On the stage was Daigo “The Beast” Umehara of Japan facing off against USA’s Justin Wong in Street Fighter 3: 3rd Strike. Despite being only a semi-final match (dubbed EVO moment #37), it easily upstages the actual championship match. In fact, it upstages every other fighting game match in history.
Keep in mind that this was way back in 2004. Smartphones did not have fancy cameras yet. In fact, cell phones were not even “smartphones” yet. Even the iPhone did not arrive until 2007. Furthermore, video footage had to be shot with an actual video equipment.
The fact that it was even filmed is surprising. Moreover, the only existing footage has an inset video feed of the audience in attendance. Which just further adds to the excitement of watching it. Although, it unfortunately obscures part of the screen.
Thankfully, now an alternate footage has surfaced showing the entire screen, courtesy of Mark “MarkMan23” Julio. He is now part of EVO’s business development team and is one of the OGs in the fighting game community. Furthermore, this is actually a footage of the entire match, not just the last few seconds.
As impressive as this match is to a lay person, it gets even better once you understand the underlying mechanics of the game. Furthermore, it also helps to set the stage on what tournaments were like before eSports and the FGC hit mainstream.
USA vs Japan has always been somewhat of a one-sided rivalry when it came to the Street Figher series. Especially with Street Fighter 3: 3rd Strike which launched back in 1998. It is the 3rd version of Street Fighter 3 and is the most polished game in the series. However, it has the distinction of being one of the most difficult Street Fighter games to master because it has a very high skill ceiling. Naturally, the Japanese loved it because of this. Meanwhile, everyone else in the world were not or at the best, slow to warm up on the game. Many long time Street Fighter players to this day would not touch the game because it is quite a departure from Street Fighter 2. (They are wrong and stupid, but that’s another article entirely).
Street Fighter 3 also introduced the ability to parry an attack for the first time in the series. Until then, the only pure defensive option in a Street Fighter game was to either hold back the joystick at the same time to block an attack. While players can counter after they block an attack, they can only counter attacks which have a long recovery animation. Whereas parrying can be cancelled into a counter attack immediately after the parry animation. While there is parrying in Street Fighter IV and V, it is much more lenient and easier done than SF3.
It sounds easy, but that is the farthest thing from the truth. Street Fighter 3 runs at 60 frames per second, and players only have a 6 to 10 frame window to successfully parry an attack. So that means players have less than 1/10th of a second to react to an attack. Even worse, some extremely rapid attacks like Chun-Li’s Super Art II cannot be countered immediately after the first parry. The successive hits come so fast that even if players parry the first hit, they have to sit there and parry the rest of the attacks to counter. Which brings us to why Daigo did what he did in EVO 2004’s Moment #37.
There are various misconceptions going around about this video. One primarily about Umehara deciding to be flashy in the final parry move by jumping. However, that is not actually the case. It is also very uncharacteristic of Umehara who is well known as being stoic and cool under pressure. That is why he is a champion in the first place. Before we get to that however, let us watch the last minute of the footage once again.
With about a minute left in the match, we can see Daigo’s Ken with about 10% of his life bar left. Whereas Chun-Li still has about 80% of her life bar. In Street Fighter 3: 3rd Strike, Chun-Li is the highest tier character in the game. The only other character that is of equal or higher tier to Chun-Li is Yun. Although it requires much more mechanical skill since it requires the use of custom combos with his Super Art III. The video below pretty much showcases how the Japanese use Yun to his full extent and why even pros consider him a top tier character with Chun-Li.
Chun-Li on the other hand, despite not having an actual special anti-air move like Ken’s Dragon Punch, her normal attacks have insanely high priority and she will win if they trade blows. Worse, once she has a meter on her Super Art II, she can combo almost any normal hit into this special move, thus taking out 40% of their life bar. Even if it is blocked, the player will take “chip damage” from the special move, and she will be relatively safe after from counter-attacks.
You can actually see them trade blows at round 0:24 seconds in the highlight video and it brings Ken’s life down to just a sliver. So Justin whiffs a few more moves to fill the rest of his meter and launches into Chun-Li’s Super Art move. Thinking the odds are in his favour to just chip the remaining life away from Daigo’s Ken.
He might have expected Daigo to parry the first hit, but defnitely not all. Especially, with well over 1/3rd of his life bar still full, it is easy to see why he thought this was a safe move. Chun-Li’s Super Art basically breaks down into three different rhythms (multiple fast, multiple fast, final hit). So he has to press forward timing the first rapid set correctly with each subsequent hit, pause, parry the second rapid set, pause then parry the final hit. Even for veteran players, they would not risk parrying it completely and would just take the loss.
Even in the unlikely event that Daigo did parry the entire Super Art set, he cannot possibly do enough damage with Ken to take out 1/3rd of her life bar. Here is where the “flashy” part comes into play, because due to the game’s damage scaling Daigo knew he had to do his first attack as a jump-in attack. So he jumped and air-parried the final hit.
After that, he landed the requisite most damaging combo that Ken can do with his Super Art III. Which is do a crouching medium kick after the jump in roundhouse kick, combo into medium Dragon Punch with the first hit cancelled into the Super Art. Had Daigo not jumped in, it would not have done enough damage to kill Justin and probably would have lost.
Now, let us watch the entire match again just because it is an actual comeback match worth watching.
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