Coming to America: A look at Tsu's epic Frostbite run

Yahoo Esports
Japanese Lucario player Tsu made his U.S. debut and took #1 player ZeRo to his limit. (Alain Rodriguez)
Japanese Lucario player Tsu made his U.S. debut and took #1 player ZeRo to his limit. (Alain Rodriguez)

The stage was already set for Frostbite 2017 to be a noteworthy Super Smash Bros. for Wii U tournament. In addition to being the final major event to run the current Smash 4 ruleset, 16 of the 20 top ranked players in the world were set to attend. This included a number of top players from Japan, with names that the Smash 4 community was already familiar with: Yuta “Abandango” Kawamura, Rei “Komorikiri” Furukawa, and Takuto “Kameme” Ono chief among them.

There was also a new face named Tsu, a Lucario player making his first trip to the United States. He then proceeded to demolish anyone placed in front of him.

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Tsu’s run started in pools, where he emerged from the winner’s side after defeating 17th ranked PGR player and recent Phoenix1 pickup Gavin “Tweek” Dempsey. At the time, it was observed as an impressive upset, but his momentum didn’t stop there. He proceeded to beat 6th ranked PGR player James “VoiD” Makekau-Tyson 3-2 to start Top 48, shocking him with an insane comeback in the first game by destroying Sheik’s two stocks from 135% damage. He would follow that up with wins over fellow countrymen, PGR #11 Kameme and PGR #13 Salem, who is considered the world’s best Bayonetta player.

It appeared that the magic run was going to stall out against Gonzalo “ZeRo” Barrios, the clear-cut #1 player in the world. However, ZeRo has historically had some issues with Lucario’s penchant for late-game comebacks, evidenced again by Tsu handily beating his Diddy Kong. Recognizing he was in Winners Finals of a double elimination tournament, ZeRo experimented with counter picks, but failed with both Cloud and Captain Falcon. Tsu had defeated the best player in the world.

The two met again in Grand Finals, with ZeRo opting to commit to Diddy Kong for the full duration of the set. ZeRo ultimately prevailed, but nearly every game was a nailbiter, with Tsu taking him to his limit each time. Even the final game, with the last set tied 2-2, came down to a Tsu Up-Smash that narrowly did not kill, opening the door for ZeRo to win by the thinnest of margins.

While Frostbite ended with another ZeRo victory, many Smash 4 viewers came away from the event wondering where this new face came from. How did he find his way to Michigan for Frostbite? The answer is Most Valuable Gaming’s Alex “Vayseth” Varga, who had followed Tsu’s career and offered to bring him out.

“He got his passport for the event,” Vayseth told Yahoo Esports. “I told him I’d fly him out if he got his passport and we were able to make it work. February and March are the best times for students to leave Japan. Unlike Genesis 4 or The Big House 6, which usually have huge tests or finals, this time period is generally open, which is why we were able to get so many Japanese players here.”

Tsu has competed in a several Japanese tournaments and was ranked #23 in the Japan power rankings. Vayseth noted that Tsu hasn’t historically been as good as he was at Frostbite, but did point out that the Lucario player is currently on a hot streak.

“Tsu has only one tournament win in his career, which was the weekly before Frostbite,” Vayseth added. “He has rarely ever broken Top 3 in Japan. However, this month, in particular, has been his month. He qualified for Tokaigi after placing 33rd at Umebura 25, where he surprised everyone by getting 4th. And that carried over to Frostbite.”

Tsu’s composure was among the most impressive elements of his Frostbite performance. (Alain Rodriguez)
Tsu’s composure was among the most impressive elements of his Frostbite performance. (Alain Rodriguez)

One person that wasn’t entirely surprised by Tsu’s success was the #3 ranked PGR player in the world, Nairoby “Nairo” Quezada. Nairo has followed his career in Japan and even witnessed his 4th place finish at Tokaigi. DetonationGaming and Yuta “Nietono” Uejima later invited Nairo to compete in an exhibition against Japan’s best players, with Tsu among the field. Nairo won their set 3-1, taking his three games with Zero Suit Samus, which he identified as a matchup problem for Lucario. However, Nairo saw the flashes of brilliance in Tsu’s play and noticeable improvement at Frostbite.

“Not only was I very impressed with his play but I thought he kept his composure very well,” Nairo told Yahoo Esports. “Usually, when a new Japanese player comes to the States for the first time, they seem more nervous than usual, which reflects in their gameplay. But Tsu handled it very well, and never got knocked out of the winners bracket until grand finals. For your first tourney in the States, getting wins on Tweek, Void, Salem and Zero all in one go, is a pretty insane accomplishment.”

Ramin “Mr. R” Delshad also faced off against Tsu during the Dutch player’s recent trip to Japan, where he lost to him at Tokaigi. While Mr. R was not in attendance at Frostbite, he sees great potential in the young Japanese player.

“It’s still a little bit hard to say how good he’ll do in the future cause this game can be inconsistent at times,” Mr. R told Yahoo Esports. “Matchup knowledge is extremely important and the more he competes at majors, the more different top level characters he has to face. I do believe he has the potential to keep competing at the top as long as he keeps traveling or practicing so he won’t fall behind. His character is certainly good enough for him to consistently place well, so it’s possible to see him finish Top 8 at more majors. Tsu’s Lucario was extremely entertaining for the spectators and I like the positive vibe he brings with his cheerful personality. I really want to see him compete more at big tournaments and hope he comes back soon.”

With Tsu expected to resume his studies in Japan, he will likely stick to mainly competing in local Japanese Smash 4 tournaments. However, his Frostbite performance is already set to go down as one of the best runs of 2017, having claimed victory over five of PGR’s top 20 players, including #1 ZeRo. And with precious few Lucario players in the Smash 4 scene, there’s good reason to believe that Tsu impressed potential sponsors with his first U.S. outing. Either way, Tsu made sure to note that Frostbite won’t be the last the world sees of him and his Lucario.

Ozzie Mejia felt the Aura from Frostbite. Follow him on Twitter @Ozz_Mejia.

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