Man oh man, looks like I’m finally settled in from my cross country adventures. There’s too many stories from my travels, but this will be the tale told of EVO 2016 by yours truly, Parappa.
Despite all things that will be stated below and whatever mishaps during the event itself, I had a blast at EVO this year. It felt like a return to form compared to last year. Despite the event being split in two locations, both the Las Vegas Convention Center & Mandalay Bay Events Center had necessary breathing room so nothing would overlap each other. Big time shout outs to the KPB crew that came out this year to make our presence felt. Our players had a strong showing & something sturdy to build on should they continue to push forward, very proud of all of them. For me, I made it a priority to play something this EVO because last year felt like a waste. I missed the deadline for Street Fighter V, long story but tried my hand at the Super Turbo side tournament. I got scrapped, but I thoroughly enjoyed myself playing SF2 again through the casuals, strong players I faced, the interactions and learning even more layers about my first love in video games.
Before I get ahead of myself with sporadic stories like battling a Scott Steiner lookalike in Hyper Fighting, let me streamline the experience. Like I said, the Convention Center was on point with it about perfectly divided between the vendor/exhibition booths and the gaming side. Reality is that EVO is a convention at this point or has been; it has something for the spectating fans to the hardcore players alike. I came across impressive artwork, games that piqued my curiosity (KOF14 looked really clean), small talked with a talented cosplayer, got a Streets of Rage cap that I had to have and a much missed element from last year’s EVO…arcade cabinets! How’s this for a nostalgia trip from left to right: Street Fighter II’ Hyper Fighting, Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike, Capcom vs. SNK 2, Killer Instinct, Mortal Kombat II & Tekken Tag Tournament. I never thought I’d miss standing in line to play one game risking running the gauntlet with all the challengers behind you so much. Even though the format hasn’t changed at locals/casual matches, nothing can replicate the arcade experience. I got to feel it all over again… including joysticks breaking. Sorry to say that SF2 cabinet didn’t last weekend with what started as the player 2 stick didn’t register down-back to both sticks being broken, rendering the game unplayable… I just hope it gets fixed because that was like a unicorn sighting in this day and age.
On the flip side, there is the show, of course. If there’s one thing that has been made abundantly clear in the past few weeks, it's that majors are as much of a show as they are a competition and this particular EVO was most definitely treated like a show. The stage was bigger than it ever has been for EVO & by extension the FGC. The presentation was the norm or what should be expected for a tournament of this caliber, the production, well… that's where we ran into our fair share of snags. If the main games featured at a major are the meat of the show, then the side tournaments have to be the side attractions. The opening acts, if you will. EVO obviously is as big as it gets when it comes to a fighting game tournament drawing top players from all around the globe; premier competition which warrants a certain level of prestige to the side tournament games that are run in the BYOC area. Firsthand example, the Super Turbo tourney I entered. The veteran Dhalsim himself, Afro Cole, was there and he took second place, if you can believe that. In addition to that, the side tournaments are well documented with a stream and the Top 8 results usually posted on our popular FGC websites. This year, though, I was disappointed to see several missing games.
Not to be misleading because the likes of Alpha 2, SFxT, Soul Calibur 2 & Project M were thrown down. What I’ve grown accustomed to seeing (probably my own fault for it) was a very healthy turnout for Skullgirls amongst other titles like Vampire Savior & MK9. In the case of Skullgirls, I asked around & found out that Lab Zero, who usually runs the operation, wasn’t present this year and there was no manpower to get something organized. I’m fully aware that the EVO staff is just providing the space to run the activities, but here’s some food for thought on the subject. Again these side fighters have prestige at EVO, something the players can take pride in… I’d like to see EVO itself do the same.
There should be a couple -- say two or three -- people max to help manage a side game from the EVO staff if the entries hit a certain cap. For main stage hopefuls that didn’t get the cut, feature those games in your BYOC area by having at least one setup to draw a crowd. Randomly pick a few old school series & throwback entries from your major lineup to slate every year. Get that going now you embraced your expansion then from there you get more airtime with games, report back the results and even more fun for your attendees. There’s logistics to it, I know, just food for thought since I was part of a side tourney that wasn’t reported, so it makes me wonder what else was missed.
Back to the main attraction. With record breaking players entering this year, I expected there to be some hitches during the whole process. The sad truth is, ladies & germs; we’re not professional enough yet to handle the large task of a primetime slot ESPN airing and 5000+ entries just for one game. In all fairness, even professionals have botched major productions before. I won’t make excuses for the questionable mistakes behind the scenes, but for the ones that involve human error, I can understand why. Come that Saturday, those hitches made themselves present on the main stage with SM4SH. Two lengthy delays during Top 8 because the stream went down pushed back the order of events to where it spilled over to the side streams. As a result, Top 32-8 for Pokken turned into Top 14-8. Killer Instinct Top 8 started close to 8pm, if I remember correctly. It cut into the airtime on the 3rd screen of MKX and THAT overlapped Marvel. The primary screen ended the night with only 4 maybe 5 SF5 matches, with the loser bracket running on the 2nd screen so high caliber elimination matches didn’t get the proper attention it deserved. The second day for EVO is the meat of the tournament with a couple of Top 8s and Top 32s to give the crowd a variety taste of what each game has to offer… it became congested in a hurry.
