After having been to three Evo tournaments now, they seem to move like clockwork. One second you’re getting off your flight in nighttime Vegas oohing and aahing at all the crazy lights and sounds, and the next you’re tired, hungover, and reading Game of Thrones waiting for the long flight home.
Needless to say, this Evo was every bit as hype as the last. The ballroom at Caesar’s Palace was full of energy. During the first day of competition, the ballroom was packed with fighting game fans and Street Fighter IV players waiting for their morning pools.
The stage was lit and and all throughout the ballroom were tables and tables of setups for pool stations. Further away from the main stage (which featured streamed matches) were t-shirt stands, arcade-style booths for casual play, and more.
Evo in recent years has transitioned from a fighting game tournament to more of a fighting game convention, and this year continued that trend. Street Fighter IV had 1500 entrants in its tournament but far less than half of those expected to do well. However, even the most ambitious of contestants who see an early exit can be entertained by the finals of every game. This year delivered on that promise in a huge way.
My Evo began when I joined my fellow Canada Cup Gaming crew in a Caesar’s Palace suite rented by the owner of CCG, and my boss, Lap Chi Duong. My brother and I arrived pretty late because of a delayed flight, but we figured we ought to at least say hello and see what was going on with our Calgary friends.
As every year, there is usually a suite rented out by someone where players can play each other in money matches and casuals outside of the ballroom, which is usually completely full with stations dedicated to tournament play. CCG had taken the initiative to make the “Salty Suite” their own, and this is where I found myself on Thursday night.
After saying hello to some players and CCG staff, I turned in. My pool was the next morning, and I didn’t want to take any chances with sleep – I was striving for the main stage, and top 8. After this year it became apparent that the Evo experience begins as soon as anyone gets there – I was going to make it a priority to get to the site of the tournament as early as possible from now on.
Floe Wants to Be the Guy
However, Caesar’s ballroom was dominated by an event that wasn’t quite fighting-game related, thought it did feature a popular player. Sponsored gamer and all-around good-guy Ari “Floe” Weintraub was sampling the latest edition in the “I Wanna Be the Guy” series of games. If you’re not familiar with them, simply Google the term and cry as your hands melt trying to beat these impossible platformers.
Floe had previously garnered a lot of popularity by playing this game of insane difficulty on a stream, spawning laughs, long-lasting inside jokes and even influencing the development of the next game in the series. So on Thursday night, the Evo staff organized a special event wherein Floe was going to play this game on the main stage in front of a crowd. Check out the video here – it’s hilarious.
At last, Evo has really begun.
It didn’t take me long to spot popular FGC personalities – Daigo, Tokido, Justin Wong, Ultrachen, the Cannons - and I also got recognized a couple times myself (Ego Boost +3). SSF4 AE contestants played hype matches on the main stage while I waited. One of them was a huge upset where Toronto’s Eric Hai knocked Tokido into loser0s’ bracket in the winners’ finals of their pool. Tokido, a usual fixture in SF4 top 32′s, saw an early exit from the tournament.
My pool started, and it was relatively simple. I made it through without much trouble, but to my great disappointment, I didn’t get onto the stream! Sorry guys. I don’t know how that happened, but either way, I was pretty bitter about it. Not to let it get to me though, I finished up and learned from the judge where I needed to be at 6:00 for the next round of pools.
Until then, I just sat and watched matches, which were rife with upsets – ClakeyD won over Shadaloo Showdown 2k12 winner Eita, Justin Wong beat Kazunoko, and we even got to see Laugh double perfect an E. Honda player. The Evo insanity was just beginning.
Tackling the Top 128
Fast forward to 6:00, and I was paired up to face my arch enemy, Justin Wong. I prepared a lot for this match, and I was confident, but it didn’t amount to much. Justin beat me with even less trouble than the last time we played.
I was a little downtrodden, but you always get two chances in double-elimination tourneys. I won my next match and got my confidence back, but lost immediately afterwards. Damn! My overall performance was good enough for top 64, which is better than my previous placements at Evo, so I guess I can’t be too unhappy. I still didn’t get on the stream, which was a bummer. Still though, I learned a lot about my game.
Meanwhile, on the main stage, Dieminion’s Guile was very impressive, crushing Japan’s Uryo who played C. Viper, a matchup considered troublesome for Guile. Justin Wong was then upset by Hsien Chang, and Daigo showed his dominance in decisive victories against several top players. The Top 8 featured six different countries and eight different characters when all was said and done – a phenomenal representation of the game’s balance and also the capacity for any country to do well on the main stage.
After the top 32 I headed to the Salty Suite, and took this time to relax with some friends and talk about the day’s play. The Suite is a vital part of my Evo experience, but to be fair, it is pretty exclusive. Even though my weekend of tournament play was over, the hype was only beginning.
