At the beginning of 2017, Dan “SuPeRbOoMfAn” Hoyt signed with Panda Global, becoming the first solo Super Smash Bros. player to obtain a sponsorship from a tier one gaming organization. The announcement of this sponsorship came just days before one of the biggest tournaments of the year, Genesis 4. With a near perfect record in 2016 and a fresh sponsorship, expectations were high. Among the competitors challenging Boom at Genesis was Alvin, who along with wario was one of two players to eliminate Boom from a tournament the previous year. However, on his way to meet Alvin in winners finals at Genesis he hit a roadblock in winners quarters. Wizzrobe had come close before but never gone the distance until Genesis 4 where he sent Boom to losers. Boom rallied from losers and reached Grand Finals on Sunday to face Alvin for a rematch from Superboomed the previous October. Again Alvin had found the edge over Boom in a close set and finished 3-2 over him. Boom would not get the chance to face Alvin again in 2017 but was able to redeem his other Genesis loss. Boom finished 2017 with a 5-1 record vs Wizzrobe asserting his dominance over all other North American competitors.
Similar to the previous year, the only true threat to Boom’s reign would be international talent. The next tournament with a real overseas presence was Super Smash Con 2017. Between then and Genesis, Boom won every tournament he attended. This would be Boom’s best chance to prove himself vs the Peruvian and Japanese talent for the remainder of the year. Boom reached Top 8 without dropping a game, but his first match in Top 8 proved to be difficult. In a hard fought set that went to game 5, Boom fell to Kurabba from Japan. After another convincing win over Wizzrobe in losers quarters, another Japanese elite would stand in his way from reaching the podium. This set vs Fukurou would be another test of Boom’s endurance as he would find himself once again in a game 5 situation. This time would be no different as he could not find the edge in the final stocks of the match and finished 4th at Smash Con 2017 which is currently regarded as the most “stacked” tournament of all time.
Boom would not face competition of similar caliber the remainder of the year and would not drop a set. Not given the chance to redeem himself against Fukurou, Alvin, or Kurabba, Boom lands just below them on the rankings. However, all these losses were in sets that went to game 5, which leads one to think Boom may have only been a handful of stocks away from reaching the top spot on this list. In 2018 we’re sure to see some of these sets replayed. If Boom can find a way to swing those few stocks his way we’ll surely see him climb the rankings and reach the top spot not only in North America but perhaps the world.
Notable wins – Wizzrobe, Mariguas, Dext3r, k y s k
Photo courtesy of © Preston Kwan | @The64Story
The sad thing about twist endings is after they’re spoiled they’re never a twist ever again. The magic of mystery and misdirection happens on the first viewing and then the intrigue and emotional roller coaster can never be recreated. In 2016, Kurabba turned Super Smash Con upside down when he went from a nobody, middle of the pack, doomed to fail Yoshi to writing his own twist ending with a Top 8 finish and wins over Alvin and KeroKeroppi. While the history can be appreciated, the magic of it all collects dust in a past we already know the ending to.
Kurabba’s breakout performance at SSC 2016 never faded away and 2017 was a year where he remained a household name able to compete with everyone. He continued to grow and impress the world with surprising upsets over wario in single elimination, best of one Japanese tournaments and out-placing all his fellow Yoshis. Previously regarded as a strong, but not dominating Yoshi, Kurabba quickly claimed the title as the best Japanese Yoshi in 2017. His travels to North America have been limited and so he had only Super Smash Con 2017 to prove himself again against the world.
With a strong reputation to back him, Kurabba entered SSC 2017 no longer a mystery, no longer the underdog, and seemingly no longer a storyline poised for his own twist ending. However, this SSC was unlike any other Smash 64 tournament to date. As the most prestigious 64 event ever, Kurabba would have an incredibly challenging bracket to overcome. Even though he was no stranger to success and upsets, the biggest Kurabba fans couldn’t imagine him running deep into the bracket. Wizzrobe had evolved into unquestionably the best Yoshi in the world, Alvin seemed to have solved his Yoshi crisis, SuPeRbOoMfAn was looking as strong as ever, Isai was on a tryhard streak, the top Japanese players that periodically dominated him were all in attendance, and one of the best once again found themselves looking at a story that was doomed for failure. And then all of a sudden to the surprise of every fan, the dominoes began falling and storylines were being made. Wizzrobe gets upset by Zero, Alvin is thrown into losers early by LD, and while still an impossibly steep hill to climb, only a few pieces were left in Kurabba’s way. Kurabba quitely took down Robert in Division 1, a talented foe who has a knack for beating Yoshis, then swiftly moved on to beat Star King 2-0. Despite the challenging opponents Kurabba didn’t break a sweat and moved on to the first impossible hurdle, Isai. While certainly a surprise, Kurabba’s 2-0 defeat of Isai wasn’t making any Smash 64 fans question the meaning to life, and so he quickly found himself squaring off versus a familiar foe in wario.
