Fighting In The Bay: A Trip To NorCal Regionals 10 (Part One)

Where there’s a fighting game scene, there’s players converging onto one spot to see who’s best. Northern California is no exception. Tournament director Terry “Kineda” Ng just held the 10th annual iteration of NorCal Regionals. This major tournament gathered hundreds of players to compete in one or more of the six currently popular fighters before the upcoming Evolution Fighting Game Championships at Las Vegas in July. The event was full of amazing players, upsets, and players getting “hype.”

Being a major event, the $35 registration and the $10 per game fees as NCRX was larger than previous iterations. The only game I officially registered was Street Fighter X Tekken, one of the six games part of the “Road to EVO” season. Other games included Super Street Fighter IV Arcade Edition Ver. 2012, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, The King of Fighters XIII, Soulcalibur V and Mortal Kombat. I considered registering for SSFIVAE2012 and UMVC3, but players who had practiced the game since the original version back in 2009 would have easily destroyed me. I also thought of picking KOFXIII, but most of the player base in NorCal is situated in the Bay Area and only a handful who play are in Sacramento; there is not enough competition and learning resources. SFXT, released just weeks before NCRX, was a new game and everyone (including me) would be learning how to play it. I also took the chance to sign up for the free Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown tournament and see who was good at the game before its summer release.

Panorama picture of San Francisco State University's Jack Adams Hall. While the early hours had various people playing in their pools, everyone were getting together as the days progressed to watch what was on the main stage.

After the long drive from Sacramento to San Francisco, my friends and I met up at Jack Adams Hall. We squeezed in for breathing room while finding where we were in our pool brackets. Since a couple of the games had participants in the hundreds, they separated players into 16-man pools where they have to defeat other assigned players to proceed into the top 32/16/8 player brackets. SFXT was probably one of the biggest being that it was so new. As it opened, it was amazing to see the large hall filled with many chairs and setups for pool play. On the sides, there were multiple stations for people to try out VF5FS. Southern California arcade store Arcade Shock sold buttons, levers, complete joysticks and carts for SNK’s classic Neo-Geo Multi Video System — a specialty. Arcade stick company Eightarc was also there selling their own unique sticks compatible on both Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. In addition, there was the headquarters booth where Kineda and his staff were working hard on the event as well as handling a raffle where participants could win arcade related products. Streaming group SRKLive, part of fighting game community site Shoryuken, was there to handle streaming duties along with IPLAYWINNER. SRKLive took care of Mortal Kombat and Soulcalibur V while IPLAYWINNER arranged the rest of the game on the big Jack Adams Hall stage.

I killed time waiting for my 8 p.m. pool by meeting up with people that I had previously only seen through streams. The Bay Area KOF players were friendly dudes that just want to have fun playing what they love. I also spent some time kicking back with Shoryuken’s Cannon brothers Tony (Pond3r), Tom (Inkblot) and Joey “Mr. Wizard” Cuellar. Some of my time was spent wandering SFSU’s campus where I found an impressive arcade populated with a handful of people playing games like Capcom vs. SNK 2, Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike and Tekken 6: Bloodline Rebellion.

Two floors below the main venue had people stationing casual setups for those who wanted to practice before going to their matches.

During my wait, I decided to enter the free tournament for Virtua Fighter: Final Showdown. Final Showdown is the latest version of Virtua Fighter 5 and features new characters, stages and statistic tweaks for competitive play. It utilizes a 3D plane comparable to Namco’s Tekken series and adds mid attacks. The three attack positions requires players to guard properly to prevent receiving high damaging combos. Seeing it through streams was good, but experiencing the smooth action first hand was phenomenal. Even though it was my first time playing the game, I adapted to the system easily. With little time before the tournament began, I grinded my skills and tried to find the most useful moves.

My tournament nerves resulted in bad enough mistakes to dive into the losers bracket after the first match. I was feeling pessimistic, but soon became more comfortable, capitalizing on my opponents’ mistakes to grab some victories. I somehow managed to progress far enough to try for the top eight, but was then eliminated from the tournament by a superior player. Honestly, I was grateful that I won at all.

The top eight players took home a shirt while the champion received an invite to a special event in Los Angeles during the summer.

As the first day was nearing its conclusion, my Street Fighter X Tekken pools started and I noticed some power players on my bracket. One of them was Josh “Nerdjosh” Jodoin from New York City of streaming group Team Spooky fame. Nerdjosh won the SFXT reality show Cross Assault and acquired $25,000 from the wins. Unfortunately, I started off with a loss from Mr. Igloo, a mutual acquaintance. I was stressed out over how crowded the pools stations were as you could barely move an inch. Add how hot the venue was and it made the match seem more dreadful than it was. That defeat put me at the pool’s losers bracket and forced me to fight Nerdjosh.

Nerdjosh had the edge of being a seasoned competitor while I am still new to major competitive play. Regardless, I did my best to fight against his characters. While I was able to get a round off him, he would ultimately eliminate me from the tournament. Although I wish I could have had one full win, I took the loss in stride, talking to Nerdjosh about improving my game. He is a very friendly dude and I appreciated my time talking to him.

I rounded out the day talking to folks and watching the main stage. Overall, it was a great day full of both amazement and disappointment. Little did I know that day two would soon prove to be beast of its own..

Me (left) and Derrick "KamenRiderTag" Tagulao held up signs based on fighting game lingo ("Hold dat" and "Frayyyyy") whenever someone loses a match very badly.

Photos by Kara “Karaface” Leung and Slash5150