11th Mar2011

2011 South Korea Visit – Part 2 of 2

by Rip

This is a continuation of my South Korea trip recap, so be sure to check out part 1 if you missed it. I’ll update this post with the rest of the vids next week when they go up. (Edit: I just heard of the 8.9 earthquake that just hit Japan and hope that everyone is okay over there! Tsunami watch in SOCAL, I cant even believe its real). Going back to my last post regarding the skill level between the regions, I want to clarify that the best players in every region can hang with the best players in every other region. I was simply referring to average skill level among their entire player base.

Leading up to the event, we had been playing at Green Arcade a ton and hanging out with the players every night. We had dinner with Nin and the Tekken Crash guys where we gave them our info and they told us the entire bracket for the Royal Rumble. From that dinner onward, I knew I was screwed lol because I was going to be playing Narakhof first round and he had owned up both myself and Anakin just a day or two before. I hate when top players use the excuse of ‘not having experience against the character’ but.. MARDUK!? And not just any Marduk, the best Marduk in Korea and possibly the world!? Screwed haha, but needless to say I spent a lot of time on my PSP practicing against the character after Green that night. As you can imagine though, PSP practice mode can only prepare you so much. For the other guys, Fab drew Dasalgi (Steve) and Anakin drew Dejavu (Bryan). From what we heard, Dasalgi hadn’t been playing much lately and Fab used to main Steve so he was confident going into the match. Anakin had played Dejavu previously (and would play him MUCH more leading up to the Rumble) and basically won every match, so he was definitely confident going into his match.

The night prior to the Rumble was like any other night (edit: The video at the end of Part 1 was actually from the night before Rumble). We played a bunch and we were as prepared as we were going to be. Full night rest, wake up in the afternoon, everyone was ready/awake on time. Apparently everyone had drank too much the night before though. Fab woke up puking, Anakin brought in some Lotteria and the smell of it made Fab start puking some more. I didn’t puke but lets just say Rip v Toilet went all the way to the final round. I was overly superstitious this time around, so I actually brought some Gatorade (from America, $3 per small bottle at the airport) + a bag of Famous Amos Chocolate Chip cookies to help me feel like it was just another tournament. We took a cab over to the MBC Game studio. Somehow Maxi knew how to access the back entrance and walked us in from the back of the set. Seeing the stage was the moment for that me the trip really came together.

We had just flown halfway across the planet, to come to this set, to do battle with some of the best Tekken players in the world, and it was about to happen in the next few hours. When we got there, the chairs hadn’t been set out for the audience and all the lighting wasn’t up yet, but the stage was almost complete with both cabinets running and the brackets were up. Just seeing the stage got my adrenaline flowing, it was pretty awesome. Soon after arrival, the producer came over and gave us some gifts for coming on the show (the clothy Tekken Crash banners you see the audience holding up) and Holeman asked us our shirt sizes and went into a backroom to get us the Tekken Crash shirts (which later they decided we could keep!). We were one of the first people there (since we were the foreigners and they wanted to make sure we had enough time to find the place) so we had a lot of time to kill before the actual filming would start. The next place we stopped by was the hair/makeup room.

Now, since it IS a tv show where the players are the feature, they have a room with a stylist doing everyones makeup and hair. The three of us Americans were a little hesitant at first, but when we got there, Nin was in there getting his hair done so that helped ease us in. Fab went up next and got in the chair while the stylist was looking through her stuff. When she turned around, she was like ‘makeup?! NoONoNonONoNOnonONONO!!!’ and since Fab was wearing a hat, the hair was a no go as well and that was that for him haha. Apparently her makeup kits aren’t prepared for the non-light-asian-persuasion. Obviously makeup would be a no go for me as well, but I went up and asked her to do my hair with the idea that if I didnt like it, I could always go smooth it out with some water. Next thing I know, shes busting out a hair straightener (which I’ve NEVER used on my hair in my life), tugging and curling on stuff, grabbing gel, mousse, hairspray. bOom presto, my hair looks korean and I’m good to go. To be honest, as crazy as my hair came out, it grew on me but I am way too lazy to ever do anything like that to my hair by myself ever. (And yea, theres no way I could’ve taken it down for the show if I wanted to. 4 shampoos later that night and it still wasnt back to normal)

After the makeup we were shown the ‘player waiting rooms.’ Basically behind the stage there are 2 rooms with monitors where the players can sit and watch the show as its happening. There is also one additional staging room behind the curtain that the players wait in before they walk out through the curtain. Soon, more and more players arrived. Maxi filmed some pre-show interviews where I was lucky enough to ask Nin ON CAMERA what he thought about the Korean/Japanese/American scenes (unfortunately Maxi deleted the footage!).

An interesting thing about the Korean players is that the veterans of Tekken Crash didn’t even seem to really care about being there. For them it was like just another biweekly local tournament, meh, whatever. For the players who had never been on the show, or had rarely been on the show (Dioxin and Any Special, both of whom I got to speak with quite often actually since they spoke English very well) were verrry nervous. Dioxin had to play Tongbal Love so he knew he was in for a difficult match, and since he had OCV’d Tongbal’s team for SBO qualifiers Tongbal was looking for revenge. Any Special was a really cool guy, but also very nervous about his debut Crash match as it was against Knee. I assume for these guys who aren’t ‘huge names’ in Korea that there is a lot of pressure to do well so you get invited back on the show/help your reputation/get sponsorships etc. For us Americans, I felt that anything was possible in this format, so we just had to play our game and see what happened. Having played in the arcade for so many days prior to the event I felt that any one of us COULD win the event still but that it was unlikely. I don’t think we had as much pressure as the lower-ranked Koreans though because for us it was mainly going to be this one shot with no easy way of being back on the show regularly.

