EVO 2017 Wrap Up Report
Fighting games have been a part of my life since a very young age. My first exposure was at the tender age of 8 at a local arcade (kids ask your parents) when I saw the cabinet for Marvel vs. Capcom 1. Being a HUGE Marvel (specifically Spider-Man) fan already I strolled up to the machine, not knowing who any of the Capcom characters were (and worried my Mom would catch a picture of Morrigan on screen, wow they didn’t hide anything back then) and started playing. Even though I had no idea what I was doing, I had the time of my life. Little did I know this would spark a lifelong obsession that would continue to this day. Fast forward to 2009 and the dark age of fighting games had come to an end with the release of Street Fighter 4. All of a sudden the genre was alive and thriving, and that was when I first got into the competitive scene, actually trying to get good at these games.
It wasn’t long before I heard about the Evolution Championship Series, the world championships for fighting games and I watched the fateful grand finals between Justin Wong and Daigo “The Beast” Umehara. I am telling you all this to tell you that I have watched EVO every year since and it has always been a dream of mine to attend. But being held in Las Vegas every year it seemed like an impossible dream… Until this year. Boy was the wait worth it.
EVO started out as a little tournament called Battle by the Bay held in California and eventually moved to fabulous Las Vegas where it has switched venues over the years but remained on the Las Vegas strip. Starting out in a dinky little venue with a handful of entrants, EVO has grown into a worldwide event with players from countries from all corners of the globe attending, and even having Street Fighter V broadcast on ESPN. The scene has grown IMMENSELY in just a few short years and shows no signs of slowing down.
This year EVO was held in the Mandalay Bay and it is the perfect venue for the event. Lots of space with plenty of room for the tournament itself, panels, and close to all kinds of places for players to eat, relax, see a show, whatever you want. It is Vegas after all. I was lucky enough to see Maximilian’s panel this year which was its 5th at EVO. Full disclosure, I was a staff member at EVO helping with data entry. The staff at EVO is truly what makes the event run smooth, and it does run smooth. TOs were always nearby if you needed help getting to your pools and general staff was always around, available to anyone who needed help.
All of the big fighting game developers were on site promoting upcoming projects and supporting the community. Namco Bandai was there with the E3 build of Dragon Ball FighterZ (which you can see my report on here), Capcom with Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite (which I played the same build of at CEO 2017), as well as Arika with its new, unnamed fighting game tentatively titled “Fighting Layer EX”.
Even developers with nothing new to show were on hand. Arc System Works had a Japanese style house set up with members of the development team talking about past and present projects on stream and modified arcade cabinets with Guilty Gear and Blazblue available for free play! My only regret is I wasn’t able to get the Baiken keychain before it sold out…. *cue sad music here*.
There was a much larger focus on independent games at EVO this year with lots of small studios showing off their games. This is a smart move on EVO’s part getting these smaller games out to their target audience, and great for the developers to get feedback. I hope to see more of this in the future.
Stations were available throughout the convention center for people to play casual games who weren’t in the tournament, with every fighting game you could think of available. There were even a few arcade cabinets with classic titles like Marvel vs. Capcom 2, Samurai Showdown, and Mortal Kombat II available for free play. There was something available for everyone. If you wanted to play a game with someone you can bet that you had the opportunity to.
The expanded artist alley was also great to see. Lots of artists peddling their wares, and the great thing about an event like this is that it gives vendors and buyers more opportunities to buy and sell things you wouldn’t see at a normal con that caters to the general public. Being focused on fighting games you can find items you wouldn’t normally be able to. I mean I found a Cyberbots print at an artist’s table for crying out loud! (All the Jin fans raise your hands!) EVO’s focus on fighting games is a great chance for the hardcore fans to find surprises like this.
Also available for your purchasing pleasure were items from Gaming Generations, SNK had a booth selling t-shirts, and Udon Comics brought the artists from their main Capcom titles for signings and to sell prints of their work. Daigo’s new manga not available for purchase until later this year was available for early purchase. I have been going to cons for a long time and I have never spent more on swag than I have at EVO, if just for the fact that it is so rare to find so much merch dedicated specifically to the fighting game fan.
All the big games had their Top 8 finals at the Mandalay Bay Stadium on Sunday. I got to the stadium at 8am to watch Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3’s final competitive year come to a close, and stayed all the way until 11pm till the end of Street Fighter V. Every game was a blast to watch and I was never not entertained at the skill on display to the approximately 12,000 fans watching along with me. After the final match of Blazblue: Central Fiction we were treated to the reveal trailer for the long awaited character Jubei in Blazblue, the world premiere trailer for the new crossover fighter from Arc System Works, Blazblue X Tag Battle and Skullomania returning to Fighting Layer EX! Namco Bandai showed off Trunks in Dragon Ball FighterZ, and Geese Howard coming to Tekken 7 (it was amazing hearing thousands of fans yelling “PREDICTABO” when the trailer was playing), and Street Fighter V’s new DLC character Abigail. Fighting game developers are treating EVO like Fighting Game E3 and bringing all their big news, reveals, and trailers to the event and that is the absolute best move on their part. Rather than being lost in the hustle and bustle of E3, using EVO as a platform only helps them and all the fans watching at the event and at home on stream.
All in all EVO 2017 was an absolutely amazing experience and I now plan to go every single year. If you are a fighting game fan you owe it to yourself to attend this event at least once in your life. It is Fighting Game paradise in every sense of the word.