America’s top two DanceDanceRevolution players met again in competition for the first time since they traveled to Japan back in February for Konami’s 6th KAC – but with a different result this time.
Reigning DDR Ace world champion Chris Chike (iamchris4life) faced off against third-place KAC finisher Jeff Lloyd (Fungah) on Saturday at the Round1 San Jose tournament held by SF EVOLVED, a San Francisco Bay Area rhythm gaming group. Though the stage was much smaller, the competition was just as fierce. This time, however, Fungah was crowned the champ after narrowly defeating Chris in both the winners’ finals match and grand finals.
During the winners’ finals, which consisted of a best-2-of-3 card draw match, Chris drew first blood on KAKUMEI (X-Special) by slim margin with 6 perfects to Fungah’s 7. Next up was PARANOIA ~HADES~ expert, where Fungah struck back by besting Chris, 12 perfects to 15. The final song was Top The Charts challenge, a tricky shock-arrow-heavy 14 chart. Though each competitor ended with 3 perfects, Chris hit a crucial shock arrow early on in the song, causing him to lose by 3 EX score.
After Chris took a quick trip to the losers bracket and swept LA-based player Sappy in a 2-0 match, he returned to rematch Fungah for the best-3-of-5 grand finals (though he’d have had to win two consecutive matches to be crowned champion). The match kicked off with a tense 3-perfect tie on ラクガキスト (Rakugakist) expert. However, Fungah swept the next three songs: 1p to 2p on Sakura Sunrise expert, 0p to 2p on aftershock!! expert, and 3p to 5p on ちゅ～いん☆バニー (Chewing Bunny) challenge (another shock arrow chart, appropriately enough). This cumulative 5-perfect margin of victory was enough to earn Fungah first place in the tournament. Chris took second place, followed by Sappy in third and Gerry (another local Bay Area player) in fourth.
A key point to note here is that the tournament structures of KAC and the SF EVOLVED event varied drastically, particularly when it came to chart difficulty level. KAC, being essentially an exhibition disguised as a tournament, only offered charts in the 17-to-19 range (19 being the highest, for those who aren’t familiar with DDR’s newer scale) for players to pick from. Admittedly, these higher-difficulty songs are Chris’ strong suit, so he took glee in choosing EGOISM 440 challenge (19) as his KAC selection. He’s also racked up plenty of world records on 17s, 18s and 19s.
Fungah, on the other hand, is well-known for his timing and consistency on relatively lower-difficulty charts (with more than 500 expert/challenge MFCs), though his skill on harder charts is nothing to scoff at either. He was the first person in the world to MFC a level-16 song, and he pulled off a crowd-stunning 21-perfect PFC on TRIP MACHINE EVOLUTION challenge (18) during the 6th KAC semifinals, perhaps the only PFC ever recorded at the event.
The card draw system used for Saturday’s event randomly selects five charts from the entire pool of songs in the game’s library (within selected difficulty bounds, based on round), which naturally lends itself to spitting out charts on the easier end of the spectrum due to the fact that there are simply many more of them in the game. Tournament organizers are discussing ways to better balance the card draw system for future events.
A total of 43 players entered the tournament, ranging from these world-class competitors to newer players who were competing for the first time. The Bay Area has seen a resurgence of interest in DDR since the release of Ace last summer, bringing older players out of the woodworks and introducing a new crop of players to the game. With four DDR A machines and two of the best players in the world within a 50 miles radius, it is a prime location to build a new community and competitive scene for a game that has been largely ignored in the U.S. for the past decade.