Not many people know this about me, but before I was into all the MOBA/ARTS/DoTA-like games, my original love was fighting games. I would eventually drop them as I couldn't play them as well as I could the other games (And even then I'm decidedly meh in these games) but the FGC or "fighting game community" is still my one true love and the bar I hold all other eSports to in terms of hype, community and sheer fun.
Considering I'm writing articles now, I wanted to do a top five (in no particular order) of my personal favorite moments from EVO 2016. A lot of these will be related to the finals, but I have to be honest in saying that most of my time was from the final day on Sunday. There are definitely major moments I missed, so shout-outs to some of the crazy and amazing things that I didn't put on this list, including:
If you're interested, I recommend googling some of these and enjoying quality FGC action. That said, I'm gonna get right into some of my favorite moments. Remember that these are in no real order: I consider #1 just as hype as #5. Oh...and spoilers. If you don't want the EVO 2016 finals spoiled, I'd recommend closing this tab and catching up on winners, losers and otherwise.
I'll definitely get some hate for this, but Super Smash Bros. Melee was as hype as things could get. Last year, Armada took the cup from HungryBox with a convincing win. Along with the rematch factor, HBox clawed his way from losers to face off Armada again, with cheers of USA vs. Sweden. To me, it was also kind of helped that Armada looked like the young villain of an early 90's video game movie. You know, where he's the rich kid whose dad is going to demolish the mom-and-pop arcade and replace it with a franchise Mega Game so it's up to the scrappy HungryBox to take the prize and prevent that from happening?
To say that this match was a nailbiter doesn't even cut it. The set ran to five games in both instances, with HungryBox narrowly taking wins. Armada would fire back and steal games too, both men constantly at the edge of their seats. For Armada, this was his second EVO championship. For Hbox, it was his first, with the revenge story of taking back the cup. In the end, HungryBox clutched out a 6-4 win after both resetting the bracket and taking Armada to game five in both circumstances. HungryBox won his first EVO championship and pulled in the most viewers for EVO 2016. Who said Melee was dead?
The Marvel vs. Capcom 3 finals were awesome in their own right, with Chris G. finally securing a win and with some thrilling games such as Chris vs. Justin Wong...but that's not what I consider to be the craziest thing about the Marvel top eight. Right after the Justin/Chris game, an unidentified man appeared on stage and plugged in his controller, even getting chummy with Chris and Jwong. Granted, he'd be quickly escorted away, but the oddity was still there. Dubbed "The Ghost of Marvel 2" by /r/Kappa, the man's desires were a mystery. That is, until Chris G. shed some light about it on twitter:
We'll never know if this man was secretly a Marvel god or if he was just a bit of an oddity but one thing is real: Leave it to Marvel to have some weird occurrence like this.
If you're not familiar with MKX or any of NetherRealm's games, you might be surprised to learn that SonicFox is good...insanely good. Playing Mortal Kombat games since he was thirteen, SonicFox has been an MKX powerhouse. His performance was dominating, his personality jovial and his showmanship impeccable. By all accounts, this young man was something of a god in his field. His tournament record and earnings from winning are also top in show. SonicFox was the man everyone compared themselves to for NeatherRealm games and was riding high off a massive tournament winnings...until EVO 2016.
In the finals vs. TekkenMaster, SonicFox...started losing. The bracket was reset from losers at 3-1 in TekkenMaster's favor with Sonic Fox looking shell-shocked. This all culminated in SonicFox doing something I don't think he's ever done before: Removing his blue hat, the iconic headpiece associated with him as much as Erron Black. You can even hear the commentators' disbelief as they watch SonicFox knuckle down and get serious about his EVO championship. The games would go down to the final match in the best of five, with SonicFox winning the last game in commanding fashion with Alien. All that said, even with his second championship SonicFox doesn't look as untouchable as he once was. SonicFox used to be a god...but gods don't bleed.
As I said earlier, Street Fighter V made a huge jump in the eSport pool as it got broadcast on ESPN2. As any DOTA or League fan will tell you, there's always a fair amount of crying and naysaying when it comes to eSports being in the public limelight. Call me a schadenfreude addict but nothing makes me giddier than seeing the rather goofy rage from people who can't stand the fact that video games can be played for money now.
I chose my favorite tweet from this whole affair to signify it but if you want some more goodness check out /r/Kappa's complaint thread or the Scrubquotes twitter to see all manner of rage, anger, and people who could never land a hit against guys like Infiltration say they know fighting games. You see this sort of thing every year but this year was pretty special considering it was including the ESPN outrage. Don't worry if you read through all the tweets and complants; I'm CERTAIN EVO 2017 will feature some more delicious salt to season your fries with.
In the Street Fighter V finals, the top eight seemed immensely stacked. Six incredible Japanese players, the lone Korea player known as Infiltration (A name that would strike fear into players hearts) and a lone American: Long Island Joe. Barely squeaking into the loser's bracket, Joe became the sole US representative and carried with him the hopes of a nation. Despite some stuff he had done in the past, there was a lot more to his story that made the whole affair incredible.
For one thing, LI Joe's father was at EVO and Joe didn't even know it, cheering him on from the background. The story of LI Joe's pink backpack, a tribute to his mother who died of breast cancer, was a reminder to the type of person he was. For ESPN watchers tuning in, Joe was a fresh face among what seemed to be an Asian-dominated sport. This man was the last bastion of the US to take Street Fighter V. Of course, Twitch was behind him too with the new "bits" system. Everything about Joe's life seemed to culminate in these finals that seemed straight out of a Cinderella story. Even the Japanese attendants were acknowledging the stars aligning in Joe's favor: Tweet
Unfortunately, unlike Cinderella, LI Joe was eventually eliminated in the losers' bracket by a fellow Nash player. All that said, LI Joe was one of those rare moments where everything seems to connect perfectly and a normal fighting game player is elevated, even if just for a second, to a national icon. Coupled with the ESPN coverage, I can easily see LI Joe becoming something of an eSports icon for Street Fighter V. Props to you Joe, you main character you.
With all that said, what do you all have to say about EVO? Any moments I missed or major events you wanted to see here that didn't make my top five?