Braving the Midwestern chill, last weekend saw the first major battle of the ongoing Super Smash Bros. for Wii U Civil War, as players from all around the world gathered in Ann Arbor for Frostbite 2017. Many Japanese hidden bosses made Frostbite their first out-of-country event and with the Midwest, East and West Coast coming to battle, this tournament was set to be a landmark occasion.
The Gatekeepers Come Forth
With a significant number of PGR players attending Frostbite, this event earned itself a prestigious A Rank on the PGStats Tournament Tier System. Acting as a great place to rack up wins for the next round of the PGR, stakes were quite naturally high, with top 20 PGR players in the mix alongside some of Japan’s most skilled competitors. With such a confluence of talent garnering the majority of attention, it was only natural that some players outside of that upper tier would be lying in wait, primed to cause some upsets
If the past six months of Smash 4 have taught people anything, it’s that nothing should ever be assumed—especially during pools. The upsets started strong, with InC|Wadi sending Ranai, one of the Japanese juggernauts, into Losers with a clean 2-0 victory. Japan got off to quite the shaky start in pools, with LG|Abadango losing to MD/VA’s own Black Yoshi—who actually plays Bayonetta—with another 2-0. Fellow MD/VA player Seagull Joe continued the trend, beating Japan’s and potentially the world’s best Link player T 2-1. Seagull Joe’s pool was home to another major upset, as Michigan’s own Komota was able to triumph over C9|Ally, with Kirby no less. Komota couldn’t quite believe the win himself, looking shell-shocked as his friends rushed to the stage to congratulate him. This match set the tone of the tournament perfectly, with there being several of these astounding moments as the weekend wore on.
— Yahoo Esports (@YahooEsports) February 25, 2017
The New Heroes of Japan
While players like Ranai and Abadango grappled with early trips to the Losers bracket, the rest of the foreign cohort picked up the slack and kept the country’s hopes alive during pools. KEN, Shuton and tsu—all first time competitors at a US major—made it through in Winners, while tournaments mainstays 2GG|komorikiri and DNG|Kameme joined them in the upper bracket. Despite mixed performances during the first day, Japan rallied themselves to defeat North America in Crews. The whole crew battle was one of the best seen in Smash 4 history, with most fights being evenly matched and momentum constantly shifting throughout the two hour long battle. Ranai and komorikiri were able to regain control by the end though, winning with two stocks to spare.
While successful in the crew battle, Ranai had a lot more trouble in Top 48. He unfortunately ran across Ally for his first match, losing to the Canadian Mario 3-1 and going out at 33rd. Ness main taranito would fall to DarkAura while Japan’s own Greninja Some went on an absolute tear through Losers’. Some beat Fatality 3-0, followed by a skin of the teeth victory against finisher CaptainZack and then a 3-1 win against WaDi. Some would unfortunately fall short of Top 8, losing to Shuton’s Olimar 3-0 and earning ninth. For his first US trip and being ranked only 42nd on Japan’s own Smash 4 Power Ranking, many will be looking out for this ninja frog at future tournaments, both home and away.
Both komorikiri and Abadango would go out at an uncharacteristically low 17th place, falling foul of Zinoto and Echo Fox|MVG|MKLeo respectively. For Abadango, his 17th place can be attributed to Kameme’s storming success in Winners, where the Megaman earned a historic 3-1 win against MKLeo before losing to Tsu’s Lucario.
The Canadian Defender
As player after player from Japan fell into the Losers bracket, a large majority of them were put in the path of a certain plumber. Fired up by his early trip to Losers, Ally fell upon the Japanese in Losers’ bracket like an avenging spirit, furiously upsmashing any his way. Following his first win against Ranai, Ally defeated KEN 3-2, Japan’s best Rosalina Kirihara 3-1, Kameme 3-1 in an Evo 2016 runback before finally losing to Shuton’s Olimar 3-1. Combined with his win against T in pools, Ally took out a grand total of five separate Japanese players during his Frostbite run. Japan better be on guard if Ally decides to take a trip to the East sometime this year.
His final match versus Shuton match is a must watch for anyone looking to improve their defensive play in Smash 4, with Shuton setting up a moving wall of Pikmin to lock down Ally. Shuton’s constant bulwark of hitboxes countered Ally’s aggressive approach, punishing his tactic of baiting out unsafe jumps with erratic movement. Combined with the work done by the Japanese Duck Hunt trio Brood, You3 and Raito, Japan has built a style of defensive play which is actually exciting to watch. Expect more Olimars on For Glory in the next week or so.
