Final Round will be the first major fighting game event of the New Year, with the Capcom Pro Tour officially starting on March 16 in Atlanta. In addition to Street Fighter V, there will be a new game standing tall in attendance: Dragon Ball FighterZ.
What was once a major Tekken event has evolved into a multi-game major that attracts international talent with eyes for more than just one title. The bracket for the Street Fighter V tournament will feature over 350 players while Dragon Ball FighterZ will boast 314 players. Both games will have representation from regions such as Japan, Korea, Brazil, Dominican Republic, United Kingdom and China.
With a new patch and a couple new characters since the Capcom Cup finals, this weekend's activities will provide a good litmus test for the current best characters and/or play styles. As for Dragon Ball FighterZ, Final Round is the first tournament with international flavor and could help answer the question: which region is the strongest?
Dragon Ball FighterZ
The weight of North America will fall upon Echo Fox' Dominique "SonicFox" McLean, and to some degree Evil Geniuses' Christopher "ChrisG" Gonzalez. SonicFox is without question the best player in the western hemisphere. He combines a genius approach to fighting games by finding characters who allow for the most creative mix-up while continuing to move forward -- and his skill in the neutral game lets him pummel the opposition. ChrisG, on the other hand, is the defensive marvel with the ability to pressure without complexity. Together, they represent the best shots North America have to take down Final Round.
Japan will bring the competition, headlining two players who've earned their nicknames as "anime gods" in Goichi "Go1" Kushida and Ryota "Kazunoko" Inoue. Kazunoko is offense personified; there is no risk he isn't willing to take. In a game where he is able to provide layers to his offense, he shines. The main course, however, is Go1. With years of practice in anime games, the system for Dragon Ball FighterZ is a kiddy pool in comparison. He can calculate in air dashes and his weaknesses number so few that it would be irresponsible to not call him the favorite coming into Final Round.
Some dark horses worth mentioning? Keep an eye out on Naoki "moke" Nakayama and Ryo "Dogura" Nozaki to make waves.
Street Fighter V
Hajime "Tokido" Taniguchi
Tokido will want to start off his year with a bang and a premier event victory will do just that. Last year's most dynamic player easily tops the list as the favorite to win the tournament. In the only big tournament after the Capcom Cup, the Evolution Championship Series Japan, Tokido was as sharp as ever. Finishing in fourth despite a fall into the loser's bracket early in the pool stage, Tokido's skill in maximizing damage potential and execution set him apart from the competition. His mental and physical game is the talk of the fighting game community and it will take a mountain of tough matchups to break his fortitude.
Victor "Punk" Woodley
Last year's No. 1 point-getter will look a little human coming into Atlanta. Gone is the invincible mystique and the unsolvable neutral game (as well as Karin for most situations) and in comes a player that needs to prove his worth. Punk will go to battle with a combination of characters, starting with Chun-Li and ending with Karin in a strategy that mimics NuckleDu. The skill is undeniably there, but can Punk show more?
Du "NuckleDu" Dang
The inaugural Street Fighter V Capcom Cup champion will be in attendance for the first time in a major tournament since the Canada Cup. The facts are still the same: aggressive and relentless offense with a rotation of characters that fit all matchups. With the time off, NuckleDu may be the forgotten face in the mix. His struggles last year came when his play style was studied and analyzed to a tee. Remember, he did get third last year at Final Round. This weekend may reveal a completely different side to the native Floridian.
Lee "Infiltration" Seon-woo
2017 was not Infiltration's year. But, after his impressive showing at the last chance qualifier during the Capcom Cup finals and his victory at Evo Japan, Infiltration looked incredible. He is the only player to unload a run-and-gun style and his characters Menat and Juri fit his mold perfectly. Whether he's frustrating and forcing you to make mistakes or running the clock, Final Round might just be the next step to the Infiltration redemption tour.