It’s that time of the year again. The greatest fighting game tournament of all time and the grand slam of the FGC; the Evolution world championship is upon us. With the entrant numbers easily topping last year’s numbers, it is expected to be the biggest EVO yet. While there are many games to cover, here’s a collection of headlines to know of before watching the main game of EVO; Street Fighter.
Will USA take first place for the final year for USF4?
With Street Fighter 5 in the horizon, it is curious to see if this EVO will be the last for Ultra Street Fighter 4 as the main Street Fighter game. As the game is scheduled to release in March 2016, major tournaments will start to incorporate Street Fighter 5 as the main Street Fighter game. No confirmation of whether Ultra Street Fighter 4 will remain on the tournament game roster has been announced by tournament organizers yet. Hopefully, both games will stay as the main stage games much like Super Smash Bros. Melee and Super Smash Bros. 4 sharing the main stage spotlight.
There is obviously going to be a shift from a lot of players focusing on Street Fighter 5 and slowly transition away from Ultra Street Fighter 4. The transition won’t happen right away, but it is an eventuality. As players transitioned from Marvel Vs Capcom 2 to Marvel Vs Capcom 3, players will move onto the newer game. This means that Evolution 2015 will be the last year where all the top players from across the world devote all their efforts to win Ultra Street Fighter 4. From EVO 2006, when Street Fighter 4 first became the main Street Fighter game, there hasn’t been a single American champion. Street Fighter has been dominated by Asian players from the 3rd Strike days. It wasn’t until during EVO 2014 where French player Luffy took the championship, overcoming previous EVO champions and killers from Japan, marking the first non-Asian player to win EVO for Street Fighter 4.
Will 2015 finally mark the year where USA be crowned the champion of Street Fighter? With the amount of stacked talent from USA going into the tournament, expect a lot of American players to make it out of their pools. Once again the Street Fighter stage will be an all-out international clash with fantastic matches to be held over the three days of the tournament.
PR Balrog’s final year?
There are a lot of great players representing USA. Justin Wong, Ricky Sophie Ortiz, 801 Strider, KBrad, Smug, Snake Eyez, Dieminion, and Nuckledu to name a few. Watch out for these players when watching the stream. These players will make it out of their pool bracket as they are tournament veterans. But there is one player to look out for who I consider to be the best player in USA; PR Balrog. I wrote an article in the past about his proposed retirement and how this year might be his final year in competitive fighting game. After a great start in the 2015 season, placing in the single digit placements in premier tournaments, he took a slump in Final Round and NorCal Regional. But he resurged again during Community Effort Orlando tournament where he placed third. If he continues this stride heading into EVO, he will surely be a threat to other players.
PR Balrog is the personification of the character he plays; Boxer. He is literally the mad bull. Once he gets going, you can’t stop him as he will chain hits after another until you are dead. He is a momentum based player who performs better when under pressure. His skill is recognized by the Japanese Gods of fighting games, which they do not do very often. It is my personal wish to see him go up against Sun Woo “Infiltration” Lee, a Korean player who repeatedly eliminated PR Balrog on multiple occasions. As I mentioned in my other article, nothing would set the stage better for PR Balrog’s swan song than him overcoming his greatest obstacle.
Whether this year is really his final year in the FGC, eyes are on PR Balrog as one of the American Killers to head into EVO 2015.
Daigo Umehara’s Last chance to win USF4 at EVO
Daigo “The Beast” Umehara is the best player to play Street Fighter. His famous “EVO moment 37” motivated players across the world to play competitive fighting games and helped grow the scene. Even in his late 30’s, he is a force to be reckoned with for many players. For all the League of Legends fans reading this, he is basically the Faker of Street Fighter. He has claimed 1st place in many Asian tournaments in 2015, beating many of the Japanese fighting game Gods and easily earned his spot in the Capcom Cup Tour Finals. However, Daigo has a history of performing poorly in American tournaments recently. While it does not happen often, Daigo has tournaments when he places below top 10 which comes to a shock to a lot of people. Then again, the Street Fighter scene is booming with fresh talent and veterans who are thirsty to win, so it is not that big of a surprise.
Heading into EVO, all eyes are on Daigo to see if he will overcome his EVO slump. His performance last year was his worst ever, placing 49th overall. While he lost to scene veterans Filipino Champ and Ryan Choi, who are notable players in the scene, his performance came as a big shock to many. Will Daigo be able to finally reclaim his Street Fighter EVO throne which he sat on from 2010 and 2011? Will he be able to overcome his slump of performing poorly at EVO? Can he once again establish his status as “The Beast” before the competitive scene slowly transitions to Street Fighter 5?
Return of the Japanese Fighting Game Gods
Every EVO, more Japanese players attend the tournament which is a welcome change. As the scene is becoming more international every year, the Japanese fighting game Gods are performing much better in tournaments, signalling their return to represent Japan as the most dominant region in the FGC. The Japanese fighting game Gods in my book are these players; Daigo Umehara, Tokido, Mago, Sakonoko and Kazunoko. While there are many “fighting game Gods” from Japan, these five have proven their strength and prowess to the world for their performance. All of these players are title holders and tournament winners. Watch out for these five players during the streams as they will surely cause havoc within the brackets as they dominate their way to the top 32 and 16.