Team Ally and Team ZeRo were in constant conflict during Top 48, with players from each side trading blows. Round one of Top 48 saw each team level pegging, with both teams knocking an enemy player into the lower bracket. There was even an unfortunate team kill, with MVG|Salem sending komorikiri plunging into Losers’, following a fractious five game set. Winners’ Round 2 would see Team ZeRo land two crushing blows against Team Ally, with TSM|ZeRo just clinching a 3-2 victory over Dabuz while NRG|Nairo chalked up a 3-1 win over RvL|Mr. E. With Salem beating Shuton 3-1 to reach Top 8, it would be an all Team ZeRo Winners’ Side, while the remnants of Team Ally languished in Losers’.
Losers’ was rife with teamkills, with CLG|VoiD beating MKLeo with a 3-1 victory. After nearly defeating the Mexican swordsman at both ZeRo and Genesis Saga, VoiD may finally be seeing the tide turn in his favour. Following a victory over komorikiri, Zinoto was forced to fight two of his Team Ally compatriots in a row, defeating Mr. E 3-1 before losing to Dabuz 3-0. Zinoto certainly enlivened the Frostbite crowd, with his boisterous “ANTi Sucks!” chants riling up the audience and building up the rivalry between both sides.
Dabuz did take out a few fair members of Team ZeRo in Losers’ though, eliminating VoiD 3-1 and then Salem 3-0. He would then have to fight the chief lieutenant of Team ZeRo, NRG|Nairo, in Losers’ Semis which would end in yet another victory for Team ZeRo. By the end of this first major battle of the Civil War, not only had Team ZeRo won, but ZeRo himself had triumphed as the grand champion of Frostbite. His path to victory was by no means easy though, thanks to the efforts of a certain Japanese Lucario.
A Boy Named tsu
Despite a fourth place finish at Tokaigi and a respectable 23rd position on Japan’s Smash 4 Power Ranking, you’d be forgiven if you had not have heard of tsu before Frostbite. While known as Japan’s best Lucario—and unhelpfully sharing his name with a notable Captain Falcon player—tsu hails from Kanto which contains players like Kameme, Kirihara, Nietono, Umeki and Abadango to name but a few. With a fair amount of Japan’s internationally known top talent concentrated in one area, it’s understandable that tsu may not be as famous as he probably should be.
By the end of his tournament run, he more than ensured his position within the pantheon of top Japanese players. Starting off with a 2-0 victory over P1|Tweek to make it into Top 48, tsu’s Lucario defeated VoiD, Kameme, Salem and even ZeRo to make his way into Grand Finals. The combination of Aura and Rage makes Lucario extremely dangerous once he passes 50% on his first stock, as continued damage only makes him stronger. If tsu was able to take his opponent’s stock and stay at high percent, he could potentially kill opponents at as low as 30%. As such, every match becomes stressful as any damage lead can instantly turn against you, thanks to Lucario’s awesome strength at high percent.
This made every set tsu played so exciting to watch, as his opponents were forced to play on a knife edge. According to ZeRo in his post tournament interview, he had to call a five minute timeout after he reset the bracket in Grands, as the stress of the first set was causing his hands to violently shake. Grand Finals was akin to something out of Dragon Ball Z, with tsu and ZeRo trading huge hits and continually changing strategies to defeat the other. With the second set of Grand Finals going to game 5, the tension was almost unbearable. Commentators could hardly contain themselves, there were screams from the crowd upon every hit and you could see the nervousness of each player in their movements. Despite the crowd throwing up their hands in a spirit bomb for tsu, ZeRo’s infamous plot armor held and he took the tournament with a 3-2 victory in the second set.
For all of the tension and expectation on his shoulders, tsu was just delighted to play Smash. Constantly coming to the stage with a big smile and staying magnanimous in victory, tsu radiated a pure love of the game, which is often lost in the stress of high-level play.
Tournaments are so enriched by having a global player pool, with Frostbite acting as a shining example as to why player travel should be encouraged. Great kudos must be given to the Frostbite organizational staff, Unrivalled Tournaments for running the stream and all players and spectators for making the event such a joy to watch. With future Smash 4 majors looking to invite even more international talent to attend, this event looks to be just the beginning.
1. TSM|ZeRo (Diddy Kong, Cloud, Captain Falcon/USA)
2. tsu (Lucario, Ryu/Japan)
3. NRG|Nairo (Zero Suit Samus/USA)
4. RNG|Dabuz (Rosalina and Luma, Olimar/USA)
5. MVG|Salem (Bayonetta/USA)
5. Shuton (Olimar/Japan)
7. C9|Ally (Mario/Canada)
7. Zinoto (Diddy Kong/USA)