Set the Scene
We heard the rumblings. Many people wondered aloud if Japan was the same formidable group of players from years past. If maybe the world had caught up to them. 12 of the 50 players on the inaugural Panda Global Ultimate Rankings were Japanese, but their placing seemed…..certainly questionable in some spots, seemingly lower than projected.
Evo 2019 was the biggest Super Smash Bros. Tournament ever. Not for the year, not for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, but ALL-TIME. Within the top 32, 11 Japanese players were present. The Japanese stood strong in the top 24. Three were part of the top eight. And it wasn’t like it was a cake walk. Japanese were taking names from pools onward. Some of the top players in the world went down to the Japanese.
Masashi took down T1 | ANTi early on. Shogun put PG | Cosmos into losers with his Snake. We saw R2G | Kameme take down number one player in the world, FOX | Mkleo. That alone was unprecedented. SNB | Abadango continued to take names defeating several top players including BC | Mr. R. Protobanham defeated Rogue | Light and some of his countrymen. DNG | Nietono defeated PG | Marss. It was a field day for the Japanese and they showed out.
Shades of Rocky IV
If you’ve never seen Rocky IV, you need to take a sec and watch this.
The challenger, and unknown commodity that was Drago, is Japan. We all understood the potential. We knew that had some studs and some stone cold killers. But still, we assumed because we were USA, we had the heavyweights, we would dominate. We were Apollo Creed. And we got a rude awakening.
The smash community shouldn’t consider this a warning shot being fired. That happened at Umembura. This was more like an atomic bomb being dropped. Japan has announced, no re-announced their arrival. Expect to see more of the same moving forward.
Super Smash Con
Despite significantly less representation at Smash Con, the Japanese players placed well. Three players made it into the top 16. SST | Shuton and GW| Zackray both finished 9th, and Kept finished 13th. It was a brilliant encore performance. It reinforced that the scene there hasn't fallen off, just been dormant due to lack of travel. Now they are up and at it again, expect their tournaments to hold more weight in the next iteration of the PGRU.
I think something that makes Japan so formidable is the fact they use the entire cast. Typically the rest of the world has been tier users of sorts. If all the top players say so-and-so is a top tier, everyone uses them. Japan legitimately plays everyone as a scene and community. So when a character we thought was bad is used at a high level, nobody is prepared for it. They have true character specializers.
I think we also saw the depth of their scene, and that some of their players were definitely underseeded. You’ll hear a lot of commentators remind viewers that they play for pride and love of the game, not for monetary gain. That different type of motivation could also be a factor. And a testament to their strength also lies in the fact that so many top players go to Japan to level up their play.