Josef “Fluid” Ayupan
An Arcadian showcases not only the burgeoning talent laden throughout a scene, but an Arcadian is also a celebration. A celebration for all the players of this game who come out whether to improve competitively as a player, to see friends and meet new people, or celebrate one of the most beloved games of our generation. Regardless of one’s reasons to congregate with kindred spirits over a game older than a good portion of its own player base (top players too!), we must remember that all forms are legitimate and should be treated with their own equal level of respect.
It has been almost 2 years since the previous Chicago Arcadian: Send Even More Noobs, another epic entry into the Chicago Arcadian series. Since then, players have risen from the Slippi Era of Super Smash Bros. Melee to fill the void of players who have taken a step back due to the highly unusual year that was 2020. Though a good chunk of the top competitors heading into this event are players who have always pushed the boundaries of Chicago’s PR, others are new to the spotlight.
Let’s first take a look at those individuals who have a very reasonable shot at taking the whole event:
Samus is a character that’s admittedly absent from most smash scenes around the world. Despite this deficiency, Chicago has found themselves with three unique Samuses (Samusi?). Although Pleasantries has long been a staple to the Chicago PR, the other two have been making moves to challenge the upper echelon of the Windy City. These two especially have such a strong shot for the throne due to the absence of trouble matchups that typically befall Samus such as Captain Falcon, Sheik, and Peach.
A resident of Rockford, Illinois since childhood, it is almost fitting for Samus player Josh “Casual” Saldana to originate from the “Screw Capital of the World”. Casual’s journey as a player began in 2016, when a certain YouTuber by the name of GRSmash got him interested in a twenty year old game. Despite his interest being piqued, it was not until months later when Shine 2016 fully ignited his competitive drive.
Casual’s first main, however, was not everyone’s favorite Nintendo bounty hunter but was none other than Fox McCloud. He quickly began to practice the game, and even quicker, he came to realize a vital roadblock in his path to perform with the plucky Arwing pilot. Casual found himself unable to wavedash, that technique so integral to Melee’s movement system. Hard-pressed to master the maneuver through whatever means possible, Casual turned to Samus due to having a much easier level of execution. Comfortable with her motions, Casual stuck to Samus and devoured every video he could find of Plup, Duck, and Hugs, easily three of the most accomplished Samuses of all time.
Nowadays, Casual has to travel some two hours (an hour and a half on a good day) to get to locals within Illinois. Such a distance usually deters players from making such a trip, Casual’s hard work within the last months have paid off, netting him wins over Skerzo, Fluid, and FoxCapacitator. He credits his improvement and inspiration to New Jersey’s theSWOOPER, with the two becoming Samus comrades.
With such a resume, it is hard to disagree that Casual is one of the top contenders for the Arcadian.
A Northwest Indiana native, Alex “Frost” Ronquillo stumbled upon competitive Super Smash Bros. Melee when he watched a VOD of EVO 2013. In that VOD, he saw Joseph “Mang0” Marquez dominate with his speedy, agile Fox over Robert “Wobbles” Wright and his mimic character, Ice Climbers, to take home the largest Super Smash Bros. tournament of that time. The performance motivated him to pick up a GameCube controller and work towards his first tournament. That first tournament would be Combo Breaker 2015, where he was initiated into Chicago’s Melee scene by facing Midwest Marth legend Dart. And what better way to get initiated than to play (and subsequently get showboated by the aforementioned player) on premier Smash Twitch stream, VGBC. In spite of the humbling experience, Frost went on to watch Michigan’s own Samus, Duck, have a breakout performance and fight tooth-and-nail towards a Grand Finals reset.
Moving forward, Frost ramped up his practice with his longtime practice partner Feelin’ Good in order to prove a goal that he still holds to this day, that there is much more to Samus, and that underneath her Power Armor lies capabilities which could possibly move her towards the upper tiers of play. Such a lofty goal seems quite ambitious, but Frost is already making marked improvements year after year. Frost boasts an impressive record of wins this season over Skerzo, Techdeath, Phrigid, GioGio, and Blue.
At the time of this post, Frost currently leads a Facebook poll asking, “Who do you think will win the Chicago Arcadian?”
The space animals, or colloquially referred to as “spacies”, are always present in abundance through all levels of play and refer to Fox McCloud and Falco Lombardi. Picked for their top tier capabilities, spacies demonstrate the common appeal of Melee to both players and spectators: they move fast and hit hard. Even more so for competitors, spacies set the upper boundary for their potential to be limited by the complex inputs typically needed to win. In essence, the only factor limiting spacies is yourself.
This philosophy would echo into two Chicago spacies of opposing natures, both in character selection and in Melee playstyle.
When Aero told me how long he has been seriously competing, I wanted to roll out of my chair in disbelief. Aero got into Melee in March of 2019 and entered his first tournament September of that year, which means the Chicago Arcadian would be an anniversary roughly marking his two year benchmark into this scene. Aero would initiate his Smash journey by first playing Smash Ultimate for the Nintendo Switch. Perhaps intrigued by the Melee’s immediate depth, Aero threw himself into online matchmaking service, Anther’s Ladder. There, reality struck, and the young Falco main was unable to win a single friendlies match within his first month of playing. Regardless, he persevered.
