The premier esport fighting game tournament, the Evolution Championship Series 2019, was held at the beginning of August. EVO is the longest-running fighting game tournament, and has been held annually since 1996, formerly under the name “Battle by the Bay,” in various locations, before settling in Las Vegas in 2005. It’s been a mainstay in gaming culture since its move.
EVO 2019 took center stage on many gamers’ computers; it was streamed on Twitch.tv in nearly record-breaking numbers. (The only other stream that has beaten this was when famous gamer Ninja streamed with Drake.) The headlining game, “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate,” had over 275,000 viewers during its grand final match. “Tekken 7,” another popular fighting game, had similar numbers to “Smash Bros.,” even though it wasn’t held at a premier time slot.
Players flew in from all across the world to compete in their favorite games and claim the title EVO 2019 Champion. The tournament hosted an array of new titles: “Soul Calibur VI,” “Under Night In:Birth Exe:Late[st],” “Mortal Kombat 11,” “Samurai Shodown” and “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.” Four games returned from EVO 2018 as well: “Street Fighter V,” “Tekken 7,” “BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle” and “Dragon Ball FighterZ.” These are some of the best moments from a few of these game tournaments.
At EVO 2018 last year, Goichi, who is widely considered to be the best “Dragon Ball FighterZ” player, suffered a crushing loss to SonicFox, an eSports player known for his skill in multiple games. This year, during the grand finals, Goichi had the chance to face off against his rival again to reclaim the title. Goichi has been suffering from hand problems recently (an extremely prevalent issue in the fighting game community), and he hadn’t been doing that well in previous tournaments.
In the final set, SonicFox was up 2-0, and Goichi was up against the wall, but he managed to bring forward all of his resolve and squeeze out three straight wins at last, defeating SonicFox. The crowd roared with excitement and Goichi was brought to tears by his victory; even SonicFox was laughing, proud of his competitor.
“Super Smash Bros. Ultimate” was the most popular game at EVO 2019, with over 3,500 entrants — the most for any “Super Smash Bros.” game, ever. MKLeo, the No. 1 ranked player of “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate,” was sent to the losers bracket early on in the tournament, by a well-known player named Kameme.
There, he had to face seven highly-ranked players to even have a chance of facing Tweek, the No. 2 ranked player, in the grand finals. The players have maintained a rivalry since the previous game, “Super Smash Bros. 4,” but this time, Leo would have to defeat Tweek twice to be able to claim victory.
Tweek started out the first set with a solid 2-0 lead, and started off the third game up three stocks to one. (Those familiar with “Smash Bros.” are aware of how hard this is to come back from.) But then, Leo caught a second wind and decimated Tweek, avoiding a game-deciding hit from Tweek and winning game three. After this crushing loss, Tweek’s mental game started to drop and Leo reversed the game back on Tweek, knocking him to the losers bracket with a final score of 3-0. After this, in their second set, Leo swept the floor once more. This victory was Leo’s first EVO win, and it’s sure to make EVO 2019 go down in history.
The grand finals sets normally get the most hype and showcase the most skilled gameplay. There is an enormous amount of pressure from the competitors because all of the focus is on them, the lights are shining on the players and, many times, they have to face a competitor who doesn’t want the win just for the prize money or the fame, but for their pride. The match between Arslan Ash and Knee at EVO 2019 is the perfect example.
Arslan Ash, playing as Mizumi, and Knee, playing as Devil Jin, were tied 2-2. Not one player gave an inch to the other; the only strikes they could get in were stray hits that didn’t lead to combos. Knee was on the last dregs of his life bar when he traded blows with Arslan, who took advantage of this and used some quick attacks to defeat Knee, cementing his title as the best “Tekken” player in the world.
“Soul Calibur” finally made its return to EVO after a seven-year hiatus. The game series centers around weapons-based fighting, and the first game was for the Sega Dreamcast. Almost 750 people participated in the competition during EVO 2019, and while this game didn’t set any records for attendance or viewers, it did provide top fighting game action to those who did watch.
Skyll, a French player who plays as Mitsurugi, made his way up the bracket to face off against Yuttoto, the No. 1 seeded player from Japan who plays as Voldo. Skyll was up for the challenge as the two players faced off, and they traded wins: Yuttoto would take a game, then Skyll would take a game, until they were both tied, at two games apiece. This final game would decide who made it to the Grand Finals, and who had to face Bluegod, a player notorious for tearing up his opponents, in the Losers Finals.
The game was intense, and both players were at minimal health when Yuttoto activated his Soul Charge and started to attack Skyll, who tried to block, but after maneuvering around a bit, Yuttoto dealt the finishing blow to Skyll and proceeded to win “Soul Calibur VI” Championship of EVO 2019.
There were plenty of other hype moments at EVO 2019; each game showed off the high-level gameplay expected of EVO competitors, and the top players really showed that they meant business. There are lots of other fighting game tournaments that go on throughout the year, which are definitely worthwhile to watch, but EVO 2019 will be remembered as one of the best fighting game tournaments of all time.