The Grandest Fighting tournament by far is less than a month away. People from various nations and backgrounds come to compete for their chance of glory and, of course, prize money. We are talking about the largest and longest running fighting game tournament in the world - the Evolution Championship Series, better known as EVO. This tournament is a yearly phenomenon, something that shouldn’t be taken for granted. What better way to appreciate something than a little history with a look at the story of EVO.
EVO, like many things, was not as we know it today. Originally founded in 1996 as “Battle by the Bay”, it was a relatively small tournament for mainly the Street Fighter series. Six years later, "Battle by the Bay" became known as EVO. By the mid 2000’s, EVO began hosting in Las Vegas, where it remains today.
This championship not only brings hype, it also makes memories. If you’re into the fighting scene, then you might hear a spectator occasionally mention a moment from the past, a play or a set a move, not unlike a popular sport. There are moments in EVO that are captured and immortalized.
Let’s start off with the most iconic moment in EVO history - EVO Moment #37, Daigo “The Beast” VS Justin Wong.
It was 2004, and the two players made it to the semifinal bracket of Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike. The moment happened in the first game; both players won a round, so it was onto the last. In the final round, Justin got the edge over Daigo, leaving him with just a pixel of health left. Justin himself had a little bit less than half health. It looked like it was going back to a neutral game, but Justin threw out a seemingly safe Chun-Li Super. Daigo, with no health whatsoever, couldn’t take any chip damage, and his only chance for survival was to parry all 15 of Chun-Li’s attacks, thus resulting in no damage. The Beast earned his nickname by not only executing frame perfect parries but also winning the match by answering back with his own super. Daigo advanced but lost in the Grand Final.
That moment defined the fighting game community, probably helping it reach the point that it has today. The two players still compete against one another in a healthy rivalry. In 2014, the ten-year anniversary of EVO Moment 37, they recreated the spectacle.
For something more recent, let’s study up on last year’s EVO. It was a record breaking event, filled with its own emotional journey for many people. Instead of that large famous ballroom that the tournament was known for, last year was the first time the eliminations part of the tournament was held in the Las Vegas Convention Center. That same year, the Sunday Grand Finals were held at the Mandalay Bay Events Center, a huge arena-like venue with its very own jumbotron. It seems that each EVO will continue to grow.
Ultimately, the nine games at EVO 2016 were Street Fighter V, which replaced the popular Ultra Street Fighter IV. Another newcomer was the Pokken Tournament series from Nintendo. All others were returning games that were familiar in the community: Super Smash Bros. Melee, Super Smash Bros. U., Mortal Kombat X, Killer Instinct, Tekken 7, Ultimate Marvel Vs. Capcom 3, and Guilty Gear.
The most suspenseful spectacle during the event has to be Hungrybox’s first EVO championship. Hungrybox was in the Loser’s Bracket and had to stave off both Mango’s Fox and Plup’s Sheik for a shot against the returning champion, Armada. Even if he won the 3 out of 5 matches to reset the bracket, he would have to do it again for a combined 6 times. Hungrybox got through them both with raw emotion on his face after each victory. Then it was time for Armada’s fox, arguably the man who launched the fighter to the top.
Hungrybox took a commanding lead, winning the 2 sets out of 5, but Armada responded later with 2 sets of his own. It was all up to the battle on the Battlefield, down to one stock for each. One set up or move was all that was needed. One Jigglypuff rest, and the bracket was reset. After another grueling 3 out of 5 set, Hungrybox collapsed on the floor victorious.
EVO is always an exciting time, so be there, watch the streams and see the memorable moments as they heppen. This year’s championship will be held at the Mandalay Bay resort on July 14th through 16th. The main games that will be featured there are Ultimate Marvel Vs. Capcom 3, King of Fighters XIV, Tekken 7, Street Fighter 5, Injustice 2, Smash Bros. Melee, Smash Bros. for Wii U, BlazBlue: Central Fiction, and Guilty Gear.