Capturing lightning in a bottle is no easy task and it’s hard to imagine a player doing it twice. Despite seemingly having Wario’s number in Japan, Smash 64 fans were left stunned to see Kurabba so easily 3-0 the former #1 player in the world and moving into a Winners Semifinal showdown with SuPeRbOoMfAn, #2 in the world and no stranger to the Yoshi matchup. To every fan this seemed like the end of the story where gods never bleed and the mortals descend back to Earth. Instead, Kurabba delivered the biggest of twists in a year full of surprise endings by shocking the world yet again with a 3-2 victory over SuPeRbOoMfAn. While the world of Smash 64 was turned upside down with fans everywhere searching for answers, Kurabba quickly went on to 3-0 Wangera, a player who has routinely bested him in Japan. In a surprising twist, Kurabba the former underdog was now the final boss sitting in Grand Finals, waiting for a lone competitor to climb out of losers. Alvin, Wario, Isai, Wangera, Mariguas, Wizzrobe, and SuPeRbOoMfAn were left as corpses in the graveyard of the losers bracket as Fukurou, winner of every tournament he attended in 2017, rose to challenge him. Kurabba went on to lose the first set of Grand Finals 3-1 and then fell down 2-0 in the final set. Clawing his way back, Kurabba managed to take the next 2 games and force a winner take all game 5. As Kurabba once again twisted his story from mediocre success to legendary, the final twist to shock the world would be capturing the crown at Super Smash Con 2017 and beating all the best in the world along the way.
Unfortunately, some stories don’t have twist endings, the heroes don’t always win, and so the SSC script played out in favor of Fukurou, one of the favorites to take the entire event. Despite the loss, Kurabba still has arguably the most impressive collection of wins beating Isai, Alvin, Wario, SuPeRbOoMfAn, Wangera, Mariguas, KeroKeroppi, and many more in his young and remarkable career. With his transformation from mystery entrant to unquestionably one of the best players in the world, whatever Kurabba does in 2018 will no longer be a surprise to any fan of Smash 64. A legacy filled with shock and awe, Kurabba is forever etched in Smash 64 lore and his reputation will always precede him, but the stories will never do justice to the emotions he invoked getting there.
Notable wins – Isai, wario, Wangera, SuPeRbOoMfAn
Photo courtesy of © Preston Kwan | @The64Story
Alvin entered 2017 coming off a streak of North American 1st place finishes. Winning SuperBoomed over SuPeRbOoMfAn in 2016 left only one question on his resume, the Yoshi matchup. At Super Smash Con 2016 Alvin was eliminated by a pair of Japanese Yoshi players, Kurabba, a relatively unknown player at the time, and Prince, the heralded “Japanese Combo Master”. These losses raised questions about Alvin’s competence in the Yoshi matchup and some accredited the aforementioned win streak to his ability to somehow avoid elite Yoshi’s in bracket. Nevertheless, the wins Alvin gathered in the second half of 2016 were impressive and expectations going into Genesis 4 for him were high. Alvin would get his next chance at a top level Yoshi in Winners Quarters.
Tacos had been on a hiatus since ODS 2 but was, and is still, considered one of the best Yoshis in North America. Alvin seized the chance and took the set 3-1, perhaps silencing any murmurs about an ill-favored matchup being his downfall. Finishing the tournament with a win over Japanese elite, k y s k, and a second consecutive win over SuPeRbOoMfAn, Alvin took home 1st place at Genesis 4, and with that, started a strong 2017 campaign.
Following Genesis, Alvin returned to the USA and took gold at CEO Dreamland and Let’s Go!, garnering wins over North American talents Josh Brody, tacos, and Mariguas. But a true test, and a shot at redemption from the previous year, lied ahead at SSC 2017.
Alvin entered Super Smash Con as the top seed and advanced to Top 32 with ease. But like the year before Alvin would fall victim to an upset, this time however to a Fox player from Baltimore. In perhaps the biggest upset in a tournament full of upsets, LD sent Alvin to losers in the round of 24, taking the set over Alvin’s Pikachu 2-0. Down but not out, Alvin was left with a mountain of a losers bracket to climb. At the foot of the mountain, lord narwhal gave Peru’s champ a scare taking game 1. But Alvin was far from ready to be sent home and was able to buckle down and advance 2-1 over narwhal.
