Despite my 7am start, having to make it from Sheffield to London meant I was there theoretically pretty late, I still ended up queueing for a while outside as the whole thing seemed to kick off well over an hour late. Ah well, I was rather impressed immediately by the posters up outside and the venue. It seemed to be basically a student bar / nightclub area that had been converted for the event, and they’d done a good job.
At first we were only allowed into the lower floor.. but I wasn’t at all bothered really as I instantly clocked what I was really excited about… HD Remix:
My camera unfortunately does a poor job in dark conditions like this, but you can see they had 4 TVs arranged with 360s, sofas and Hori EX2 sticks around them for playing HD Remix, there was another setup of 360s just to the other side of the room that had a mixture of joysticks and 360 pads as well. Although quite why anyone would choose the pad over a stick I have no idea! And HD Remix it was on freeplay all day… however it was fully taken right now, so I decided to scope the venue out first. As you can just about make out there was a raised level behind the HD Remix sofas with a bunch of consoles and TV’s, this was mainly dedicated to Street Fighter III Third Strike all day. Behind that was another level, running Super Turbo off consoles.. and behind that yet another level with yet more TVs and consoles and this was where the actual tournament games were run.
They weren’t letting people upstairs at this point, however the venue was far from packed and it was only a surprisingly short wait to get a go on HD Remix. First reaction… terrible, terrible dissapointment! Why? – No playable Guile. :( So I’m still left waiting, impatiently, to see what I can do with a Guile with a super move I can actually perform, a useful HK Flash Kick and a top-down… oh well. But on the HD Remix code they had running at BOD there were 6 playable characters:
Ryu (yawn), Ken (yawn yawn – but had his broken juggles fixed at least), Claw, Gouki, T-Hawk, and Dee-Jay.
With no Guile, this made it a simple choice from this lot… kickin’ it Jamaican style with my mon Dee-Jay, who is actually my 3rd or 4th SF character anyway, possibly even my 2nd on Super Turbo, even though I have actually played very little with him. My positional play with him is decent, but my lack of knowledge of any vs matchup or any combos whatsoever hurts me… at first. But I was learning a lot with him throughout the day and it was a whole load of fun to not have to play as a shotokan scrub at least. :D I did play all the characters throughout the day, except for Ken obviously. And although Hori EX2 sticks are not the best, they are decent, and I felt really at home with them as I’ve been using one for many months now on my 360. Although oddly these sticks felt much nicer than my own. I asked the organisers if they were modded with Sanwa parts or something, but apparently not, they said they were out-of-the-box standard kit. So it would seem there are different models of Hori EX2s around though, as I am 100% certain these were different, but I’ve been looking at the model code of mine and I’ve never seen any other model available online for sale anywhere yet. These felt like they had an 8-way gate, whereas my stick feels very ‘square-gated’. The stick also had less travel and the buttons felt more responsive too. To try it out I went to Ryu and just did jab dragon punch after jab dragon punch and I wasn’t whiffing any nor doing any accidental cancels. Perhaps it was the double espresso I’d had when I got off the train, but it is a very rare day indeed I can do that on my own EX2. One interesting side effect of all this gaming on the day, I’ve been converted to being a lap-joystick player rather than tabletop!
Eventually I got off HD Remix and discovered the upstairs had been open for ages and I’d been having so much fun playing I hadn’t even noticed. But upstairs… wow. Sadly my camera proved completely ineffectual in capturing it, but this was like a breath of fresh air after the dingy club-like basement area – it was clearly the “presentable” floor of the event. ;) Although it still got rather warm and stuffy as the day progressed. A large hall area was surrounded with XBox 360 pods on a balcony level and against the walls, more tables with rows of consoles & even PCs running fighting games around all sides of the floor, a RetroGT t-shirt stand, and a large stage with a huge-screen running the BOD promo video.. and in front of the stage six network-linked Street Fighter IV cabinets… and a constant queue of people waiting to play it!
STREET FIGHTER FOOOOOOUR!
