Hype. Epic. Magical.
There are plenty of accolades one can use to describe the sheer amount of talent showcased at this year's Evolution Championship Series. Thousands of gamers came from around the globe for a chance to demonstrate their prowess in titles like Street Fighter V, Super Smash Bros. Melee, Killer Instinct, and Tekken 7.
Although many of us have come to cherish the distinctive style from each of the nine featured titles on the lineup, certain titles will be considered more exciting than others. Now that another annual installment has come to a close, the crew of PVP Live can take a moment to look back and rate which titles were considered the most exciting.
These power rankings are subjective and of course, should not be taken in the context that one game is less appealing than the others. In fact, every game that was selected to be part of the EVO main lineup is considered a winner in our books. But for the sake of this article, only one Top 8 could take the crown. Read on to see how each game stacked up.
Street Fighter V
James: 9 | Steiner: 9 | Bahn: 9 | Nabil: 9
Bahn: Many competitors were skeptical about the level of hype Street Fighter V would bring. Though some lamented that Capcom's newest installment was considered to be too linear and simple, we witnessed some amazing comebacks and impeccable victories that often came down to the wire.
LI Joe was undoubtedly the crowd favorite solely on account of him being the last American player to contend with several prominent international threats. Nemo, MOV, Fuudo, Yukadon, and Eita had all demonstrated remarkable tenacity that allowed them to advance into Top 8 — and they did not disappoint. In the end, Infiltration was able to best them all, taking on his fellow brethren where the Nash specialist convincingly put Fuudo's R. Mika in check. His final parting words to the audience said it all: "Download complete."
It was a fitting end to a bold journey where Infiltration secured his redemption following a runner-up finish at CEO. At this rate, Infiltration's passage into Capcom Cup has already been secured and we await to see how the rest of the season unfolds leading up to the Season Finals.
Steiner: LI Joe's run will be what most people remember from this year's top 8. After all, for Infiltration it was just another trophy in an already crowded case, but for LI Joe it was the best performance of his long career. He's long been a crowd favorite and seeing his victory over Eita, one in which he was the ultimate paragon of good sportsmanship, set a great example for how other North American players should act if they make top 8 again. He popped off, but was very respectful towards his opponent.
The other highlight, of course, was seeing how close the apple falls from the tree, as both Joe and his father reacted the same way under pressure, both burying their face in their hands at the same time. That image will be burned into people's minds for quite some time.
Lastly, the presence of ESPN for this top 8 made it all that much more epic - the Twitch stream may not have had all the benefits, but it sure made for a great spectator experience.
Super Smash Bros. Melee
Obscurica: 8 | Steiner: 9 | Bahn: 5 | Nabil: 8
Nebtune: Melee top 8 was a bit of a roller coaster. We had the Gods (Mango, Armada, M2K, HBox) but we also had the Demi-Gods (Westballz, S2J, PewPewU, Plup) looking for the throne. It was pretty intense to watch the American's destroy each other for the chance to take on the Swedish God.
You really felt the intensity of each players fan base but ultimately when it's the US against Sweden the entire room put their hopes into Hungrybox who ultimately delivered. To be honest the expectations were really high for HBox. He had finished 3rd, 2nd, 2nd in past years - but none of his performances prior to Evo had been dominating until this year. It's great to see the championship come back to America this year.
Steiner: Hungrybox! Hungrybox! Hungryb- oh, right. We're doing this ranking thing! Hungrybox closed out so many clutch moments and matches where he fell behind that it was quite frankly something insane to watch. While EVO may not be the highlight Smash tournament of the year anymore due to the 2/3 ruleset, one cannot deny the hype and prestige that Hungrybox just acquired. This in the best year of his career — I feel we witnessed the birth of a dynasty at EVO on Sunday.
Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3
Obscurica: 6 | Steiner: 7 | Bahn: 8 | Nebtune: 6
Steiner: Many have speculated that this was Marvel's last year on the main stage, but man, did it go out with a bang. Chris G's win, finally, after so many years of trying was well deserved. Not only did he destroy KaneBlueRiver's hated Big Body team, he did it with the style and flair he's known for — all while dressed to kill. The sheer emotion that Chris G released when he won was like watching Goku go Super Saiyan for the first time — and with that power now behind Chris G, I think we're looking at a new era for Marvel.
Hopefully Capcom's working on Marvel 4, but I suppose we'll just have to wait and see.
Bahn: Well before EVO wrapped up, I sent out a tweet essentially stating "Mahvel is far from dead." and I'll stand behind that statement. After so many years, Chris G finally was able to push the envelope and conquer his demons. It was a huge delight seeing him rise to the occasion and take down fellow EVO champion KBR who is known for his relentless offensive Big Body crew.
"You deserve it," everyone chanted. Yes, indeed. If this is how Ultimate Marvel vs. 3 closes out, then this year was a fitting closure to an epic saga. So when's Marvel 4?
James: 7 | Steiner: 6 | Bahn: 7 | Nabil: 7
Obscurica: The Smash 4 Top 8 was marked primarily by two intertwining runs. One, that Japanese player Kamemushi's MegaMan was proving a decisive upset over what was commonly considered a defined metagame. Between his pixel-perfect footstools and impeccable positioning, he shocked the world with games taken off of everybody up to and including TSM's ZeRo.
