The Evolution Championship Series held it’s first ever event in Japan recently. Organizers wanted to host an EVO event in Japan back in 2011. Unfortunately these plans were postponed indefinitely due to the big earthquake that occurred that year. Now, 7 years later, Japanese fighting game players had their chance to win a prestigious fighting game event without having to travel internationally to participate.
The country showed up in force. Online warriors that never travel abroad surprised many who had not seen them on a live stage before. It kept the competition fresh compared to many of the tournaments streamed in the US. The matches were fierce and unpredictable, and made for a wonderful viewing experience, especially live. For those of you that couldn’t attend, or could only watch online in the wee hours of the morning, don’t worry! The Game Haus has you covered.
Days one and two
Days one and two of EVO Japan took place at the Ikebukuro Sunshine City Community Center building. There weren’t many signs indicating where to go, but after wandering aimlessly for a few I managed to find the event space. I was greeted by cacophonous noise and a pair of girls passing out free Red Bull to attendees. The floor was naturally separated by game, and every seat was filled with participants playing casuals. Each game also had a special stream area setup, and these games were projected up on the walls for those that wanted to watch. The event used a large stage in the back to present the top 8 of games that would not be present on the final day.
There was a small section of stands near the entrance for vendors to sell gear or promote new games. Both BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle and King of Fighters XIV’s new DLC character Oswald were playable on the floor. Unfortunately, the lines stayed long even to the closing moments of the last public day. High level players and pros from each game played against each other during their time off stream. They would even play against relative new comers to give them pointers on their play. I considered joining in for some Street Fighter V casuals myself, but saw that the row in front of me was filled with Mago, Dogura, Itabashi Zangief, Momochi, and Tokido, and I decided against embarrassing myself.
The last day of EVO Japan took place in central Akihabara in a relatively small venue when compared to the first two days. There were no frills, no casuals, and almost nothing left but standing room. No one seemed to mind though; it was high level action that we came for, and it was high level action that we got.
Super Smash Bros. WiiU
1st: Echo Fox | Leonardo “MKLeo” Lopez (Cloud)
2nd: Yuta “Abadango” Kawamura (Bayonetta)
3rd: DNG | Takuto “Kameme” Ono (Shiek/MegaMan/Cloud)
As the only non-Japanese player in the Super Smash Bros. Top 8, MKLeo was the only man in the bracket not playing with home-field advantage. This isn’t to say he was necessarily the underdog, but all eyes were on him in these grand finals. MKLeo had a decent head start by entering the grand finals in the winners bracket as well, but Abadango had proven himself in the losers finals by taking Kameme out 3-0. For Abadango, this was a potential revenge match as well, as MKLeo knocked him into the losers bracket earlier in the top 8.
The first match began with MKLeo as Cloud and Abadango as Bayonetta. In my preview article I mentioned that I didn’t really follow competitive Smash much, but it was difficult not to be enthralled the energy in the room as both players fought for nearly a full minute with over 100% damage each. MKLeo took game one with a fortuitous air slash that sent his opponent off screen.
Undeterred, Abadango stuck with Bayonetta for match 2. It seemed he learned a thing or two from his first match against Leo’s Cloud. Through a series of great air juggling and impressive edge guarding, Abadango was able to take both of MKLeo’s stocks in under 2 minutes. Leo knew he needed to make a change, and came back ready for round 3.
Bayonetta had a much more difficult time getting attacks in on Leo’s 3rd round Marth. No matter the approach or strategy, Marth stood ready to zone with his Dancing Blade special. Though things looked dicey when Abadango nailed some aerial combos, MK Leo ended up taking the 3rd round without losing a single stock.
Though he won with Marth in the 3rd round, MKLeo went back to Cloud for the 4th and what would be final round of the tournament. It appeared he gathered himself a bit after his win as Marth. His Cloud looked more confident, and more willing to contest Bayonetta’s advances. That isn’t to say that the game was one sided. Quite on the contrary, though Abadango took MKLeo’s first stock when he already had over 100% damage on his final stock, he looked like he was poised to take the game too. In the end though, MKLeo finished the round, and brought the EVO trophy home for Echo Fox, for Mexico, but most importantly, for himself.
1st: ROX | Knee (Paul/Bryan/Steve)
2nd: ROX | Chanel (Eliza/Alisa)
3rd: N.M | GURA (Geese)
What surprised me most about the Tekken Grand Finals was the amount of versatility top players in Tekken have with their character picks. In the Grand Finals series alone the two players from ROX cycled through no fewer than six different characters. As a player of Street Fighter, I’m used to seeing players have one main character with maybe one alternate that they pick up for specific match ups. Tekken is clearly a different beast.
