Apart from the main stage games, Evo 2015’s biggest draw was definitely the American qualifiers held for Arc System Works’ upcoming ARC REVOLUTION CUP. While the lead-up to this event was met with some drama concerning team composition and passports, the tournaments themselves were about as exciting as they could get, thanks in part to the team who eventually qualified in Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN-.
With the veteran Midwest team already crowned in everyone’s minds, a ragtag trio of players from other games showed that they had come to play. Team Spooky’s Lord Knight, 2GB Combo, and GCYoshi13 of Marvelous Customs, the lattermost of which singlehandedly secured their victory in grand finals, brought a unique kind of hype to the proceedings that will hopefully carry over to Japan.
We recently reached out to this team and conducted a lengthy roundtable interview, discussing numerous topics pertaining to their history with the game, how they formed their team, and more. Check it out below.[hr]
Was there any particular reason this team was formed?
GCYoshi: So, I think I was the one to like, scramble to make a team initially. I have two local players in my NorCal scene that I wanted to form a team with: our local Leo player Orion, who is incredibly good, and Pain, but their plans fell through due to the passport issue. I was able to replace Orion with 2GB, who did have a passport, and Pain was still up in the air. Then, in the meantime, there was the issue with Zidane’s team regarding MarlinPie’s passport. So, I think ultimately Zidane quit the tournament while MarlinPie wasn’t eligible anymore, so that left Lord Knight to scramble for a team. Pain said he couldn’t actually make it anymore, so I was like why not get Lord Knight, let’s ask him. So I did, he said yes, and that’s pretty much how our team was formed. It was kind of last minute, and the stars just happened to align, and things worked out.
Lord Knight: Yeah, that’s pretty much what happened. My team…literally when the event was announced, I asked MarlinPie and Zidane to team with me, so when that whole issue with the, “What does a US resident mean?” came up, I was like, shit. As soon as MarlinPie couldn’t play, Zidane was saying, “I’m not trying to play, dog,” and I was like, uh, I don’t have a team, I don’t wanna play. After that, three people ended up asking me to team. GCYoshi messaged me, and I didn’t know he played Guilty Gear really. I just knew people said his Bedman was good. 2GB played Venom, and he’s usually pretty good at anime, so I thought these two might be good. But these other guys could be the god, I don’t know, I’d never seen them play. I ended up asking Zidane who I should team with and he said, “Definitely GCYoshi and 2GB.” A definite is a pretty confident answer, so I went with them.
2GB Combo: When Arc Revo was announced, I wasn’t too focused on Guilty Gear. I was still just playing Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late. I was playing Guilty Gear more because I switched to Venom and found it fun, but I wasn’t really active in looking for a team. So when our Leo player said he couldn’t make it, I was like well, sure, I’ll just join in. It worked out pretty well.
When you guys were getting ready to play at Evo, How did you feel? Were you confident you could take it all the way, or were there certain teams that were really scary?
2GB: I actually thought our chances were pretty good. I thought the scariest team was gonna be Zidane, Lord Knight, and MarlinPie easily, but that team wasn’t there, and I thought our chances vs. Midwest were pretty good because of Bedman.
GC: I kinda went into the whole tournament with a blank slate, because I didn’t really know how good people were. Because I’m not very well acquainted with the anime scene overall, coming from mostly a Capcom scene, so I just said whatever works. I have two good people with me, that alone is enough. I’ll just play my best and see how that goes.
LK: So, like I said, I made my [initial] team pretty quickly, so we were actually strategizing a lot and wanted to win. On the original team, I would definitely say I was the weakest link, because Zidane only entered two majors and he got like first and second, and you know MarlinPie won a couple. But that was kind of at that April-ish time where I was really struggling with the game, and so I was playing with them a lot, like way more then I was before. I started doing a lot more research on the game. We were thinking that the scariest team from our perspective would be the Midwest team, but because we had Leo, Zato, Millia…if something happened to Zidane (that team was all bad matchups for Leo), having Zato and Millia behind him was fine.