After taking out Dext3r 3-0, Alvin would face wario in a match that most people would have predicted we’d see in grand finals. Alvin dominated. A 3-0 set that included a 4-stock left no questions, opting to switch off Captain Falcon to prove he could win Pika dittos over the world’s best. Alvin then mirrored wins over Mariguas at Let’s Go! with another one in the first round of Top 8 and then prepared to face Fukurou in Losers Quarterfinals. Alvin seemed to take the edge at times but Fukurou clutched it out in the closing moments of game 5.
In his last North American appearance of the year Alvin would find himself playing against Wizzrobe in winners finals at Shine 2017. After going down 2-0 in the set, Alvin reversed the tide with an unexpected Mario counterpick and advanced to Grand Finals where he would again face Wizzrobe. Not caught off guard this time, Wizzrobe dispatched Alvin’s Mario and Alvin resorted to his strong Falcon. The rest of the set, minus one win in the bracket reset, felt as if Alvin was unfamiliar with the matchup. This 2nd place finish at Shine would cap his year off and leave people again questioning whether an elite Yoshi like Kurabba or Wizzrobe could be the showstopper for Alvin’s deep bracket runs. If Alvin can master the Yoshi matchup and earn a win over Fukurou in their next meeting he’ll likely find himself with another strong resume to submit for next year’s rankings
Notable wins – SuPeRbOoMfAn, wario, Wizzrobe, Mariguas, Dext3r, k y s k
Photo courtesy of © Preston Kwan | @The64Story
Intelligent. Severe. Unrelenting.
Fukurou’s Kirby is an oppressive force. Utilizing techniques used by Kirby players at all levels but pressed to their maximum efficiency, few players were able to find a way in against the punishing Japanese master. Fukurou’s Kirby is fast. His pivot up tilt technique is ever present. When asked about Fukurou’s skills, SuPeRbOoMfAn had this to say, “He is scary.”
Fukurou topped the NA rankings this year after making two visits to the USA. He traveled to the West Coast for Snosa III, and to the East for Super Smash Con. Both times he returned to Japan victorious. He also won two large tournaments in his home country, namely Kanto and Japan Smash Cup. And although Fukurou dropped a set here and there on the way to those first-place finishes, only one player in the world was able to place higher than him at a tournament: the enigmatic Peruvian known as Gerson.
In what will long be remembered as one of the greatest events in Smash 64 history, Fukurou took the crown at Super Smash Con 2017. The group of names he managed to defeat are a laundry list of who’s who in the modern history of Smash. After taking down supa, tacos, and Prince in winners side, Fukurou lost a heartbreaking 3-2 set against fellow Japanese player Wangera. However, this is where his legend was truly born. Fukurou went on a losers run to end all losers runs. He defeated Alvin 3-2, defeating the man who had dominated NA events for nearly a year and who appeared poised to be crowned the best player in the world. He defeated SuPeRbOoMfAn 3-2, taking down the legend who had successfully defended NA from foreign invaders for years. He defeated Wangera 3-2, turning the tables after his loss in winners and showing he who was the greatest puffball from Japan. He then took two sets in Grand Finals, 3-1 and 3-2 over Kurabba, the man who had risen from nowhere to come so close to the peak of Smash. In Top 8, Fukurou played 29 out of a possible 30 matches. This gauntlet is unlikely to be equaled any time soon. To continuously play Kirby for that long, with his exhausting playstyle, is truly a remarkable feat.
Fukurou’s 2017 in North America was one for the record books. He defeated all comers, taking only two losses to Mariguas and Wangera, but still managed to win both events he attended. He repeatedly defeated every name that was thrown at him, never backing down from the challenge. He was pushed to the brink but always pushed back. However, no year is without questions, no year is truly perfect.
That final tournament against Gerson, called UFSmash 3, was held in South America. It was not eligible for consideration in the NA rankings. Gerson, who managed to defeat Fukurou twice and win the tournament, has been unable to travel to a major North American tournament thus far due to international politics. Intriguingly, this sets the stage for next year. Will Fukurou have the chance to avenge his loss to Gerson in one of the big NA tournament stages? Can he repeat his magnificent runs from Snosa III and Super Smash Con 2017? These are the questions that will determine who is considered as the best of the best next year.
Until then, Fukurou is number one.
After hearing of his ranking, Fukurou had a message for the community, “I do my best. And I enjoy the competition. Serious fighting in SSB64 is a lot of fun. Many people have messages to cheer us on. That makes me very happy. I will aim for the championship.”
Notable wins – Alvin, SuPeRbOoMfAn, Kurabba, Wangera
Photo courtesy of © Preston Kwan | @The64Story
* denotes a win at a national or regional event that was NOT included in the 2017 ballot