Meet Ryota Inoue, the man that destroyed parity in Dragon Ball FighterZ.
The versatile fighting game player, nicknamed Kazunoko, is the world's best DBFZ player, and he has the Dragon Balls to prove it. The 30-year old is the owner of four out of seven Dragon Balls with dominating victories at CEO 2018, Southeast Asia Major 2018, Dragon Ball FighterZ Saga 6 Japan Round and CouchWarriors Crossup.
With those wins, Kazunoko prevented three other players from taking a qualifying spot in the Dragon Ball FighterZ World Tour finals at the Red Bull Final Summoning this weekend in Los Angeles. All but three players had to earn their way into the final through four single-elimination qualifiers, and Kazunoko got to sit out until Sunday's quarterfinals.
The beginning of the DBFZ World Tour belonged to Goichi "GO1" Kishida and Dominique "SonicFox" McLean and their rivalry, but the rest of the season was all Kazunoko's.
Kazunoko is an expert at assist timing and does the signature Japanese safe super-dash shamelessly. GO1 was one of the first players to safely super dash with his character behind a powerful forward-moving assist, but Kazunoko took that maneuver one step forward. Kazunoko's super dash calls consist of his Gohan assist call to force the opponent to either respect his momentum or block his incoming sequence . If it fails, his reliable Yamcha assist backs up his next dash and allows him to pick and choose the best angle to exploit.
Perhaps the most deadly super dash situation happens after a knockdown, when Kazunoko spends a meter to send out his Gotenks' ghosts for another difficult-to-see super dash. If that wasn't enough, the man can fake out all of the superficial options and just raw super dash at you to test the initial reactions.
"My playstyle is all about using assist to gain the initiative of the match," Kazunoko said via translator Hiroaki "Ho-Chan" Inaba. "In my opinion, the assists in this game are a no-risk and high-reward move, so I try to always start my offense with it and stop my aggression if I'm without an assist.
"I think my weakness is a player who is good at dodging assists. The players that can confirm what assist was used and stay calm usually does well against me."
It is no secret that Kazunoko's throw tech game is not elite, nor is his patience in holding back on the stick, but his creativity in escaping harrowing scenarios is commendable. It is common to see Kazunoko rotate between spending bar to change characters, pressing quick buttons for a potential combo disruptor, timing an invincible reversal multiple times or use the classic jump back and super dash to steal a turn back.
Because of his rolodex of unpredictable options on defense, Kazunoko is incredibly difficult to pin down for long, and his brand of fidgety movement can tilt an opponent just enough to make the next offensive sequence a deadly one. It may not be the biggest talking point, but behind the frenetic speed of his play is some of the best recognition in the game.
"I practice daily and think it is the most important part behind consistency. If I played as I did during casuals or practice, I don't really feel bad on losing in the tournament," Kazunoko said. "I think this is the reason behind my consistency in tournament results. I don't specifically do any mental training, but I try to play what I have practiced in casual in the tournament."