January 4, 2019

Capcom Street Fighter League Powered by Rage Beginners Class Auditions

The candidates for the Beginner Class Street Fighter League

1 What is the the Capcom Street Fighter League Powered by Rage?

This is the new three on three team league battle that Capcom Announced at the 2018 Tokyo Game Show / Japan Premiere. It will use SFV's team battle mode, and each team will consist of three members: an Extreme class member, a high class member, and a Beginner member. OpenRec and Abema.tv (which really are the same thing, just using two different interfaces to present the content) have been broadcasting an audition series for the beginner members. I thought I would take some notes about them.

Who are the extreme class players? If you guessed it might be similar to the captains from the RAGE Street Fighter All Star League Powered by Capcom, you're right! Here are the Extreme Class members:

  • Itabashi Zangief (Capcom Pro Tour 2018 #2 finisher)
  • Tokido (Capcom Pro Tour 2018 #13 finisher)
  • Fuudo (Capcom Pro Tour 2018 #17 finisher)
  • Mago (Capcom Pro Tour 2018 #17 finisher)
  • Daigo Umehara (Capcom Pro Tour 2018 #25 finisher)
  • Nemo (Capcom Pro Tour 2018 #25 finisher)

The High Class players haven't been announced yet, but it says that they "are under 22 years old as of 2019 March 31st, and will be selected with a strong emphasis on their ability". So that should be interesting - making sure they are under 22 years old injects some younger players into the mix.

What about the beginner class? They are "People who have started to practice recently, and will play seriously from now". There were interviews November 13th, 2018 that reduced the pool from 30 people down to 18 people. They are all models, actors, idols, or comedians who have not ever played, or only just played a little bit of Street Fighter. So now they are entering into a series of auditions / competitions to reduce their number down further to the final six selected.

Episode # Broadcast Date Link Challenge
1 2018-12-04 OpenRec.tv N/A. Just pass the interview to get in.
2 2018-12-09 OpenRec.tv Perform 3 CAs in a row in training mode.
3 2018-12-16 OpenRec.tv Clear 10 trials in Challenge Mode.
4 2018-12-23 OpenRec.tv Play 100 matches.

This series of shows will select the seven players for the draft that will be used for the six teams.

2 Episode One

The candidates for the Beginner Class Street Fighter League

This first episode is a general introduction to the series and talks about the Street Fighter League a bit. In this first episode, everyone drew random lots to play someone in a one on one competition best of three. The winner of that (nine people) advance on to the next stage. The losers are split into two pools (5 and 4 respectively) and run a single elimination best of one tournament, with the winner from each group advancing (two more join the previous nine, for 11). The losers of the finals of each pool then face off in a best of three, and the winner of that advanced as well, for a total of 12 advancing.

Here are the challengers in the initial bracket.

Player 1 Description Player 2 Description Winner
Ishida Haruka (25) Ex AKB-48 member. Will play Cammy or Juri. Takahashi Nao (22) twitter. Model. Chun-Li Ishida Haruka
Okumura Mami (22) twitter. A celebrity. Plays Cammy. Miyata Hidemichi (19) twitter. Actor. Cammy. Miyata Hidemichi
Matsumura Megumi (23) twitter. Actress / Ex NMB-48 member. Kolin. Okada Yuriko (23) twitter. Model. Plays fighting games 2-3 times a week. Laura. Matsumura Megumi
Nagashima Kouji (33) Agency Page. Comedian. Rashid. Shane Makoto (??) insta. Model. Half Japanese. Birdie. Shane Makoto
Higa Eri (16) twitter. Model. Rashid. Nakamoto Manami (16) twitter. Model. Higa Eri
Kunisada Ryosuke (25) twitter. Comedian. Rashid. Misaki Kousei (23) insta. Actor. Cammy. Misaki Kousuke
Tozawa Yasuaki (34) twitter. Comedian. Birdie. Kajishima Aya (19) twitter. Idol, part of the Up Up Girls (2) group. Chun-Li. Tozawa Yasuaki
Shimura Akari (17) twitter. Model. Ryu. Kimura Keita (26) He's with Sun Music Academy. (No, I don't know what that is.) Ken. Kimura Keita
Endo Rina (13) wiki. Actress. Cammy. Matsuura Ayu (17) Mgmt Page. Voice acrtess. Ryu. Matsuura Ayu

Hameko is one of the commentators, along with Yamato, and he gives a bit of advice after the match. Things like, "Takahashi-san, you pressed a lot of light buttons. At this level, you might want to use some heavy buttons too." It is really interesting to see how he handles talking to beginners, analyzing their matches, and giving out useful information. I like when Hameko said this: "An important element in fighting games is to attack your opponent with things they don't like." This was in regards to Tozawa Yasuaki, who said he had trained to use Birdie's chains, even though they are "cowardly". Then Hameko went on to explain that once you've knocked your opponent down, you should pressure them on wake-up. Advice like that is very useful to beginners.

