Last night at at Atlanta, Georgia’s Final Round fighting game tournament, the Dragon Ball FighterZ competitive scene concluded a saga not unlike on from the show it’s based on play out, as an exhibition match weeks in the making finally came to an explosive conclusion.
Dominique “SonicFox” Mclean is widely seen as one of the US’s strongest fighting game players, period. He’s dominated tournaments for years, and is currently ranked as the top player for several games, including Injustice 2, Mortal Kombat X, Skullgirls (he’s no slouch at Marvel Vs. Capcom: Infinite and Street Fighter V, either). So when he set his sights on Dragon Ball FighterZ, many assumed he was going to once again take over. They were right. SonicFox is currently the American Dragon Ball FighterZ player to beat, winning several tournaments and quickly gaining a reputation as being unstoppable.
Meanwhile, Kishida “Go1” Goichi has emerged as the premiere DBFZ player from Japan. Goichi’s no newbie, either; he’s been a staple in the anime fighting game community, racking up wins in BlazBlue, Guilty Gear Xrd, and others. He’s also a top Street Fighter V player, earning fourth place in the game at Evo in 2016.
The modern FGC is a splintered-but-worldwide community, though, and it didn’t take long for the two to recognize each other’s skill. The rivalry began when Goichi won a tournament in Osaka, Japan. When he got on the mic to talk about his win, he specifically called out Mclean. “Next is you, SonicFox,” Goichi said at the tournament.
Mclean quickly responded on Twitter with his own challenge.
GOICHI COME. IVE BEEN MEANING TO TAKE YOUR HEAD AND SHOW YOU WHOS PERFECT https://t.co/wQOfFEHVjr
— Echo Fox | SonicFox @ FR 2018 (@SonicFox5000) February 24, 2018
And after winning a major US tournament at Winter Brawl 12, Fox called out Goichi yet again. “Goichi, omae wa mou shindeiru,” – “Goichi, you are already dead,” a reference to the classic fighting anime Fist of the North Star.
After it was announced that Goichi would be traveling to America to play in this weekend’s Final Round tournament, the tournament’s organizers couldn’t pass up the opportunity. They quickly announced an exhibition match between the two would take place during the event, in which Mclean and Goichi would face each other in a first-to-ten match. The announcement even had promo art.
— Final Round (@ATLfinalround) March 12, 2018
A match between an unstoppable force an immovable object is always one to watch, and the community waited anxiously to see these two champions face off. Yesterday evening, the two finally went at it.
The match wasn’t without its own drama, however. A few minutes after the match, the livestream of the event suddenly ended, replaced with shaky-cam footage of someone recording the match on their phone from far away. Someone had accidentally begun streaming the match under the main stream’s account on mobile, prompting the dedicated stream to end and be replaced. The issue was taken care of a few minutes later. Luckily a local recording of the match served as a backup post-match.
(SPOILERS FOR THE MATCH FOLLOW BENEATH THE VIDEO)
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The entire set went for an entire hour, proving DBFZ’s matches are on the long side. However, few would complain about the match being boring; DBFZ’s exchanges, mixups, and speed are such that even if you’re not entirely sure what’s going on, it’s fun to watch. And seeing players as gifted as Mclean and Goichi face off made the game look downright incredible. The combos are just the right length, showcasing a player’s practiced skill without being tiresome. The emphasis is more on the moments between those combos, as both players had a slew of “blockstrings” (strings of attacks most opponents must block consecutively without being able retaliate) at their disposal. Waiting to see when one player would dash to the other side to trick their opponent, or interrupt their blockstring by going for a throw, or anything that might get them the first hit that would lead to another combo, made for incredibly tense matches. If you can, I suggest watching the entire match.
While Mclean got an early lead, it was clear Goichi was simply getting his bearings. As the set went on, Goichi got a strong read on Mclean, blocking most of his strings and even reading his throw attempts. Mclean had a solid gameplan for each of his characters and could extend his combos by using other character’s assists and supers, but had trouble coordinating his team as a unit. He didn’t swap out low-health characters as often, which meant he missed out on health that was regenerated while characters are on reserve. Goichi had a far better handle on how to manage his team.
He also had trouble dealing with Goichi’s Adult Gohan blockstrings. The character is currently infamous for being able to lock down opponents with long strings of attacks that are nearly impossible to interrupt until Gohan runs out of assists and meter. Mclean relied on swapping out his characters defensively (something the game lets you do by sacrificing one bar of meter), but didn’t seem to have the timing on that move down, leading to several scenarios where he would defensively swap only for the incoming character to get opened up by a full combo. This put Mclean on the backfoot during most matches, and made it difficult for him to mount a comeback. Goichi quickly mounted a lead and stuck with it, eventually building enough momentum to roll Mclean several matches in a row.
Don’t worry about Mclean too much, though; he took the loss in stride.
I aint salty I think I know what I can do better! I cant be mad at someone so good!
— Echo Fox | SonicFox @ FR 2018 (@SonicFox5000) March 16, 2018
Despite the lopsided 10-4 score, it was a riveting watch, and a fantastic showcase of how DBFZ is bringing various fighting game communities together, leading to “crossover” matches like one between top players from the anime and Mortal Kombat communities. And with the game currently ahead of even Street Fighter V in entrants at Evo, it’s likely the best DBFZ matches are yet to come. In fact, the proper DBFZ tournament at Final Round is still underway, and while all eyes are on Goichi, there are a number of strong competitors (including Mclean) who’d love to get in his way.