EVO 2017 marked the 21st event in the long history of the Evolution Championship Series, a fighting game e-sports tournament that makes us all happy we’re not good enough at videogames to be put under as much pressure as its double-elimination-threatened competitors. But what were the best moments of this year? In case you missed it, we’ve got a round-up of the good, the bad and the weird from EVO 2017.
10. Disney XD Moves In
So you typically watch this tournament on Twitch, right? Videogames on a videogame streaming platform makes sense. And ok, one of the lower-tier ESPNs may pick up the most popular game’s finals. But then Disney XD decided to air the Super Smash Bros. for Wii U finals as part of its “D|XP” series of programming. Broadcasting videogames is great, but segmenting it off into its own block always makes it feel like the redheaded stepchild of the entertainment world.
9. Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 Ends Its Run
Making its way into the lineup by winning a donation drive, this Marvel iteration is all but dead. Ryan “RyanLV” Romero won the game’s presumably final appearance at the event, finishing its EVO legacy without ever repeating champions. It’s the game’s seventh EVO and a new Marvel vs. Capcom successor comes in September, and the world of fighting games may remember, but they always move forward (even Super Smash Bros).
8. Super Smash Bros. for Wii U Usurps Melee For Sunday Slot
As much as Super Smash Bros Melee has a rabid fanbase, Smash Bros. for Wii U is the future. EVO has begun to recognize this, allowing the increasingly organized fans of the Wii U game a bigger stage for their upset-prone matches. This year didn’t underwhelm, with last year’s winner and runner-up going down fast and a long climb by Saleem “Salem” Young out of the loser’s bracket to victory.
7. Tekken 7 Gets Big Console Boost
Tekken 7 seems like it’s been around forever, but unless you were near a Japanese arcade, playing options were limited until this June. Console and Windows got a release of the game which opened the competition to a flood of new entrants. Numbers doubled, but the game hasn’t quite been accessible for long enough so that fresh blood could move in competitively.
6. This Parry
Holy balls. Split-second complex reaction and then no reaction at all. What an ice-cold killer.
5. Dragon Ball FighterZ Looks Dope (Even For Non-Dragon Ball Nerds)
With big flashy moves and a killer visual style that balances between cel-shaded games and the character models that are the unmistakable work of Akira Toriyama, Dragon Ball FighterZ made a splash in its demo appearance. Some interesting mechanical details and combo trades make this game seem like the Dragon Ball Z fighting game experience anime fans have craved for a long time.
4. Honeybee Takes Flash to the Top of Injustice 2
This is Injustice 2’s debut year at the event, having only come out in May, and it has already developed an interesting and exciting metagame. The favorite for the championship—Dominique “SonicFox” McClean, a former Mortal Kombat X EVO champ—got knocked out by the low-tiered character Flash, brought to the table by Tim “HoneyBee” Commandeur. Commandeur almost took Flash (whose supermove allows him to beat ass backwards in time) to victory, but Ryan “Dragon” Walker’s steady use of the well-respected Aquaman ended that underdog dream.
3. BlazBlue Anime Fights Hard
A back-and-forth best seen late at night with subs and not dubs, the best kind of anime fight is one that is so evenly matched as to be just as frustrating as tense. BlazBlue Central Fiction’s grand finals between Shoji “Fenritti” Sho and Ryusei Ito started off in the regular bracket, leading to comebacks and rematches that stalemated and counterswung as often as crazy anime geometry lit up the screen. When Ryusei Ito finally emerged victorious from a match that could’ve decided the tournament for either player, you expected to see the credits roll.
2. Punk’s Not Dead
Victor “Punk” Woodley tore through the winner’s bracket of Street Fighter V (in only its second year at the event), building hopes of an unprecedented American Street Fighter victory. These are the same hopes that made Joseph “L.I. Joe” Ciaramelli a fan favorite in the past, along with his gregarious demeanor and supportive, Geraldo Rivera-lookalike father. Woodley’s mom won over the audience just as much as his nationality and youthful talent, but he suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of Hajime “Tokido” Taniguchi. The 18-year-old may have been heartbroken by his tilted loss, but an American teen almost won EVO. And he’ll be back.
1. EVO is Love
If James Chen doesn’t cry, EVO technically doesn’t end. This year the tears flowed particularly freely after the emotional events of the Street Fighter V championship, leading to Chen repeating an intense mantra: “Evo is love. L-O-V-E. When you hold that L and run it back: EVO.” The supportiveness and passion put behind that statement makes the narratives arising during the event as understandable, natural and compelling as any fueling more traditional sports.
Jacob Oller is a writer and film critic whose writing has appeared in The Guardian, Playboy, Roger Ebert, Film School Rejects, Chicagoist, Vague Visages, and other publications. He lives in Chicago, plays Dungeons and Dragons, and struggles not to kill his two cats daily. You can follow him on Twitter here: @jacoboller.