The first round began with Knee on Bryan Fury while Chanel picked Akuma, a character that he seemed comfortable with previously. Chanel may have been anticipating Knee to pick Paul Phoenix, who Knee used extremely effectively in his previous matches. The Bryan pick seemed to catch Chanel off guard, as Knee dismantled his opponent. Chanel needed to lose another round with Eliza before finding his groove with Alisa. Using Alisa, he managed to come back from his 2-0 deficit to reset the bracket, and force Knee into a second best of 5 match.
Knee seemed confident in his Bryan pick enough to start out the set with him, but Alisa still proved too strong. After rethinking his strategy, Knee switched to Steve Fox, giving him more mobility against Alisa’s attacks. This appeared to be the counter he needed, as Chanel’s Alisa could not keep up. After a surprising yet ineffective switch to Lucky Chloe by Chanel, the final round came down to Knee’s Steve and Chanel’s Eliza. Though Chanel put up a fight, his teammate’s boxer ended up taking the EVO trophy.
Guilty Gear Xrd REV 2
1st: NAGE (Faust)
2nd: OMITO (Johnny)
3rd: GGP | Kazunoko (Raven)
I’m honestly a bit torn about the results of the Guilty Gear Xrd REV 2 tournament. As a Johnny player myself, I rooted for Omito for most of the tournament. I find his unique movement style fun to watch, if challenging to play. That didn’t stop me from enjoying the chaos that was watching a high level Faust player climb up the ladder.
For those unfamiliar, one of Faust’s main mechanics involves him throwing random objects on the battlefield. These items can be as mundane as a small hammer that deals damage when it hits. They can be a great utility as well such as a spring board that launches the opponent in the air if they step on it. The items can also be darn near OP such as a black hole that roots enemies in place, or a giant meteor shower that covers most of the screen. A good Faust player has to react to these random items to try to get the best conversion possible, which is exactly what Nage did during the grand finals.
Omito put up a great fight. These grand finals could have easily gone to either player. I honestly wondered when some of Omito’s combos were going to end as he put on a display of just how much he knows about Guilty Gear and it’s systems. He even managed to reset the bracket before Nage took the final set 3-2 in a series that went down to the very last round. For fans of the game, it doesn’t get much more hyped than that.
Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition
1st: Infiltration (Menat/Juri)
2nd: John Takeuchi (Rashid)
3rd: Hx | CYG BST | Daigo Umehara (Guile)
I think the whole of Japan released a disappointed sigh when Daigo Umehara was eliminated from the event. Few fighting game players can be called a Legend in their scene, but Daigo is definitely one of them. If he were to win the first ever EVO event in Japan, it would have felt like destiny. Alas, it was not to be. Infiltration’s Menat was able to use her superior range to out-zone Daigo’s Guile.
It wasn’t just Daigo who had trouble with Infiltration’s Menat. Until John Takeuchi knocked Infiltration into the loser’s bracket during the winner’s semi-finals, Infiltration’s Menat looked nigh invincible. Takeuchi played a patient game, waiting for Infiltration to come to him before making his attack. He found that Infiltration was able to react to almost any offense thrown at him, and decided to give himself space to react to Infiltration instead. Infiltration quickly realized that Menat was not going to win him the match, so he switched to Juri. Juri’s unique rhythm threw Takeuchi off for a game, but the mental damage may have already been done, and Takeuchi sent Infiltration to the losers bracket.
In the grand finals, Infiltration went with Juri from the get-go. He continued to be a thorn in Takeuchi’s side, constantly interrupting his rhythm with Juri’s far
reaching normals and well timed invincible reversals. The pressure clearly got to Takeuchi, who began to play much more aggressively in hopes of turning the tide. By the time he regained some of his composure, Infiltration had already reset the bracket. Though he did better in the second set, Infiltration still took the tournament 3-1.
An annual event
I suppose I can’t speak much further than next year, but a representative came on stage at the end of the event to announce that EVO would be indeed returning to Japan next year. The crowd erupted in applause. No one was sure if it would happen given the rough history of trying to bring an EVO event to Japan. I couldn’t be more excited to see what games show up at EVO Japan next year. If Dragon Ball FighterZ is still popular, it’s highly likely it will make an appearance. In the next year both Soul Calibur VI and BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle release as well. EVO Japan may be in the past, but the future looks just as exciting, if not more so.
Featured image taken by The Game Haus.
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