Evo 2015: Highlights of Hype and Heartbreak

Evo 2015
Evolution 2014 was one of the best fighting game tournaments I’ve ever watched (you can read the article I wrote on it here), and I had to wonder if Evo 2015 was going to top last year’s event. I think it’s safe to say that it absolutely did. Evo never fails on bringing the excitement and drama to fighting games that you could have never thought would be possible, and once again it was a tough to decide on only five “Evo Moments” to highlight. There were plenty more memorable moments from the weekend than the ones below, so sound off in the comments on your favorites!

5. “Catherine” Proves You Don’t Need to be a Fighting Game to Bring the Hype

The sleeper hit of this year’s Evo, Catherine isn’t even a fighting game, but a puzzle game developed by Atlus. In this game, players race each other up a tower of blocks while avoiding various traps and pitfalls. To scale the tower, they have to push and pull the blocks to create climbable surfaces, while preventing their opponent from reaching the top by obstructing their path and knocking them down. Competitors came from as far as Australia to participate, and the competition was hilarious, ruthless, and just outright fun to watch. Australia’s Luke “Pen Ninja” Tottman faced fellow Australian and tournament favorite Robert “RobsterLobster” Lemmon in Loser’s Finals in one of the most exciting matches of the tournament, and pulled an upset victory to qualify for Grand Finals.


Pen Ninja (blue) and RobsterLobster (orange) jockey for position in Game 4 of Loser’s Finals


Pen Ninja traps RobsterLobster to take the game and move on to Grand Finals

The Grand Finals had Pen Ninja face David “Dacidbro” Broweleit, considered to be the best player in the United States and the world. Both competitors played fantastically, but Dacidbro came up on top with a 3-0 victory. However, Australia would get their revenge in a team tournament after the tournament ended, defeating Team USA is a 3-2 victory.


Dacidbro shows off his aggressive play style and knocks off Pen Ninja in Game 3


In the last frantic moments of Grand Finals, Dacidbro traps Pen Ninja underneath an immovable block and wins the tournament

4. America’s Game Goes International

Among fighting game fans, it is almost universally agreed that the United States consistently has the best players in the Marvel vs. Capcom series. This was all turned on it’s head at this year’s Evo as the Top 8 players in the Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 tournament were almost completely comprised of international players. Only three players from the US made the finals, with the other players coming from Mexico, Chile, and Japan. Even more shocking was that the US players didn’t include favorites Ryan “Filipino Champ” Ramirez, Christopher “ChrisG” Gonzales, and the biggest surprise of them all, Justin Wong. Justin is considered to be one of, the best fighting game players ever, and this was the first time since 2002 where he didn’t qualify for any Top 8 at Evo. The highlight of the finals was Chile’s Nicolas “Kane Blueriver” Gonzalez and his team of Hulk/Sentinel/Haggar, affectionately known as team “Big Bodies.” KBR proved to be a force to be reckoned with, and fought his way through the Winner’s bracket to become champion. In a time where many players are questioning whether UMvC 3 had any life left, Evo showed that the game is still going strong.


Sentinel hasn’t been considered to be a particularly strong character since the original Marvel vs. Capcom 3, but KBR shows that the big robot can still get the job done


It only seems appropriate that a combined attack of three members of team “Big Bodies” would win the last round of Grand Finals


KBR embraces the crowd after his victory, becoming the first non-American champion in a Marvel vs. Capcom game

3. Woshige Takes a Stand

Anime games always have great moments at Evo. Last year’s BlazBlue Grand Finals was my top moment of Evo 2014, and this year’s Guilty Gear Xrd Top 8 was easily one of the best finals of the weekend. However, no one expected that it would make ESPN and other mainstream media outlets, thanks to the blunder of one of the finalists, Ryuichi “Woshige” Shigeno. During the semi-finals, Woshige and his opponent, Kenichi Ogawa, were in a fierce back and forth battle with both players having won a game each. During the second round of the last game, Woshige made an impressive comeback victory to take the round. Unfortunately, he forgot that there was still another round yet to play, and while he was celebrating, Ogawa took advantage and killed Woshige’s character in two combos to send him into the Loser’s bracket.


“WHAT ARE YOU STANDING UP FOR?!”


Ogawa shows no mercy for early celebration

To his credit, Woshige did not let that get to his head and he continued to fight through the bracket. By this point the crowd was outright cheering for Woshige to come back, and the ballroom was filled with chants of “WO-SHI-GE!” Sadly, he was then eliminated from the tournament during the Loser’s finals, but it was impressive to see Woshige recover from such an embarrassing mistake and still take 3rd place. But most importantly, Woshige won the hearts and minds of the crowd.


“Is it safe to stand now? Okay, yes it is.”