Marvel is crazy. Saturday was crazy. You can never predict what’s going on, let alone actually be aware of what’s happening in matches. It was great – there were some huge upsets, including Frutsy, a MODOK player besting New York’s MarlinPie, with Filipino Champ and Justin Wong making strong showings.
Like always, there were some displays of some very impressive technology. The recent development of TAC infinites didn’t factor much into the weekend’s gameplay. We did see one Sentinel player pull off an infinite, but no one really cared – it’s Sentinel, and everyone loves him and wants him to win.
Chris G was also in attendance, frustrating people to tears with his keepaway team of Morrigan / Doom / Akuma. Props to him though – he connected on some impressive stray hits and was extremely patient. The day ended with a Top 8 that most could expect but not for a few surprises – mainly, the presence of Frutsy who played an interesting team, but was a crowd favorite because of it.
At last, the final day. Top 8 of every game that was there – the day started with Soul Calibur 5, but I seriously know nothing about this game, and didn’t watch. I know that ShiningDecopon won with Tira who is considered a low tier character, so props to him – that actually has shades of last year where the first game of the day was Blazblue and the winner was using Hakumen, a low tier character.
Next was Street Fighter X Tekken. If you remember in my last Evo article I mentioned that this tournament was pretty important for SFxT, being that it’s on the down-n-out with a lot of the fighting game community. Sadly, the game didn’t have much of an impact – the finals were decisively won by Inflitration and Laugh and weren’t too hype. The game’s balance patch with updates will come out on the 31st of July, and this will pretty much make or break the game, as far as the Fighting Game Community is concerned.
After that, Mortal Kombat 9. PerfectLegend won last year and this year was no different – he won decisively over every kombatant and the show wasn’t quite as hype as last year because of it. Mortal Kombat is still a really cool game though, and I’m looking forward to Injustice, a Mortal Kombat style-game with DC characters.
Bring on the Hype
Next was King of Fighters XIII. I actually chanced to watch some matches earlier on, which featured CafeID: Lacic vs Romance, and those bouts were intense. The level of play they exhibited was unbelievably high. The Top 8 for this game was off the chain – every match was pretty close, and the pace of gameplay was fast for a 1-on-1 game. Bala and Mad KOF had probably the most epic finals possible for this game, where Bala was 1 game away from taking the entire tournament but lost to Mad KOF’s insane Duo Lon team as he reset the bracket.
The ballroom really enjoyed watching Bala try to counterpick Duo Lon though. When Bala hovered over Clark and Ralf to take Duo Lon down there was a considerable roar from the crowd. Grapplers always get the crowd’s energy up. Despite that, Mad KOF took the reset bracket convincingly and was this year’s champion for KOFXIII.
Marvel was next – it was absolutely insane. Every match was a nail-biter, whether it was Justin Wong having a traditional Wong-style comeback performed on him or Infrit’s powerhouse team destroying Champ’s Phoenix. The finals was absolutely incredible. It came down to the last game, despite Infrit having a 2-1 lead in the reset bracket. Champ clutched it out with his Dormammu / Doom / Magneto team though, and became the World Champion.
The Main Event
Finally: Street Fighter IV Top 8, The main event of the whole weekend. The matches everyone has been waiting for. Some of the stories that were a part of the Top 8 were mentioned in my last article, including Daigo’s fall from grace and Poongko “The Machine” destroying everyone.
The first few matches were all decisive victories, with Xiao Hai taking down Poongko easily, PR Balrog beating up on Humanbomb and GamerBee crushing Dieminion. Then, the match everyone was waiting for – Daigo vs Infiltration.
However, Daigo’s status as a crowd favorite didn’t save him, as Infiltration completely destroyed him on his way to the Grand Finals on the winner’s side. In fact, the only match that wasn’t one-sided was the Loser’s Semi-final of Xiaohai’s Cammy vs GamerBee’s Adon – Xiaohai had some incredible reactions, punishing a hard kick on reaction and pulling off some sick combos, but GamerBee’s clutch gameplay let him hold on and take it in the end.
Finally, the Grand Finals. Infiltration vs GamerBee, Akuma vs Adon. In keeping with the rest of the bracket, however, Infiltration just destroyed GamerBee. It was incredible to see someone play at a level that seemed impossible to reach – Infiltration reacted to absolutely everyone and really put on a clinic, which against someone like GamerBee is particularly impressive. Infiltration became the 2012 Evo Champion for Street Fighter IV, and the tournament came to an end.
Farewell, Las Vegas
I could hardly believe it was over. Marvel and KoF finals were so incredibly hype, and seemed like they lasted forever, but when all was said and done, it was back to reality. Once again I spent the rest of my night with CCG in the Salty Suite playing some games with people from overseas and the rest of Canada, and at 6 AM I was on my way back to my hotel room and the weekend was done.
By the next evening I was back in Canada. Until next year, I’ll be training so that I can be talking about how I made it to top 8 instead of just top 64! I hope you guys will all be able to tune in and I hope you all enjoyed the weekend as much as I did.