The Street Fighter season has concluded, with the Capcom Cup tournament at PlayStation Experience proving to be every bit as exciting as expected. A new world champion has been crowned and it's Saul "MenaRD" Segundo, winning an exciting Grand Finals against Hajime "Tokido" Taniguchi.
In-between checking out dozens of games at this year's PlayStation Experience, Shacknews also made sure to follow all of the action at Capcom Cup throughout the weekend. And with the final tournament of the year in the books, Shacknews has some final thoughts on this year's event and looks ahead to next year.
The New Generation
MenaRD winning Capcom Cup is an incredible accomplishment. While everyone looked to Japan, America, and Europe for the next great Street Fighter player, nobody expected it to be a kid from the Dominican Republic. And "kid" is certainly one way to describe young MenaRD, an 18-year-old wonder who has only been playing professionally for roughly one year.
MenaRD leads a new crop of rising stars in the professional Street Fighter scene. Let's look at the rest of the Capcom Cup Top 8. While there were seasoned veterans like Tokido, Naoki "Nemo" Nemoto, and Daigo Umehara, there were also some new faces in the mix. Naoki "moke" Nakayama is another relative newcomer, only active for less than a couple of years, wildly exceeding what was previously thought possible with Rashid. Fujimara "Yukadon" Atsushi debuted at EVO 2016 with a 3rd place finish and hasn't looked back, hanging with the game's greatest players and finishing Capcom Cup in 5th place. Out of the Capcom Cup Top 8, Benjamin "Problem X" Simon is the most seasoned of the new guard, having been active since 2012. But he's broken out since Street Fighter V released, winning more and more tournaments and doing some amazing work with Bison.
That's not even looking at the young talent that's on the cusp of breaking through to the next level. Victor "Punk" Woodley narrowly missed the Top 8, but was on the verge of making an incredible Losers Bracket run. He's still one of the game's best players. There's Adel "Big Bird" Anouche, who has expanded his horizons beyond the United Arab Emirates and has established himself as one of the best Ken players in the world. There's Sim "NL" Gun, who just missed the Capcom Cup cut, but showed how dangerous he is with a 2nd place finish at this year's SoCal Regionals.
As time goes on, the old guard from Street Fighter IV and earlier have started to gradually fade. Aside from the models of consistency like Tokido, there is an entire new generation of players that are coming in hungry and already showing strong results. And for every new player that rises, there's an established player that isn't going down without a fight. That's leading to fun new rivalries, a refreshed competitive scene, and what's sure to be an exciting future for the world of competitive Street Fighter.
Nemo's Wild Ride
Nemo needed a lot of things to go right to even make it into Capcom Cup. Finishing 40th on the Capcom Pro Tour points standings, he had to get in the hard way. And even though he made it into the Last Chance Qualifier Grand Finals from the Winners Bracket, there was still a wild card named Seonwoo "Infiltration" Lee waiting on the other side.
Infiltration threatened to turn Capcom Cup on its head if he found his way in. A multi-time champion, Infiltration was fully capable of squeezing in and taking the whole thing. But Nemo ultimately denied him, in a brutally close matchup.
And for as difficult as that tournament victory proved, Nemo wasn't about to stop there. So then he messed around and bopped the tournament favorite to start the Capcom Cup Top 32. And he did so convincingly.
Nemo displayed a full mastery of Urien throughout the entire weekend. Urien's Aegis Reflector V-Trigger is one of the most dangerous in the game, because of the sheer potential for disgusting combos and inescapable juggles. After an early loss to Daigo, Nemo went on to knock off strong competitors like Ryo "Dogura" Nozaki, Masato "Bonchan" Takahashi, and bitter rival Hiromiki "Itabashi Zangief" Kumada. He often did so in dominant fashion, with opponents constantly flustered by Nemo's wild Aegis Reflector combos.
Nemo was one of the most memorable stories of this year's Capcom Cup and it'll be interesting to see if he can carry this momentum forward to next season. He's fully capable of doing so, because his mastery of the Aegis Reflector in unequalled.
The Low-Tier Gods
The character selection for this year's Capcom Cup felt wildly different from years past. Part of that is because of the Season 2 patch issued prior to this season, which devastated certain staples of the game. Ryu, in particular, was hit the hardest, to the point that Daigo Umehara dropped the character completely in favor of Guile, something that turned a lot of heads in the pro Street Fighter world. Nash was equally wrecked by the patch, to the point he was rendered completely irrelevant throughout the season. Infiltration once rode the character to an Evo victory, but has since switched out for Menat and Juri.
Even with that in mind, nobody could have imagined seeing the character selection at this year's Capcom Cup. Gone were long-time staples like Ryu, Ken, and Cammy. The Guiles, R. Mikas, and Lauras were all knocked out early. That left characters like Birdie! M. Bison! Rashid! These characters have been considered middle-tier, at best, over the past few years, but they worked serious magic this entire weekend. Problem X's Bison and moke's Rashid are both gorgeous to watch, with Bison's aggressive pressure and Rashid's frenetic movement.
And, of course, what more needs to be said about MenaRD's Birdie? He's completely mastered the character, playing a methodically aggressive style that puts pressure on opponents and simultaneously waits for them to make mistakes that leave them open to EX headbutts and command throws.
When this year started, nobody would have expected Birdie, Bison, and Rashid in Top 8, much less for one of them to win the whole thing. What an amazing year it's been for Street Fighter V's character diversity.
So What's Next?
Now the question becomes "What's next?" because the Street Fighter V world is about to undergo a seismic shift. That's because of Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition, a massive update that not only adds new characters to the mix, but also adds entirely new V-Triggers. Some characters will get entirely new tools to help make them competitive. So it'll be interesting to see who becomes viable in the new meta.
There will be a lot of time spent in the lab when January 16 comes around. What the pros emerge with will be one of the most interesting stories to come out of the new Capcom Pro Tour season's first few weeks. It's a great time to be a fan.
What are your biggest takeaways from this year's Capcom Cup? Join the conversation and let us know in the comments.