Glorio Special Report: ATLUS Fighting Championships

We here at The Glorio Blog are big fans of Bearsona 4 Arena, so when I learned a tournament was being held at an arcade a mere 15 minute drive away, we figured that one of us just had to go check it out. I’m the best P4A player among us by a fair margin (and the closest to the location by a huge margin), so I was the obvious choice to claim glory and prizes in the blog’s name. So, how did it go?

I showed up several hours early to make sure I would be able to register for the Persona 4 Arena bracket, but even an hour before the King of Fighters XIII tournament was slated to begin, there were a whole bunch of people in the arcade. Most of them were playing at the two long tables set up right in the center, with eight PS3s running both P4A and KoF on either side. After I handed over my $5 registration fee, getting the second spot on the bracket (evidently, I showed up a tad too early), I was informed by an employee that it was pretty much open casuals at the moment, so I could join in no problem.

I wasted no time in trying to weasel my way into a match, but quickly encountered a problem. While the event was clearly labelled as Bring-Your-Own-Controller, and while I had, of course, brought the very PS3 controller I had been using to train over the past week, I had forgotten to bring a USB cable to connect said controller to the console. Since I always use it wirelessly at home, it simply hadn’t crossed my mind. I didn’t think it was that big of a deal, but apparently it is a travesty among the fighting game community to use a controller instead of a fight stick – that meant a wireless controller was right out, and I received much contempt from the bystanders because of it. Thankfully, a nice guy lent me his PS2 controller (which was considered okay for some reason) and accompanying USB adapter, and I got to play a few casual matches.

I didn’t stick around for long though, making a quick trip home to fetch the USB cable that went with my controller. By the time I got back, the arcade was jam packed full of attendees, and the King of Fighters tournament had already begun. Employees called out over a megaphone who was matched up against who (leading to funny moments when they tried to pronounce some Internet handles), and at which console station, leading to a constant stream of fights. Every hour or so they would pick some random names from the brackets and hand out some free swag, including t-shirts, old PS2 ATLUS games, and copies of KoFXIII and P4A.

Since now the lines for the casual P4A matches were taking up an entire half of the arcade, I sat back and chatted with the guy I met earlier and a few other people. The event was taking place in a still functional arcade, and we passed the time that way. The place was fairly well stocked, mostly specializing in fighting games – there was the typical Street Fighter 2, 3, and 4 and Marvel vs. Capcom 2 and 3, but there were a few oddities as well. I spent a dollar on a weird Street Fighter II pinball machine, and there was even a classic JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure cabinet. One guy was enjoying the Fist of the North Star fighting game far more than watching the casual matches, and we all had some good laughs along with him.

After several long, grueling hours of waiting, it was finally time for the Persona 4 Arena bracket to start – over 60 people were registered, which (according to the employees over the megaphone) was more than there had even been at EVO. Everyone playing casuals got kicked off the consoles, and the names for the first round of players got called. My first opponent was the very man who lent me his PS2 controller to use during casuals earlier – he was apparently the first person to register for P4A before me. After exchanging a handshake and wishing each other luck, the battle commenced. Kanji Tatsumi vs. Kanji Tatsumi. Man-to-man combat.

I trounced him. No mercy, even among comrades.

After another hour or so of waiting, it was time for round two. This is where the ever-infamous distastefulness of the fighting game community struck like a bolt from the blue: while my opponent (playing as robo-girl Aigis) was perfectly civil, the spectating crowd was far from it. They loudly picked apart my mistakes in real time, laughing when I goofed an attack’s input and cheering when my opponent landed a big combo. The same guy who was playing the Fist of the North Star machine, while amicable before, now hurled insults and racial slurs at me from only just over my shoulder.

This time, I got trounced. No mercy. I hadn’t expected any.

By now, I had spent some seven hours in the cramped confines of the arcade, and I was getting pretty darn tired. I didn’t bother to stick around for the loser’s bracket, stepping outside and waving goodbye to some of the people I had met. I found a crumpled $5 bill on the ground while on the way out, letting me break even on my adventure into the hardcore fighting game scene.

It was an interesting experience, a peek into the culture that permeates this genre, but I would never want to go to another tournament. When money and prizes are on the line, when people are hovering over your shoulder waiting for you to screw up, I found that the element of fun – the reason I was still playing P4A in the first place – was lost. I’ll stick to casually playing with my friends; that way, I can actually enjoy myself.

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