The players are really, truly beginners. On twitter people would have a different name for them "mashers" / "scrubs" / "Smash players" (joking!) or something else. I like the idea of welcoming everyone, and after watching a few of these, have really enjoyed seeing how the beginners improve. Some of the contestants were able to usually (30%? 50%?) get out a special move, but many were just pressing buttons. Very, very few people blocked.

I think Capcom is trying to create a format that can be interesting to people that aren't die hard gaming fans: each team will, by design, include someone from an unrelated field (actress, model, etc) that have a different fanbase from the FGC. They are also at a level that is understandable for people who aren't experts at the game. As the teams play (depending on how the format goes!) you will see matches from a low level, mid level, and very high level. These early shows are more focused on the people than the fighting game - they don't even show all of the matches, just selected portions, and the main content is talking about the players, why they chose the characters they did, how they practiced to get ready for this, and so on. It is an experience to which people who don't know anything about competitive gaming can relate.

The match between Higa Eri and Nakamoto Manami was … loud. Sounds like they were both having a lot of fun, but lots of high school girls shouting and screaming. Had to turn down the volume for that one. Lots of mashing out spinning mixers, cannon spikes, random heavy attacks, random supers. You can see how spending a few hours focusing on, for example, not pressing buttons and walking and blocking could have a bit impact in the game at this level.

After the one on one play, they went into two mini tournaments to decide who else would join the nine winners to advance to the next show. Okada Yuriko (Laura) advances as the winner of pool A. Kunisada Ryosuke advances as the winner of Group B. Okumura Mami (Cammy) beat out Kajishima Aya (Chun-Li) to advance from the battle of the loser's of each pool.

They set a challenge for the next episode: each player needs to be able to pull off a Critical Art three times in a row. They didn't explain it, but in the second episode they will receive a handicap if they can not do it. Also, the High Class players are apparently being chosen on a different show, which is broadcast on actual TV: Onegai! Ranking. That is a Tokyo Broadcasting Service show, and starts at about 1am on Mondays. OpenRec or Abema (I forget which / maybe both) will do a delayed streaming later.

3 Episode Two

The 12 participants in this round

Two people will be sent home from the 12 that start the episode. They are again draw lots to see who plays whom in a BO3 match, the winners advance to the next stage, and the losers play another BO3. The winners of those also advance (6 from the first round, plus 3 more for 9). There is then a BO3 single elimination tournament and the winner of that joins the others to advance to the next episode for a total of 10 people advancing.

Before the first round of battles, everyone had a challenge: perform three consecutive CAs in training mode. If you failed that challenge, you would start the first of the BO3 matches with a one round loss as a penalty.

Player 1 Description CA Player 2 Description CA Winner
Okumura Mami (22) twitter. A celebrity. Plays Cammy. Misaki Kousei (23) insta. Actor. Cammy. Okumura Mami
Matsumura Megumi (23) twitter. Actress / Ex NMB-48 member. Kolin. Ishida Haruka (25) Ex AKB-48 member. Will play Cammy or Juri. X Matsumura Megumi
Kimura Keita (26) He's with Sun Music Academy. Ken. X Tozawa Yasuaki (34) twitter. Comedian. Birdie. X Kimura Keita
Shane Makoto (??) insta. Model. Half Japanese. Birdie. Higa Eri (16) twitter. Model. Rashid. X Shane Makoto
Nagashima Kouji (33) Agency Page. Comedian. Rashid. X Kunisada Ryosuke (25) twitter. Comedian. Ed. Kunisada Ryosuke
Miyata Hidemichi (19) twitter. Actor. Cammy. ? Matsuura Ayu (17) Mgmt Page. Voice acrtess. Ryu. ? Miyata Hidemichi

