No. 4 Cinderella Run of All-Time: Bombsoldier at Jack Garden Tournament

In order to understand the legend of Bombsoldier, it’s crucial to appreciate the Jack Garden Tournament, one of the most prestigious Melee tournaments of its era. Hosted by none other than CaptainJack, the event gave the scene its first truly esteemed international championship.

Despite MLG running all of its significant events within the United States, remember that at this point in time, most smashers still considered Japan a vastly superior region to the United States in terms of top-level talent. “The Smash Brothers” documentary partially covers this, but Japan’s talent went far beyond just the frequently traveling, major-winning CaptainJack.

For example, the Japanese Fox Masashi was considered one of CaptainJack’s closest rivals. It’s said that when CaptainJack visited the United States for the first time, he told many fellow smashers that Masashi, not himself, was truly Japan’s best player.

In contrast to Masashi was Thunders, a Fox who is known as the namesake of the “Thunders combo.” Rumor has it that Thunders once multishined over 100 times in a row – even back in 2005, though it’s never been recorded or confirmed for sure.

Peach main Mikael, now remembered as one of Armada’s biggest influences, was another rising talent within Japan. Before the tournament, Mikael said that he felt unimpressed by Ken’s game against Peach, boasting that if the two were to play in bracket, he would defeat Ken.

Japan’s talent went even beyond its most internationally known players. Aniki, Masashi’s brother, was a legendary Link main notorious for not wavedashing.

These factors, along with the presence of American legends in Ken and Isai, made the Jack Garden Tournament one to remember.

Ken ended up winning, without dropping a set in his most impressive feat yet as a competitive Melee player. But somehow, he wasn’t the story of the tournament. It wasn’t even his longtime friend Isai, who quickly lost before Top 24, nor was it any of the players listed above.

Instead, the underdog run of Jack Garden Tournament came in the form of a little-known East Japanese farm boy, by the tag of Bombsoldier. A teenager with little experience playing at major events, he played Falco and finished second place, despite no one from outside his region having ever heard of him.

Using brutal downair to shine combos, hyper aggressive lasers and displaying techniques years beyond his contemporaries, Bombsoldier looked like a Melee terminator sent from the future to destroy the opposition, blitzing through CaptainJack, Jing and Masashi, three of Japan’s best players, at this tournament. Fittingly, the player who sent him to losers bracket was RAIN, a fellow player from East Japan.

In particular against the Fox players (Jing and Masashi), Bombsoldier’s combo game stood out more than anything else. His performance against these two, along with showcasing the power of Falco’s punishes on Fox, pushed the Falco vs. Fox metagame that much further (at least from Falco’s perspective). Remember that this matchup is among Melee’s most iconic character matchups ever. Without Bombsoldier, it’s hard to say if it would have ever developed in the same way.

Even against Ken, Bombsoldier put up quite a fight. In their two matches of grand finals, he double two-stocked Ken, frequently making the king of smash look helpless. Where the American Marth’s dash dance would normally go unchallenged by other players, Bombsoldier’s endless flurry of lasers, shield pressure and tech skill created a relentless force of nature that pushed Ken to the brink of defeat.

Keep in mind that Falco had been seen by many as a primarily defensive character. Though he had strong representation within the scene, most Falco players played at longer distances, using lasers to camp out against opponents and fishing for forward smash KOs.

Bombsoldier was different, playing at far closer ranges to his opponents, comboing them in ways that no one ever even thought of and overwhelming them. This was aggression on a level that no Melee player from the United States had ever seen before.

Though Ken eventually won, Bombsoldier became the subject of myths within the American scene, due to how frequently at times he made even Ken look helpless. His impact went beyond displaying what Falco could do as a character. It illustrated Melee’s seemingly unlimited potential as a fighting game – particularly in how hard you could combo your opponent for.

The threat of Bombsoldier’s combo game forced others to try to do the same with their own character. And the greatest example of this came from how Ken ended up defeating him: through using Marth’s chaingrabs on Falco.

Overwhelmed by Bombsoldier’s mechanically superior play, Ken resorted to using this technique, along with playing far more defensively. These were tactics that he previously considered dishonorable, but now had to use to achieve victory. In a way, Bombsolider could be attributed as someone who indirectly was the catalyst to the importance of Marth’s chaingrabs on Falco in the matchup.

One of the strangest aspects about Bombsoldier’s legacy is how his relatively small resume is outweighed by his tremendous influence on the metagame. Players like PC Chris, DaShizWiz and Dope took quite a bit of inspiration from what they saw in Bombsoldier. Soon, they too would begin extending their hits that much further, just like the Jack Garden Tournament breakout star. His innovations became the new standard for excellence.

Eventually, Bombsoldier traveled to the United States, with the promise of another Ken-Bombsoldier set, among other possibilities, making his return to a supermajor that much more exciting. Sadly, Bombsoldier finished only 17th at this tournament, losing to Drephen and fellow Falco godfather Forward.

That was his last notable Melee event. Bombsoldier dabbled in Super Smash Bros. Brawl and Project M for a little bit before once again fading from the scene’s memory. Today, it’s unclear, if not unknown, what he’s up to.

Watch any of his sets from Jack Garden Tournament or if you watch any Falco today, you’ll see shades of his ineffable impact on Melee.

If you’d like to learn more about Bombsoldier, I highly recommend this excellent piece on him, along with this Last Stock Legends episode.

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