When that team was dissolved and I joined this team, I was thinking I’ll try to make top four, and if we make the finals, let’s just see what we can do. I thought Midwest was really scary for this team, because Bedman vs. Zato, Faust, Venom…I didn’t see those as good matchups for him. 2GB, I know of him as a good player, but I don’t know how he feels about certain characters. So I was thinking I might really have to be the clutch on the team if it comes down to it, but GC just messed them up.
GC: Well you were really clutch against r0b0t, that was the one we needed the most, that guy was terrifying.
LK: Yeah, as far as in the actual tournament, I was just telling you guys about the players, and when it was down to me I thought, “Well, I can beat them in first-to-one, I think.”
2GB: I think if I had to fight the Midwest team, the only person I might have been able to beat in first-to-one would be ElvenShadow, because I don’t have any experience in the mirror or really that much against Zato, but I do play some Faust. I do think, having played Yoshi a lot before, I think his style just really works against Guilty Gear players. I thought our chances were good because A) people don’t know the Bedman matchup, and B) Yoshi’s style really works against some of the OG Guilty Gear players.
GC: It’s pretty random.
LK: We were talking about this the other day over here. The older Guilty Gear players (not all of them, but a lot of them) probably play more on instinct rather than research, so my thought was either Yoshi gets fucked up or he runs through them; it’s going to be one or the other. Well, we saw how that went, they don’t know Bedman that well.
So how did you all feel when it came down to GCYoshi OCVing Midwest at the end, with you guys winning the trip?
2GB: Oh, I just couldn’t stop shaking; I was super excited. I had to play Under Night right after, and I kind of just lost (laughs).
LK: I mean, I’m pretty happy. I’ve gotten to go twice now, it’s good. [Midwest] looked so messed up, like holy shit. They literally slept on our team, that was the best part. Quite literally they slept on our team. It was a good win.
GC: I was feeling okay about it. The first thing on my mind after that happened, was that I probably needed to get back to my Marvel pool. I immediately ran out to my Marvel pool, and I don’t care about Marvel anymore, but I almost beat Frutsy. Then I ran a train through losers until I ultimately got stuck and placed 13th in Marvel. Whatever, it’s a good run, I made it further than I expected.
As for the actual Guilty Gear grand finals, I felt pretty good. I didn’t actually pay too much attention to what my opponents were feeling, so I didn’t get to see the freeze frame for a good bit, I just got wrapped up in the hype. It’s gonna be nice being in Japan.
LK: The main thing was that BlazBlue was right before, and everyone honestly thought that team was gonna win.
LK: I was telling Lich that everybody was happy that they won, but it was kind of expected. In our case, I’m not sure people even had our team on the map really.
2GB: I think most people just expected Midwest to win after your original team dropped.
Is there anything in particular you are doing in preparation to go to Japan? Any teams you’re worried about fighting early on?
(some discussion figuring out brackets)
LK: Our first two rounds aren’t that bad, but then after that, once we get out of that it gets really hard. If we do get out of that, I should say.
GC: It is a possibility that our third opponent can be Ogawa’s team. He’s with Koichi as I-No, and I’m pretty sure the third player is a Ky.
2GB: Ohhhhhh that makes a lot more sense.
LK: Me personally, I’m going to a point before where I was talking about how Yoshi plays Bedman, so he can mess some people up. I play Millia, yeah she’s mad good, but everyone knows how to fight Millia. Over here, everybody who plays BlazBlue and Persona and now plays Guilty Gear plays Elphelt or Ramlethal. I had a lot of problems early on in the game because people are doing all this stuff I had to figure out how to counter, while the Valentine players are doing all this stuff the old Guilty Gear players don’t know how to deal with, so it looked like they were doing a lot better. I did a lot of matchup research and asking people to play. I grinded a lot of specific matchups for the actual qualifier, and now for the actual tournament. I took it another step further after the qualifier. Last year [our BlazBlue team] lost in the first round, but it’s because we were super nervous. The team we were playing against was definitely beatable and we almost won, we just got really shaky at the end. I really wanna get past the first round, and I think we can. I shared my Millia matchup documents with these two; I normally don’t share those but I did because they’re my teammates.
