After months of questions about the European scene and its ability to compete with the best of the North America and Japan, magic happened.
2016 has been an interesting year for Europe. As I’ve detailed before in Smashboards posts, the record of many perceived top-level European players is questionable when they compete against overseas players: (SDW added from my last update)
- 9th at B.E.A.S.T 6
- 9th at PSG Classic 2016
- 49th at EVO 2016
- 4th at Mega Smash Mondays 58
- 25th at 2GGT: KTAR Saga
- 5th at SmashDown World
- 2nd at B.E.A.S.T 6
- 25th at Pound 2016
- 7th at Midwest Mayhem 2
- 17th at Get on my Level 2016
- 13th at SmashDown World
- 7th at B.E.A.S.T 6
- 13th at Little Big House 6
- 49th at The Big House 6
- 7th at SmashDown World
Despite this, all three referenced here tend to perform very well in European tournaments, leading many to believe that Europe simply has a significantly lower skill cap than other areas of the world. Many ideas have been proposed to explain this – differing stocks, less activity density, etc.
Further contributing is the dominance of Mr. R – the Netherlands’ notorious Sheik main, often cited as a Top 10 player internationally. Mr. R, only rarely dropping sets in Europe, had yet to lose a European tournament in Smash 4, and has been so dominant that he was willing to use the super-region as a training ground for pockets or eventual secondaries like Cloud and Bayonetta.
He is, in essence, the ZeRo of Europe.
Smashdown World, however, marks a gigantic break in many perceived trends towards the European scene and beyond – it has implications for the waning Wario meta, it has implications for France’s status among European countries in the Smash scene, and it has implications for the advancement of the European scene as a whole.
As Nairo and Larry Lurr dropped out from Smashdown World – the top 4 seeds – ANTi (Super major winner), Mr. R (Europe’s juggernaut), Kameme (One of Japan’s best), and Komorikiri (Arguably Japan’s best)- were seen as the inevitable group that would take up Winners Semis, with the groupings depending on seeding.
Yet, in the late hours of November 26th, something happened – Glutonny, France’s #1 Power Ranked player, managed one of the biggest upsets of the year by defeating the EVO runner-up Japanese star Kameme 2-1.
With Wario, no less, a character that was often seen as being on the brink of low-tier after a year’s worth of decline, with Tweek and Abadango dropping him and one of the last bastions of hope for the character falling when Nasubi, Japan’s best Wario, dropped the character after months of lackluster performances in both Japan and North America.
At this point, the assumption among many would simply be that, by chance, Glutonny had pulled off a once-in-a-lifetime sort of upset, or that Kameme wasn’t playing to maximum potential, or some other attempt to explain away the upset as unusual.
But as the feature image shows, Glutonny repeated this trend by upsetting U.S.A fan-favorite ANTi, an established Supermajor winner with a wealth of accomplishments, including terrifying competence with a massive amount of characters and set wins over some of the world’s best.
It was a close set, and Glutonny was defeated rather soundly in the runback in Losers Finals, so we will always have the question of “What’s next?”, and there will be people questioning if matchup inexperience played a part.
Though, it’s worth pointing out that Kameme lives in the same region Nasubi does, and Kameme himself very unexpectedly pulled out a well-tuned Wario that even managed to take a game off of ANTi in Losers Semis where his Mega Man had failed. This makes his loss against Glutonny more puzzling if you subscribe to the idea that Kameme was caught off guard, and gives credence to the idea that Glutonny is simply an incredibly good player.
I’ll follow Occam’s Razor and go with that, especially considering other developments at the tourney. While failing to take sets from the big four at the event, Cyve and LoNg0uw had fantastic performances. Cyve took a game from Mr. R and ANTi, while LoNg0uw, while failing to take the set, mustered a tremendous effort against Kameme and kept every game between the two down to the wire. One or two different decisions may have resulted in a very different set, and considerations like this are very important when measuring a player’s skill.
While I’ll be publishing an article at a later time about trends, short and long term, I think Smashdown World provided a significant amount of evidence to suggest that after many months of skepticism towards Europe’s place in the greater metagame, they’ve finally stepped up and proven themselves to be incredible competitors capable of keeping up with the best of NA and Japan.
This leads to a few questions, too. If Europe has slowly gotten significantly better, does this present hope for other European stars, such as Ness main and Netherlands juggernaut S1-14? France’s 2nd best, Elexiao? Both had lackluster outings at this tournament, but is it simply because the super-region is stacked enough that low placements for highly skilled players was inevitable? Japan is the standard for what bizarre brackets look like, so could Europe be undergoing a similar transformation?
These ideas are speculation for the most part, and only time will tell just how good Europe can be. Germany and France have established themselves as serious threats while the Netherlands regrettably under performed. On that subject, what of Mr. R and his sub-1st placement at a European tournament?
Well, in fairness – he dropped both sets to Japan. Namely, Komorikiri, who he’s now 2-2 with in sets in 2016, and Kameme – who seems to be a sort of kryptonite for Mr. R, similar to MKLeo. In fact, Smashdown World marks the first instance of Mr. R even taking a game from Kameme, having been shut out 2-0 in both of their prior encounters at EVO and Umebura S.A.T.
To be fair, while he lost to Kameme again, it’s fair to say that his was more competitive than previous sets, and his set against Komorikiri was also quite close. He had two respectable losses at the tournament, neither from European players, meaning this tournament doesn’t have many implications on his ability to dominate the super-region. It, like many events at this tournament, does have international implications.
Komorikiri, for instance, defeated both a favorite to win whom he’s struggled with in the past (Mr. R) and had a successful if very close runback with ANTi, whom he sparred with a month earlier at The Big House 6. Does this solidly his status as Japan’s #1 international player, perhaps even over Abadango? More on that sometime else, but I believe 2GGT: ZeRo Saga will likely give us some sort of answer on that, since he and Abadango are both attending, and it’s shaping up to be the first Smash 4 exclusive Supermajor event.
Wario won’t be the only discussed character with a success story after this event either – ANTi’s Charizard made a great case that the character might not be so bad after all. There have been rumblings about the idea of Charizard having an even match-up on Cloud in part to due to Flamethrower heavily exploiting Cloud’s recovery, and ANTi seemed to force Komorikiri’s hand by making him switch to Sonic to combat the Charizard that did progressively better each game. More data will be needed as one set is one set, but it’s something to think about.
All in all, this was an incredibly eventful tournament. You might’ve expected as much due to the sheer density of international and European talent involved, but it’s a worthy bookend to iStudying’s legendary loser’s bracket run at the start of the year at B.E.A.S.T 6. Europe, Glutonny front-and-center, has made an impression on the Smash 4 world and has shown that they aren’t going to fall behind anytime soon.