It’s that time of the year again. Next week is shoryuken.com’s official fighting game tournament, the Evolution Tournament Series, which takes place at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas. Get hype!
I’ll be going again, which makes this my third consecutive Evo. Having been to two of these tournaments in the past, I can say with confidence that this weekend is going to be another unforgettable experience. Evo has no shortage of hype, friendly faces, and – this probably goes without saying – the best high-level fighting gaming in the world.
Wint– I mean, Evo is coming…
At Evo 2010, the first one I attended, it was SF4′s second year as the main game and this was during the second iteration of the game, Super Street Fighter IV. Evo 2009′s Grand Final of Justin Wong vs Daigo was incredibly close, with Jwong picking his clutch alternate character of Balrog, and coming within a round of a huge upset against the widely accepted best player of Street Fighter. Coming into 2010, Daigo was looking to defend his title but it wouldn’t be easy as the number of contestants in SFIV had grown compared to the year previous. Regardless though, Daigo took the entire tournament very convincingly with a Grand Finals matchup against Justin Wong’s training partner and legendary fighting game player Ricky Ortiz.
Coming into 2011, Daigo’s victory was all but guaranteed. He had switched from his mainstay of Ryu to the new Arcade Edition character Yun, who was widely recognized as among the best characters in the game. Few thought Daigo would manage to lose after winning so convincingly the year before with a worse character.
Going into the top 8, Daigo was sitting comfortably in the winners portion of the bracket, needing only to beat two more opponents to guarantee himself a spot in the Grand Finals on the winners side, all but assuring his victory. Of course, the craziest thing ever happened – he lost. And not only did he lose, he got crushed.
I was speechless, but my lack of words belied the atmosphere in the room – complete and utter jubilation that the reigning champ finally lost on the world stage. The room was literally shaking from the screaming and jumping of the 2000 attendants in the room. It was the most insane match to take place at every Evo I’ve watched, starting with 2009. And that’s still not doing it justice – take a look.
After being sent to the losers bracket, Daigo then floundered against Saudi Arabia’s Latif and saw himself outside the podium for the first time since Street Fighter IV became the main game. Two huge upsets in one year! Be prepared for more this year – there are more contestants entered into Street Fighter IV Arcade Edition 2012 than ever have entered a single fighting game tournament. And of course, only one can win.
Global killer instinct
Moving on to more of the competition, this year Evo is featuring even more killers than the last. Each of the Five Gods of Fighting Games is attending – Daigo Umehara, Tokido, Sako, Nuki, and Haitani. This is a first for the Street Fighter IV era. All five of these players are incredibly popular in the Japanese fighting game scene and are the stuff of legends in the Western fighting game scene, with Daigo, Tokido, and Sako often making trips overseas to best the North American competition. Haitani and Nuki are coming to play Street Fighter IV in the US for the first time, and it’s entirely possible that one of these five will take the championship this year.
Last year’s champ, Fuudo, will also be in attendance, along with his teammate Itabashi Zangief. Korean players like last year’s upstart Poongko will be there, as well as the third place contestant from Evo 2010, Infiltration. Lately, Infiltration has drifted from his original main Akuma and has begun to show the world how sick Gouken – a character widely considered to be weak – can be. Expect to see him counterpick with Gouken and blow everyone’s minds, as he did at Canada Cup 2011 against Bonchan’s Sagat.
I’ll also be there attempting to make as big a splash as possible. If I don’t manage to go far – which would be disappointing – at the very least, I get a weekend in Las Vegas with a dozen friends from Calgary and more from everywhere else. One of the main benefits of Evo is that by day, you get to watch incredible fighting game play, and by night, you get to party your face off. It really is a gamer’s dream.
Top Tier® competition in multiple games
While SF4 is the main event at Evo, Marvel vs Capcom 3, Soul Calibur 5, King of Fighters XIII, Mortal Kombat 9, and Street Fighter X Tekken will also be played. I’m a Street Fighter player to the core, but there is nothing like watching high-level and high-stakes Marvel at Evo. Last year’s finals of Viscant against PR Balrog were completely ridiculous, with PR Balrog performing probably the most clutch super I’ve ever seen against Viscant’s Phoenix, a God-tier character.
Of course, Justin Wong, a renowned Marvel god, will also be vying for the Marvel title, and last year he pulled off one of his trademark Wong Factor comebacks with an Akuma with nearly zero HP.
I’ll be trying my hand at Marvel as well, but I don’t really expect to make it out of my pool to the next round. I play the game for fun, and while it would be nice to make an unexpected run, I’m not really counting on it. It’ll just be fun to play competitors from someplace other than here in Calgary.
Expect some next-level technology though. Chris G has really turned the tables lately with his ultra-lame Morrigan projectile keepaway team, but lately some counter-strategies have been developed and Marvel is evolving more by the day. Unfortunately, a slew of infinites have recently been discovered and there’s no word on whether the tournament organizers, the Cannon brothers and Mr. Wizard, plan on banning them. Regardless, the infinites are in no way going to dictate the play you’ll see among Marvel players, and there is pretty much a guarantee that every Marvel match will be rife with chaos and hype.
I’m also entering King of Fighters XIII, which I play now and again with friends locally. This game will be interesting to watch, since a game like King of Fighters hasn’t been played at Evo in a long time. Despite being a 2D fighter, the game is a change of pace from the more footsie-oriented Street Fighter IV and will most likely feature explosive comebacks and fast-paced, frenetic gameplay. It’s also an incredibly sharp-looking sprite-based game that old school gamers should find gorgeous to look at. High-level players such as MLG Champion Bala, as well as Romance and Mr KoF will be there to compete for the number one spot.
Soul Calibur V and Mortal Kombat 9 are games I consider myself poorly versed in, but I have to admit, the Mortal Kombat I saw at last year’s Evo was highly entertaining. There was a player who chose Kitana and was doing some insane juggles with her fan projectile, and the fatalities I had never seen before were camp and amusing, and really got the crowd going.
Failure X Comeback?
Street Fighter X Tekken had one of the worst openings in video game history and has really not resonated at all with the fighting game community. The game came out in March but by May you could safely say that basically everyone had forgotten about the game, and those who remembered had a pretty intense distaste for it. Personally, I think the game has problems but they can be overlooked and the game can still be fun, so hopefully the game will experience a resurgence at Evo, especially with the slated additional characters set to come out shortly after next weekend.
Of course, the X Tekken tournament is 2 on 2 instead of the traditional 1 on 1 format of virtually every fighting game ever. X Tekken allows you to have each player control one character in X Tekken’s 2 on 2 format, so the dynamic of players working together is something the fighting game community has never really been exposed to.
Obviously, the potential for drama is high, as if one player is getting carried by the other to the detriment of the team, the relationship between the players could definitely be frayed. A “scumbag” moment can be entirely possible when one partner tags in his teammate to finish a combo, only to drop it and die – don’t forget: as soon as one character dies in X Tekken, the team loses. For better or worse, those Scumbag moments are very popular, and honestly, funny as hell.
Wish me good luck!
Next week I’ll be down there having the time of my life. Readers of Top Tier Tactics, you owe it to yourself to check in on the stream during the weekend, especially during Finals Day on Sunday the 8th. And of course, if you see me on the stream, lend me your power and cheer your hardest!