Due to the fortnightly nature of this column, I have the option to pick and choose the events in the competitive fighting game scene that I think are the most important, interesting or exciting. In Paris on April 23rd/24th, an event on the Capcom Pro Tour is taking place that fulfils all three of those criteria. The Red Bull Kumite is a sixteen-man invitation-only tournament that features some of the very best Street Fighter players on the planet battling it out for valuable CPT points and, perhaps more importantly to many, the bragging rights you’d associate with tackling this level of competition and emerging the victor. On the 23rd, a 256 player elimination tournament will dictate the final two players who join the elite fourteen who have been invited to take part in this year’s event. The lineup of players confirmed to battle it out on the 24th is a bit ridiculous.
First up you’ve got the three Red Bull sponsored players—Snake Eyez, Luffy and Bonchan. At the weekly Wednesday Night Fights event in the US, Snake Eyez has been cleaning house, winning every one he turns up to and leaving an asterisk next to the names of WNF winners at the events he doesn’t attend. It’s not unfair to say he’s the best Zangief player in the world right now. Evo 2014 winner Luffy had a rough start to his 2016 Pro Tour at Cannes Winter Clash, when he was eliminated in pools, but after finishing as a runner-up at Hypespotting V using the tricky R. Mika it does seem that Luffy is starting to find his form with this new game. Even so, the competition at RBK will be fierce. Bonchan was one of the best Sagat players in the world on Ultra Street Fighter IV and actually won the Red Bull Kumite last year, but hasn’t quite had that stand-out performance on SFV yet.
The bracket also contains several former Evo champions—Momochi, Justin Wong, Xian and Infiltration. Momochi and Xian have yet to get off the mark in 2016’s Pro Tour, with Momochi maining his usual Ken—who is quite different in SFV—while Xian has opted for F.A.N.G, the most unique character on the entire roster. Many believe that F.A.N.G’s potential hasn’t been fully explored yet. Justin Wong has performed pretty well since the Pro Tour kicked off, netting himself a top 16, a top 8 and a victory at the Jam Game Cup Ranking event in Brazil this past weekend. Infiltration, however, is currently the best player in the World at Street Fighter V. He has already won two (!) Premier events and remains the only player to have already automatically qualified for the Capcom Cup. Right now, his Nash play is unbeatable.
There’s a real ‘World Warrior’ feel to the event, with competitors invited from all over the globe. Twitch’s Gamerbee from Taiwan, the recently sponsored by Team Secret Poongko from South Korea, France’s own Alioune and Keoma, the Brazilian lad who surprised everyone at the 2015 Capcom Cup finals with his exciting Abel play and the borderline ‘Rocky’ story he almost pulled off by getting much farther than anyone anticipated.
Finally, there’s these three Japanese players that you might have heard of: Tokido, Kazunoku and none other than Daigo Umehara, making his first Pro Tour appearance of the 2016 season. Tokido has played runner-up to Infiltration so far this year and ‘Murderface’ will be looking to avenge that. Winner of the Capcom Cup 2015 Kazunoku has got a couple of top 16 finishes under his belt but is yet to break a top 8 in 2016. Daigo’s appearance is interesting. This is his first event of the 2016 CPT. We’ve seen plenty of footage from his DaigoTheBeasTV Twitch channel or the countless compilations of replays taken from his SFV profile and it’s clear that he has—unsurprisingly—a terrifyingly good Ryu, but this is our first opportunity to see how he does when up against the Pro Tour’s best. The possible clash between Daigo and Infiltration is worth watching the Red Bull Kumite for alone.
The only obvious issue with RBK is the lack of European representation. Problem X has been dominant in weekly tournaments since the release of Street Fighter V, won Hypespotting V a few weeks back and it would be interesting to see how he stacks up against the World’s best in these first few months after release. Mister Crimson, who won the very first Pro Tour event—Cannes Winter Clash—with his relentless Laura, would also be an interesting entrant. Then you’ve got the obvious others—Ryan Hart, Valmaster, Phenom—all of whom could qualify for the tournament via the two spaces up for grabs on the 23rd. Regardless, it’s shaping up to be another ‘can’t miss’ weekend of Street Fighter.
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