By either luck or circumstance, Aero discovered a tight-knit community of Falco players whose singular drive is to break down Falco matchups to a science and make the optimal adjustments to improve. One of these Falcos would be Ober who is projected to be a top four PR player within this region at the time of this article. Another Falco would be Ohio’s very own Flash, a “Hidden Boss”, who made a jaw dropping run at Smash Major Riptide, beating Ginger and placing ninth place out of some seven hundred entrants. The other member of this cohort is arguably the brains behind all these competitors, an individual by the tag “sp99” (you can follow him @NicoSg0). sp99 provides copious amounts of analysis for these players, and it seems their studies provide remarkable success.
Going into the tournament, Aero can claim wins over ORLY and #1 Wisconsin player, DannyPhantom. An Aero victory would likely be the most prevalent example of hard work truly paying off.
Tommy “GioGio” Datallo can best be described as bombastic. Upon entering a local venue shared by his presence, one of the most distinct sounds you are likely to hear is his booming cackle. Similarly, GioGio possesses a unique Fox that constantly performs moves with seemingly little to no rhyme or reason. In actuality, Gio’s Fox plays with a certain degree of calculation that when played right can set a rhythm very few can match up to.
The red Fox main hails from Oak Park, Illinois and began his Melee career as a Marth main in 2015. His choice to main Marth was the result of frustration due to being soundly beaten by his brother using said character in a friendly session. At first, Gio’s Marth had a very conservative and passive style that made careful choices and reacted to whatever was thrown at him. But for Gio, he felt like a caged beast. Marth did not allow him to demonstrate his inherent aggressive and proactive playstyle. Spurred by the gameplay and successes of his brother, Gio made the switch to Fox and never looked back.
Gio speaks very highly of JustJoe and credits a large majority of his improvement and approach to the game towards him. Not only has JustJoe been a major driving force in his choice to main Fox, he has also taught him abstract Melee concepts and how to maintain a mental fortitude necessary to perform well. Such ideas are usually self-admittedly challenging for Gio to learn, but his brother broke it down for him in such a way that it became digestible.
Taking a look at the Arcadian, Gio has the best shot of making a prominent run given his previous result at the Arcadian prior, where he made a spectacular top 8 finish. Within the last months, Gio has picked up wins over Killablue, Yuk, and a stunning win over the second best player in Minnesota, Preeminent.
Amidst the field, a lone swordsman stands steadfast against those who pose a threat to the throne. This swordsman is the wielder of the legendary Falchion blade, Marth, a character who relies on keeping opponents within certain ranges using both his sword and fluid, elusive movement. To beat this adversary, one must both respect the explosive power of his “tipper” sword swings and predict his evasive maneuvers across the stage.
Yet, it is quite strange to see that really only one Marth player in this whole tournament is considered a favorite. However, make no mistake, this Marth’s last minute registration sent ripples across the attendees. During my interviews, the majority of them expressed honest concern about facing this player in bracket.
A true Hometown Hero, red Marth main Arpy is the only favorite to defend his home city, Chicago, much like the character he has chosen to primarily helm. Beginning in August of 2016, Arpy was introduced to competitive Super Smash Bros. by brother, who attended both Melee and Smash 4 tournaments around that time. Originally a Fox main, Arpy strayed away from the leader of the legendary Lylat System mercenary group towards the Prince of Altea because according to him, he considered Fox’s up throw into up aerial, a bread and butter one two punch within Fox’s arsenal, as too “cheap”.
Due to still being in high school, Arpy had to choose between participating in Melee and Smash 4. Ultimately, Smash 4’s premier weekly Ignite Gaming would begin past his curfew, while Melee’s Columbia College Chicago’s (CCC) weekly would begin two hours before. For the young Arpy, it was simply a manner of which tournament gave him more time to play out matches, and he would soon become a habitué for CCC’s.
When asked which wins he is most proud of, he gave me an answer which stood out. He said, “Not really… A lot of wins I have either feel lucky, or too easy”. After further coaxing, Arpy presented wins over Eggy, Tao, and The Captain.
The Dark Horses
Under Merriam-Webster’s definition of “dark horse”, it reads: “an entrant in a contest that is judged unlikely to succeed”. Indeed, these next set of players cannot provide the same breadth of achievements that the above players can, but they certainly have what it takes to blaze a path to the finals.
One day, Matthew Ossmann was very bored. In the midst of his boredom, Matthew nonchalantly entered, “super smash bros tournament”. By doing so, Matthew would apply himself to a passion that would come to dominate the next five years of his life. In this delving, Matthew would be known both as a player and as a tournament organizer by the tag “Mattchu” derived from a sentimental nickname given by his loved ones.
Mattchu began as a Fox player (I’m starting to see a trend here) before transitioning to Falco due to experiencing general unenjoyment from the character. Additionally, Mattchu was moved by Mang0’s performance at Big House 9, where Mang0 crushed his opposition to take the tournament while mainly using Falco. Matt’s transition over to Falco proved to be the right choice as it reignited his passion for the game and allowed himself to be fully engulfed into this endeavor. Citing Mang0 as a central influence, Mattchu aims to make himself a top Falco in Chicago.