Waiting in line for my first go I hear the guy behind me comment “Oh you can only play as Ken and Ryu”. I had to laugh and correct him… nope, everyone was playable, it was just this was your typical scrub-fest sadly. Obviously not for me. Guile was IN FORCE. Although the organisers weren’t exactly cracking whips you were meant to get off as soon as you lost or if you won 3 in a row. There was an immediate dichotomy to the experience for me, because obviously I want to try to win, especially as losing could mean another 10 minute wait for a game, but then I also wanted to experiment with the FOUR-ness. Two scrub Ryus defeated, and I was on my third match against a really good Dictator player and I started messing about a lot more though – since I knew I’d be leaving the cabinet anyway. Managed after a load of horrenous whiffs to perform Guile’s super move…. grrr. It’s not gotten any easier over the years. I then discovered the hard way I couldn’t use Focus Attack super-armour to blow through Dictators Ultra move… “Koko ga kisama no hakaba daa!” I shouted in unison with Dic towards my opponent – who was a few cabinets down, because the cabinet network play meant that you could be playing anyone on any of the cabinets. I got up and congratulated him on his victory and spectacular finish – and that I was really glad I didn’t lose to a boring Ryu or Ken. Although I would once later in the day – but it was a really good fight though with a rare excellent Ryu player.
As expected though overall, SF4 does feel like a step backwards from HD Remix. It does feel oddly slow & oddly “floaty” on the jumps. Nothing I won’t get used to, and I do actually prefer slower speed Street Fighter. But it really feels like a combination of Street Fighter 2, Street Fighter 3, and, dare I say it, Street Fighter EX! I also didn’t like the concentration on meters that the game seems to have. I won a ton of fights just by mixing in ES-Sonic Booms which would blow through a fireball and hit the confused scrub Ryu on the bonce. Now obviously beating Ryu players with fireballs is always funny, but I am not sure I’ll like the emphasis on the meters so much for ES moves and Ultra’s etc. But at least it’s no Zero 3 and does have a standard gameplay across characters.
SF4 feels like a good but not great game to me. If it wasn’t for the existence of HD Remix I would be ridiculously hyped waiting for it on a console I can actually play regularly, but we are where we are and HD Remix just blows it out of the water in both concept and gameplay. You can tell everything about HD Remix is at least aiming to be the most superb Street Fighting experience yet made.. yet SF4 is being made for flash and to “pull in the punters”. And well, they are certainly getting that bit right this time anyway – as noted you had to wait for ages to get a game on SF4, yet I managed to play HDR for over an hour uninterrupted at one point; against Triforce (Justin Wong’s housemate) – some absolutely great fights there! We played long enough to be getting ridiculously into each other’s head too. I was fooled by so many fake FBs it was annoying ;) But I’ve learnt more about Dee-Jay vs Ryu there than I ever have in my life before now. The new throw motions and changes to the Condor Dive was a breath of fresh air for me on T-Hawk too. I was having so much fun with him that I’ve never been able to have before, it was absolutely awesome. I was so excited I started exclaiming T-Hawk was my new main character… until my new fighting friend Ethan kicked my butt anyway… “yeh, T-Hawk was always rubbish, just like I was saying..” :P I don’t want to sound too down on SF4. With an improved home character roster and time to play and really experiement with the new Focus Attacks and meter-based techniques I do think it will be a lot of fun. It’s just that I am tremendously up for HD Remix – and stop that giggling, it’s a figure of speech ok. ;)
It also turns out that despite the disappointing lack of a full character roster, we were actually being treated to the very latest HD Remix code anywhere in the world. A lot of people, myself included, have been subsequently shocked by this, and wished we’d taken more notes, photos and videos etc. But I thought this was what everyone the world over would have already seen. I suppose I should’ve been tipped off by the fact that Claw’s “lost battle” face artwork hadn’t even been coloured yet.. but wow. I know HD Remix is running really late, but I think it will be towards the end of 2008 before this gets anywhere near XBox Live really. :(
I even checked out some other games. There was a lot on, and not all fighting stuff (but 99% was!). Akatsuki Blitzkampf is a PC 2d fighting game I’ve heard of before, but this was the first time I’d seen it in person. I watched a few fights of this – one guy had a modded Sega Saturn pad hooked to the PC too – very impressive :) It looks waaay too combo based for me, but it does look very nice. However seeing it running on a PC reminded me of the “fun” I’d had trying to get GGPO running online with a joystick actually performing the correct commands on my PC.. erm yeh. I quite literally enjoy my day-job more than trying to get all that configured. Maybe if I could pay someone to set it all up for me… but nah, I think I’ll just play on a console. ;)
I would have loved to get some games in on Street Fighter III 3rd Strike, even though I would’ve had to rinse the foul stench of playstation from my hands had I done so – but I was even offered a joystick to play on. But the trouble was it was just too popular and crowded all day long to wait for a game. I mean, seriously. I’d heard this game had a huge hardcore following these days, but seeing it here really bore that out. Not to mention the fact its relatively easy to get an XBL match on it these days. Just such a shame it has such awful net code and matching system & if there’s one game that really hates lag, it’s SF3.
