Day 2 of EVO 2016 has nearly left me staggered from the sheer multitudes of hype present within the Las Vegas Convention Center. Tekken 7: Fated Retribution crowned it's champion as did Killer Instinct, Pokkén Tournament and Super Smash Bros. for Wii U. Pools for Street Fighter V and Super Smash Bros. Melee finally wound down to the pinnacle for each, Top 8. The stage is set for Sunday but how did we get there? LET'S GO!
Tekken 7: Fated Retribution
The first champion of Evolution 2016 has been crowned. Saint, a Tekken pro from Korea, defeated one of his fellow countrymen, Knee, for EVO gold. Saint's play with Jack-7 has been nearly lights out the entire tournament as his earlier matches with fan-favorite Poongko and nearly anyone else in the running can attest.
Knee battled his way from Loser's side, besting Geesemaster and Poongko back-to-back to make it there. He even managed a few Perfect rounds to cap off some of his wins. Knee's play with Bryan Fury was fantastic throughout with meaty combos and brutal confirms. Grand Finals of EVO, though, means anything can happen. Saint took two wins immediately with Jack-7's cybernetic rage but Knee thundered back with Bryan Fury's reckless fists for two of his own. Knee was looking to reset the bracket as he seemed on a roll at that point, taking two rounds off of Saint. Saint evened the score and it came down to a breathless final round.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ZKgen4tcwE
The same breathless anticipation of a crowd waiting for a kick to go through the uprights in football or a critical free-throw to swish through the hoop fell over us all. Saint did, as he had done for the duration of the tournament, and fired off a hammering combo complete with a juggle. I heard cries of "Not Like This!" from those around me just as Knee got his own string going and it seemed the reset was now inevitable. A standing light medium was all it took in the trade and Saint did it. The crowd around me exploded, the gentleman with the large printed portrait of Carlton Banks (from the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air) hoisted his tribute skyward and the hype was undeniable. Bandai Namco has to be pleased with not only the attention given to it but the way the crowd was hanging off of every single combo string. Tekken 7 will be a big deal when it hits the FGC in early 2017. This only affirmed it for this FGC correspondent.
Super Smash Bros. for Wii U
Elliot “Ally” Carroza-Oyarce has done it. The third time at EVO for him and he's finally done what no one thought possible. Win a national with Mario. The Canadian-born Smasher has been representing the Great White North in Sm4sh for years now though he did take second in Brawl at EVO 2009.
His victory came over Ono "Kamemushi" Takuto whose Mega-Man disrupted brackets all tournament long. The Japanese player came on strong with victories over EVO 2015 finalists, defending champ Gonzalo "ZeRo" Barrios and Ramin "Mr.R" Delshad, along with so many others. An average character to most yet Kamemushi proved that tier lists don't matter. It is possible to go quite far with mid-tier or worse fighters.
The golden boy of Smash 4, ZeRo, finished in third place. He's always in the mix for Top 4 no matter which tournament he enters and, comparatively, won EVO 2015 while in the midst of a historic 53 consecutive wins. James “VoiD” Makekau-Tyson clocked in at fourth marking the USA's highest finish of the tournament for Smash 4. Japanese players Kawamura “Abadango” Yuta and Hayashi “Ranai” Ryuto tied for fifth while Larry "Larry Lurr" Holland and Samuel "Dabuz" Buzby finished in seventh.
The event came under harsh criticism from its competitors for various reasons. Chief among them were pool times that were scheduled improperly considering Super Smash Bros. for Wii U had the second highest number of entrants behind Street Fighter V. No Sunday main stage at Mandalay Bay presence is one thing but for the entire tournament to be done in 22 hours with over 2,200 entrants boggles the mind. Many pros played in 8 AM pools on Friday, dealt with quarterfinals at 8 PM that day which ran until midnight or later then back again at 8 AM for semifinals. The other big complaint regarded the format. Nearly all the matches except for Loser's, Winner's and Grand Finals were best-of-three. Only that particular section of Top 8 was Best-of-Five, typical of most games once the final eight players are decided. There weren't enough setups for pools play while others remained relegated to what's referred to as friendlies, or casual play, according to most. Many within the Smash 4 community seems to feel pretty strongly that "Evo doesn't care about us like other titles."https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c_TZ13-cFQQ
Controversy aside the Grand Finals between Ally and Kamemushi were a sight to behold. The entire Top 8 is worth a look, though this compilation of the best moments might work even better.
Top 8 of Killer Instinct had numerous "EVO moments" sprinkled throughout. F3|Hollywood Sleep picking Gargos to secure a win of Ultra Arcade's Bass. The Top 3 was rounded out by a young high-school aged player known as Seadragon as well. His performance throughout the course of the tournament proved that this youngblood not only had nerves of steel but instincts far beyond his years when it comes to the competitive setting. This was also a Top 8 that featured three different people using Rash. The Toad Has Unloaded, folks. The character diversity in the Killer Instinct finals was fantastic, the matches were tremendous and we even got a final character reveal for Season 3, Eyedol. One of the most frustrating boss battles in the history of fighting games has been resurrected as a playable character. The split-headed monstrosity moves fast and seems to be packing quite a punch.
Grand Finals between UA|Bass and F3|Hollywood Sleep featured Arbiter, Spinal and Gargos. It would be the boss character that won the day as Sleep managed to take home EVO gold and a new champion for KI was crowned at Evolution 2016. The choice was interesting from Sleep as the character hasn't been out for very long. His grasp on Gargos' mechanics were astounding. Bass fought valiantly with Spinal but it simply was too much to deal with. Congratulations to F3's Hollywood Sleep on the win.
