With all the varied fighting games available today, the community has never been larger. At the same time, this influx of titles presents the issue of self-segregation within the FGC, as players of different games withdraw into their separate sub-communities. Attend any fighting game tournament or local gathering and you’ll likely see all the Capcom players occupying much of the space. Meanwhile, there’ll be Soul Calibur in the back, Melty Blood in the corner, Mortal Kombat in the bathroom (allegedly), and Brawl in a completely different location 30 miles away. Constant online bickering over which games blow harder than which other games does little to prevent schisms from forming.
However, there is one tournament out there that brings all members of the fighting game community together in the spirit of healthy competition, be they fans of CapCoke or SNK-Pepsi. It is UFGT’s Mystery Game tournament, which makes its return this year May 25th-27th at UFGT8: Infinity. For those unenlightened few, a Mystery Game tournament is one where competitors could be playing any game at all, from the entire history of fighting games (and even other genres). But competitors are not just playing one game throughout, for then they might be able to learn something by the time of grand finals. Instead, players compete in a different game every round. You may have won your first match in X-Men vs. Street Fighter, but how will you do next round when you battle it out in War Gods? Last year’s Mystery Game tournament at UFGT was hugely successful, as 88 players faced off in everything from the original Tekken to Gundam: Battle Assault 2 to Goldeneye. (Yes, that Goldeneye.) [Click continue reading for more!]
This year, tournament organizer Keits and professional video game hoarder MURPHAGATOR will once again be keeping competitors on their toes with choice selections from MURPH’s huge library. The Mystery Game tournament has become so popular (one player, Rycass, is coming all the way from California just to compete in Mystery Game) that to keep it manageable to run, it was locked at 128 entrants. As it is rare for an FGC event to have a tournament entry list finalized so early, I’m taking this time to preview some of the top competitors looking to take home an Infinity Gauntlet. The players entered come from incredibly varied game and community backgrounds, but I’ve grouped them into the following Mystery Game-appropriate categories, courtesy of Donald Rumsfeld.
The Known Knowns
These are the players who could be called the presumptive favorites for the Mystery Game title. They’ve got the name recognition. They’ve got the fighting game background. They’ve got numerous tournament wins across multiple games over many years of being in the FGC. You’ve seen them at tournaments. You’ve watched their streams. You probably know enough about them to partially qualify as a stalker.
Entrant number 1 into Mystery Game Tournament 2012, and presumptive odds-on favorite, is Evil Geniuses’ Floe. In addition to all his tournament wins over the years–in games ranging from Vampire Savior to Soul Calibur 2–the former Chicago native is a two-time champion of Keits Mystery Game tournaments. Floe has played more fighting games than almost anyone else in the country, giving him the fundamentals and experience necessary to succeed in any potential unfamiliar title. But Floe is not invincible, as the UFGT7 Mystery Game tournament proved. In Top 16, he was presented with a non-traditional fighting game, XBox Live Arcade’s Deadliest Warrior: The Game. Unable to deal with the powerful zoning and rushdown of Josh the Funkdoc’s Ninja, Floe was knocked into loser’s bracket, and following a loss in Street Fighter 1 a few rounds later, he finished 5th and officially lost his title. He’ll be looking for redemption this year as he looks to claim the Infinity Gauntlet. You can be sure, though, that he’ll be hoping to avoid having to play Sonic the Fighters, as it may result in some painful flashbacks.
Although a newcomer to the Mystery Game tournament and UFGT, Fingercramp’s Chris G is still a favorite to place in every game he enters. And why shouldn’t he be? Just look at his record from last month’s Civil War 4 tournament: 1st place UMvC3, 1st place SFxT, 1st place Skullgirls, 2nd place KoF, 4th place MK, 5th place AE. He won three swords at that tournament, which qualifies him for membership in the official Roronoa Zoro Cosplayers Union. Based on his results, Chris G is the best all-around fighting game player in the country right now. It’s a big achievement for the man Chris Hu once called “Random Sakura Player” (NSFW Language). The one thing Chris has against him is that this will be his first run through the gauntlet that is the UFGT Mystery Game tournament. Will he be able to adapt his KoF skills to Battle Arena Toshinden or his Marvel Success to Budokai Tenkaichi 2 (on the Wii)? We’ll have to wait and see.
Last of the all-around known known players is TFA|RZR Banana Ken. UFGT7 was a successful tournament for him, as he finished 5th in SSF4 and 1st in Arcana Heart 3. However, Mystery Game was one event where he did not have such success. Since last year, Banana Ken has become a top competitor in Street Fighter x Tekken and King of Fighters XIII, finishing 1st and 3rd, respectively, at PowerUp 2012. Barring any sudden takeover of UFGT by Super Battle Opera, Banana Ken will a strong contender for the Mystery Game title.
Now you might be wondering why I haven’t mentioned any other big-name players yet. The thing is, not all top players have the same proven skills across a wide array of games as these three. It doesn’t mean that they don’t have a shot at the Mystery Game title, it just means they fall into a separate category.
