-- It's fitting that the best fighting game player in North American history, Evil Geniuses' Justin "JWong" Wong, took the crown at DreamHack's first venture on United States soil. Wong didn't just take the tournament on Saturday in Austin, Texas -- he dominated it. He was 9-3 in the top eight, with only Dhalsim from Panda Global's Ryan "FilipinoChamp" Ramirez representing his biggest obstacle.
His Karin play was simply on another level. Wong balanced outright aggression with safety to put every opponent on permanent guard. Every game was his pace and his style of play -- space control and a heavy emphasis on footsies. The rest of the top eight was a nice mix of characters and play-styles. There were rush-heavy characters: Ken, Karin, Rainbow Mika, and Laura -- and then there were zoning characters, such as Dhalsim and Nash.
It was encouraging to see more grappling characters show up during the final day with Laura, Rainbow Mika, and Birdie, and a positive trend of more variety in characters as the Capcom Pro Tour tournament season continues. As for the players, there were noticeable differences in play, as well. From momentum and mix-up players -- such as Wilfried "Melty|Will2Pac" Jean-Baptiste (the only international player in the top eight), Ryan "Fubarduck" Harvey, and Flipsid3 Tactics' Antwan "Alucard" Ortiz -- to balanced neutral-heavy players, such as Wong and Ricki Ortiz.
The Grand Finals of the tournament pitted Wong against Team Liquid's Du "NuckleDu" Dang. Karin against Nash. Character stability against crisis. This was a rematch of the winner's finals that Wong took in dominating 3-0 fashion.
To beat @JWonggg , you will need a superior neutral game in SFV. Mix ups and fancy frame traps is not enough.
- Alex Valle (@AlexValleSF4) May 8, 2016
Dang needed to both play up the pace and pressure to prevent Wong from starting his own superior neutral game. But Wong systematically took out every button and option from Dang. Every time Dang found space with a button, like roundhouse, Wong spaced it out correctly and punished him. It became apparent that there would be no comeback when Wong was allowed to pressure at will, dash up and corner Dang at every round.
With three representatives in the top 10, it was a beautiful showing of how regional threats exist whenever a major tournament occurs. Fighting game veteran Harvey played a mix-up heavy Rainbow Mika, putting his enemies in a blender in his tournament run and reminding everyone that the older players still have some game left. His fellow fighting game veteran, Hsien Chang took a respectable ninth place with a strong Necalli showing.
DreamHack Austin is in the books, and the North American hierarchy might be established with Wong at the very top. With international talent still overseas, the true question of which player or region is supreme lingers. But with strong showings and consistent placing from Wong and the other Capcom Pro Tour hopefuls, the bridge might be getting closer.