When COVID-19 stalled in person events, Mattchu took it upon himself to become a central driving force within the now online scene. He founded the Chicagoland Melee Discord Server and started the weekly tournament series 4 Star Clash which soon drew in top talent such as Ginger and Ben.
Mattchu suffers from the curse of almost. He has taken several PR level players such as Skerzo and Unsure to the brink of their reserves, but everytime, he could not produce the innermost force some call, “clutch” when needed most. Anyhow, his most impressive win this season comes from a lone Azzu win, but Mattchu truly believes that everything will click together at the Arcadian. Afterall, luck has to come his way eventually.
Out of all the players on the Facebook pool, one player slipped right past the eyes of the masses. Danny “Scal” McGuire was a Dance Dance Revolution and Guitar Hero junkie before he took Super Smash Bros. Melee seriously. Scal was addicted to these types of games due to having to rely on coordination and fast technical inputs to succeed. So naturally when it came to choosing who to play in Melee, Fox McCloud would garner his interest due to the character’s demand and payoff.
When he started around five years ago, Scal would primarily use Anther’s Ladder to play and improve due to his remote location relative to the Chicagoland Melee scene. He would enjoy improving and learning the game with his Fox. The more he played, however, the more another character’s shadow would continue to grow within the fringes of his curiousity. This shadow would belong to the divisive character Jigglypuff, a character that Scal enjoyed as an off character during friendlies. As he continued to play Rondoudou, Scal would come to realize that players were beginning to take his Jigglypuff very seriously in friendly sessions. In a strange turn of events, Scal would begin to use both Fox AND Jigglypuff in tournament brackets, two characters with diametrically opposed playstyles. Oftentimes, Scal would find himself down a game with Fox only to switch to Jigglypuff to take the series back and win. With this unlikely duo, Scal would scrap wins over Kentucky’s Cob and Ontario’s Zeeker in online brackets.
I questioned Scal about what intrigues him about Jigglypuff. He answered that Jigglypuff’s rest, a one-hit KO, spurs immense fascination from him. Furthermore, he said he does not plan on using Jigglypuff for the Acadian, but he might bring her out if “he’s feeling it”.
Fox main Anwarrior took up the sticks about four years ago, when he saw a poster for a Super Smash Bros. Melee tournament at his university. A naturally competitive individual, Anwarrior had to make the mind-numbingly difficult decision to either pick Fox McCloud or the King of Koopa’s himself, Bowser. Of course, he stuck with Fox and consistently entered his university’s weekly smash tournaments. Typically, university tournaments are infamous among the overarching Smash community for running non-competitive rulesets and having a shallow pool of competitors. Fortunately for Anwarrior, the university he briefly attended was coincidentally one of the best in the entirety of the United States, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
Anwarrior would improve quickly and move away from Champaign to Chicago’s western suburbs. His weeklies were now Fuddbrudder’s in Downer’s Grove, a weekly tournament series hosted by Ferocitii, JustJoe, and iWater. Here, Anwarrior would befriend several of the frequent tourney goers including the aforementioned GioGio.
During this season, Anwarrior has taken sets off ORLY and Ferocitii, two players who have somewhat taken a step back within the last year but are nonetheless great wins. Prior to the Chicago Arcadian, Anwarrior will be utilizing a different GameCube controller. His previous one was signed by one of his Fox idols, SFAT, and he wishes to persevere the signature by retiring its usage.
When pressed on who he would like to play at the Arcadian, Anwarrior revealed that besides himself, he would like either Aero or GioGio to win the tournament. His reasons are simple: he would rather see the homies win.
Due to the inherent underdog nature of the Arcadian, it comes without saying that the competition is airtight. Anyone can truly beat anyone, and it only makes sense to briefly highlight the players who have the potential to beat one of the favorites or dark horses but cannot provide the same level of wins or consistency.
Best known for his commentary both on the mic and in the YouTube comment section, Sheik main Seal is currently projected to make PR in the state of Wisconsin. A solid performance here will provide pride for his fellow cheeseheads.
Snacklepackle demonstrated an impressive win this season by beating Killablue at TSI #108. A consistent Champaign tourney goer, this Captain Falcon can make a deep run if given the right bracket.
A Fox main coming all the way from Michigan, Shadez is both a vital tournament organizer for their scene as well as a local tourney grinder. Historically, Michigan players do well here, and it is very unlikely for this Smash veteran to be thrown off by anything.
Lazarous has always been a consistent Marth presence in the Chicagoland Melee scene. This season, Laz has wins over Trix, Ferocitii, and Larfen. However, the tournament took place in a very casual setting, so the competitive level of those sets are still in question. Nevertheless, Lazarous might be able to produce some magic here.
Chicago’s Arcadian series means a lot to me. Other than winning the first installment, the Arcadian has always astounded me with the level of passion and intensity that otherwise unknown players emit when they compete to win this tournament. Every year as I watch these players strive with every fiber of their being, I am reminded that as long as that want is there then this game will continue to exist.