The Known Unknowns
This sections contains the famous players in the Mystery Game tournament whose success is mostly limited to one style of fighting games. Players, such as, say, MCZ.MRN Wolfkrone. Without a doubt, the Krone has been the most consistent Street Fighter IV player over the past year. From his coming out party at NEC 2010 to his epic takedown of Team Japan at Canada Cup 2011, Wolfkrone has rarely failed to make his mark at a tournament. However, with all the time he puts into Street Fighter, he has had little time to practice other games. Only recently has he started to dabble in other titles, picking up Street Fighter x Tekken and Soul Calibur V. But don’t count him out of Mystery Game just yet. In the mystery tournament held at Chicago Heart 3–a yearly event hosted by HeartNana (the real one)–Wolfkrone placed 3rd, dominating opponents in such classics as Asuka 120% BURNING Fest and Tokidensho Angel Eyes before faltering in The Idolm@ster: Live For You! He may not be playing AE in UFGT’s Mystery Game tournament, but you can be sure there will be other competitors who will suffer beats by Krone.
While Wolfkrone only finished 7th in AE at EVO 2011, this year’s Mystery Game field features one reigning EVO champion. It’s everyone’s favorite Marvel superstar, BROKENTIER Jay “Viscant” Snyder. Sure he’s been accused of using only top tier characters (which is why he uses Dee Jay and Blanka in SSF4), but his skill in analyzing fighting games cannot be denied. Seth Killian himself respects Viscant for his abilities as a theory fighter. But in the Mystery Game tournament, there usually isn’t enough time to solve the mysteries of Shaq-Fu before you have to play it. It’ll be a tough test for the man with no tan, but if there’s one tournament where you can get by purely on fighting game knowledge, it’s this one.
Then we have none other than the most famous fighting game player in the country. Sadly, DarkSydePhil will not be attending UFGT this year. However, popular toy salesman Justin Wong will be present and will be in the Mystery Game field. As the FGC’s 2nd most important ambassador, Justin enters as many events as he can at whatever tournament he attends, even if it’s just to support the game’s scene. He’s always among the first people to discover a winning strategy during the early life of a game, such as when he won the PDP Mortal Kombat Nationals last year. But with almost all his practice time devoted to the Capcom games he specializes in, his innate skills are not enough to keep up with the best in MK, Soul Calibur, Tekken, and others. He can still pick up a few wins when he needs to in non-Capcom titles, and that may be all he needs in order to succeed in Mystery Game. It wasn’t enough to succeed in last year’s event, though: Justin lost in pools and was on the receiving end of a quadruple-perfect by the aforementioned DSP in Midway’s N64 classic Bio F.R.E.A.K.S. Justin now claims to suck at Mystery Game tournaments. Is he being modest, or does he really doubt his ability to win? Either way, you can never count him out. Especially since there won’t be any driving games in the Mystery Tournament…maybe.
[Warning: Following video contains NSFW language]
LevelUp Alex Valle and CEOxNOS Jebailey have both been around fighting games a very long time. So long, in fact, that they are now both very old men. But with age comes wisdom, as well as a greater exposure to fighting games. Valle even made Top 16 at last year’s Mystery tournament. They should not be counted out for the title this year either, at least until 4:30, when they need to leave in order to make the early bird special at Clyde’s.
But the Mystery Game competition is not just limited to famous names competing in odd games they don’t normally play. This year’s event will also give some notable names in the community who are rarely seen on camera a chance to show their skills. Shingin, LevelUp’s stream director, will be competing. Though he’ll be busy maintaining the stream over the course of the long weekend, he managed to find time to challenge the Mystery Game field. One of the most hated people in stream chats, Chindogg, will be making a rare appearance at UFGT8 as well. As he conducts his stream modding duties from the remote forests of Michigan, few people have ever seen what he looks like. Below is only known photo of the person believed to be Chindogg.
Although some scientists say that it may actually be 16 bit.
Finally, two shoryuken.com writers, Delriach and CurlyW (me!), are throwing their hats into the Mystery Game ring this year. Our appearance will finally settle the long debate on whether or not SRK writers actually exist. Are we actually who we say we are? Are we illuminati? Are we Capcops? Are we Sarah Phillips? You’ll find out at UFGT8, if it really exists. [Editors note: It does]
The Unknown Knowns
I’ve covered some of the top players coming from far and wide–everywhere from Hacienda Heights, California to La Jolla, California–to compete in the Mystery Game tournament. However, just because you know them doesn’t mean they’re guaranteed to succeed. While top players on the coasts are busy practicing UMvC3 and KoF, there are a bunch of local players in Chicago and the Midwest looking to make their mark in Mystery Game. Last year, 5 of the Top 8 finishers were from Ohio, Michigan, or Illinois. These are some of the Central Coast players who are well-prepared for whatever mystery is thrown at them.
