Ben Kuchera of the Penny Arcade Report recently sat down to talk with Seth Killian about one of the most famous moments in fighting game history. Daigo’s full parry of Justin Wong in the EVO 2004 Third Strike semi-finals is a piece of gaming history even those outside of the community talk about, and it’s one of the defining moments of hype and excitement in the genre’s storied history. While it’s been talked about in great lengths times before, Kuchera and Killian explore the match with a fine-toothed comb, going over what led up to the famous parry and the thought processes of the players involved. Though the subject is a familiar one, the article is a fantastic read. Here’s a small portion to get you started, but definitely head over to Penny Arcade to read the whole thing.
Both players understood that Wong had to attack to win, and it was at this moment that Umehara found his strategy. “If you watch the moments preceding Justin doing the super, Daigo is moving at pace with him across the screen as Justin dances back and forth,” Killian said. “Daigo is mirroring his actions. That’s not an accident. Daigo has made his play.”
The bet was that Justin would “mentally break,” as Killian puts it, and go for the most obvious, flashiest way to end the match. Wong doesn’t need to land a solid hit to end the match, even the small amount of damage dealt by a blocked attack would be enough to gain the win. Chun-Li’s super would allow Wong to attack with a kind of safety net: as long as one of those kicks landed, even if it was blocked, Wong has won the match. It’s a safe, obvious play, and it lost Wong the match.
“Any time you have knowledge of what your opponent is going to do in a fighting game, that’s something you can leverage against them,” Killian said. “Daigo knows that Justin wants to close this out, and of course the most dramatic way to do so is to use the super. Daigo won’t have any life left to block it, and it’s quite difficult to parry.” So what happens next? “Justin cracks,” Killian explained.