Tuesday, July 15, 2014

EVO 2014

I spent most of this weekend watching EVO. Correction - I spent all of this weekend watching EVO. Friday night was Street Fighters pool down to top 8, in which the crowd was amazed by the dominance of an American Zangief player and the audacity of a Japanese man at the helm of a giant indian with a gun. Saturday was Marvel, and I admit to falling asleep before top eight was done. Marvel before top eight is almost all one sided blow outs. Sunday was finals day, and it was amazing.

There was a story line this year, it which the faithful look to one of the old gods to redeem their game, a game now filled with Zero, Dr. Doom and Virgil. Marvel was approaching a homogeneous that made it less interesting to watch. Yes, there were standouts like KaneBlueRiver and team big body or Angelic and his Shuma Gorath or Kinderparty (a PA favorite who didn't make to evo) and his Arthur teams. The standouts were fun but when the field was boiled down to the last three or four it was almost always some variant of Doom, Virgil and Zero.

It also doesn't help that several of the best players in the world, Chris G and Filipino Champ, are not exactly crowd favorites, in spite of FChamp's Dormammu team being amazing to watch.

Justin Wong used to be hated, too. During the heyday of Marvel 2, long before I paid any attention, he was almost unbeatable and therefore despised. In the years since he has matured, turning into the peoples champion. The people wanted Justin to save Marvel.

Winners Finals - Justin vs Filipino Champ

That's already a classic. That match would be the best there was to see in any normal tournament, but this is EVO and Justin is on a mission. He was going to become the Marvel 3 champ with a Marvel 2 team.

Filipino Champ falls to Chris G in a nail biter. Chris G betrays his human side with a smile, which means that he can be beaten.

It's not as good of a match as the winners finals was but Justin's reaction is so genuine that it will make me smile every time I see it. The crowd is going insane, they have their savior, and it the midst of the celebration Justin stops, finds Chris G and embraces him. The notoriously salty Chris smiles - he can't help it.

I don't know if Justin actually saved Marvel or not. Capcom has deserted the game due to licensing issues so the broken mess that it is now is the broken mess that it will always be. As a spectator, a person who will happily watch but cannot play the game, he has renewed my interest. There was a story here, one with a hero and villains, of a king returning to his thrown, saving his kingdom, and just maybe redeeming one of the bad guys he crushed on the way there.


Ultra was not near as filled with drama. I will admit to losing much of my interest after Snake Eyez and Ricky Ortiz were eliminated. Zangief winning EVO would have been amazing, but I also really wanted to see Ricky pick up where Justin left off and take the whole deal with Rufus again. It was not to be, the international competition was too strong. In the end a Rose player from France won, something that I never thought I would see. Rose is for real now and apparently Sagat is not.

Street Fighter keeps growing - this was the largest tournament ever, consisting of around 2000 entrants. It keeps growing because the game is not static and has more international players. But Marvel (and Smash) had more viewers because they brought the human element. Nobody rolled on the floor after winning in Ultra, and many of the big names were eliminated much earlier. There was no fist pumping or yelling from me, from the friendly confines of my dark basement.

There was little hype. Mahvel brings the hype.


I expect the post EVO afterglow to last a week or two. There are players coming out of the woodwork over at PA of a wide range of abilities and I am making second, futile attempt at learning Decapre. This is what sets fighting games apart from other spectator sports. As exciting as I could ever be about football, baseball, basketball or an other main stream sport there is a gulf between me and the players that cannot be crossed. We live in different worlds. Watching EVO made me excited for the games again and I could go to a tournament, sit next to one of these guys and have him body the shit out of me. There is no separation, they are just better than I am, but it is within my or anyone else's power to get better.

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