2014 marked the inception of the Capcom Pro Tour, an official circuit for competitive Street Fighter players that allows them to take their talents across the globe. Giving pros the world over a chance to shine for points, fame, and glory, the Tour also introduced its grand finale in Capcom Cup, the culmination of tournaments on the circuit that would define the season’s greatest champion — and give them an undisputed place in Street Fighter history.
Discovering a Passion for Fighting Games
The first-ever Capcom Pro Tour begged many questions: Would any new talent emerge in this competitive circuit? Would any existing players show out in a huge way? And, perhaps most importantly — who would take Capcom Cup? Considering the wealth of talent already existing in competitive Street Fighter, it was a tough call for anyone at the season’s outset; but it’s safe to say that Japan’s talent base, a region known for dominating the series, was a popular pick among fans.
Yusuke Momochi is one such pro from the region, boasting a storied history in fighting games that has since extended to an impressive legacy in the professional gaming industry, at large. However, his gaming journey didn’t begin with Street Fighter; instead, he claims his very first video game experience was with the original Mario for Nintendo as a child. The classic title wasn’t his only outlet for long, though, with Momochi discovering fighting games at around ten years old.
Claiming that he loved beating older kids on the other side of the arcade cabinet at gaming centers, young Momochi “couldn’t get enough” of the high that came from defeating his opponents, and went on to become a well-known face in tournaments throughout Japan’s fighting game scene — but a passion for fighting games wasn’t the only surprise the arcades would bring him.
Finding Love in the Arcade
Momochi’s performances in Japan’s FGC eventually saw him enter a tournament that was being run by fellow Street Fighter player Chocoblanka. The two struck up a friendship shortly thereafter, and went on to become Japan’s first-ever pro gamer couple, founding an academy for aspiring professional gamers after their marriage in 2015.
Momochi wasn’t always a full-time fighting game player, though; in fact, he worried that he wouldn’t be able to make a living playing the games he loved, despite spending just as much time with games as professional players did in his youth. In spite of his worries, he has since become one of Japan’s model gamers, in part due to his jaw-dropping performance in the CPT.
The Path to Pro
The 2014 CPT featured Ultra Street Fighter IV as its main title, with the game having been released that same year. Faced with both a new game and a new tour, players were challenged with a massive task on two fronts — but the competition didn’t disappoint, and neither did Momochi’s performances.
Popular for using Final Fight’s knife-wielding Cody, Momochi was equally as well-known for his use of shoto and mainstay character Ken, hailed for his “clean” playstyle and impeccable neutral game. Always cold, calculated, and nearly emotionless when playing, the pro once again took his talents to the global stage upon the CPT’s inception, scoring top spots at multiple Premier Events throughout the season.
Taking 7th at France’s Ranking Stunfest, Momochi experienced one of his biggest victories of the year shortly thereafter, where he scored first place at South East Asia Major just a month later. Despite the travel, Momochi’s pro mindset persevered, with the fighting game sauvant taking second at Florida’s famed CEO merely a week afterwards. He even earned a spot in EVO’s Top 8 bracket, garnering enough points to qualify for Capcom Cup at the season’s end — a tournament that would mark one of the greatest achievements of his career.
An Uphill Battle
Momochi’s Capcom Cup journey to victory would not be an easy stroll along a well-worn path. In his second set on Winners’ side, the pro faced off against the UK’s multi-game talent Ryan Hart, who defeated him in a convincing 2-1 run, and sent the Japanese pro tumbling into the Losers’ bracket. This meant that, in order to attain the coveted Capcom Cup, Momochi would have to complete an arduous climb and use what energy he had left to reset the bracket should he make it to the Grand Finals — a daunting task, but one that he was determined to undertake.
Momochi advanced to the Losers side of Capcom Cup’s Top 8 bracket after defeating Bonchan and France’s Valmaster. There, he was met with a major runback with the very player who’d knocked him into the lower bracket — Ryan Hart. This time, Momochi had his opponent’s number, taking it over the “Prodigal Son” in a fairly dominant 2-1 run.
Becoming the CPT’s First Capcom Cup Champion
Having defeated Ryan Hart, Momochi ascended to the Losers’ Finals, where he encountered France’s Luffy, the 2014 Evo Champion, and engaged in a heated battle to determine the remaining contender of the Grand Finals. In a stellar show of mountain-climbing prowess, Momochi won the set with a clean 2-0, scoring a spot in the CPT’s first-ever Capcom Cup Grand Final against Singaporian pro and multi-character specialist Xian.
Holding a Poison, Gen, and Dhalsim in his pocket, Xian forced Momochi to prepare for anything he might pull out. It was Mad Gear’s Poison for the first game. With both of their characters boasting evenly-strong zoning tools, Xian had to outplay Momochi to take their first game — and his doing so reminded his foe that he was still climbing the hill. Undaunted, Momochi went on to clutch out a close bracket reset 3-2 (thanks to Xian’s whiffed Super Combo) and his fans exploded. Then, the whole crowd went wild in anticipation: They knew a character switch was imminent.
It was Gen that Xian used for the final set, relying on the dual-stance fighter to see him through to what could be a major victory. However, as with his runback against Ryan Hart, Momochi had successfully gotten the read on his rival. He went in strong, took the first two games of the reset, and presented Xian with an uphill battle of his own.
Like an expert free-climber, Momochi reached the tournament-point-plateau over Xian — but his opponent wasn’t about to fall off a cliff. Xian took a game off of his rival with a well-timed Ultra Combo. The score was now 2-1. Xian was still on a steep hike while Momochi could scale the tournament peak at any moment. Venturing off into what would ultimately be their final game, Momochi ascended to tournament point yet again and reached the summit in the next round with Ken’s Shinryuken, becoming the very first CPT’s official Capcom Cup champion.
Giving Back to the Next Generation
Following his groundbreaking victory at Capcom Cup 2014, Momochi and Chocoblanka went on to found ‘Shinobism,’ their very own academy meant to train up-and-coming gaming pros to facilitate the next generation of esports stars. Citing a passion for competitive gaming and possessing a bright hope for the future of the industry, both Momochi and Chocoblanka have taken their shared success and multiplied it tenfold by passing on their own wealth of experience to others hoping to achieve the same dream — a dream that became reality for Momochi, and has since bloomed into a victory for Japan’s entire esports scene.