I’d like to start this off with a brief introduction of myself. I’ve been playing DDR for a little over 17 years in New York City, home of some heavy hitting players from the old school era and more modern era. I’ve watched skilled 32-man bracket tournaments where the only divisions are technical and freestyle; only one event comes to mind where bragging rights was the prize. Most events with large turnouts had large cash prizes attached to them, and aside from an awards ceremony or t-shirt to commemorate the event there was hardly any added flair. For me, it’s pretty much “strictly business” (pun intended). We come in, we play, winner gets their money, we go our separate ways.
In Japan, their major DDR event is called WARS. Aside from Round 1’s occasional meet and greet tournament events (which are scattered and much more smaller/local), WARS is where competitors gather to give their best against each other. The previous WARS event took place last year in Tachikawa’s Game Oslo 5, this one taking place a little further southeast in Tokyo at Takatsu Round 1. WARS was a well-timed event on my end, taking place April 15th right as I was visiting Tokyo, so I had to sign myself up and see how competition looked like in Japan. Hailing from America I honestly had no idea what the competition was like, especially when all I heard about the Japanese community was it consisting mostly of casual players. So there was no better time than this to really see what they were capable of.
WARS consisted of two divisions (of sorts). These weren’t divisions that separated by skill but rather by focus. “WARS” was a level-capped division which I would say focused more on MA (Marvelous Attack) scoring with predetermined songs for each round up until the final matches; while “EXTREME BUZZ” had players throwing higher level songs at each other in best of 3 or best of 5 matches. The top 32 players would qualify for WARS while Top 8 would qualify for EXTREME BUZZ. By the skin of my teeth, I managed to qualify for WARS… where I immediately got eliminated in the first round.
For the rest of the event, I (along with around 50 other DDRers) would watch the tournament go down. The venue afforded us a nice space, boxed in and surrounded by the backs of other music games and sound barriers. Instead of having to climb over each other just to see the game we were also given a large screen that fed us the lineout of the machine. Arcade cabinet lineouts I noticed were a lot more common in Japan, so I guess I was the only one who felt it was rather luxurious.
The matches in themselves were considerably solid, especially considering the fact players were dealt tricky songs such as Dancer in the Flare (Expert), Dopamine (Difficult), Imaoguilts (Expert), and Houkago Stride (Expert) to shave off every little perfect against each other. One match that really got the crowd talking was DAVO vs. D.KAREN, where both players tied and had to face each other in Pierce the Sky. DAVO claimed victory by only one EX point, which is all it took to send D.KAREN off.
WARS and EXTREME BUZZ took their course rather smoothly, despite the pads not performing as optimally. There was also a machine crash near the final matches that almost stole the momentum, but somehow the players and audience did not lose focus. We were taken all the way to the finals where Gahou took the opportunity to give the finalists of both divisions an opportunity to face the KAC Finalists of Japan, determined by a match between him and BROSONI. Loser would play the finalist of WARS, winner face the finalist of EXTREME BUZZ.
Omega.R, the finalist for WARS gave Gahou a really good match lasting a full five songs, topping off with Mei (Expert). On the EXTREME BUZZ side, it wasn’t as close (though HO4-KETI came close to claiming a win on Brosoni, closest being Paranoia Hades (Challenge) losing by only two points. But despite their loss against the finalists, they did not walk away empty-handed. Rewarded with protein bars and exercise equipment, Gahou congratulated the players on a successful run. WARS and EXTREME BUZZ concluded with a round of warm applause….
… or so we thought. After the awards were handed out and everyone prepared to gather their things, Gahou revealed he had one last match to settle against Brosoni, this time going all out. At this point I was already mindblown by the competition, so to get this encore “No rules, no restrictions” match between the two best players Japan has to offer was something I wasn’t even prepared for.
Both DDR giants of Japan duked it out on a match of 888, EGOISM 440, and Fascination MAXX (all Challenge). While Brosoni claimed victory on EGOISM 440, Gahou ultimately came out on top, throwing his fist into the air. It was a pretty nice way to cap off the tournament, since the earlier match between Brosoni and Gahou felt less intense and nowhere near as serious. Gahou and YsK-439 closed off the event with credits roll on the monitor listing not only the help of the staff but the participation of all the players involved all to the tune of a serious cover of “We Will Rock You”. Honestly, that threw me off. The fact we were listed in order/placement of the tournament said a lot to how much focus and attention to detail was put into running the event and making it an experience not only for themselves but for all of the players involved. Threw me off so much that I forgot to take photos or video.
As a photographer, I was glad to have captured a handful of moments here at WARS. I do know there was one other person at the event who recorded the matches, but where those videos are I am not terribly sure. But I did manage to record some of the final matches myself.
After the event, most of the players walked over to a post-tournament dinner to drink, eat, and celebrate a successful event. I relied heavily on the help of ANDRES, DAVO, and N-Forza to mitigate the language barrier between myself and all the Japanese players. The place was called Torikizoku, where we all sat at several booths and fed ourselves as much meat and whatever helping of drinks for 3000 yen. Maybe it was the third beer that I chugged, but I quickly felt comfortable around this community outside of the arcade. Before leaving, I asked to take a photo of the entire group. If I had a better grasp of Japanese maybe then I would have been able to converse with everyone with a lot more confidence. But they were just as welcoming with me as they were with each other.
Overall, I would say this experience was considerably unique. The competition was just as fierce as a American major like Champions of the Coast or Best of the West, and the most impressive feature of the tournament was the cooperation from Round One to accommodate the players and the dynamic of the competition. These players were giving it their all not for a cash prize, but for exercise equipment and snacks. The production quality was beyond something I’ve ever seen, and I think it has to do with the fact these players were allowed to just have fun and create competition just for the sake of competition. Something I wish (but realistically don’t believe without immense planning) to be able to reproduce even a fraction of locally.
I’d like to thank Gahou and YsK-439 for hosting the event, Round One in Takatsu and the rest of the WARS staff for putting their efforts in to hosting a smoothly run event. Hopefully I’ll be able to attend next year with a stronger grasp of the language and get to know just a bit more about the community and appreciate what you guys offer each year and actually understand what’s going on, instead of nodding and wondering what is next, haha. Maybe then we’ll also have more exciting matches to take place? If you want to see the results of the WARS event you can visit this link and check out the breakdown of each match and round.