Cheers of "Ar-ma-da" resonate through the sold-out City National Civic Amphitheater in San Jose, California, and as he stands in the bright red lights and smoke, Adam "Armada" Lindgren releases a well-deserved sigh of relief, raising both arms triumphantly in victory.
After three days of stiff competition, with 1,828 Super Smash Bros. Melee singles entrants vying for the title, the international Smash Bros. tournament Genesis 3 came to a close in much the same way the Genesis 2 Melee singles tournament ended nearly five years prior -- with 22-year-old Armada once again defeating 24-year-old Joseph "Mango" Marquez in the Grand Finals.
Genesis 3, as a whole, has both reshaped and reinforced what we should come to expect from Melee competitions in 2016.
The resurgence of "The Kid"
The Kid, one of Mango's many nick names, was ranked fourth in the annual SSBMRank in 2015 as he struggled to find consistency with less-than-stellar finishes at major tournaments. Over the span of a year, community members relegated Mango from a heavy favorite to win any given event -- he was No. 1 in the SSBM Rank in both 2013 and 2014 -- to more of a dark horse candidate. Although he's a fan favorite for his vibrant, aggressive gameplay, Mango encountered several roadblocks as other players began to figure out how to exploit his risky decision-making.
At Genesis 3, Mango entered the Top 8 finals in the loser's bracket, after suffering a Day 2 loss to Jeffrey "Axe" Williamson in what was widely considered one of the biggest upsets of the tournament.
On the final day of Genesis 3, Mango seemingly flipped a switch. His flashy movement and mesmerizing gameplay had the crowd on its feet as he dismantled Nintendude, Kevin "PPMD" Nanney and Axe without dropping a single game. In the loser's bracket finals, he bested long-time rival Juan "Hungrybox" Debiedma to give the audience what they wanted -- an Armada vs. Mango Grand Finals rematch, and a Genesis classic.
Carrying his momentum into the first set, Mango overran Armada and won 3-1 to reset the bracket. Things changed in the second set, however, as Mango fell short to Armada's Peach; unlike the first set, where Armada split his play between Fox and Peach, Armada never wavered from Peach in the second set. Even though Mango didn't actually win the tournament, he renewed the hope within his fan base and within the Melee community that he can still win a major tournament.
The unbreakable wall
With another major victory under his belt, Armada continues to transform the narrative of the big 6 -- a term coined to describe the six powerhouse players of Melee. The big 6 has been long a centerpiece of Melee-related narratives, to describe the dominance they have over the rest of the competition, yet even within the group, Armada has shown another level of dominance not matched by any of his peers. Since Evo 2015, Armada has won every major tournament, with the exception of DreamHack Winter 2015, and furthermore, he had a winning record against everyone he played in 2015.
Despite falling behind in the first set against Mango, Armada overcame Mango's dynamic pressure with his steadfast Peach in the second set. Whereas Mango was able to exploit holes in every other opponent's play, Armada was quick to adapt -- rendering Mango's offense ineffective over the course of their two sets -- and it begs the question of who can consistently defeat Armada over a prolonged set. Even though Armada may drop a tournament once in a while, he remains the undisputed champion of Melee.
For the first time in Melee history, Genesis 3 hosted a ladies-only crew battle event to encourage women to enter into the larger competitive scene -- one of a number of efforts by the greater Melee community to promote inclusion for underrepresented demographics in the greater gaming industry. There were also meet-and-greets with some of the top players in the world, giving everyone the opportunity to play a full match against the legends of the game -- much to the delight of newer faces, and a rarity in esports. Both implementations were met with overwhelmingly positive feedback.
With Genesis 3 in the books, the 2016 season kicks into high gear. In two weeks, competitors will be playing at PAX South in San Antonio, Texas, with a $10,000 pot bonus that's lured in several top players to compete. Several other nationals such as Super Smash Con and Pound 6 have been announced for later this year, making for another jam-packed year of Smash.
With Armada winning at Genesis 3, the question remains: Who can dethrone Armada in 2016? Things are looking up for Mango as he was able to prove to his fans -- and most importantly, himself -- that he can be the best once again. While these two are the most talked about players in the Melee scene, there are several others that have both the hunger and work ethic to make some noise in 2016.
Hungrybox has shown remarkable improvement with his new dedicated analyst, Captain Crunch. PPMD has started to enter tournaments after a hiatus in 2015. From Stockholm, Sweden, William "Leffen" Hjelte encountered visa issues, which will hopefully be fixed soon . Rising stars such as Justin "Plup" McGrath, Weston "Westballz" Dennis, Mustafa "Ice" Akcakaya and Zachary "SFAT" Cordoni continue to show remarkable improvement with Top 8 finishes. The landscape continues to remain unpredictable, as the stakes grow higher every year with larger pots and potential sponsorships. With production values and the competition itself continuing to improve in every tournament, 2016 should be a great year to be a Melee fan.