The Super Bowl of fighting games is quickly approaching. Thousands of competitors from around the world will congregate in Las Vegas, Nevada, for the Evolution Championship Series. Better known as “EVO”, it’s the biggest, and most important fighting game tournament of the year.
Last year, over 2 million viewers watched it live online. This year, you can get the most out of your EVO-watching experience with this handy viewer’s guide. Though it won’t explain the nuances of an option-select-dragon-punch-focus-attack-dash-cancel-ultra-combo, you’ll hopefully come away with enough context to enjoy the action at a deeper level, even if you’re not a black belt in fighting games.
Where can I watch it?
All of the action from July 6-8 will be broadcast by Team Spooky and IPlayWinner at http://evo2012.s3.amazonaws.com/live/index.html.
What time should I tune in?
EVO broadcasts are all-day affairs. Refer to the live stream schedule – which will be posted at http://evo.shoryuken.com – and tune in when your favourite game(s) are being broadcast. If you only want to watch the best duke it out, tune in on Sunday, July 8th for the finals.
How does the tournament work?
Calling EVO itself a tournament is a bit of a misnomer, as the event is actually the host of six different tournaments; one for each game. The games played each year are chosen by the EVO organizing committee based on their popularity within the competitive community. This year’s lineup includes:
- Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition
- Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3
- Street Fighter X Tekken
- Mortal Kombat
- Soulcalibur V
- King of Fighters XIII
- Street Fighter II Turbo
With the exception of the invite-only Super Street Fighter II Turbo tournament, EVO is open to players of any skill-level, as long as they pre-register, and pay the required entry fees.
What should I know about the games?
Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition
This has the biggest international draw. For the past two years, almost 2,000 players from dozens of different countries have registered to play it at EVO; a trend that will likely continue. Japan has traditionally led the way, thanks in part to Daigo “The Beast” Umehara (best known for his legendary parry at EVO 2004), who won the tournament in 2009 and 2010.
However, there are signs that point to the rest of the world catching up. At Canada Cup 2011, Michigan-native Joshua “Wolfkrone” Philpot beat virtually every major Japanese player he faced in a jaw-dropping performance. Most recently, Japan’s finest – including Daigo – fell short at the Community Effort Orlando tournament, losing to Justin “Marvelous” Wong; America’s most legendary fighting game player. Will this be the year that America finally takes home the crown? Will Japan re-assert itself as the nation to beat? Or will a player from another part of the globe win it all?
Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3
This franchise has been a fan-favourite to watch since its release, as the game’s inherent design lent itself to an all-out offensive approach. However, as players grew more familiar with its nuances, they’ve discovered the viability of defensive play.
Led by Christopher “Chris G” Gonzales, Kevin “Dieminion” Landon, and Kosoru, the defensive play-style is winning tournaments, much to the chagrin of the core viewing audience. Will this year’s champion fight more like Floyd Mayweather rather than like Mike Tyson? Or will offensive powerhouses like Justin Wong, MarlinPie, and Peter “Combofiend” Rojas find a way to break through?
Street Fighter X Tekken
When it first launched, the community got behind it in a big way. However, the game has proven to be a tournament nightmare. Gems were immediately banned for their game-altering effects. Even without gems, the consensus among competitive players and viewers is that the game isn’t fun, which led to a massive drop-off in player attendance and viewership. As a last-ditch effort to save it, EVO announced that the game will be played in 2v2 mode only.
With that said, the players who have been playing it this way all along will have a distinct edge. The team of Sun-woo “Infiltration” Lee and Laugh from Korea stand out, though any combination of Team Evil Geniuses players (“Hello Kitty” Ricky Ortiz, Ari “Floe” Weintraub, and Justin Wong) could give them a run for their money. Because this game has been under the radar for awhile, the door is also wide open for an unknown team to surprise everyone with a level of synergy that’s yet to be displayed.
Last year’s EVO champion, Carl “Perfect Legend” White, made a conscious decision to take a break from competition. This opened the doors for Mortal Kombat tournament legend Joseph “Reo” Grosso, and newcomer Emmanuel “CD Jr” to take top honors at a number of recent tournaments. The break may have taken its toll on Perfect Legend, as he’s come up short in his last two MLG appearances. Can he get himself back in game shape to retain his title?
Free of the character balance issues that have plagued the series in the past, the latest installment of the franchise has been a tournament hit. Some of the heavy hitters you should look out for are MLG powerhouse Keev, competitive Soulcalibur veteran Rob “RTD” Combs, and Marie “Kayane” Norindr, who is recognized as one Europe’s finest. Regardless of who wins, it will be most interesting to see if the game can sustain its momentum, and stay relevant for years to come.
King of Fighters XIII
Though the community for it is small, it’s comprised of some of the most hardcore fighting game fans who cherish its high barrier of entry. While it’s difficult to play, it’s also one of the most exciting to watch when skilled players are going at it.
As a side effect of SNK arcade machines being prevalent in the region, Mexico dominates competitive play. Their current superstar – Armando “Bala” Velazquez – is a monster. He’s crushed every major US tournament he’s participated in, and is the odds-on favorite to win. Can anyone stop him? Whether anyone can or not, there will be a number of worthy adversaries gunning for him, including Ryan “RyRy” Cadiente from the US, Ho Xian from Singapore, and Kenny “Air” Lam from Canada.
Street Fighter II Turbo
If you’ve ever played Street Fighter II but haven’t seen it played to its full potential, watching this may give you a whole new appreciation for the game. Featuring an invite-only roster comprised of the greatest Street Fighter II Turbo players of all-time, it’s almost guaranteed to be a highlight.
Though anything can happen once the tournament begins, fans are keeping their fingers crossed in hopes of seeing Daigo face off against his longtime American rival, Alex “CaliPower” Valle. These legendary players are like the real-life embodiment of Ryu and Ken. Ever since they first crossed paths at the grand finals of the 1998 Street Fighter Alpha 3 world championships, their matches have always showcased the art of competitive fighting game playing at its finest. If they get to square off, they just might steal the show.
Anything else I should know?
That should be more than enough. Armed with the knowledge you have now, we’re hoping you’ll better grasp the significance behind the combos, crowd uproars, and bitter tears shed at EVO this year. Enjoy the show!