Editor’s Note: Don’t forget to check out our stream schedule!
The 14th Evolution Championship Series is upon us. All this weekend, we have hours upon hours of countless video game contenders battling it out for fighting game supremacy. This is the biggest year ever with more contestants and more money on the line. The Olympics of Street Fighter and Street Fighter-type games keeps getting more insane, and considering that there are eight streams this year, there’s always going to be something worth watching.
Founded in 1996 by Tom Cannon and fully coming into being in 2002, Evo has gone from a few dozen dudes playing Super Street Fighter II Turbo and Street Fighter Alpha 2 to thousands of people gathering in Las Vegas to watch three long-ass days of all the most popular fighting games of the moment. This year’s show begins Friday morning at the Bally’s/Paris Las Vegas Resort and Casino and won’t end until late Sunday night.
If you haven’t caught Evo before, it’s a sight to see. Various live streams will play all day, showing the many game tournaments, as the numbers are cut down punch by punch in a double-elimination style.
Then on Sunday it’ll be one lone stream, as the main five games go through their finals (or top 8) with breaks in-between for some special announcements by the different major video game companies and some awards. It’s a total blast to see the best of the best from all around the world go at it while you realize that you will never, ever be nearly as good at Street Fighter, so you might as well live vicariously through someone who is.
Here are the nine featured games to look forward to. All times here are listed as part of the Pacific Time Zone, since that’s where the event is taking place. So if you’re like me and you live on the east coast, add three hours. For a complete stream schedule, go here.
Ultra Street Fighter IV
First Year: 2014Game Type: 1-on-1, best of 3 roundsTourney Match Format: Best of 3. Top 8 matches will be best of 5.Pools: Friday 8am-6pm (SRKEVO1), Friday 8am-8pm (CAPCOMFIGHTERS)Semifinals (Losers Bracket): Friday 8pm-10pm (SRKEVO1)Semifinals (Winners Bracket): Friday 8pm-10pm (CAPCOMFIGHTERS)Finals: Sunday 6:30pm-9pm (SRKEVO1)
Ultra Street Fighter IV makes a welcome return from last year’s show where it was won by Olivier Hay. The final version of the ever-evolving Street Fighter IV series was very new at the time and made for a lot of cool matches due to the rawness of it all. What was especially fun about it was that the tiers were so ill-defined that the top 8 was surprisingly diverse. The only character used more than once was Fei Long. Hay used Rose to get the win and has continued to keep that ball running in the fighting game community, killing it in all sorts of tournaments.
2009 gave us the first inclusion of a Street Fighter IV game and this may just be the last hurrah. For the last few years, Street Fighter IV and its upgrades have been the premier of Evo, but by next year, we’ll have Street Fighter V to play around with. This may not be the final appearance of Ultra Street Fighter IV, but it definitely will at a main event level.
Speaking of Street Fighter V, we’re sure to get footage of at least one new character.
Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3
First Year: 2012Game Type: 3-on-3 tag team, full team elimination, 1 round.Tourney Match Format: Best of 5.Pools: Saturday 8am-2pm (SRKEVO2), Saturday 4pm-6pm (SRKEVO6)Quarterfinals: Saturday 6pm-8pm (SRKEVO2), Saturday 6pm-8pm (SRKEVO3)Semfinals (Losers Bracket): Saturday 8pm-10pm (SRKEVO3)Semifinals (Winners Bracket): Saturday 8pm-10pm (SRKEVO2)Finals: Sunday 4pm-6:30pm (SRKEVO1)
The Marvel games are a fixture of Evo, having always appeared at every show in one form or another. Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is the last version and will continue on until the end of time. Last year, it was won by Justin Wong and his Wolverine/Storm/Akuma team. It was an amazing showing, especially in the end of his epic battle with Ryan Ramirez where Wong was able to beat seemingly impossible odds by wiping out a Dark Phoenix with a X-Factor and Dr. Doom assist in one well-placed super.
Once again, this will be an event where Capcom will be looking the other way. Due to no longer having the Marvel license, the company will be focusing more on Ultra Street Fighter IV and will not be showcasing Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 on their own stream.
Super Smash Bros. for Wii U
Yes, the Wii U’s latest crown jewel is making its Evo debut. Otherwise known as Smash 4, the newcomer has some big shoes to fill. It could end up a long-lasting success like Super Smash Bros. Melee or a forgotten flash in the pan like Super Smash Bros. Brawl. It’s hard to say how it’ll do in the end, but it’ll be fun to find out.
This game has far more rules than any other at Evo. Sadly, the DLC characters (Roy, Lucas, and Ryu) are banned due to their newness. On the other hand, custom moves are totally kosher, which makes things interesting.
Super Smash Bros. Melee
First Year: 2007Game Type: 1-on-1, four livesTourney Match Format: Best of 3.Pools: Friday 8am-10pm (SRKEVO2)Semifinals (Losers Bracket): Saturday 2pm-6pm (SRKEVO3)Semifinals (Winners Bracket): Saturday 2pm-6pm (SRKEVO2)Finals: Sunday 1pm-4pm (SRKEVO1)
Not only do we have the new hotness, but we also have the old and not-quite-so-busted. Melee,from all the way back in the GameCube era, returned to the tournament in 2012 due to a charity thing where people would donate to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation and the party of fans who raised the most money got to pick what game would be featured at the show. At first, Nintendo told them to cease and desist because they figured showing off a ten-year-old game reflected poorly on them, but not as bad as a corporation shutting down a bunch of fans celebrating their games while giving to charity. They backed off and Melee returned with a vengeance, coming back in the years that followed. Last year, it was won by Joseph Marquez, who played as Fox.