Pokkén Tournament, a new title for EVO, finished its run earlier today with a Grand Finals match between two Japanese competitors, Buntan vs. Tonosama. Tonosama entered on the Loser's side but, ultimately, reset the bracket and managed to steal victory away from the jaws of defeat. It was an interesting viewing experience especially with the crowd getting hopped up every time Pika Libre managed to land a super move. Congratulations to your EVO 2016 Pokkén Tournament winner, Tonosama!
Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3
Mahvel, as it has always been, remained hype beyond compare all through Day 2. IFC Yipes and Persia provided the bulk of commentary (though they both competed within pools themselves) and slowly but surely? The top eight Marvel vs. Capcom 3 players were carved out. These eight warriors will take to the main stage at Mandalay Bay events center tomorrow after Mortal Kombat X:
KaneBlueRiver (Haggar, Hulk, Sentinel) vs. Priest (Magneto, M.O.D.O.K., Dr. Doom)
NB|DualKevin (Deadpool, Dante, Hawkeye) vs. BT|Angelic (Wolverine, Dormammu, Shuma-Gorath)
Paradigm (Haggar, Dormammu, Dr. Doom | Haggar, Dr. Doom, Rocket Raccoon) vs. ApologyMan (Firebrand, Dr. Doom, Super-Skrull)
NYChrisG (Morrigan, Dr. Doom, Vergil) vs. EG|Justin Wong (Wolverine, Storm, Akuma)
All of the Top 8 Mahvel action can be seen on SRKEVO1 tomorrow starting at 10:30 AM PDT.
Mortal Kombat XL
Mortal Kombat XL is in an interesting position as far as EVO goes. The ESL MKX Pro League has been the place where most pros have considered exerting their efforts yet EVO is still the biggest fighting game tournament of them all. The big names still showed out for Mortal Kombat's possible swan song at Evolution with Injustice 2 right around the corner.
Sonicfox is, as usual, right on track to possibly take the whole thing but his cR teammate, Wound Cowboy, will have a few things to say about that as will the entirety of Top 8:
cR|SonicFox vs. MTL|Hayatei
cR|WoundCowboy vs. TekkenMaster
cR|Dragon vs. PG|Scar
YOMI|Michaelangelo vs. EVB|BigD
Notice someone missing from that Top 8 roster? PxP|A Foxy Grampa, the other likely favorite to win EVO this year aside from the phenom, SonicFox, was eliminated in 9th place. Strange to see an EVO final where the UK-born pro isn't present but, stranger still, could the machine known as SonicFox actually falter? Or is his character of choice, Acidic Alien, simply too powerful to stop at this point? Find out tomorrow bright and early at 8 AM PDT on SRKEVO1.
Super Smash Bros. Melee
The Melee hype is real. Slipping in amongst the pools play and bearing witness to Top 32 and Top 16 play made me a believer. The crowd was buzzing with anticipation as Top 16 came around. Each match had the crowd chanting back and forth as the Gods of Smash took their places and a total of seven Americans along with one Swede, Armada, will vie for Melee gold on Sunday. Your Super Smash Bros. Melee Top 8 consists of:
Alliance|Armada (Peach, Fox) vs. FOX|Mew2King (Sheik, Marth)
Liquid|Hungrybox (Jigglypuff) vs. PG|Plup (Sheik)
Tempo|S2J (Captain Falcon) vs. G2|Westballz (Falco, Fox)
C9|Mango (Falco, Fox) vs. CLG|PewPewU (Marth)
The storylines so far this year have been compelling, almost akin to professional wrestling in their way. Hungrybox and Mang0's back and forth tug-of-war, Mew2King's slowly rising trajectory and the younger blood making their mark. So much at stake for the Smash community moving forward and the world will be watching. Finals for Melee begin at 3 PM PDT Sunday and all matches can be seen on SRKEVO1.
Street Fighter V
Street Fighter V broke records with its number of entrants for a single tournament. The large screens within the main hall always had matches from pools going at all times morning, noon and night. Day 2 started winding down from 5,000+ to the final eight. Who will be the best in the world? The Top 8 is a bit surprising considering some of the biggest names in the game all met the same fate. Your Street Fighter V Top 8 consists of:
RZR|Fuudo (R. Mika) vs. MOV (Chun-Li)
Yukadon (Nash) vs. RZR|Infiltration (Nash)
HM|Eita (Ken) vs. LI Joe (Nash)
HM|Go1 (Chun-Li) vs. AW|Nemo (Vega)
There were so many moments in Day 2 that could possibly take the top spot. It is, however, the lone American qualifier, LI Joe against Kazunoko that stole the entire show.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mZi6ADgU2HI
What a moment. The pure joy of Joe and his Long Island brethren, the roar of the crowd and Kazunoko's great sportsmanship all make for one of the best things I've seen all of EVO. He remains America's one hope to possibly claim the top prize for Street Fighter V. Can he do it? The killers are assembled and all of the action can be found on SRKEVO1 or on ESPN2 starting at 7 PM PDT.
Day 2 is in the books, folks! It was full of madness, hype bordering on lunatic and a metric ton of salt. It was also full of delays and a decidedly ridiculous lack of seating. That didn't stop the hype train from impacting full blast, though. Every Final had moments of high spectacle that few other events can match in eSports and it was monumental to be apart of it. Don't forget to tune in starting at 8 AM PDT for all the finals of the FGC's five most popular fighting games. Even if you're not into every title stay tuned anyway. Learn about another part of the community and feel the hype. Stay free, Internet.