This coming weekend is going to see some incredible action in anime games. Players of the highest caliber in Japan are gathering for intense show in the name of Arc System Works. The Fighting Game Awards 2017 (numbered that way, as it looks at last year) gathers top competitors in Guilty Gear Xrd REV 2 and BlazBlue: Central Fiction. Among the online qualifiers and the invited players — who are mostly from Japan — is one American.
PAG|Grover is a BlazBlue player, famous for his achievements as Carl Clover. Being the highest-placing non-Japanese player at Evolution 2017, he is invited to the ASW Fighting Game Awards. It’s a unique opportunity to inject some overseas competition into the more traditional “top-tier” Japanese participants. We’ve capitalized on this opportunity to catch up with Grover and ask him some questions about his training, impressions of his previous stay in Japan, and strategies for the tournament.
Woocash: You’ve represented USA before at Arc Revo in 2017, what was the experience like for you? What did you draw from it?
Grover: Overall, the experience was great. I enjoyed my time in Japan with friends, and I am excited to be able to come back. For Arc Revo 2017, it was a little irritating having heard of the cabinets being switched to Nesica 2 with only a three-day notice when it was not announced publicly to the players, but it’s their decision and we would just have to adapt to that final decision. Aside from that decision, the atmosphere of the event was amazing. It was fun trying to talk to a few other players at the event participating in Persona 4 Arena Ultimax and BlazBlue, as well as playing a bit of the new Blazblue Cross Tag Battle build that included Hazama and Rachel.
As for results, well, I think you’ve seen what happened. SuperKawaiiDesu and I couldn’t make it further than we had hoped. One thing I definitely noticed was the change of gameplay there was from playing in an arcade setting as opposed to playing in America. Aside from the input delay, they are well versed on how to approach matchups/opponents, probably due to being able to play stronger players as well. It also helps that every match they play (in arcades) is like a money match that is also three out of five rounds.
Woocash: How are you preparing for the ASW Fighting Game Awards? What’s your regimen like? For example, how do you divide your time between labbing and playing people? Do you pick specific people to play against?
Grover: The way I am preparing for the event is mostly watching videos of the players, the characters, and using training mode for certain situations, both on the offense and defense. There is a decent amount of Carl footage on the internet, thanks to Jourdal, so watching what their decision-making in matches is like helps me see what I should be doing or could be doing better. I do watch my matches at times as well and try to apply the small details that I picked up and try to incorporate them into my play in the future.
Unfortunately, I do not really play too many people, if any. I do not really enjoy netplay. It can be a different game at times and if the delay is big enough, it can make playing Carl kind of annoying and a struggle. The added frames do affect certain setups. If I can not manage to pull it off, then it feels like I am not really playing to my fullest. I can only see myself netplaying if I had no other means to play. I can only really play by traveling up to TSB for offline games, but even that is a trip from New Jersey.
Woocash: What are your thoughts on the other Japanese players in the tournament?
Grover: I think the other Japanese players are all strong. ASW has already revealed the bracket, so I have a good idea of who I will play against and who I might play against. My first opponent being Iwashi Ragna. I think I am okay fighting Ragna, but matches vary, as do playstyles. My second match will be either between Fenritti’s Jin or Gackt’s Hakumen. Personally, I would like to get the chance to play Fenritti. I enjoy watching him play a lot. His Jin is very cool, artistic, and it would be a pleasure to be able to play him in tournament. On the other side of the bracket, I hope I get the chance to player either Monster or Dora. In my time at Arc Revo, Monster was one of the few players I was able to socialize with, as best as I could. As for Dora, he is also a friendly person to socialize with. The times we did meet in tournament, I failed to beat him on more than one occasion. Getting a runback, again, would be cool. Seeing as there are not that many Kokokonoes and Lambdas in the states, I would like to get the chance to also play Meister/Matoi. However, in a tournament setting, anything can happen, which means I will play whom I must.
Woocash: When watching high-level tournaments like these, what should people watching pay attention to?
Grover: The thing most people should pay attention to, I think, would be the players’ decision making and adaptation. Many times people will want to learn why did this thing work out for him, but not for me. There are a lot of quick decisions that are made on the spot, based on what the opponent has presented to the other (does he recognize this situation or not), on each of their resources, testing the opponent’s reactions, etc. It is why a lot of times when people analyze match videos, they can take the time to slow things down and realize, to an extent, what could have been running through each players’ minds. With the tournament being a double elimination, two-out-of-three format, it also gives players more time to adapt to their opponent. Every move a player makes serves a purpose.
Woocash: Any comments to our readers? Anything you’d like to share or say?
Grover: The event is soon, I will be traveling to Japan very soon (Jan 10th). The players are all strong, so it is definitely an event that should be exciting to watch. As opposed to Arc Revo 2017, this event will be played on console, so I have the luxury to be able to play on pad, but with that being said, I do feel a bit more pressure to perform better. My first Blazblue game was Chronophantasma, and looking back at my five years of play, I would have never imagined that I would be given this opportunity by picking up a game, that has been out for some time, so late.
I would like give shout outs to Lord Knight, SKD, Lich, the NY scene, friends over at Rutgers, and Psykotik (Canadian Carl player), who have all helped me improve. I probably would not have reached this point without a strong scene. As the only American in this event, wish me luck. I have seen a number of negative comments about me being the chosen participant, but those comments will never affect my mentality. To everyone else who is cheering me on or enjoy watching me play, thank you.
Tune in to Arc System Works’ Twitch account on Saturday (Friday night in some countries) to catch Grover playing BlazBlue: Central Fiction, and the other Guilty Gear Xrd REV 2 matches.