One thing of note is the use of “wobbling,” an Ice Climber trick where they get you locked into an infinite via a grab and a series of headbutts. It nearly dominated Melee’s tournament two years ago, but then they deemed it off limits last year. Now it’s back on the menu, so have at it, I guess.
I’m curious as to which Smash will be in who’s shadow. Will tradition get more eyes or the shiny, new toy?
Guilty Gear Xrd
First Year: 2015Game Type: 1-on-1, best of 3 roundsTourney Match Format: Best of 3.Pools: Friday 2pm-8pm (SRKEVO6), Saturday 8am-2pm (SRKEVO6)Semifinals: Saturday 2pm-4pm (SRKEVO6)Finals: Sunday 9am-11am (SRKEVO1)
The game with the stupidest name is also one of the most beautiful-looking video games out there. Guilty Gear Xrd is new to the Sony consoles after being in the Japanese arcade scene for a while and is a triumphant return for the Guilty Gear series to Evo. Its spiritual successor, BlazBlue, had taken over for several years and gave us an insane Grand Finals at last year’s show. Guilty Gear Xrd and its gorgeous anime style has been welcomed by many, and this will most likely be a game that sticks around for years to come, especially once the upgrades roll out.
First Year: 2014Game Type: 1-on-1, 2 health bars.Tourney Match Format: Best of 3.Pools: Saturday 8am-12pm (SRKEVO7)Quarterfinals: Saturday 12pm-2pm (SRKEVO7)Semifinals: Saturday 2pm-4pm (SRKEVO7)Finals: Saturday 6pm-8pm (SRKEVO1)
Killer Instinct was one of the lesser showings at last year’s show, won by Emmanuel Brito, who mained both Sadira and Jago. The Xbox One fighter didn’t catch on as much as it should have due to both its exclusive nature and the minor cast of characters. Luckily, there will be enough new stuff to help redeem the game in the latter’s respect. With Season 2’s release, the roster has expanded, while balance issues have been fixed and new moves have been implemented. Will it be enough? Time will tell, but don’t be surprised if this is Killer Instinct’s last appearance.
Mortal Kombat X
First Year: 2015Game Type: 1-on-1, best of 3 roundsTourney Match Format: Best of 3.Pools: Saturday 8am-2pm (SRKEVO4)Quarterfinals: Saturday 4pm-8pm (SRKEVO7)Semifinals (Losers Bracket): Saturday 8pm-10pm (SRKEVO7)Semifinals (Winners Bracket): Saturday 8pm-10pm (SRKEVO1)Finals: Sunday 11am-1pm (SRKEVO1)
Mortal Kombat X is an odd duck, not only because of the stigma of being a Mortal Kombat game, but NetherRealm Studios’ tendency to crank out updates way too often, hampering and altering strategies maybe a little too much. Mortal Kombat 9 was the very first Mortal Kombat to ever make the Evo stage and did well for itself. Its spiritual follow-up Injustice: Gods Among Us didn’t do all too hot, mainly due to Superman being too overpowered and boring (I’ll…stay away from the obvious joke here). Despite its fluid state of being, Mortal Kombat X has had a good start as a competitive game and may impress this year.
It is worth noting that the Predator was added too late as DLC to be allowed in the tournament. Jason Voorhees and Tanya are totally fine, though.
Persona 4 Arena Ultimax
First Year: 2015Game Type: 1-on-1, best of 3 roundsTourney Match Format: Best of 3.Pools: Friday 8am-2pm (SRKEVO3)Quarterfinals: Friday 2pm-4pm (SRKEVO3)Semifinals: Friday 4pm-6pm (SRKEVO3)Finals: Friday 6pm-8pm (SRKEVO1)
Persona 4 Arena Ultimax probably won’t be making too many waves, but it’s a fun game to watch, so enjoy it while you can. The fighter is incredibly popular in Japan, which is why it trumps the still-fresh Dead or Alive 5: Last Round, which is more well-known in the mainstream. The game’s earlier version, Persona 4 Arena, made an appearance at Evo 2012, but it was very low on the totem pole, much like this year, where its tournament is all finished by the end of Friday night. Still, it’s considered to be the carrot-on-the-stick in terms of getting more foreign players to make the journey to Vegas, so it has that going for it.
First Year: 2015Game Type: 1-on-1, best of 3 roundsTourney Match Format: Best of 3.Pools: Friday 8am-8pm (SRKEVO5), Saturday 8am-2pm (SRKEVO5)Semifinals: 2pm-4pm (SRKEVO5)Finals: Saturday 4pm-6pm (SRKEVO1)
While Mortal Kombat X might still be recent enough to have that new car smell, at least it’s readily available on home consoles. Tekken 7 was released in March…in the arcades…in Japan. Yes, there will be a Tekken 7 tournament at Evo 2015 played on arcade machines. How retro.
Only now is Tekken 7 being tested in the US and its only through a handful of locations. This will be more of painted-up exhibition showcase than anything else, but seeing people fiddle around with this uncharted territory of a fighting game should be worth at least a couple minutes of attention. Plus Namco is putting out a ton of cash for the winner, so let’s hear it for the trial by fire.
For more details on Evo 2015, check the official site.
Now, in terms of unofficial stuff, there will be plenty of side-tournaments going on. Do you miss BlazBlue? Annoyed at the lack of Dead or Alive? Nostalgic for Darkstalkers? Curious to see what high-level Catherine looks like? Check out this banging list of what people have planned throughout the weekend.
Gavin Jasper feels that Clay Fighter 63 1/3 was robbed yet again. Follow him on Twitter!