In the pre-match interview with Shane, he is the first guy that started talking about guarding the opponents attack and punishing it, which is good. He also talked about how he doesn't know who to use yet between Birdie, Abigail, and Rashid. For all his talk though, they didn't show him blocking once. His opponent didn't block at all either, and was really buttonsy, so he was able to throw her around with Birdie's chain a lot. Kunisada Ryosuke changed his character from Rashid to Ed. In their match, both of them were blocking a bit, and had some combos. During the interview, Kouji was talking about how he looked up some combos (on his smartphone - FAT?) and practiced 8 hours a day. Matsuura Ayu was taught Ryu by her father, and she is pretty consistent getting out Hadokens, and does lots of pressure with meaty Shoryuken (which, of course, isn't going to fly after the first time but seems to work here).

Hameko and Yamato are pretty fun on commentary - they get all excited about the interesting choices, shouting out things like "Another Shoryuken!" and just generally having a good time.

It is a lot of fun seeing the little pre-recorded sessions with each person going over what they did to prepare, and hearing a bit about their life. It really makes it easy to relate to them and see how they are improving.

I'm surprised that they haven't seemed to have any structured input about things to do to get better - like say, reading Gief's Gym or even just general advice like "practice blocking". I suspect that will happen at some point, if not over the course of this series (definitely people who train will do better) then once the teams are made the other two places will definitely run the beginner through some basic training. That would also be interesting to see for people who aren't neck deep in the FGC already though.

I won't summarize the final loser's journey, they ran through the matches and watching Higa Eri (the "gyaru" girl) is certainly interesting. She's loud and excited for sure.

The next challenge that they have to perform is to clear 10 trials in Challenge mode, it doesn't matter which character.

4 Episode Three

The 10 members in this round

Miyata Hidemichi was the only person who didn't pass the challenge (clear 10 trials for any character), so he will be at a single round disadvantage in the first BO3. This episode is similar to the other two where people are paired off for a BO3, with the winners advancing (5). The losers then go to a round robin tournament where each person plays the other four, and the top three people with the best record will advance, cutting down the number of contestants from ten to eight.

Player 1 Description Player 2 Description Winner
Matsuura Ayu (17) Mgmt Page. Voice acrtess. Ryu. Kunisada Ryosuke (25) twitter. Comedian. Ed. Kunisada Ryosuke
Misaki Kousei (23) insta. Actor. Akuma. Kimura Keita (26) He's with Sun Music Academy. Ken. Kimura Keita
Matsumura Megumi (23) twitter. Actress / Ex NMB-48 member. Chun-Li. Okumura Mami (22) twitter. A celebrity. Plays Cammy. Matsumura Megumi
Shane Makoto (??) insta. Model. Half Japanese. Birdie. Nagashima Kouji (33) Agency Page. Comedian. Rashid. Nagashima Kouji
Miyata Hidemichi (19) twitter. Actor. Cammy. Higa Eri (16) twitter. Model. Rashid. Miyata Hidemichi

Kunisada Ryosuke's Ed was a good choice - the simplified input means that he was able to anti-air pretty reliably. He actually won though because his opponent kept hitting the PS button. Strangely, they cut to a friend of Kunisada's who came to support him. The friend talked about how it was his first time to watch Street Fighter, but he was disappointed because Kunisada didn't use Dhalsim, and his friend is Indian. They are making jokes here people! Or doing human interest stuff here. Misaki Kousei changed his character to Akuma, he talked about how he wanted to expand the number of characters he could use. His opponent was practicing combos with CAs using Ken. He was using some combos and (pseudo) throw loops in the corner. Matsumura Megumi changed to Chun-Li, but was worried about it because she wasn't sure she would have enough practice with her. She pulled out one round almost entirely based on consecutive lighting legs, so she at least had that down. In the post-match interview, Megumi said that she was looking at what Mami was doing and her habits, and tried to counter that. Higa Eri was talking about how she practiced some combos, so I'm looking forward to see if she can get any of those out. She pressed the Share button though and so lost the first round. Then she did it again later and lost.

More people were blocking this time, and some of the contestants seemed to have a kind of battle plan formed. Still lots of mashing going on though, but there is definitely progress since the first and second episodes.

