Players’ power gauges are almost full to unleash the full fury of EVO 2015, the premiere fighting game tournament of the year. Taking place from 17-19 July, this time it won’t be competing with The International for gamer’s attention. With over 10,000 hopefuls across the nine games in the roster, there’s going to be a lot of virtual fisticuffs. But what should you be paying attention to? What are the games to watch? Who? Why? Hit the jump for some recommendations and, more importantly, the stuff that’s not getting mainstream attention.
First off, the list of official games. Ultra Street Fighter IV and Super Smash Bros. take the major slice of the pie, with Mortal Kombat X nipping at their heels and Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN- representing for the anime contingent in the top spots. The player counts are as follows:
- Ultra Street Fighter IV (USFIV) – 2227
- Super Smash Bros. for Wii U (SSBW) – 1926
- Super Smash Bros. Melee (SSBM)– 1869
- Mortal Kombat X (MKX) – 1162
- Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN- (GGXRD) – 968
- Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 (UMVC3) – 816
- Tekken 7 (TK7) – 458
- Persona 4 Arena Ultimax (P4AU) – 437
- Killer Instinct (KI) – 397
The streaming schedule is below. Note that all the times are GMT -7, so you need to add nine hours to whatever the timetable states. Most of the matches open up at 8:00am, so your EVO clock begins around 5pm. So what are you going to watch?
The Main Event
With a first prize draw of $13,000, and with Street Fighter V around the corner, you cannot afford to miss the USFIV tournament. It’s likely the last SFIV will see airtime at EVO, so this is your chance to watch top players in the game make their last mark. Good ol’ Daigo Umehara will be making his appearance as usual, while America’s Justin Wong is one of the most prolific players across the board at the tournament, participating in USFIV, Smash and UMVC3.
But there’s some really strong new contenders on the block: PIE Smug is considered the best Dudley player in the world, and his aggressive play style has netted him several fans. Momochi is top of the Shoryuken’s rankings. I’m also going to recommend HumanBomb, as he’s one of the top Sakura players, a character that’s always fun to watch.
Now, I’m not as familiar with the other games’ pro scenes, which is why I highly recommend Destructoid’s breakdown of the main events. Ben Pack does a fantastic job of summarising the key players for each game worth keeping an eye on.
Rather than rehash all his excellent work, I’d like to touch on what you’re probably not reading about: all the side tournaments that run concurrently with the main event. 2D anime fighting games that have a much smaller but devoted fan base, unofficial mods such as Project M (Considered by many as the definitive competitive version of SSBM), and quirky competitive non-fighting game titles that are often overlooked by the Triple-A Triple-D juggernauts.
Humorously titled AnimEVO 2015: Waifu Series, these sideshows are a bit of a hodgepodge to follow, but you can basically categorise it into three different sections. The first is the official selections for the AnimEVO, which consist primarily of hair-pulling multi-word titles with rampant punctuation and case abuse. Most of the titles are air dashers – a type of fighting game that relies on mechanics in the dash to both remain aerial, perform combos and/or leverage off specific dash mechanics.
They’re often extremely technical at an entry-level, but it makes for some explosive viewing. One of the titles, BlazBlue: Chrono Phantasma Extend, proved to be one of the fiercest contested finals of Evo 2014. I’ve included a breakdown of the games and Twitch channels below, courtesy of the AnimEVO 2015 team.
The second section is the Arc Systems ARC Revolution 2015 US qualifiers for the Japanese tournament of the same name. Shortened to ARC REVO, the tournament was formed in 2013 as part of Arc System Works 25th anniversary, and has since gone from strength to strength in the Japanese community. Featuring both BlazBlue: Chrono Phantasma Extend with another serving of GGXRD, ARC REVO is interesting in that it focuses on team matches. Teams of three will compete in single elimination matches for the chance to win a chunk of the $5,000 pool for each game and an all-expenses paid trip to the Japan tournament. Thanks to some of the restrictions (three unique characters in each team, drafting), it’s going to be a dramatic event.
You can watch the pool matches on Friday and the finals on Saturday via the Madcatz Twitch channel and read more about the tournament here. A taste of what to expect expect from ARC REVO can be found below.
Lastly, within the wheelhouse of AnimEVO but largely organised by a multitude of different teams are the outliers. Project M, as previously discussed, is getting a doubles tournament, the details of which you can find here. Fans of SNK’s King of Fighters series can check out the KingsofCO Twitch stream or the main website for the KOFXIII tournament.
One of my favourite-but-largely-snubbed fighters, Skullgirls, will be getting its due via the Madcatz Twitch channel, and should be a lot more interesting with the addition of four new DLC characters in Skullgirls 2nd Encore. Although there’s no confirmed list available as of yet, players to keep an eye out for include SonicFox (Who’ll also be participating in the Official MKX tournament), McPeanuts (a veteran of the Skullgirls tournament scene) and Deskillsage, currently numero uno in the Shoryuken Skullgirls World Ranking. Check the Skullgirls Twitter account for the latest announcements.
And for something a little different, you can check out Catherine, a block-puzzle platformer whose head-to-head Colosseum Mode results in some of most hilarious Sokoban-level salt you can imagine. Catherine is being streamed on the official Atlus USA Twitch channel.
Have I missed anything? Want to throw in your recommendations? Give other fighting aficionados and newbies the lowdown in the comments.