While Las Vegas isn’t a place normally known for things like hygiene or class, the city of sin was is known for high stakes gaming that leads to big paydays and broken dreams. In that respect, the EVO 2011 tournament didn’t bring Nevada anything it hadn’t seen before. But that isn’t to say the event wasn’t full of excitement. Full of tense moments. Full of… dare I say it… hype.
But while “hype” is a word that gets thrown around a lot, nothing really encapsulates it like the nail-biting moments that comprise EVO – and this year didn’t fail to deliver.
Blazblue and Tekken 6
Nobody watched these matches. And because nobody observed them, the uncertainty principle indicates that there is no way of knowing that they actually occurred. In the spirit of scientific rigor and journalistic integrity, we’ll leave it at that.
Mortal Kombat 9
While it probably doesn’t surprise anyone that the Mortal Kombat finals were taken by a Kung Lao player, I’d be remiss to ignore the fact that eight different characters were represented in the Top 8 of the tournament. For weeks, message boards had cynically assumed that the semi-finals would be filled only with Kung Lao, Raiden, and maybe Cyrax, yet we were treated to a kornucopia of killers that included Shang Tsung, Mileena, Liu Kang, and Kitana.
After several astonishing matches against the best MK players in the US, Reo of VVV Gaming took his Mileena to the last battle against Perfect Legend’s Kung Lao. While he made a few bad reads and missed several X-Ray opportunities, he played extraordinarily well… until he decided to switch to Cyrax. Reo had lost momentum, but his losses to Perfect Legend weren’t staggering, so sacrificing his main in the hopes of mixing things up was an odd choice. Ultimately, Legend crushed Reo’s questionable Cyrax play to take the win and claim possession of the sweetest belt ever constructed.
More important than the actual finals results, Mortal Kombat 9 was extremely well received on stage, especially considering the yawn-inducing mirror matches that made up the last of the Tekken 6 fights (if you believe they even happened). During each bout of Netherrealm’s fighter, the audience cheered, gasped, and screamed demands for fatalities in a manner that would make corrupt Roman officials proud. Hundreds of Twitter and UStream users watching remarked that they were impressed by the gameplay they saw, which could be promising for Mortal Kombat’s future as a serious competitive medium.
Marvel vs Capcom 3
Just as with Mortal Kombat, Marvel vs Capcom 3 saw its share of predicted high-tier characters. Wesker, Wolverine, and She-Hulk were out in full force. I can’t say I’m nearly as knowledgeable about Marvel vs Capcom 3 as I am about the other two games at EVO, but the matches in the Top 8 were intense, with familiar faces like Combo “Bionic Arm” Fiend, Noel “Clutch” Brown, and Justin “Choke” Wong putting forth an immense, sparkly effort for the final fight. That said, it can down to a brawl between PR Balrog and a seemingly unstoppable Viscant, whose momentum so far into the tournament had been incredible.
With several “magic pixel” victories and stunning comebacks, including astonishing turnarounds by both Tron and Mike “The Fucking Mayor” Haggar, Viscant ultimately rode the sexy, flaming train of Dark Phoenix to victory. Gambling on the gorgeous glass cannon, Viscant forced his opponents into changing their entire playstyle to counter her, only to continually defeat them even when they had accounted for what they thought were all of his tricks. With a nervous tick and a heart of gold, Viscant emerged from among a field of established tournament victors to seize the crown, even if it meant gaming Capcom’s broken ideas of balance.
Super Street Fighter 4 Arcade Edition
Of course, you can’t spell “EVO” without “Super Street Fighter 4 Arcade Edition,” and the level of competition this year was simply unprecedented. In previous iterations of this tournament, we’ve seen everything from walk-away Ultra Combos to Double KO finishes to the legendary full parry accomplished by Gamerbee against Juicebox at EVO 2006. But quite frankly, that was all child’s play.
The earliest stages of the tournament began with incredible hype as gamers from all around the globe started making their way up the ranks and into the heart of the audience, both local and online. While old favorites like Online Tony and Makoto got knocked out earlier, some players with more personality made it close enough to the finals to truly shine. The always ambiguous Kayopolice stunned opponents by beating them senseless as C. Viper while cosplaying C. Viper, and Kindevu sauntered his way into the Top 8 while absorbing his foes, increasing his mass (and thus his power).
In the actual Top 8, a decent variety of characters were represented, though Yun and Viper took the greatest share of the pie. These matches began with fairly boring bouts – Flash Metroid being unceremoniously dumped without once breaking out his legendary Makoto play – but the later matches were absolutely breathtaking. Sure, Fuudo eventually took home the gold with his
boring skilled Fei Long play, but the real stars of the show were easily the Arabian American Latif and South Korea’s Poongko. Both players absolutely demolished their foes with astonishing regularity, sweeping up what was left of Tokido, WolfKrone, Kindevu, and… yes… Daigo “The Beast” Umehara.
I didn’t think I’d see the day Daigo would fall from Top 3 at EVO any time soon. He didn’t appear shaken (it hasn’t been confirmed that his emotion chip is fully operational anyway), but I was disappointed to see him tier-whoring Yun when he probably would have fared better as Ryu. His game seemed far off, pulling few of his famous “psychic” moves and instead being baited into numerous empty reversals that cost him half a dozen matches. To boot, his final elimination from the tournament by Poongko was a perfect. Ouch.
When Latif somehow stopped Poongko’s incredible momentum to challenge Fuudo, his anxieties seemed to have gotten the better of him. Playing in front of cameras, announcers, and a massive crowd, Latif started falling into patterns that made it easier for Fuudo to find openings and tear them wide, wide open. The explosive force that brought Latif to the finals petered out into a series of increasingly disappointing flops, ultimately securing the first prize for Fuudo without too much of a challenge.
That said, the final series leading up to that point were among the best, if not outright the best, EVO has ever seen. Players who had previously had free passes to the semifinals were shown the door, and newcomers with a little chutzpah and a lot of practice pulled out reality-defying wins by channeling the energy of the crowd and
the heart of the cards an unknown source of yomi. On many occasions I was on my feet cheering, clapping, and shouting… at my computer. If that doesn’t say get hype, I don’t know what does.