The final four of this event were Homestay Akira (the winner of the VF4Evo Final Tournament), Mukki Akira, Akuma Pai, and Choufu KK (Lau). Three spectacular matches later (including a bout between Homestay and Mukki where Homestay performed some absolutely incredible techniques), Choufu KK emerged victorious, edging out Homestay and and settling into the final slot.
After a brief reprise of approximately an hour, the final competition was set to begin. Due to unavoidable circumstances, a few of the previous winners were unable to attend, so the tournament runners-up Mukki Akira and Homestay Akira were ushered into their slots.
The roster of players was full of names that are familiar to most folks who have played VF even somewhat seriously - Chibita, Neo Tower, Tsuchikumo, and others. It was clear that this was going to be a spectacle of some of the best that VF had to offer, both gameplay- and player- wise.
A decent percentage of the VF character roster was represented, but several characters were still left unused. Far and away the most popular was Kage - a fairly common character, but who comprised 7 of the 32 available slots. Lau came in second with 6 players representing, and Jacky took 5 slots. Akira players have generally been the most common in the past, but this could suggest a shift in which characters are considered "strongest" amongst the VF community.
Rather than go into a lengthy play-by-play, let's just review some of the highlights. Also, you can check out streaming video of these matches at Sega's official Otenami Haiken 4 page. (Although the site is featured in Japanese, pretty much every movie available is worth a watch regardless.)
Chibita versus Soutaisho: Chibita, Lion player extraordinaire and professional VF expert, has a long-standing tradition of getting into a tournament and, somehow, always managing to fall out somewhere along the line. (To his credit, though, he did perform very well in the Super Battle Opera 3-on-3 with his teammates ) With Lion being a very, very formidable character in FT, it looked as if Chibita might have finally had a shot at winning a solo VF4 championship. No such luck, however. To add insult to injury, Soutaisho went out of his way to take a jab at Chibita before the match even started! In the end, Soutaisho's Kage won 3-2 against Chibita's Lion. See, VF.net lets you assign an opening quote to be displayed as the match begins. Chibita has used the same quote, "Makenaiyo!" (I don't lose!) almost since the service's inception. So knowing he's up against Chibita, what does Soutaisho do? He changes to the exact same quote to appear as his match with Chibita starts up. Upon seeing this, the crowd went absolutely insane, and the tension carried through the whole match all the way to the end. Perhaps one of the best VF matchups of all time.
Taru vs. Senningiri: Vanessa is hardly a common character in VF (though I'm certainly partial to her, but let's not get into that, OK?) Taru's first match against Choufu KK was a close victory but a painful watch, as he mostly squeaked by with heavy defensive play. Taru really began to show his skills in this match, where he pulled off some beautiful and effective manuevers and put on a great show. Unfortunately, in the end, he lost out against Senningiri's Kage 2-3. When you're playing at this level, even the most solid technical play can't guarantee a win - being able to act and react to the opponent becomes your best offense and defense. A disappointing (for me, anyway) but excellent match nonetheless.
Anaguma vs. Tsuchikumo: Tsuchikumo is known as perhaps the world's best Pai player, and has been just itching for a tournament win for what seems like forever now. Certainly he has the reputation and the skills to back it up. It looked like this might just happen; however, in spite of some slick play from Tsuchikumo's part, Anaguma's strong rushing offensive game clinched the victory.
Sugoroku vs. Soutaisho: In spite of some people viewing her as a "weak" character, Aoi makes frequent showings in organized VF tournaments, and in the right hands, can be an absolutely terrifying opponent. This particular Aoi had showcased a very effective style of play, resulting in several very exciting matches. It looked like Sugoroku was poised for the win here, but Soutiasho's super ninja technique allowed for a stunning comeback from way behind, and leading us to a double-Kage matchup in the final.
Soutaisho's opponent in the final was Jin, a particularly strong Kage who had the distinction of having previously won a custom title in a previous tournament. Although I had Soutaisho pegged for the win, it seemed almost as if he fell under pressure, as his game against Jin simply was not there at all. It was rather disappointing, since I am rather a fan of Soutaisho's Kage play. Still, Jin was more than deserving of his win with his smooth, fast, and hard-hitting play style. Congratulations to all those who participated!
At the end, Jin was handed his Mega-trophy, and was given a brand-new title - "Ken-Oh", or "Fist King." From here began a special event for the tourney-goers: a fight against one of a group of famous players for the chance to win special items. Hundreds waited in line for their shot at this glory up until the very end of the festivities at 9 PM.
All in all, this was a spectacular event the likes of which I'm sure anyone who takes their fighting games remotely seriously would love to see.
-- Heidi Kemps, Contributor