The round robin losers stage was interesting. Lots of games played, things were pretty heavily edited to only show highlights from the matches. Misaki Kousei, who switched to Akuma, was really trying to get Raging Demon on his opponents, and was pretty successful. The final match was Higa Eri vs. Okumura Mami, who were both crying before the match. Higa Eri had talked earlier about how all the women wanted to see some women advance, so I think she wasn't happy about playing and potentially knocking out another woman. She had also said earlier that she doesn't think there should be a big deal about the different between men or women, but then went on to talk about really wanting women to advance, so I didn't think she was presenting a very coherent argument. She is 16 years old though, so I'm not really interested in trying to perform a discourse analysis here.

The top three were chosen to advance, Shane Makoto, Misaki Kousei, and Matsuura Ayu joined the previous five winners (see above) for the next episode.

The challenge for the next episode is for each of the contestants to play 100 matches (ranked, battle lounge, offline or online).

5 Episode 4

The 8 contestants in this round

This episode needs to remove one person, and the remaining seven will go on to the team draft. Because of scheduling conflicts, Shane Makoto and Matsumura Megumi were not able to join, and withdrew from the competition. Because of that, they invited back to previous competitors, Okumura Mami (22, talent) and Higa Eri (17, model, and easily the most entertaining of the lot if you turn the volume down a bit). These were the two who in the previous episode were crying before their final match.

The tournament structure for this episode is a BO3 between randomly drawn competitors, the winners advancing to the draft, and then a BO3 losers tournament, which is a bit strange: the four losers play in the first round, the winners advance to the draft. The two losers then have a losers final, and the loser of that is eliminated.

Everyone was able to clear the challenge of playing 100 matches, so nobody gets any penalties, except for Higa Eri and Okumura Mami, who were brought back so they have a single round penalty.

Player 1 Description Player 2 Description Winner
Matsuura Ayu (17) Mgmt Page. Voice acrtess. Ryu. Misaki Kousei (23) insta. Actor. Akuma. Misaki Kousei
Higa Eri (16) twitter. Model. Rashid. Nagashima Kouji (33) Agency Page. Comedian. Rashid. Nagashima Kouji
Okumura Mami (22) twitter. A celebrity. Plays Cammy. Miyata Hidemichi (19) twitter. Actor. Cammy. Okumura Mami
Kimura Keita (26) He's with Sun Music Academy. Ken. Kunisada Ryosuke (25) twitter. Comedian. Ed. Kunisada Ryosuke

They asked Matsuura Ayu about her matches, and she said she played a lot of ranked matches, got beat up a lot, and really, really got frustrated with it. I think all of us have been there in the ranked match salt mines. Misaki Kousei said that he has been watching a lot of Tokido's videos (this is really cool - I don't think anyone told him to do this, so he just went and figured it out on his own) and that he would love to learn the game from Tokido (wouldn't we all?)

The Higa Eri and Nagashima Kouji Rashid mirror match was really an interesting match in terms of how important it is to block. There was a sequence of three blocked roundhouses in a row where it was clear that they had learned to block a close roundhouse and to punish with one of their own. It was close, but Nagashima Kouji pulled out the win.

Kimura Keita talked about how he was watching matches from Utahiroba Jyun (the bassist for Golden Bomber, who is a well-known musician that loves Street Fighter, and plays a mean Diamond or so rank Ken). He picked up some combos from those videos. I'm surprised that he doesn't watch some of the stand out Kens, like Chris T. or Jones Arcade or CeroBlast or something, but I think he wanted to go with someone who is familiar - a Japanese musician who also plays Ken. Kunisada Ryosuke was practicing tricks with Ed's V skill and throw / hit mixups, which is really a level above what most people have been doing. Then again, he gets hit with stuff like meaty roundhouse on his wakeup, so there is still some fundamental work he could do. He did get some nice Ed combos in there, and some Vskill shenanigans, and I continue to think that using Ed with the simplified special command inputs is a real boon - he was able to make use of specials in a more controlled way than most of the participants. E.g., he was able to do anti-air Psycho Rising, then EX Psycho Upper for a nice combo and damage off an anti-air (and at this level, people are jumping all the time).

After the first set of matches, they ran the losers bracket. I'm not going to detail that, but the first match was Matsuura Ayu vs. Higa Eri, and I really like seeing Matsuura's Ryu in there. She does a lot of DPs, but blocks some, and throws some hadokens. She was able to advance over Higa Eri's Rashid. She was crying when she won, and apologizing to Higa Eri for beating her, which earned a "kawaii kawaii" from Higa Eri. Lots of tears all around.

