kumite stakes were too high. But Gobou was dedicated to having fun at this tournament.
Gobou opened up with a perfect round with GoldLewis, showing the world that this pick was not going to be a joke. Gobou continued his onslaught into another perfect taking advantage of the high damage and amazing reach of this eccentric character. Diaphone wasn’t ready to curl up and take the pressure for much longer, eventually getting a perfect of his own and showing signs of life. The lead was insurmountable though, leaving Diaphone unable to adapt.
Gobou would become the first Red Bull Kumite champion for Guilty Gear -Strive-, winning his first victory ever in an offline setting. All the reason to give the world a big smile.