Last year, Haitani was one of the hardest players to pin down on the Capcom Pro Tour. While I was able to correctly predict him making top 8 at Capcom Cup — he ultimately finished in fourth place — his results were erratic enough to make it very difficult to guess. He was certainly capable of winning everything, but his travel and burnout was evident enough to make him the second biggest question mark in my book, outside of Infiltration.
Now in 2017, he finds himself once again making his way into Capcom Cup in decisive fashion — currently holding the #3 spot. The big question surrounding him now is: Has GRPT|Haitani found consistency this year?
One of the things I noted in 2016 was how busy his tournament schedule was. He had endeavored to travel the world in search of Street Fighter success, and did just that. His results given his travels were astounding — in sixteen Capcom Pro Tour events, he only missed the top 8 in two of them: G-League and Evo 2016.
His travel schedule was, however, starting to take a physical toll on him. While it should be noted he did win a Ranking event at Battle Arena Melbourne 8 last year, the rest of the year saw him struggle after making top 8. I’m almost sure that this was due to a combination of jet lag and burn out.
This year has seen him pull back on the reins a bit when it comes to flying out to events. He has only competed at 11 events — 12, after Canada Cup concludes — and nearly half of them were in his home region of Asia. Even culling four tournaments from his list has made a difference. Whereas 2016 saw him only win one ranking event, this year has seen him win two premier events: Japan Cup and Ultimate Fighting Arena. He also traveled far less outside of CPT events, making two stops outside of that circuit compared to eight last year. In those two events, he finished third at RAGE v.4 and ninth at Brooklyn Beatdown. He is showing far more stable results as of late, and part of it likely boils down to his focus on quality over quantity.
Climbing the Rungs
Last year, I suggested that he had perhaps plateaued with Necalli, leading to him autopiloting through several events. With his underperformance in Capcom Cup, he definitely made me think physical exhaustion was the reason. Haitani apparently agreed, as he stuck to Necalli in Season 2.
Whereas I compared him to GamerBee and Phenom last year, no Necalli comes close to Haitani’s performances this year. There’s a reason why there’s a 13 rank disparity between himself and Brolynho — or even a 21 rank disparity between himself and Phenom. The fact is, he is that much better than them. Last year we saw shades of his play being performed better by other Necallis, but this year he is not just the origin of Necalli play — he is the standard.
This just shows how much stronger he has become. His spacing game is immaculate, using his V-Skill at the right times to zone. He is also really adept at using his V-meter — something that is a true testament to a real Necalli player. Most players will save up, waiting for the big hit into V-Trigger into full on pressure from a V-Triggered Necalli. But Haitani has fully grasped what the risk and reward is for it in a given situation, and reacts accordingly — using V-Reversal when he needs to and going into V-Trigger when he’s sure it’ll work. These are the traits that truly set him apart from the pack, and why this character in his hands is an absolute threat.
When It Matters
We have seen far more of Haitani’s clutch factor this year than ever before. He has won when it counted — something that he struggled to do last year. While he has only won two out of fourteen events thus far, he has won in some pretty stacked fields. Outside of Evo, one of the toughest CPT events on the calendar is Japan Cup; Haitani won with authority, and he did so against the best R. Mika in the world by defeating Fuudo twice. At UFA, he won out of Losers Bracket, eliminating FChamp, Tokido, and Itabashi Zangief twice — the person who put him in Losers Bracket to begin with — to take the title. If this doesn’t speak to his clutch factor, I don’t know what does.
However, this clutch factor doesn’t necessarily come out every time he steps up to an event. At Dueling Dragons Dojo, he fell to both Gachikun and Dogura — two players he’ll likely have to think about at Capcom Cup, especially considering they have been coming into the event strong and will likely be lower seeds. While he was able to stamp out Gachikun’s Rashid at TWFighter Major, he was still found struggling to Dogura, who eliminated him on his way to the championship. More worryingly, his worst performance came in the latter half of the season, when he fell to MenaRD in the winner’s bracket of SoCal Regionals and was eliminated by XSK_Samurai. And again, MenaRD finds himself on the bottom half of the Capcom Cup seeding, thus making him — along with Dogura and Gachikun — another potential road block for Haitani’s run to top 8 at Capcom Cup.
While the odds are low that either of these three will be his first-round matchup, they could eventually come up. What happens to Haitani then?
It’s hard to talk down one of the gods of Street Fighter. We all know Haitani can do it, and there’s no doubt in my own mind that he’s capable. The question lies in if he’ll be able to have the clutch factor — and the stamina — on hand in December.
While he has answered the questions about jet lag and plateauing, the fact that he’s struggling against what will ultimately be early to mid-round opponents at Capcom Cup leaves a few questions left over from 2016 about his consistency. Getting top 8 is great, but that’s not enough to make a championship a foregone conclusion.
While I anticipated at least top 16 last year, I’m expecting a top 8 showing from Haitani this year. But he could make last year’s predictions come true again this year, if he falters against the lower seeds.
Check out our prior articles in the Capcom Cup 2017 Player Analysis series!