Speaking of Street Fighter III 3rd Strike, that was the game that USA tourny Champ Justin Wong was taking on a huge queue of all-comers on the big screen during the afternoon I was there. And this was just ridiculous really. Wong was playing as Chun Li. I think one guy playing as Gouki got him close, to murmurs from the audience, but the rest of it was just a ridiculous whitewash. The daft thing was many of the people taking him on didn’t even seem to know how to play SF3 whatsoever. I have no idea why they waited in line for ages just to have their butt kicked on a game they don’t even know how to play.. takes all sorts I guess. But it meant it wasn’t even really interesting to watch due to the lack of skill of most of the challengers. I just used the reduction in queues for SF4 to get in as much on that as I could at that point.
I saw some Tekken. LOLZ is all I have to say about that.
Soul Calibur 4 was also there on the upper floor, and before it’s launch too. I didn’t bother to try it, even though it was easy to get a game on it because It didn’t seem to be getting much attention at any time I checked. It was good to note that most hardcore fighting gamers aren’t too impressed by this one, as I am not. It has some very flashy graphics, and bewbs, so I am sure it will be a big hit with the masses though… In fact I have this game on my 360 now and I doubt I’ll be talking much about it here, because it’s actually even worse than I imagined it would be. The usual terrible Namco effort.
And so it came to the end of the day and everyone was ushered downstairs for a time while the upper hall was re-decked with large lines seats and the stage was cleared of cabinets etc for the finals of Super Turbo and Dance Dance Tekken Revolution Fisting 5 or whatever the other game was. The dry ice floated across the stage and lasers lights danced before the crowd as the classic Transformers songs “You Got The Touch” and “Dare” blared out…
… and that was all I got to see, since the event had ran so late I already had to catch my train home. :( A real shame as I’d booked everything based on the original event timings, and while a few kind people offered me places to crash in London, it would’ve cost me too much to pay for another train ticket – plus I had a club to get to back in Sheffield and a whole lot of vodka’s with my name on ’em :P
If you’d like to see the full results of BOD though, they can be found here:
But as for BOD itself, I just have to say the staff were in the whole really REALLY great. Yes things didn’t all run smoothly I’m sure, but everyone I talked to was really helpful and friendly. Actually.. a lot nicer in-real-life than these guys act like on the internet I might add. ;) As I say, I was offered places to stay, controllers etc. I of course voiced my complaint that running a solely PS2-based tournament totally locked out many players from playing, notably me. But they did point out that they’d be up for lending joysticks etc another time. I think a few of them were pretty jazzed I’d spent 70 quid and travelled all the way from ‘The North’ just to spend a day there too really. And I would’ve so dearly loved to have been able to compete properly in something, even if it wasn’t my best game, just to make the trip more fun & worthwhile. The feeling just grew as I defeated a good many of the tournament players in casual games of HD Remix. I’m sure I wouldn’t have a shot at winning, but there’s no doubt I could definitely hold my own with most of this crowd.
…And what a crowd it was – the people there were generally great bunch! I saw the odd bit of frustration displayed when losing, and hints of the online “arrogant act” I’ve witnessed before. But I watched a fair part of some of the Super Turbo heats and it was really it was nothing like I expected it could be – and certainly far from the worst excessives of other tournament atmosphere’s I’ve been to, eg. childish fits and rages etc. But instead people here were generally competitive but friendly. What was really cool was when playing new people and we both agreed to “get serious” as tourrnament warm-up, and neither of us took the results any worse. I do think that perhaps my general friendly banter on games usually makes people chill anyway. It was also really fun to be with so many people with clearly likeminded tastes in games. For example geeking out over the new backdrops and moves in HD Remix. :)
As well as missing the finals, I also missed the infamous “Money Matches”, but they have now been youtubed if you are interested to see how they went down:
Overall it was a great experience and one I really hope to repeat soon, especially if there is a game I can actually enter a tournament for. I really hope the organisers take on board my recommendation to at least spread their games cross-console to get a wider appeal… but if not, with luck I’ll have a joystick that will be compatible in future too.