Justin Wong is a legendary fighting game player, and he’s nearly unbeatable when given the chance to use an ultra-defensive character or system mechanic. This part of Wong’s skillset was on full display last weekend during the Canada Cup Master Series tournament in Calgary, where he won the stacked event using Falke, the latest character to join Street Fighter V’s playable roster.
Despite her striking design drawing a ton of attention, Falke did not go over well in the fighting game community once she was actually released. Two former Evo champions, Seon-woo “Infiltration” Lee of South Korea and Singapore’s Kun Xian Ho, were scathing in their critiques, calling her the “worst character in the game” and claiming she had “zero potential.”
Wong, however, fell in love. She wasn’t permitted for play at the Dominican tournament Game Over because it was right after she was released, but a week later at Texas Showdown, Wong supplemented his Menat with Falke in a loss against Benjamin “Problem X” Simon. He only finished ninth in Houston, but one more week of practice would be all he needed.
Unlike other tournaments, which continue the regular bracket formatting into the finals, Canada Cup Master Series put its top eight competitors through a round-robin gauntlet against their fellow finalists. Additionally, each match was played first-to-five, making the last stage of the Street Fighter V competition almost seven hours long. This gave Wong the opportunity to test his Falke against a wide variety of players and character choices, many of which he dispatched handily.
“Not many people know the matchup,” he told Compete. “They just look at her saying ‘she sucks so we don’t need to learn the match’ but she is very, very annoying to fight when it comes to good Falke players. You can’t sleep on her because she can wither you down fairly easily. I do think that if you want to beat Falke you have to be somewhat knowledgeable of the character.”
And few of Wong’s fellow competitors knew much of anything about Falke. Only two players—Long “LPN” Nguyen and Christopher “NYChrisG” Gonzalez—forced him to switch away from the newcomer, and LPN (a multi-character specialist with his own Falke experience) was the only player to hand Wong a loss. At the end of the event, Wong sat atop the Canada Cup rankings with a 6-1 record, supported immensely by the new character many had already written off as a serious contender.
Wong has long been known as a master of defensive play across multiple fighting games, and Falke’s unique tools complements his inherent skills perfectly. During his matches, Wong appeared more than willing to play keepaway, utilizing her far-reaching normals and deceptive fireballs to whittle away his opponent’s health. Every player—even those who eventually found a way to make Wong switch—seemed frustrated by Falke’s ability to maintain distance, and it’s in that niche that Wong feels most at home.
“I don’t think Falke is great but I also don’t think she is bad,” Wong added. “She is a character that I think you shouldn’t main but [she’s] a good counter-pick character to choose against opponents in tournaments. I really like how defensive she is and her moveset. It’s really fun for a person who likes to just sit back and let the opponent kill themselves instead.”
The harsh reality is that not every fighting game character can be a winner, but it’s rare that even the worst character on paper doesn’t have a role of their own to play; some can be kept in reserve as backup to cover any poor matchups that a competitor’s first choice might have. As for Wong, he doesn’t see himself maining Falke any time soon, but he’s quickly developing her into a support for his stronger characters. And if his performance at Canada Cup is any indication, his opponents are in for a frustrating time.
Compete is Deadspin and Kotaku’s joint site dedicated to competitive gaming.
Ian Walker loves fighting games and writing about them. You can find him on Twitter at @iantothemax.