New England Melee on the rise for Shine 2016

Joseph "Mango" Marquez plays against Juan "Hungrybox" DeBiedma at Super Smash Con 2016. The two "gods" will be competing in the Melee tournament at Shine 2016 in Boston. Rafael Suanes-USA TODAY Sports

The idea of a Smash major in Boston seemed like a pipe dream for the longest time. Venue costs are extraordinarily high and overall attendance seemed too low for a new major to start up in the area. However, Shi Deng, the president of Big Blue Esports, saw an opportunity after attending Genesis 3 in San Jose, California, earlier this year.

"After G3, it got me thinking, instead of saying it's not possible, why not run the numbers? I had to come to terms with possibly going $20-30k under, but I said screw it, let's do it," said Deng.

The result is the upcoming Smash event Shine 2016 on Aug. 26-28 in Boston, which has more than 1,500 players signed up for its Smash 64, Melee, and Wii U singles tournaments.

New England, the underdog

Other powerhouse regions have seen a plethora of large majors, but New England has not been so lucky, as it has been limited only to midsized regionals attracting a couple hundred players. Furthermore, several of New England's top players such as Daniel "KoreanDJ" Jung and Dustin "Darc" Hayes have taken breaks away from the game. With a lack of majors and top players, many dismissed New England's ambition to be a prominent Smash region.

Yet, a few people saw potential in the region because of the dozens of colleges densely concentrated in the area. Matthew Zaborowski started The Melee Games, a bi-annual Melee event which gathers several local colleges together to compete. Tournaments run almost every day in college campuses, bars and even churches. While the region doesn't claim household names such as Joseph "Mango" Marquez or Juan "Hungrybox" DeBiedma as its own, the New England region has seen several breakout stars hone their craft at these local events.

One of these up-and-coming hometown heroes is Jason "Numbers" Gauthier, who surprised everyone with his incredible ninth-place finish at Pound 2016, where he defeated McCain "MacD" LaVelle, Michael "MikeHaze" Pulido, and Hendrick "DJ Nintendo" Pilar. While in general Melee players were surprised to see such a performance from a "random," the New England players knew perfectly well that he was capable of making such a run. Meanwhile, more experienced New England players such as James "Mafia" Lauerman continue to make waves at tournaments. Most recently, Mafia finished ninth at Super Smash Con 2016, where he defeated Jeffrey "Axe" Williamson in what was considered one of the biggest upsets of the entire event.

Who will shine in Boston?

Whereas regions such as Southern California can be seen as the Golden State Warriors of Melee, the New England region sees itself as more of the Minnesota Timberwolves, a group brimming with potential. Shine 2016 will be the opportunity for the region to showcase rising talent that would never have this level of exposure due to the cost of travel.

The New England scene will have stiff competition, however. Shine 2016 will be incredibly stacked, with a majority of the Melee top 25 in attendance. Hungrybox, Mango, and Jason "Mew2King" Zimmerman will headline the star-studded lineup; Mango currently has the last major victory at Super Smash Con 2016 where he defeated Hungrybox in two clean sets.

Returning from brief hiatuses, Justin "Plup" McGrath, James "Duck" Ma, and James "Swedish Delight" Liu will also attend Shine 2016 along with a slew of other strong players. With several players in negotiations with esports teams for new contracts, Shine 2016 will be pivotal in adding bargaining chips to impact their new salaries.

While the gods top the charts of majors, everyone else has had their ups and downs in 2016. Who can stay consistent and make a strong push in their campaigns for the end-of-the-year rankings? Will Mango repeat as champion or will he fall to Hungrybox or to another god-slayer? As New England players finally get an opportunity to show their skills, will they make pivotal upsets in pools? With nearly 1,000 entrants for Melee alone, Shine 2016 definitely will not disappoint.