The event that Street Fighter V fans have long awaited is finally here. While it is not the beginning of the 2016 Capcom Pro Tour—that honor went to Cannes Winter Clash three weeks ago—this weekend’s Final Round tournament is, in many ways, the true kickoff for the season.
Final Round is the first Premier event of the year, which means that the winner qualifies directly for Capcom Cup and a chance to win a share of the $500,000 at stake there. This event also the first real international test for most players, as only three competitors from outside of Europe took part in the Cannes event. And after a three week gap between that event and this one, Final Round marks the beginning of an 18-week stretch with at least one CPT event every week.
The Atlanta-based event is long on both quantity and quality. More than 850 players registered to compete, which makes Final Round one of the largest non-Evo tournaments in Street Fighter history. The field includes international stars such as Justin Wong, Darryl “Snake Eyez” Lewis, reigning Capcom Cup champion Inoue “Kazunoko” Shots, and Evo champions Lee “Infiltration” Seon-Woo, Ai “Fuudo” Keita, and Momochi Yusuke.
With so many big names and rising stars gunning for the top spot, it’s anyone’s guess who’;; stand tall at the end of the weekend. And with the game still in its early stages, what we learn this weekend about where players stand might not hold true for long. Still, there is much we can learn at Final Round that will start to shape the 2016 season. Here are three big questions which this weekend’s event will begin to answer.
Will Street Fighter IV’s old guard stand tall?
It’s unsurprising to see most of Street Fighter V’s early events have been won by players who were very strong in Street Fighter IV. Snake Eyez has won every tournament he has entered thus far. Justin Wong, Infiltration, Zeng “Xiaohai” Zhuojun, and Infiltration each already have tournament wins under their belts. Arturo “Sabin” Sanchez is the game’s top-ranked online player, and longtime players like Ryan “Filipino Champ” Ramirez and Eduardo “PR Balrog” Perez are not far behind.
But there are plenty of new faces in the mix. Mortal Kombat wunderkind Dominique “SonicFox” McLean is the name that garnered the most attention in the game’s early days, but another player has become the biggest threat to the old status quo: Angel “Moons” Gonzalez. Moons is far from a new player, but he has been known for his play in Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 rather than Street Fighter. He has quickly established himself as a problem in Street Fighter V by finishing third or better at every event he has entered. A first victory has eluded him, but he’s shown that he has the skill to make that breakthrough at any time, even in a field as stacked as this one.
Home of the Brave—or the Land of the Free?
The Street Fighter IV era was not kind to players from the United States. Foreign players took top honors at all three Capcom Cups and all seven Evo tournaments, and no US player has won a CPT Premier event since September 2014, when Snake Eyez won the Fall Classic.
Street Fighter V presents a chance at redemption. No arcade release means that Japanese players have had just as much time to learn the game as their American counterparts. There is no reason why an American player can’t win a major international event like Final Round. But that also means that there will be no excuses if they fall short.
Who will be able to survive Sunday’s marathon?
A championship run at Final Round was always going to be tough, but the event’s schedule will make a title win an even more difficult task than most expected. With a field of more than 850 players, Saturday’s action will be dedicated entirely to pool play. That means that the task of narrowing those pool survivors from 128 down to one will be an all-day affair on Sunday.
Players will need to win at least seven matches on Sunday against some of the world’s best to earn a Capcom Cup berth, and that’s after playing in a Saturday pool that could start as early as 8am or end as late as midnight. Final Round will be a test of skill, but it will also test players’ mental endurance. And with the incredible amount of players who are entering Street Fighter V events, this might become a common sight on this year’s tour.