But he ultimately only got second place — as amazing and unexpected as his Megaman was, it paled in comparison to Ally's now world-renowned Mario. The Quebecois master of mischief would not fall for any of Kame's tricks, taking one stock after another with hardheaded up-smashes to win undisputed international acclaim.
Steiner: The fall of ZeRo is the storyline I want to highlight here. The man was the one and only true god of Smash 4, but the injury he suffered to his hand was like the Smash gods took his power away - and he fell from the mountain pretty hard.
If there is anything that fans crave — it's a redemption story — and from here, even ZeRo himself was surprised by how many supporters he had. This is just the start of the climb back up the mountain, but he'll be around for years to come.
Don't call it a comeback.
Guilty Gear Xrd Revelator
Obscurica: 5 | Steiner: 5 | Bahn: 2 | Nebtune: 5
Steiner: While I don't think anything would've lived up to Woshige jumping up prematurely during the Semi Finals, this year was not without its highlights. MarlinPie certainly put his best foot forward, but he couldn't stop the deluge of Japanese talent that was at EVO this year.
Machabo and Omito's Finals match was pretty hype too, but I sure am glad my main in GG took EVO this year (Sin Kiske's my boy!).
Mortal Kombat XL
James: 4 | Steiner: 4 | Bahn: 4 | Nabil: 4
Bahn: At this point, no one can contest the fact Sonic Fox is truly the ultimate Mortal Kombat X player. I had already predicted the outcome after seeing players like FoxyGrampa, Biohazard, DJT, and Perfect Legend all came up short of making Top 8. But little did I realize TekkenMaster had a lot of fire in him, convincingly taking the first set 3-1.
This was one of the few occasions where one of the most dominant players had to make significant adjustments in order to close out the tournament. Each round was a nail-biter and TekkenMaster certainly made SonicFox go the extra mile. In the end, he was victorious, taking home yet another EVO championship and filling his bank account with an even larger stack of cash. It was quite a show.
Steiner: You really gotta hand it to TekkenMaster. He seemingly came out of nowhere and upset several top names on his way to his showdown with SonicFox. He nearly took the whole tournament himself, but as soon as Sonic's hat came off and TM was faced with HumanFox, it was all over.
Oh, and Alien is f&%king broken. Nerf guest characters.
James: 1 | Steiner: 2 | Bahn: 6 | Nabil: 3
Steiner: For me, the highlight of this top 8 was not the winner, but seeing Poongko go to town with Akuma. This not only showed that the character was a faithful rendition of his Street Fighter IV counterpart (as Poongko is a known Akuma specialist), but also that Poongko is ridiculously skilled as a competitor across several titles.
Bahn: If Poongko's choice to pick up Tekken 7 is any indication, there's a strong possibility that others will follow in his footsteps in the near future. I am still holding out that Infiltration might look into picking up the game, especially if Bandai Namco ends up restructuring its tournament foundation to offer even larger incentives for players to compete.
It's clear that the FGC has shifted gears where EVO has proven that we are ready to take things to the next level. I'd like to see the Tekken franchise play a big part in that; there's little reason why Capcom or Nintendo-related properties should be the only organizations being able to shine. Once that gets underway, you can bet I'll definitely be among the first in the pack cheering them on.
James: 2 | Steiner: 3 | Bahn: 3 | Nabil: 2
Steiner: Killer Instinct this year was all Sleep, all the time - and not of the resident sleeper variety either. His run up to Grand Finals showed that Sleep is fully living up to the potential that FlipSid3 Tactics saw in him when they picked him up. The highlight of the Top 8 came in Grand Finals, when Sleep unveiled his secret weapon Gargos against Bass’ Spinal. He took a low tier character and truly made it look unbeatable. A great showing for Flipsid3, and a pretty hype finals who’s ranking on this list is only so low because of the relative greatness of the entrants above it.
Bahn: I've gotta give love to my man Hollywood Sleep. This is a man on a mission and he didn't disappoint. FlipSid3 Tactics definitely recognize that they were picking up a great player with a lot of heart and ambition. Sleep's success will undoubtedly inspire the rest of the KI community to regroup and step up their game; it may have even influenced a new generation of fans to pick up the game. Nevertheless, F3 was on the board this weekend, get cho hands in the air Sleep — you're an amazing player.
James: 3 | Steiner: 1 | Bahn: 1 | Nabil: 1
Steiner: You know, it's weird. Lots of people play Pokkén and it's a great/very fun game to play - but watching it for me was a grind. I can't say I enjoyed the spectator experience all that much this time around, and its ranking on the panel reflects that. We were almost universally in agreement that it was at the bottom of the table, but even the fact that it was at EVO is something their community should be proud of.
Bahn: It's great to see that Bandai Namco was able to create such an authentic fanbase in such a relatively short amount of time. As a spectator, watching Pokkén is a lot more enjoyable once you've gained a better understanding of what's on screen.
Admittedly there's still a few aspects that are unfamiliar to me and my limited knowledge made it hard to truly feel engaged. The fact this title was featured at EVO was enough of an incentive to dig even deeper. Pokkén has a strong niche community that is certainly capable of growing over the course of time.