Players to look out for
Many names were mentioned in these headlines for players to look out for. Here are some of the ones left unmentioned that definitely deservers your attention. Watch out for these players as they are considered favorites to make it to top 32 and to top 16 and maybe take the entire tournament. This is not the definitive list, but list of players whom from my previous experience watching EVO from 2011 and onwards have left an impression of me as the players to watch during any Street Fighter tournament.
Just in case people are interested, here is a good list of people that are not mentioned that are favorites to win EVO for Ultra Street Fighter 4:
EG|Justin Wong, EG|Momochi, EG|Ricky Ortiz, EG|KBrad, Bonchan, EMP| Dieminion, MD|Luffy, AVM|Gamerbee, MCZ|Tokido, MCZ|Mago, HORI|Sako, RZR|Fuudo, RZR|Gacket, Qanba|Xiao Hai, Qanba|Dakou, Haitani, Poongko, WFX|801strider to name a FEW.
And this is not even including the dark horse players. Here is my pick for players to look out for in this year’s EVO for Ultra Street Fighter 4.
One of the rising talents in the scene by far. Like PR Balrog, he is the best player in the world to play his character, Dudely, and is gaining much popularity in the scene for his insane mix-ups and combos. Smug is an aggressive player that is hard to predict what he will do next. In a way, he is an “illogical” player that makes the opponent confused as to what to do against him. Even the Japanese Gaming Gods have said in an interview that Smug was one of the hardest players to deal with during CEO. It is almost guaranteed that he will end in a highlight video during EVO. If you want to see some stylish combos and play, watch out for this player.
Another one of the rising talents in the scene. Nuckledu is one of the most aggressive Guile player in the world. He is considered by some the second coming of Dieminion, arguably the best Guile player in the west. Like Smug, he is still young and still has a high skill ceiling ahead of him, making people wonder how much he will improve in the coming years. He has placed first in various tournaments and while he has mixed results here and there, he has shown stable results finishing in single digit placements at tournaments. After being picked up by Team Liquid from a smart move by Steve Arhancet, he represents the new age of players being sponsored by E-Sports clubs. Will the youngest player in the Ultra Street Fighter 4 circuit be able to overcome the veterans and the OG’s of the scene? Expect good things from this upcoming youngster from Team Liquid.
The strongest player from South Korea to ever play Street Fighter. Sun Woo “INFILTRATION” Lee was the first champion of the Capcom Pro Tour and have claimed 1st place of many tournaments across the world. His champion pool borderlines on insane levels as he would play several champions in a single tournament, trying counter-picks for the opponent all noted on his cell phone. INFILTRATION was the Street Fighter EVO 2012 champion. Since then, he has made repeated appearance in the top 16 and top 8 in EVO’s, making him one of the hardest players to face for his big character pool and methodical play. Will he bring the championship to South Korea and further prove that Korea as a nation is number one in competitive video gaming? Personally, I am hoping for some Korea vs Japan action.
Another American player makes this list and it is none other than the number one Zangief player in the world, Darryl “Snake Eyez” Lewis. In retrospective, it seems America has a lot of players are the best at playing their main character in the world. Snake Eyez is a strong player. He has the ability to go toe-to-toe against the best of the best from across the world with no fear. While he doesn’t have the number of title wins, many consider him as a contender to win EVO. His most renowned accomplishment is beating the top 5 players from North Carolina with two of them being favorites to win any Street Fighter tournaments they attend back to back. He also took down the previous EVO champion Xian, knocking him out of the tournament in EVO 2014. Even against bad match-ups, Snake Eyez will find a way to dish out the damage. If you like seeing players that play “non-meta” characters, Snake Eyez will satisfy your hunger.
Kazunoko made a statement to the world by taking 1st place in the recent Community Effort Orlando 2015 tournament with his trademark Yun which he used since his release in Street Fighter 4: Arcade Edition. He has proven that he has the desire to win and is ready to take on anyone who stands in his way. His Yun has the most solid fundamentals and execution out of any Yun player in the world. Divekicks and up-kicks galore, players better have a solid plan against Kazunoko or he will run over you like a truck. With his newest sponsorship by Zeveron will surely act as a positive motivator to perform his best at EVO under the new team name. The Japanese fighting game Gods are here to play at EVO and Kazunoko is ready to take the title.
The previous EVO 2013 champion is known for his great execution with Gen, one of the hardest characters to use in the game. His set-ups after knock down making the opponents guess which side he will try to cross you up makes him the trickster on the stage. Xian is also great at capitalizing on the littlest of opportunities to dish out maximum damage. The current rank 1 player in the world has seen mixed results in various tournaments in 2015, he never made it outside of top 16 with the exception of last year’s EVO. The proud Singapore player is probably the thirstiest for taking 1st place after so many 2nd place and 3rd place finishers at major tournaments. With the game shifting to the Ultra Street Fighter 4 rendition of the game, Xian has picked up Poison, Dhalsim and Elena to his pool of characters, making him more versatile in different match-ups in a scene with killers using variety of different characters. The pride of South East Asia is ready to take on the world as he heads into EVO. SEA players will definitely be watching to see whether Xian can make his country proud and take home the championship.
This year’s EVO will be the biggest hosting over 9 different games plus side tournaments and other fun events. If you have nothing to do watch on the weekend, tune into Twitch and watch the biggest fighting game tournament ever.