Woshige shows that he is still a threat even in the Loser’s bracket, defeating Takahiro “Nakamura” Kitano in a fantastic Millia mirror match

2. Infiltration is a Machine

Sun-woo “Infiltration” Lee is without a doubt one of the best Ultra Street Fighter IV players of all time. Very few are as consistently successful as he has been, and even fewer have the knowledge and skill to play the variety of characters that he can. Many people say that Infiltration has no “main” character. His “main” is the entire cast of the game. No greater example proves this than this year’s Evo where he played an astounding six characters in the tournament. It is always exciting to see Infiltration play whether he wins or loses, and this year’s Ultra Street Fighter IV Top 8 was no exception. During his match with Yusuke Momochi, Infiltration made the shocking decision to play Abel, a character rarely seen in competitive matches, and came back from a 2-1 deficit to force a last game to be played to determine who would move on in the Winner’s bracket. The last game was what commentator James Chen would call “what Street Fighter is” as both competitors fought a tense game of spacing and positioning, with Momochi taking a very close victory in the last round.


With Abel, Infiltration was able to punish Momochi’s fireballs with a lot of damage


Positioning is key in Street Fighter, as Momochi shows when he corners Infiltration and secures the win. This wouldn’t be the last time Elena would prove to be a problem for Infiltration

Now in the Loser’s bracket, Infiltration had one more chance to make Grand Finals. He faced Bruce “GamerBee” Hsiang in a game that would be exhausting for both the players and the audience. GamerBee played Elena, a very defensive character that has the ability to heal herself when her Ultra meter is filled. Infiltration started out with Evil Ryu, but could not crack GamerBee’s defenses. After losing a game, he switched to Chun-Li, thinking her offensive style would prevent her healing from being effective. However, GamerBee was completely effective in denying Infiltration’s offense, and took a 2-1 lead.


GamerBee uses Elena’s healing Ultra to gain a life lead over Chun-Li and win the round via timeout

With his tournament life on the line, Infiltration needed to regroup and figure out what he needed to do to counter Elena. In another shocking decision, he decided to go to Juri, another character rarely seen in competitive tournaments ( although another Top 8 competitor, AiAi, used her as well before being eliminated). Infiltration then proceeded to show he made the right choice, taking advantage of Juri’s Feng Shui Engine, an Ultra that allows her to combo moves that wouldn’t be possible under normal circumstances, to overwhelm GamerBee and bring the game to the very last game. Despite losing his lead, GamerBee still would not give in, and switched to his main character, Adon, to the approval of the crowd that was starting to turn on GamerBee because of his Elena strategy. In the very last round, GamerBee won by the closest of margins, winning via timeout with just enough health left to beat out Infiltration.


Feng Shui Engine allows Juri to deal a lot of damage and prevent Elena space so she can heal.


GamerBee uses Adon’s Ultra to escape from Juri’s range, and prevents Infiltration from making a last second comeback.

1. Broken Stick, Broken Hearts

GamerBee is a highly respected member of the fighting game community, and considered to be one of the best players in the scene, but he had yet to capture a championship at Evo, despite being in the Top 8 of Street Fighter in three of the past five tournaments. With his fourth appearance in Top 8, and second appearance in Grand Finals since 2012, many felt that this was GamerBee’s year. Fighting through the fatigue from his match with Infiltration, GamerBee showed his opponent Momochi and the world that he was a contender, winning three games to reset the bracket, and then coming back from a 2-1 deficit to bring the tournament to one last game.


GamerBee comes back with a burst of offense to force a final game to determine Grand Finals

Momochi would take the first round, but then the unthinkable happened. Momochi’s stick malfunctioned near the beginning of the round, interrupting the game. The rules dictate that the person that caused the interruption has to forfeit the round. However, because of the malfunction, Momochi was unable to play, and a replacement stick so they could continue. By the time a replacement was found, several minutes had passed, and both players were visibly drained. Any kind of momentum either player would have had was lost, and nerves were at an all time high. Momochi would go on to win the final round, but controversy will forever mar that match, as people will debate whether anything would have been different if Momochi’s stick did not malfunction. Many say that this was comparable to the ending of the original Rocky movie. While Momochi may be the official champion, the champion of the people was definitely GamerBee.


This will undoubtedly go down as one of the most controversial and memorable moments in Evo history.


Momochi wins the tournament, but neither player looks pleased with the result


Infiltration embraces an emotional GamerBee after the heartbreaking finish


GamerBee is thankful as the audience gives him a standing ovation and chants his name

While it may have not been the best ending to Evo, it was certainly the most memorable in recent years, and I’m already looking forward to next year. GIFs don’t do the tournament justice, so I highly suggest checking out at least the Sunday stream at www.twitch.tv/srkevo1. Be sure to also check out the Catherine tournament at www.twitch.tv/atlususa. Video game tournaments don’t get much better than Evo, and if you even have the slightest bit of interest in fighting games and/or competitive gaming, Evo 2015 is definitely tournament you want to check out.

Matt
About Matt 37 Articles
Matthew Schlotfeldt is a host for the Line Cutters, and resident video game expert. He’s not sure whether that’s something to be proud or ashamed of. He can be reached on Twitter at @PunkBoy412.