GC: Your Bedman section is empty though (laughs). But, yeah. As for preparations for ArcRevo, I’ve been trying to grind it out more at my local hang out, playing against more people, and trying to get better fundamentals. I’m primarily working on blocking and when to Faultless Defense, and a lot of Guilty Gear specific fundamentals. I’m also practicing a lot of setups to remove bad habits, and netplaying, much to my dismay.
2GB: I’m mainly focused on the Sol matchup to cover problems with it. The past week I’ve been really researching that matchup. I think it’s going okay.
LK: I’ve been working on my personal bad matchups a lot too. There are sixteen Elphelts in the tournament; we don’t have to play against her that much, but there are Elphelt players in the United States, so I’ve been working on that along with others I struggle with. For the matchups we have, I played against Chaz’ I-No a lot yesterday, and that went really well. So I worked on I-No, and I’ve been thinking about how we should handle it with team order and stuff. Our team composition is really good against these first two teams. I’ve been thinking about it a lot.
How do you feel about the state of the competitive Guilty Gear scene in North America as far as tournament attendance and player skill are concerned?
GC: In terms of the anime community and how they support their competitive scene, I think they’re really quite passionate and it’s really nice. I do, however…hmmm, I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I guess the support for anime at major tournaments is really not that good, which kind of hurts it. There was a problem (and it was an honest mistake without any kind of malice) with Guilty Gear pools and the stream setup at Evo. Pretty much with the Smash players, there was just way too many of them, and the Guilty Gear players were shoved to the side. They were forced to watch matches with a phone just setup on the wall, and I think that’s outright ridiculous.
It’s nice that Guilty Gear had a good showing in top eight, I think that kind of publicity is good. As for local scenes, I think players should just show up more, keep doing what they’re doing, and see if new players can come along too. It’s pretty much staying with it, staying adamant, and continuing to go along with it and play the game.
2GB: I think the state of the anime fighting game community has gotten better over the last year; it’s certainly grown a lot and I think Guilty Gear helped with that. There are a lot of new players coming into the scene, so I think it’s at a good place right now. Specifically for our local scene, it has definitely gotten better in the past year. We’ve been playing twice as much this year compared to before. I think, personally, it’s been going well. There are still some problems, but it’s fixable.
LK: I think it’s going pretty well. I’ve played tournaments outside by Snapple machines, so Guilty Gear looks pretty good. If you asked me in like 2008-2009, “Is it gonna be this big?” my response would just be LOL. I know out of the more recent releases like Persona, BlazBlue: Chronophantasma, and Guilty Gear Xrd, they’ve each been larger than the previous one.
One thing I don’t like though is that we do kind of cycle through games often; it’s true that we do that. It’s a bit of a sticking point with international competition, because when those Japanese players come through they only play one game. When it’s somebody like myself who’s taken 4-5 games seriously and has had to do that process of starting over and over again…I’m not saying I don’t like it because I enjoy fighting games, but I’m really hoping with Guilty Gear it sticks. Guilty Gear was even twice as large as BlazBlue was last year. It seems like people are sticking with it and growing. Evo was good, I think we’re trying to blow up CEOtaku, and I think Guilty Gear, out of all the anime games that are played in the United States, probably has the largest passionate group, especially among older players since the series is so old.
2GB: I would agree with that. I do hope Arc System Works tries to push the release cycle closer to the Japanese arcade releases. I think they might be trying for that? I think the new generation might make companies prioritize consoles more. I know Capcom is already doing that with Street Fighter V’s international release. It would be nice if ArcSys would follow that and not make us wait six months to play Revelator.
