After a 2 year long hiatus, the offline version of the Evolution Fighting Championships are back! I really miss the Evolution Fighting Championships or EVO for short and I was so glad to see it back in full force with tons of people flying in from around the world to compete in various fighting games to prove who’s the best in the world. While games like Street Fighter and Tekken have their own year round tournament, there’s still nothing quite like EVO as there’s just a different level of hype because of all the fighting games that are played during the event.
Besides the event returning to a more face-to-face affair this year, this year’s EVO is the first time it did this under the watchful eye of Sony as the maker of the PlayStation systems now owns it. So, not only was I glad to see troves of people competing, I also had high expectations with the entire production of EVO as they have Sony money backing it now. I expected it to be, not only bigger, but a whole lot better.
Well, the bigger part is something that can’t be understated enough. Like with every EVO, it’s simply impossible for one person, specifically little ol’ me, to cover each and every game the 3 day event covered. So don’t expect this to be a super in-depth review. I watched a whole lot of stuff live over the weekend, which did make me lose a whole lot of sleep because it starts at 1AM where I live. I was able to watch a good amount of matches from various games during the first couple of days of the event and the entirety of the last day… even if it did lead me to call in sick for work. The things I have to do for this blog!
Anyway, like with every year, I waited with bated breath for all the new announcements from the various developers regarding their games. This year was a little disappointing as most of the reveals weren’t focused on new characters or upcoming games. In fact, there was a theme running throughout the entire event when it came to announcements. Most developers were plugging in rollback netcode to their fighting games. This is really good news as rollback netcode will definitely make playing against people over the Internet a much smoother experience. It may even make me re-subscribe to PlayStation Plus as I pretty much given up on playing fighting games online. I’ll still wait and see if all the rollback netcode works before I do so, though.
While plugging rollback netcode for your games does show you’re listening to your fans, I was still more in it for the more, shall we say, superficial announcements, such as new game reveals and character announcements. Like I said, this year’s EVO didn’t have a lot of that but there were a few choice reveals which I really liked. Arcade 1Up showed off their soon-to-be released arcade cabinet for the Capcom Vs. games stretching all the way back from X-Men: Children of the Atom all the way to Marvel Vs. Capcom 2. Bridget is joining Guilty Gear Strive’s roster. MultiVersus showed a brief snapshot of how they envision what they’ll have in the final release version of the game. Kimberly and Juri were bunched together and featured for Street Fighter 6. However, the biggest winner is, no doubt, SNK as they showed off a ton of stuff. Not only did they announce rollback netcode for Samurai ShoDown, but they also revealed that some characters from that game will be forming the next team for the King of Fighters XV. SNK also teased returning characters like Shingo Yabuki and Kim Kaphwan will be joining King of Fighters XV, the game will also be getting crossplay soon and they also announced a new Fatal Fury game will be made! That’s a trifecta of spectacular news!
It also looked like Sony realized how big this year’s EVO was going to be as they even had a dedicated stream called EVO Live which was basically behaved like a catch-all for all of the events which were happening throughout Day 1 and Day 2. There was a panel of announcers just talking about what was happening at the various tournaments, showing live streams and highlights of some hype matches, analyzing some choice matches and updating viewers regarding the standings all throughout those days. I wasn’t able to really watch a whole lot of it and I liked it for what it was. I did keep popping in and out on this channel whenever the stream I was watching was on a break.
Speaking of the streams I was watching, I did try to get a taste of everything but, more often than not, I would just focus on the games I liked. This meant I was generally watching the Street Fighter V, Tekken 7, King of Fighters XV and Dragon Ball FighterZ. I did pop in on the Skullgirls: Second Encore, Melty Blood Lumina, GranBlue Fantasy: Versus and Mortal Kombat 11 streams once in a while but I generally kept my focus on the games I like. I also tried checking out some of the side tournaments, like the Samurai ShoDown and Street Fighter X Tekken games, but I just couldn’t get into them.
One game I did really try to get into was the MultiVersus as this was the one I want to play but, because it’s only available in Western markets and not in my country, I can’t connect to the servers to do so. So I opted to watch some high level play but I couldn’t understand what was happening! It’s just a little too chaotic for me and it looks like you have to be familiar with each character’s abilities to fully understand what all the gobbledygook flashing on the screen constantly. I honestly couldn’t see if MultiVersus is fun or not because of that.
I did get to watch most of the Top 8 matches and the ones I watched were extremely hype! That’s because it always felt like there was a story being told. In Mortal Kombat 11, you had twins from Chile competing against veteran players like SonicFox and both of them had to face off against each other in Winners Finals. In Dragon Ball FighterZ, Wawa managed to reset the bracket in Grand Finals when he was on the brink of elimination. In the nail biting Grand Finals of King of Fighters XV, ET flubbed Krohnen’s bread-and-butter combo into super because he pressed the wrong button, allowing ZJZ to steal the win and the entire tournament. In Tekken 7, Knee played almost flawlessly throughout the entire tournament to win the entire thing. In Street Fighter V, it looked like iDom was on his way to becoming the first American to win a Street Fighter game at EVO, only for Kawano to spoil everything.
For me, the most emotional story was UMISHO’s taking home the grand prize for Guilty Gear Strive. This wasn’t because I was a big fan of the player. This was because UMISHO displayed a lot of emotion after beating everyone and becoming champion is some really hard and exciting matches. The emotion on display after the win really touched my heart.
If I were to complain about something about this year’s EVO, it’s going to be an issue I’ve had with every EVO: the event always runs into overtime. I’ve generally come to expect this already but I genuinely thought, with Sony running the show and the production, they would have found a way to make things a whole lot tighter. Even Day 3, which were just showcasing the Top 8 matches for 4 games lasted for almost 12 hours! I honestly thought they would have limited the breaks and interruptions all throughout Day 3 at least. It’s still a minor gripe because of how hype everything was but I do wish Sony found a way to move things along at a more brisk pace.
Overall, I loved this year’s EVO. It was a blast to see the fighting game community communing in one big place once again and enjoying their favorite pasttime. Even though I was just at home streaming the event, I was able to feel the energy and excitement all throughout the event. It really makes me want to go to EVO one of these days. Maybe I’ll add that to my bucket list.
Did you see EVO this year? What was your experience like? Let me know in the comments section below!