One of the biggest, if not the biggest exhibitions in modern fighting games took place this past weekend, as Japan’s GO1 went head to head against The US’s SonicFox.
Two of the greatest fighting game players of this era, each player having drastically different fighting game backgrounds and accomplishments, meet in the most popular fighting game today.
SonicFox has flourished in games like Mortal Kombat X, Injustice and Injustice 2, is a multi-time EVO champion, and has been nothing short of dominant in Dragon Ball FighterZ, winning every event he’s played in. GO1 is dominant in his own right, having major notoriety in Melty Blood and Street Fighter V.
What makes this exhibition so special is the build behind it. Many people in the US thought that SonicFox was untouchable, not only because of how dominant he’s been, but because of how newer FGC members (primarily in the US) weren’t aware of his success, nor did they know just how good he was. It definitely seemed like he was the underdog going in, but many experienced players felt that that was ridiculous.
But the talk ended when the match began.
The fireworks fly in the very first second of this exhibition, as SonicFox goes with his patented left-right mixups on offense. GO1 never gets his Adult Gohan going, and things begin to snowball from the get go. The momentum would continue to ride in game two, as Fox takes a commanding 3 characters to 1 lead early. While an accidental pause could debate a momentum shift, Fox still manages to close it out, taking a 2-0 lead.
At this point, Fox begins to look incredibly comfortable, and that might have caused him to be unable to adapt. Looking back at Fox’s history in Dragon Ball FighterZ, he’s never had the need to adapt because he was so far above so many other players this entire time. We begin to see a shift as the set goes on.
The biggest difference in game three was the fact that Adult Gohan got to play. This was a big showcase of Adult Gohan’s 214H being incredibly dirty midscreen, as it renders the opponent unable to tech. This is only present outside of level 3’s with Android 16, and is the reason why level 3’s are so powerful in the game in general, (with most of them pushing the opponent full screen). As game 4 rolls on, GO1’s Vegeta starts to shine, and the team begins to really take form and show what it can do. Utilization of Gohan and Vegeta’s DP, along with each others’ assist to push neutral in his favor, is what’s allowing GO1 to get the edge in the neutral game.
What became very noticeable was GO1’s frequent use of tagging when there were holes in Fox’s blockstrings, this was found to be a very nifty option select that was later explained after the set:
While fuzzy jumping isn’t anything new, buffering tag while fuzzy jumping was certainly not something that has been done in spades until GO1 was doing it in this exhibition. This was the explanation as to why he was escaping so much of Android 16s and Hit’s pressure with what seemed like ease. This would be more and more apparent throughout the set, and would be one of the primary ways Fox would face his proverbial demise.
Games 6 and 7 was a lot more of the aforementioned, but more pronounced. It started becoming clear that Fox did not have an answer for Adult Gohan, and Fox’s best character, Hit, was starting to become less and less of a factor. Additionally, Fox’s defense was starting to crack, and this became evident by the increasing amount of raw level 3’s happening on Fox’s end (the most glaring one being in game 7 with Goku Black). The armor was getting chipped, and GO1 was gaining momentum big time.
The compound to this issue was that Fox failed to adjust according to how GO1 was playing, not necessarily because he was doing something wrong per se, but because GO1’s defense, throughout the entire set, was so incredibly good, that a lot of the shenanigans he would normally do against any other player simply was not working. My assumption? Fox has been dominant for so long that he never had to adjust offensively. Even in the fourth and last game that Fox won, which was by a good amount, it certainly felt that extra work was being put in for not as much as earlier in the set.
This was not only a textbook example of needing to be able to adjust both offensively and defensively when your plan A doesn’t work, but also being able to have a full understanding and respect for every character and every character combination. Adult Gohan was definitely oppressive and it showed in this set, but Vegeta, a character that was touted as “not that good” here in America, was so incredibly vital to GO1s success throughout the weekend. Adult Gohan being the only other character besides Android 16 to have an untechable knockdown anywhere on the screen outside of level 3 is something not too many people knew about either, and that’s a massively huge deal.
The two gods would meet again in the Grand Finals of Final Round, with GO1 coming from losers.
From these two sets at Final Round, it appears that Fox simply can’t match up to the god from Japan. Perhaps some more training was required and adjustments needed to be made.
A third opportunity to take down GO1 presented itself when The newly opened Esports Arena in Las Vegas hosted the third installment of this rivalry; a second FT10 featuring the two titans.
This time, things are much, much closer. Adjustments were in fact made, as Fox went with Hit on point. This was alluded to by commentary at Final Round, and it seems to have worked out much better here. Almost each and every game was incredibly close, and a noticeable change in Fox’s strategy was a much more liberal use of Sparking Blast, both to get out of corner pressure, and to preserve/regain the life of a character, especially Hit and Goku Black. This makes a ton of sense, as being down a character is much more difficult to deal with (you’re also going down an assist and a way to regain health on your other characters as well). GO1 didn’t change too much about his game, but he didn’t really have to. He has so many safe choices in 2 DPs (one of them being aerial) and an incredible defensive assist, that he can play very safely and simply have much options when he is eventually under pressure. Unfortunately, pad problems were the downfall of Fox this time, but things were so much closer this time around, that it’s incredible to see how much he’s improved in such a short time.
With the amount of takeaways from this set involving the players, there are also things we can take away involving characters and gameplay in general:
Respect Vegeta: I think this was a huge wake up call to everyone that didn’t like Vegeta in the states. The character is good, and you have to respect what he can do. In a game where offense is king, having a DP reversal option is more than enough to make a character solid.
Hit: With the newly discovered fuzzy tag option select, Hit is in some grave danger in terms of top level viability. He is easily the character affected by this the most, and it isn’t the hardest thing to do in the world either. Hit was always having trouble with mid screen neutral, and this is only going to hinder his pressure once he does get in. This won’t make Hit “bad”, but something new is going to have to be figured out for him.
Goku Black: One of the lesser known points coming out of this tournament is the role of Goku Black. He’s certainly one of the best characters in the game, but through the storm that was Adult Gohan, Goku Black has, at least in my view, slightly fallen off. The best characters in the game are either really freaking broken at one or two things, or are Cell. Goku Black is really, really good at a ton of things, but he isn’t the best at anything. This makes him an incredibly safe choice going into a team, but he’ll almost never define said team. As more tournaments go by and as the meta continues to develop, more and more cheap things will be discovered, and Goku Black may fall further because of it.
Non-mechanical defense: DP’s, reversals, and the like, are incredibly valuable, because they add a layer of defense that the game fundamentally doesn’t give you. Defense is sorely lacking in this kind of game, and if you can have anything that will help with that, it’s worth using. I would even go as far as to say that playing Vegeta for the purpose of having a DP is worth it, because he gives you more chances to play the game, which is much more valuable than playing a fundamentally better character that may not get the chance to play. If you’re Vegeta, Adult Gohan, Teen Gohan, or Beerus, make note of this set and adjust accordingly.
I eagerly await the next chapter in the SonicFox and GO1 rivalry. I will also be very interested, both as a competitor, and as a fan, to see how the top players will continue to adapt to things being found. Will SonicFox change his team? Will GO1 find even more broken things to work with?