Sunday at Mandalay Bay was all growing pains. I checked back to videos and heard what everyone back home was talking about with the audio issues on stream. Almost the very same issues were going on in the arena, the commentary was drowning out the low game volume on the loudspeaker and this wasn’t corrected until halfway through Guilty Gear. Other than that, all was well… what? Oh I forgot the powder keg that is the Smash vs. FGC schism? Good, I still have your attention. I’m not going to comment on anything outside of EVO itself, although I am getting pretty DAMN close. I feel like addressing the Smash complaints; as much as I want to (maybe in the future), it will just paint a certain, inaccurate picture. If you have followed my work since I joined up with KPB, you know that I call out anyone & anything that’s out of order. This is a classic case of what I call ‘double fault’, but this isn’t tennis. What I mean is both the entities of Smash and the FGC are not saints in this entire ordeal. Also, depending on what you can or cannot tolerate will probably determine what side you will sympathize with or crucify. However, without saying any names or pointing fingers, I can only report what I seen, heard and felt myself.
All I remember on Friday main screen was Melee & SF5. The second stream to the left of the stage was the CapcomFighters stream dedicated to SF5 only. The third screen to the right had all SM4SH, with sprinkles of GGXrd on the first day. The second half (right side) of the convention room past the main stage area had 2 rows of pools for Pokken & any rotation of MKX, KI, GG, UMVC3, etc depending on the day …the rest, and I’m talking roughly 3-5 more rows deep were all Smash. A third of the pools were for Smash games. Saturday, I’ve stated above how the day went. I saw not much onscreen KI, even less MKX and very little of Marvel. All the while was the main stage/nearby pool area never as packed to the point that someone from the staff had to get on a speakerphone to tell the crowd to free up space in the walkways, during SM4SH Top 8. Going back to last year, I also remember SM4SH in the second ballroom on Saturday with Melee in the primetime slot. I also remember MKX taking the main ballroom, while UMVC3 was in the second one with no sound at all. When something doesn’t make sense folks, follow the money.
I wanna leave this experience on a high note. EVO without fail has the quality of a grand show. You will see the best at their game rising to the occasion. Let me rewind back to that weekend starting with Tekken 7. I don’t know if I said it before, but man, I love high level Tekken. The roster representation was diverse. Poonkgo personified Akuma by being the sneaky Street Fighter player in a Tekken world, but in the end, a battle between the usual suspects Saint vs. Knee would decide it. Next up, hats off to Kamemushi for a superb showing with the Blue Bomber. Impressive win over the defending champ ZeRo to lead him into almost a poetic matchup with Ally, Megaman vs. Mario. Unfortunately, I knew how rough that matchup is for Megaman and Ally was playing out of his mind at that point. You had your Shieks and Rosalinas, but overall the Top 8 was unique. The Nintendo mascot, of all people, takes a major Smash event. When Pokken rolled around, my attention was split with the pool play of my teammates, but I did enjoy watching the game. It is weird seeing how similar this game is to Tekken, but a completely different beast altogether. I’m happy with a Charizard in Top 8 and just freakin’ knew that Braxien/Suicune was gonna contend for the chip. Killer Instinct… Rash. Rash hype is the best and KI had another entertaining showing. I was rooting for Bass, but was not disappointed with any of the results. Props to a fully resurrected KI series.
Sunday, just wow. Not to gas up Sonicfox, but I thought the Super Saiyan form was a myth. During that Grand Finals set, he proved to me something that I’ve been contemplating for a while and will one day share with all of you in detail. He was tested, he was pressured, and the mark of a true champion is always being one step ahead. That was the slightest of difference in that set. The MKX landscape isn’t so free anymore. We had a couple of Cinderella stories that day with the first starting when the clock hit noon. Seriously, how storybook can the ChrisG run get? He vanquishes his final EVO Top 8 demon in Justin Wong, gets even with DualKevin who put him in losers, then dethrones the defending champ KaneBlueRiver who, last time they met in a Top 8, waxed him. It’s a going trend it seems in the past few years, the eventual Marvel champ just seems destined to take it. KBR has proven his worth as a powerhouse, there’s no shame in 2nd place when ChrisG is on a quest. Also, here’s a shameless plug in. No Zero, Phoenix and only 1 Morrigan in Top 8, but we saw Dormammu, M.O.D.O.K., Rocket Raccoon, Shuma-Gorath, Deadpool and even Arthur! The last movement is here everyone, and the game is still alive.
When it comes to Arksys games I just sit back and wait to be impressed… I always am. One of my locals, MarlinPie, got an early exit, but still what an accomplishment. I became even more of a fan of Johnny that day and Sin is kind of ridiculous. What I find funny is the Dizzy patch drops the next day and a bunch of characters get nerfs. I have to chuckle at that because how does that happen the day after a tournament? Anyway, onto the 2nd bridesmaid, never a bride… not this time though. Puff is the tuff stuff, don’t forget it. Hungrybox deserves every bit of the thrill of victory for the tear he’s been on & the Top 8 performance he had. Speaking of runs, when you have over 5,000 players from all around the world competing for a crown; top 512 is impressive enough. Those that went further from top 64 on, it’s not luck, strength of bracket, using a top tier character. No, these players are the real deal because at that point everyone is a true contender plus you factor in any given Sunday.
They call L.I. Joe the real American Hero and it couldn’t be any truer. Loved, respected, and humble even though he fell short he was still a class act. You couldn’t pick a better player to represent USA. For the record, no, I didn’t chant USA... but I did silently think ‘NY BABY!’ and of course plenty of ‘LET’S GO JOE!’ The rest of the competition was probably our proudest moment as a community to display. Matches were solid while some were great; what more can you ask for than a Winners Final runback with a reset win between two former champions? Big ups to all the EVO champions and runner ups for the amazing skill they put up for our amusement.
This scouter report download is complete.