It’s one of the biggest fighting game tournaments of the season: Combo Breaker, famously taking place at the Mega Center, Illinois, is a celebrated competition between the community’s most passionate players - and with precious little time left to prepare, competitors are busy gearing up for another wild ride.
Top players on a tear
With this year’s Capcom Pro Tour underway, Street Fighter V:Arcade Edition pros are already making big waves in the competition, with Victor “Punk” Woodley being one of them. Having taken the first tournament of the season, Final Round, as well as The Mixup, Punk is looking to be a favorite for this year’s standings - but he’s not the only player fans have their eyes on.
Hot on the heels of Ranking Events like Texas Showdown, BAM 11, and Saigon Cup, other players have likewise made strong showings, with Event winners Jonathan ‘JB’ Bautista, Masahiro ‘Machabo’ Tominaga, and Hajime ‘Tokido’ Taniguchi rising up in the rankings, respectively.
Tokido himself has already gotten off to a good start this season, after taking first place at NorCal Regionals and second place at FV x SEA Major. As one of SFV’s most consistent players, his current success comes as no surprise to fans who have been following the game’s competitive circuit - but Combo Breaker is known for being one of the most stacked tournaments of the season, and thus, a famous trend-bucker.
Punk’s massive comeback
Last year’s Combo Breaker saw stunning performances from some of Asia’s best Street Fighter V players. Names like Naoki ‘Nemo’ Nemoto, Masato ‘Bonchan’ Takahashi, and Hyungsuk ‘Verloren’ Kong threw down in a breathtaking Top 8 bracket without a Western player in sight, with Grand Finals coming down between Kun ‘Xian Ho and Sim ‘NL’ Gun.
In a stunning showdown between two of Season Three’s strongest characters, NL’s Cammy ended up taking the victory, after a close series of games against Xian’s Ibuki that left audiences on the edge of their seats. Although NL emerged the victor, this year’s Combo Breaker comes on the heels of a major storyline for the 2019 season - specifically, Punk’s major comeback.
This year Punk is on a tear, having taken two Premiere Events and placing second at NorCal Regionals after a nail-biting showdown with his demon, Tokido. While it seemed that Punk had met his match at EVO 2017, effectively taking a major competitive blow, the young pro has come back in a big way - and he isn’t the only one making moves, either.
Leveling up at the Street Fighter League
JB, former East Coast savant turned West Coast warrior, has made a recent splash in the standings, taking Ranking Event Texas Showdown after a largely successful run in the Street Fighter League: Pro-US 2019 tournament series. JB’s time at the League has obviously given him a major leg up on the competition, as well as his comrades; Showdown saw a Top 8 bracket filled with a total of five participants in the SFL, including the likes of Elchakotay Andrich, Kevin “Dual Kevin” Barrios, and Sean “Shine” Simpson.
With their experience fighting other players in an intense, team-based format, it comes as no surprise that the group has leveled up, in the process. With more tournaments ahead of them, Combo Breaker included, fans could be seeing more top placements from this group in the near future.
Combo Breaker: more than your average tournament
Of course, it’s more than just the competition that makes Combo Breaker a great event; boasting a bustling 24-hour venue, a tight-knit community, and a celebrated cosplay contest, Combo Breaker allows for invaluable fellowship between like-minded fighting game players, fans, and enthusiasts.
Rick Thiher, Event Director of Combo Breaker 2019, feels that the tournament’s atmosphere is what sets it apart from other events, in tandem with his efforts to continually push the _ to the next level.
“At this point, I think it boils down to atmosphere,” Thiher said of Combo Breaker. “Most of what Combo Breaker is renowned for multiple other tournaments provide around the world. However, I think the remote location and continual push to do slightly more than our budget should allow has helped us become celebrated by a community always looking to feel appreciated.”
Who will conquer Combo Breaker?
Thiher himself predicts wide character variety for Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition at this year’s Combo Breaker, and feels that Punk may make a big showing, in keeping with his current momentum.
“I believe Street Fighter fans will be able to enjoy a tournament with the wide character variety that the more closely clustered tiers should provide,” Thiher continued. “I have no personal predictions beyond the massive attendance allowing for a Midwest upset occurring during Phase 2 pools and Punk continuing to be the player to beat come Top 8.”
Combo Breaker is a massive celebration of many fighting game cultures, with Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition being one of a slew of games represented in the mix. As the 2019 Capcom Pro Tour continues to unfold, players and fans wait with bated breath to see who will come out on top; considering the major comebacks made by some of the game’s top players in its current competitive climate, this year’s Combo Breaker promises to bring unforgettable action, once again.