Next was Miyata Hidemichi's Cammy vs. Kimura Keita's Ken. Kimura Keita showed a few target combo into VT2 activation combos, and a combo into CA. He advanced on to the draft.

The final match was Higa Eri vs. Miyata Hidemichi. The loser is out, and the winner will advance on to the draft. I was surprised to see Miyata Hidemichi using Cammy's VT2. Miyata Hidemichi moves on, knocking Higa Eri out of contention.

The Final Seven Contestants that will enter the draft

The final seven that will move on to the draft are:

  • Matsuura Ayu, a 17 year old voice actress. Ryu main.
  • Okumura Mami, a 22 year old celebrity. Cammy main.
  • Kimura Keita, a 26 year old musician (I think). Ken main.
  • Misaki Kousei, a 23 year old actor. Akuma main.
  • Nagashima Kouji, a 33 year old comedian. Rashid main.
  • Miyata Hidemichi, a 19 year old actor. Cammy main.
  • Kunisada Ryosuke, a 25 year old comedian. Ed main.

6 Closing thoughts

I really enjoyed this series of four episodes running a kind of reality TV show to choose the candidates for the Street Fighter League Beginner class draft.

Capcom has chosen players very consciously, from my point of view, to appeal to a mainstream Japanese audience, pulling in very photogenic "talent" from either modeling agencies, acting agencies, comedians, musicians, or just general "celebrity talent" (people are famous because they appear on tv because they are famous from appearing on tv). The people that come out of that candidate class will likely have a following of their own completely separate Street Fighter, which might bring in new viewers. All of the candidates had zero to very little experience with Street Fighter, and it clearly shows, but that also makes for an interesting story, and is easy for people not familiar with the genre to relate to it.

I think it will be interesting to see how the beginner class members improve over time. That already was a focus of the four episode series, which usually gave a short pre-match video recorded section with each competitor, focusing on what they learned with the game, and the commentary team also gave explicit advice, and called out things that people were doing that related back to what they were practicing previously. The commentary team also did a great job at talking about basics of the game, tried to explain the basics of wakeup oki-zeme in an understandable way, how to punish (in the very general sense) and so on. It is a very different kind of commentary, and I appreciated how excited they got even though the level of competition was not high.

I know some people might dismiss this as just a bunch of pretty people mashing buttons, and that is certainly a valid criticism, but I think it important to allow people into the FGC who are not strong competitors and who are just playing for fun. I know I'm not great myself, and I appreciate that all levels of talent can exist, and can still have fun. Hameko said that he was reminded of when he first started playing fighting games, the complexity and difficulty of it, and I think we can all remember back to when we first started as well.

One thing that I don't like is that the competitors probably would never have played Street Fighter if not for this experience. They aren't playing because they love the one on one fighting game experience. So there is a big difference there from a lot of the FGC. That doesn't mean though that they couldn't come to love the game - if you ever saw the movie Ratatouille, you know that anyone could become great, and that is different from saying that everyone could become great. However people are introduced to the game, anyone could fall in love with that competitive spirit and become a big fan of the game. When this started, I was thinking that these people are definitely playing Street Fighter now as a way to get exposure and further their career, but that doesn't mean they won't be able to enjoy the game.

Finally, and I just want to stress this, I think that all the well known women in the FGC now are not from that mold; they are all playing the game because they love it. I also don't want people to draw conclusions about men vs. women and skill at the game, I think that all comes down to individuals and doesn't have anything to do with how many X or Y chromosomes someone may or may not have had at birth.

Other things that came up at the end:

  • There will be six teams, so one of the people that made it into the draft will not proceed on to the Street Fighter League.
  • They plan to stream the draft at the end of January.
  • The High Class player selection is still going on, and should complete in early January. That has been streaming on OpenRec as well, I haven't been watching it though since I haven't had the time, and I found this beginner class more entertaining. The high class selection has also been on regular TV, although at a pretty rough time slot (1am).

I had a lot of fun watching this series. I want to go back and watch the High Class shows - they are on OpenRec as well I think - but I don't think that will be as entertaining, as I expect I will see play on the level of what I consider good players. There won't be as much observable growth there, and it will come down to things like combos and confirms, and really be similar to just watching some high level play at my weekly local. Which is still fun, but not as interesting to me as something new.


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