While the idea of a Mystery Game specialist may be hard to imagine, TFA|RZR The Branten is as close to one as there ever will be. In the prior two Keits-run majors, UFGT7 and MWC 2010, The Branten has finished 2nd in Mystery Game both times. Last year was an especially unlucky loss, as he was only put into the losers bracket because he took a nap during his scheduled winner’s semifinals match. Following his placement into losers, he beat Floe in a runback from the prior year’s grand finals. Then in Losers Finals, he rallied to win an epic Coin Battle in New Super Mario Bros. Wii (“GET COINS SON!”). But The Branten was unable to figure out Fighters Destiny 2, and he fell in Grand Finals for the second straight year. With all his experience, will this be the year The Branten finally breaks through for the title? Or will he become the Alydar of Mystery Game?
When the day of the tournament finally arrives, nobody will be more prepared than TFA|RZR Chauncy “Tru” Talon, a.k.a Cookie Monster, a.k.a. Chips-Ahoy. Like his teammate The Branten, Chauncy has also been runner-up at a Keits Mystery Game tournament, as he lost a game of Chaos Breaker to Floe at 2011’s Fighter x Shooter. This year, Chauncy has vowed to claim the Infinity Gauntlet, and he’s training the only way one can train for a Mystery Tournament: By playing everything. All the past two months, he’s been hard at work on his stream practicing such Mystery Game tournament classics as Tetris Attack and Urban Champion. The Cookie Monster is sure be a force to be reckoned with in whatever game. Particularly if that game is Yoshi’s Cookie.
If you want proof that Chauncy’s tactic of practicing as many games as possible leads to success, just look to Chicago’s own HxC J-Money. Prior to UFGT7, J-Money grabbed all the head-to-head competitive games he could get his hands on in and put in hours upon hours of work. The result was a Top 8 finish in Mystery Game. However, all his practice in the classics did not prepare him for one big Mystery curveball: A game of Marvel vs. Capcom 3. In training mode. With minimum damage. And maximum lag. And infinite Level 3 X-Factor. And only 4 buttons. He remains bitter about his loss to Floe in that round which knocked him out in 7th place, and he’ll be looking to get his revenge on the Mystery Game organizers this time around.
And those three players are far from all the Midwest has to offer in Mystery Game. Other entrants include Green Bay’s Sawa and King Popadopalus, two veterans of Keits’ First to 10 Classic Challenges–King-of-the-Hill style Mystery Game competitions held out of his home. There’s also Madison’s Keranata, better known as Kerahime~<3. Another of Keits’ Mystery Challenge competitors, Keranata had his biggest ever tournament showing at UFGT7, finishing 3rd in MvC3 with his Tron-on-point team. Competing for the Mystery Game title from Illinois, there’s GLB, a tester for 3sOE developer Iron Galaxy and Chicago’s best multi-character Street Fighter player. Also representing the locals is PhreakMods Heroic Legacy (PhreakMods.com for all your modding needs). Heroic is Chicago’s equivalent of Viscant (except not as skinny or pale), with incredible knowledge on almost every fighting game, including knowing which characters are the most broken in Fighters Megamix. Then there’s Phreakazoid himself (PhreadMods.com for all your modding needs). The master engineer and the creator of the Link JLF placed 3rd in Mystery Game at UFGT7 after having to take a forfeit in Winner’s Finals in order to finish up orders for dual mods. If he can take home the Infinity Gauntlet, you can be sure he’ll soon have an awesome modded stick to go with it.
The Unknown Unknowns
Not just an accusation by OMG ItZ Andre, it’s also the last category of this UFGT8 Mystery Game preview article. I’ve talked about the players with the names, the players with the experience, and the players with both. However, the incredible thing about the Mystery Tournament is that everybody truly has a chance. This was evident last year, as the tournament title went to I’m Never Dead, a player from St. Anne, Illinois, 70 miles south of Chicago. The amazing thing about IND’s victory is that while he’s been a big fan of fighting games for some time, he’s not a top local player. He doesn’t make it out to many gatherings due to living so far away, and if he does manage to make the trek, he rarely makes it past second round of the tourney. But as Rick Moranis said in the classic film Little Giants, even if you don’t succeed 99 times out of 100, there’s still that one time you do. And succeed IND did, defeating The Branten 3-1 in Fighters Destiny 2 behind strong D-Dog play, thereby taking the title back to St. Anne.
At UFGT8, 128 players will compete for the Mystery Game title and an Infinity Gauntlet to boot (or glove). Floe and The Branten may be favorites once again, but don’t count out Chauncy Talon, Chris G, Wolfkrone, J-Money, Justin Wong, I’m Never Dead, and six score other competitors. It could even be somebody not in the current tournament field, as several players–including UFGT7 5th place finisher NerdJosh–will be on call ready to take the spot of any absentee. Nobody should be completely ruled out. (Josh the Funkdoc won’t even be there and I’m still tempted to pick him for Top 8.) You might think that I’m saying the Mystery Game tournament is random. I prefer to think of the Mystery Game as being literally everyone’s game.
It’s less random than Ultimate Marvel 3 anyway.