After about an hour of waiting around they gave us the ‘orientation’ meeting. Showed us how to walk out of the curtain, stop at this spot, look at that camera, go to your seat, give pad to the assistant to plug in etcetc. Then it was just about showtime. Chairs were all setup, people had been lined up outside the door were now taking their seats, all the lights and cameras were in place, all the players were in the backrooms. They were doing mic checks and testing our entrance music out now and again (The entrance music thing was so random. The night we were at dinner with the producer and Nin, I think Fab asked if we could have them and then they said okay and asked us what we wanted!). Finally, it was SHOWTIME. We sat in the backroom by the curtain and watched it live on the monitor in there. We could hear the music, crowd cheering, and the commentary from the room while watching the screen at the same time. Soon it was Fab’s turn to go up.

Watching him get announced then walk out the curtain in real life, then looking up at the monitor and seeing it ‘on tv’ was surreal. Especially because I knew it wasn’t being broadcast live, except that it was exactly what it was going to look like when it would be later broadcast was really trippy. It was obvious he was nervous, but none of us could really blame him. I won’t spoil the results here but the videos are up:

It was in these matches though that I learned that they do one entire HALF of the bracket at once all the way through until they get one winner. So it was going to be at least another hour before I would have to play. This rollercoaster of emotions (adrenaline when I arrive, calm down, adrenaline when fab goes out, calm down, adrenaline when its my turn) and long wait time was definitely draining, but I knew to stay calm and focused and told myself that my opponent was probably going through the same thing. Plus, I had my Gatorade and Famous Amos, so I was good. I also had my PSP on me and practiced whenever I got too nervous to further calm myself.

I had decided that since the odds were against me winning my match that I would at least try to win the fake award of best intro. I rehearsed it in my mind over and over again and finally, it was time for my match. Standing behind the curtain in the dark hallway, jumping up and down to get the nerves out, my music hits, the assistants pull the curtain open, I step through, and the first thing I see.. two rows into the crowd on my immediate right near the middle of the crowd, I see a girl… body half twisted backwards to see me, screaming and waving her hands in the air as if I’m Justin Bieber. My mind – went blank for a second lol. I’m interested to see if I looked confused on that camera 1 now, but the show hasn’t aired yet. Anyways, I try and focus and do my intro, I think it went well, go up to the stage, get my mind ready for the match. After the girl incident, I couldn’t get myself to look at the crowd again for fear I would lose focus again. Then Narakhof came out, to a HUGE ovation (I can’t wait to see it on the show).

I play the match the best I could, and the crowd was VERY supportive whenever I won a round (which honestly caught me off guard) but Narakhof got the decisive W. Having been on the Evo stage/SBO/and now Tekken Crash, I would say that the pressure of performing to your full potential on each is very different. I would say Evo is definitely the least pressure for me even though it has the largest crowd watching. SBO has pressure because its always so loud all around you from all the different matches around you and you only have that one match to lose before you’re out. Crash’s pressure comes from whole presentation thing (cameras, positioning, crowd, lights, not getting to hit start to skip the round ending replay). I wouldn’t say I was nervous during the match, but there was one moment early on where I dropped a juggle and it was probably the moment I started to hesitate more in the match. I dropped the juggle because of my own input error on pad, one I never make on stick, so I was kicking myself for that, but if I had played on stick the entire match and lost then I would’ve kicked myself for not playing on pad, so I’m happy that I decided to play on pad. Here’s my match!

After the match, I stayed and watched the rest of the tournament play out. Interesting to me was that when other top players lost, they would just leave. They didn’t want to stick around and watch the whole thing through to see who would win. It wasn’t that they were upset it seemed more like, oh well, see you guys next time. I’ll stay away from other spoilers for now and update this later, but here’s Anakin’s match as well!

For me, the whole Tekken Crash/Royal Rumble experience was definitely the highlight of the trip. Just being at Green Arcade every single day was also awesome, but I’m not a deathmatcher. I like to have fun once in awhile when I play and I cant get myself to play that seriously continuously. Regardless though, the trip was absolutely amazing and Green Arcade is the craziest Tekken arcade in the world. Huge thanks again to Maxi for showing us around/helping us with everything and to Check 6 Gaming for helping me get there. Shoutouts to Luke and all the koreans I got to hang out with and play. In no order – Nin, Tuhon/2nd Qudans, Barcas, Dioxin, Naengmyun, Any Special, EasyComboMania, Pokemon Secret, Sodam, Holeman, Misty, Tongbal, Knee, Chanel, Dong Dong, Ji3moon Ace, JDCR, Dejavu, Malgu, Narahkof and everyone else whose name I didn’t get. Everyone out there was awesome and I hope to someday make it back there to play you all again!

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  1. [...] match is up! Also, if you didn’t catch Part 2 of my trip recap, check it out [...]