GC: Yeah, because we’re starting to get into these cycles. We’re just getting the new BlazBlue, and very recently Japan just announced the next one after that, and people are like, “What’s the point, really?”
LK: I feel like it’s another business thing. They’re cycling around their own event right now. I was honestly hoping this event would be 1.0, and not be 1.1.
LK: It’s okay, I would’ve had Yellow Roman Cancel on my side. Anyways, I’m fine with 1.1 now. The main thing is that after Evo being so big and Guilty Gear selling better in the west than in Japan, I would hope they start paying more attention to the Western world.
Do you have anything you’d like to add about the types of support you’d like to see moving forward?
LK: People need to go CEOtaku, I think. That’s going to be important. I’m saying people, but I really mean East Coast people definitely need to go. I would hope people from Texas, Midwest, and East Coast go to CEOtaku cause it’s going to be a blow up if people don’t.
2GB: I definitely think people should support CEOtaku. I’m trying to go. I think if CEOtaku is a success, the anime fighting game community can gain a lot of good exposure. Support that.
GC: So, one complaint I do have about our local NorCal scene is that players are finicky about going to events that are, like, outside their comfort zone. Similar to how San Francisco has The Foundry, where they play Street Fighter and Smash, we have a place like that in San Jose trying out Guilty Gear. We don’t go to San Jose to play Guilty Gear generally, we go to a different area. One time during Fanime, San Jose was really close by, and I tried telling people this place is trying to host Guilty Gear in lieu of Fanime. People were generally finicky about it. “Ah, I don’t wanna pay the five dollars, why can’t we just stay in our hotel and play?” At that point, if I went to that place, I would probably have nobody to play with at that point. I’m probably going to make a bigger push for people to explore, or like just try out different events in general that are not where we usually play.
LK: And people need to love their game. With Guilty Gear, I think people truly love it a lot, and one fun part about playing it is everyone I talk to who plays it really enjoys it. But, I think the anime scene in general just hates on themselves too much. There’s lots of self hate, like with Persona; that used to be the case with BlazBlue as well. When BlazBlue came out, everybody was shitting on that and it took awhile to change. You don’t have to talk shit, just don’t play it. There are games I don’t like, I don’t talk bad about them, I just don’t play them. I think it’s really bad that people do that. When I’m with my boys, whatever, but I’m not going to get on Twitter and talk bad about the game. I know there are people who like the game a lot, I’m not going to do that to them. It’s not a good look. Opinions are cool, but why do that? When you’re just talking and getting a feel for the game that’s bad.
So, for Lord Knight and GCYoshi, I know this is your first Guilty Gear right?
LK: Yes, that’s correct. Actually, I think that’s all three of us?
2GB: I played a little bit of Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus R. A little bit. I would say this is my first actual time trying to learn a Guilty Gear.
GC: I think we’ve all dabbled but have never gotten serious.
Xrd is your first serious title in the Guilty Gear series, and now you’re representing America in ArcRevo. How did you you manage to get this far in this amount of time with the game? What was that learning process like?
GC: For what I did, I think I kind of settled in well with Guilty Gear because the game is generally fast-paced and has a lot of scramble moments. That’s pretty much the comfort zone of Marvel, where the neutral becomes very frantic and at some point you just say, “I’m going to hit this button and hope for the best,” which kind of helps me. Playing under stress and that kind of pressure isn’t too bad for me. Of course, when I started playing Guilty Gear I was really garbage. I was getting crapped on by everyone. I went online and I thought pretty much every character was broken. I was losing a lot, but I just kept practicing online, kept netplaying. I think netplay is a little bit underrated in the case of just learning the game. When I netplay I don’t intend to win, I intend to just learn, and I get a grasp of what people are doing that works, if what they’re doing makes sense, and see what a character’s general playstyle is. Of course, also playing my locals a lot, playing more, and just asking people what their approach is, how they feel about the game. Pretty much constantly talking to people is very, very helpful. Just rinse and repeat; being exposed to the game constantly like that got me to where I am now.
