It's the fighting game community's turn to take the gaming spotlight when the Evolution Fighting Game Championships kick off this weekend. With seven games boasting more than 1,000 entrants each, this is the biggest Evo in the series' history.
This annual celebration of all things fighting games will showcase everything that makes the community so special: players traveling from all around the world to compete in World Series of Poker-size tournaments, a unique mashup of personalities and high-level competition. This is one of the best events to watch each year.
With such a massive undertaking (nine games on the main event lineup), there are plenty of storylines to cover. Here are some of the most notable events and personalities to watch.
Tekken 7 is back on the main lineup for Evo in a big way. It will be a masters event for the Tekken World Tour and in a headliner spot for the finals day. With 1,885 players, it will be the third-most registered game on the docket.
Last year, the Tekken 7 tournament at Evo was not on the world tour, and most of the Japanese top players did not attend. The best player in the game, Jae-Min "Knee" Bae, was a notorious no-show, and there was no pot bonus for an incentive. It was a blow to the game that was arguably the hottest fixture in the fighting game community that year. This year's entrants will feature most of the top names from Japan's "Team YAMASA," Abe "Take" Takehiko and Nakayama "Nobi" Daichi, former Tekken World Tour champion Byeong "Qudans" Mun Son and aforementioned Tekken legend Knee.
It will be the toughest and largest tournament in Tekken 7's history in a year when parity is at its highest among the top players. While South Korea will still be the favorite to have the most representatives on finals day, this international competition will provide the stiffest test for supremacy.
Knee will still be the favorite, but it would not be a surprise to see some of the top gunners on the pro tour, such as Hyunjin "JDCR" Kim or Vincent "Super Akouma" Homan, threatening the spotlight. If there were any tournament to make a name for yourself and break through in the Tekken 7 scene, this is it.
Street Fighter V
Street Fighter V is at its healthiest and most entertaining today, and competition is at an all-time high, boasting a variety of play styles in the top ranks. Although Street Fighter V does not have the same number of entrants as Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, this year's field is as perplexing as ever.
Outside Victor "Punk" Woodley's recent dominance, there is no clear-cut list of tournament favorites, and that's why the competition is so interesting. Gone are the constant character changes that plagued the top-level matches from last year, as well as the stagnant choices that dominated most of the major tournaments. Instead, it's a much more interesting game for fans to watch.
There's the flashy play from Atsushi "Fujimura" Fujimura, the steady play of Keita "Fuudo" Ai, the wildness of Arman "Phenom" Hanjani or the old-school reads from legends such as Daigo Umehara and Yusuke "Momochi" Momochi. The top candidates will include: Punk, Masato "Bonchan" Takahashi, Hajime "Tokido" Taniguchi, Atsushi "Fujimura" Fujimura and Fuudo.
It is a blessing in disguise to feature Street Fighter V earlier in the day on Sunday, which might maximize eyes and prevent the usual spectator tournament fatigue that comes from watching too many hours of fighting games.
Although the pace of the game did not dramatically increase, nor did the character pool become diverse (still too many Rashids), there will be plenty to follow and enough to satiate the palate without going stale.
It is a great time to be a Smash Ultimate fan. The latest iteration from the Smash Bros. franchise will occupy the headlining spot on Sunday at Evo, and the competition boasts a historic 3,492 registered players.
This year's attendance and spot on the final day prove how important Smash is to the fighting game community. Evo also changed the prize money distribution, giving more to the players who make it to the final day instead of the top-heavy distribution of years past, with the winner walking away with $21,000.
Speaking of the winner, it is anyone's guess which top player will enter with the most momentum or if someone will surprise the rest of the field. It might come down to the way the tournament road is paved because there are more than 15 players who could take down the largest field in the game's history. Leonardo "MkLeo" Lopez, Samuel "Dabuz" Buzby and Gavin "Tweek" Dempsey should warrant the most attention, but the ground is shaky. Right on their heels are top players such as William "Glutonny" Belaid, Ezra "Samsora" Morris, Shuto "Shuton" Moriya and Nairoby "Nairo" Quezada, who could top the field.