Will Harrison asked my friend Patrick Miller a question about how set the tier lists were in the game. To be perfectly honest, yes — the very top of the top tier in CvS2 have been well-known for a long time. Some characters were versatile and could be played in a number of grooves (Sagat, Cammy, Blanka, Vega) while others were played in just a single one, and dominated regardless (Sakura, Bison, Guile). The rest of the top tier is rounded out by extraordinarily solid characters with many options like Ken, Chun-Li and Rolento, and for the most part these teams were very viable usually in C and A grooves, both grooves where roll canceling is incredibly strong.
That said, K-groove has always existed and been a very strong pick for your groove, and as Japan continued to play the game even while the US more or less abandoned it, a lot of characters that you wouldn’t expect to be “top tier” eventually rose to be considered such, particularly because having access to K-groove’s just defend, constant level 3 super access and great offensive options (run, hop and an aerial defense option) made up for a lot of their perceived weaknesses – and, most importantly, gave them a reliably strong option to deal with roll canceling (just defend).
He brings up Athena and Kyo, for instance – but while Athena is most definitely a character that feels like she languishes because other characters do what she does but better (Sagat), other characters further down the totem pole basically take a character’s formula and change it entirely to make them real pains (Mai vs Vega) – that, or they do one thing exceedingly, infuriatingly well (K-Geese damage potential on a single hit when raged, Hibiki slowing the game down to a grinding halt, Iori having an insanely strong method to approach in roll cancel rekka). And you know? Just defend can make up for a lot of deficiencies, just like roll canceling can. I honestly feel like K-Groove does a lot more for a lot more characters in terms of making them competitive than RC does, simply because of how well the carefully selected few options K-Groove has interact together, so a lot of people who quit because they thought roll canceling was too powerful or too broken never really bothered to try learning how to deal with it. More power to them, I guess.
Matchup knowledge is very key in CvS2, and getting good with a random “weirder lower-tier character” is also a great way to open up the game and to abuse the lack of knowledge on your opponent’s part, but I feel like that’s just a bit of excuses – a lot of characters outside of what’re considered the top are immensely viable, and careful character selection and team building probably trumps anything else. A tournament nowadays with all the CvS2 players who still stuck with the game and can still win with oddball selections (like Steve Harrison, who might play your standard characters, but plays them in P groove and makes so much out of so little – or players like Rai from Japan who play K Mai, Hibiki and Sagat) would, in my opinion, really bring to light just how deep and cool the game got when we weren’t looking because we were all mesmerized by the then-impressive looks of Street Fighter IV. There’s a lot that we didn’t explore and that we just cast aside in the name of time constraints (the game really does take too long), and I think that’s a huge goddamn shame.
To summarize, here’s the guy who I look up to when I think of K-Ryu players, the character I catch the most shit about playing. K-Ryu is probably severely unviable and has a lot of weaknesses compared to both other K-Groove characters, and straight up just other versions of Ryu (notably C and N). But who cares?
K-Ryu’s motto is talk shit, get hit.
So to finish my point in a really roundabout way: what you saw at CEO was really just a small part of what CvS2 is actually like. More to the point, the top players that were present (BAS, JWong, Steve H, Ricky O) all played the game in what I’d think is sort of the most “statistically sound” style, with very few variations, and so the game looks very rigid because of it. But there’s a lot more to see and appreciate if you look around the internet, like acho and Mikado videos, and the people who win the events in Japan don’t always tend to be the people running A-VSB/B and/or K-CBS.