2GB: My time with Xrd is actually kind of weird. At first I was playing Millia, but I wasn’t enjoying it. I felt she was a bit too frantic in neutral, and I’ve been moving towards more defensive characters. I never really, like, practiced until around March, where I just decided to switch to Venom in preparation for 1.1. I thought he was just a cooler character. I switched to him before Final Round, and at that point I started playing the game more and more because I found it fun. But, most of my time was me getting mauled playing against Leo for fifty games straight. I would play Orion, he’d just unga me, and I’d be like, “Welp, alright, next game.” That’s what happened for about a month. I think I got better at dealing with that kind of playstyle. That switch to Venom really helped me want to play the game more. I started playing a lot, I go to every local. It’s fun.
LK: This game was really unique for me because it’s been awhile since I played a game where it’s…I know Xrd is new, but Guilty Gear is established and it’s based off Reload, so older players in our region have been playing it awhile. The last few games I played were brand new games, so because I already have skills as a fighting game player it’s pretty easy for me to learn and figure out my problems as I go while still staying dominant the whole time.
I picked Millia, like I said before, and everybody knows how to fight Millia. I actually struggled a lot when the game first came out. I felt personally, for my standards, that I was really inconsistent. I was all over the place, so I really had to step back and try to to solve my personal problems in the game. I think that’s the way you get good at fighting games in general, you recognize your problems and solve your problems. I don’t really see people doing that, like newer or mid-level players doing that. They just play, find setups, play more. But if you play and are satisfied with the status quo, you’re going to get better, sure, but you’re not going to get really good. Every time I had a problem, I would try to fix it.
Once the ArcRevo qualifiers were announced, I was really, really motivated; I was like, “This is what I need to do with Millia to be good with her, and this is how I’m going to go about it.” Definitely playing with my scene here in the Northeast helped a lot thanks to the super good players here. And, you guys know I’m a really big lab monster and video watcher, and luckily one of the best players played my character also.
2GB: I just want to add I was struggling with the game because I was trying to play like it’s Under Night, but that just definitely doesn’t work. In that game, you don’t want to press too many buttons. It’s better to just block until you have vorpal. In Guilty Gear, sometimes, you just have to do it, and it took me awhile to be okay with that again.
LK: I definitely feel the same way too. Persona was probably the most offensive game I had to play. With no good DP, I have to be content with just blocking and learning how to block properly. In Guilty Gear, offense is different, neutral is different, like everything is different. BlazBlue and Persona are kind of similar, so jumping to Persona from BlazBlue wasn’t hard since Persona is simpler at face value than Blazblue. Guilty Gear is much more complex. If somebody just lays the system mechanics in front of you, Guilty Gear is a way more complex game, and how you go about doing things is just different.
2GB: I would agree with that. I also think the way Guilty Gear players play, their game is way different than like BlazBlue and Persona players, so it does take awhile to get used to that kind of style. Everything is different than how a BlazBlue player would play. It’s easy to tell who is an OG Guilty Gear player and who comes from another game. I think it’s kind of interesting there are these different playstyles that are somewhat viable.
Do you have any last thoughts for the readers out there? Any special message to the BlazBlue team?
LK: I’m gonna plug CEOtaku, everyone should go, especially on the east coast. I’m also going to plug [Esteban Martinez]’ FGC film, I think it’s going to be out in September-October. You should watch it, I’m in it, so it’s going to be great. Everyone should watch it. My message to the BlazBlue team is don’t let Nakkiel decide the team order, because you will get messed up.
GC: Just wish us luck, we’ll do our best! To the BlazBlue team, they’re incredibly good. I came up with our name, The John Cena Cheerleading Squad, because we’ll be cheering for them essentially, but we’re trying to pull weight too!
2GB: Please support Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late, keep on playing that game, it’s good! To the BlazBlue team, I think you guys actually have a really good shot. Go all the way guys.[hr]
We will have a similar interview with the BlazBlue team ready later this week, so stay tuned!