Since the early ’00s, the Evolution Championship Series has been like the Olympics of one-on-one fighting games. The three-day event will return once again on July 31-August 2 to the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.
Formerly called the Battle by the Bay, this will be the 19th official Evo tournament (not counting the recent installments of Evo Japan). As usual, it will feature a lineup of nine fighting games. Several fan-favorite games will return for another year. Som older games got a shot in the arm thanks to new DLC, but there are also a couple of games that got cut completely to make way for new entries.
First off, Mortal Kombat 11 is no more! Despite a healthy amount of entries last year, Mortal Kombat 11 isn’t on the menu this time around. This is a big deal as it’s the first Evo to go without a NetherRealm Studios game since Mortal Kombat 9 made the lineup in 2012.
Also gone is BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle. This one was always one of the least popular games on the roster in its two years at Evo, but considering it was just featured at Evo Japan and just received some fresh DLC, its exclusion is a little surprising.
Here are the nine games that did make it into the Evo 2020 lineup:
Over three days, thousands of fighting game fans from around the world will be playing these nine games. Well, eight games. Marvel vs. Capcom 2 has its own special thing going on. More on that in a second.
Let’s take a closer look at each game…
Street Fighter V: Champion Edition
Capcom’s juggernaut began to show its age last year. For the first time since Street Fighter V‘s introduction, it wasn’t the main event at Evo. This is only pushing Capcom to work that much harder to try and prove that Street Fighter V is still the world’s premier fighting game.
On February 14, the game will be upgraded from Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition to Champion Edition. Not only does this upgrade include a few new characters to choose from, but every fighter in the roster is getting a new V-Skill option that should help refresh the gameplay a bit.
If Capcom really wants to wow the crowd this year, maybe the publisher will finally bring back Dan Hibiki.
Tekken 7 was released on consoles just a month before Evo 2017 and yet the game has been part of Evo since 2015 because it came out in Japanese arcades just in time for that tournament. Evo included it again in 2016, thanks to the upgrade Tekken 7: Fated Retribution. More characters and updates have been released since then, but this might be Tekken 7‘s undoing.
The new character Leroy Smith has become a bit too popular and basically dominated Evo Japan, making the competition a bit less exciting and monotonous. Yet, the game has proved its staying power, and it will be a little while before it truly runs out of gas.
Part of the game’s charm is the guest characters it announces at each show. Two years ago, the big addition was The Walking Dead‘s Negan. It remains to be seen if Bandai Namco will announce a new guest character this year, but fingers crossed.
Dragon Ball FighterZ
And here’s the game that rendered Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite obsolete the moment it was announced. Arc System Works’ 3v3 tag-team game made waves at Evo 2018, but its return didn’t come with the same level of hype. While it’s fun to play and the graphics are impressive, it’s also a game where most characters play the same, half the roster is made up of Goku and/or Vegeta variants, and matches take too long.
Dragon Ball FighterZ coming back is slightly surprising, but it has its following. We might also hear more about Ultra Instinct Goku, the latest Goku variant coming to the game this year.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
Even though it was only the second entry in the series and came out for the GameCube nearly twenty years ago, Super Smash Bros. Melee appeared in the Evo lineup until 2018, partially because of how poorly Super Smash Bros. Brawl did as a competitive game. It then smashed records and became a mainstay at Evo, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U be damned.
When Super Smash Bros. Ultimate made its first showing at Evo, it finally made sense to do away with Melee. Ultimatefeatures every character and stage from all of its predecessors, so even if the gameplay is different, including Melee would feel redundant.
Ultimatewas one of the most popular games of Evo 2019, securing its place in this year’s tournament. It also replaced Street Fighter V as the main event of the tournament. Ultimate is very much here to stay.
Prior to the 2019 tournament, it had been a long time since SoulCalibur was part of Evo. But Bandai Namco’s classic weapon-based fighter has finally made its long-awaited return to Evo, and it’s a no-brainer. Even though it wasn’t out yet, Evo hyped SoulCalibur VI to hell in 2018, even giving it a side tournament with the few characters available in the pre-release build. In 2019, the title returned as a fully-formed game with tons of content.
Unfortunately, SoulCalibur VI didn’t make a massive impact on the gaming community. At Evo 2019, it had its finals on the first day, which usually doesn’t bode well for future appearances. Luckily, Bandai announced some snazzy Season Two DLC (including Haohmaru from Samurai Shodown), giving the game the shot in the arm it needed to return for the 2020 competition.
When Samurai Shodown was announced for Evo 2019, it was a huge deal because little had been revealed about the game at the time. Despite being a classic fighting series, the relaunch was the first time any Samurai Shodown would be part of the main Evo roster. Luckily, the game inspired some solid competition. Since that inaugural tournament, a whole season of DLC has been released and just recently, we got word of a second season. It’ll be more interesting to see how high-level play goes with an extended roster and a year’s worth of content under the game’s belt.
Under Night In-Birth EXE: Late [CL-R]
The ridiculously titled and generally obscure Under Night In-Birth and its upgrades have been around since 2012, and the series has earned a bit of a cult following since then. But the game is perhaps best known for being part of the BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle crossover. Due to its passionate following (and to be fair, the game is an absolute gem that deserves all the love it gets), the previous version of Under Night In-Birth was brought in for Evo 2019.
There’s an update coming out in February that will re-balance the gameplay and introduce a new character. That this fighter-that-could is pushing BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle out the door is rather impressive.
Granblue Fantasy Versus
Evo is once again including a new fighter that hasn’t even been released yet. Granblue Fantasy Versus, a spinoff of the RPG series Granblue Fantasy, will launch late February/early March, depending on where you live. Being developed by Arc System Works, it unsurprisingly looks damn good in action. And in stills! Seriously, look at that screenshot! Man! Evo 2020 is poised to be one hell of a trial run for this newcomer.
Marvel vs. Capcom 2
Marvel vs. Capcom 2 was a huge staple in Evo’s early years. Eventually, it was replaced by Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3. Then Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite came out and was such a disaster that it didn’t even get a single year at Evo. The Marvel fighting game franchise was dead, or so it seemed.
To celebrate the game’s 20th anniversary, Evo is bringing Marvel vs. Capcom 2 back to the big stage for one last bout. Rather than a full tournament with pools and semis and all that, this year’s event is just going to be an 8-player invitational tournament. It’s an all-star competition that will feature some of the game’s former champions.