On Tuesday, the team behind the annual Evolution Championship Series tournament shocked the fighting game world with its 2019 lineup. The expected games were revealed. Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition, Tekken 7, and Dragon Ball FighterZ will be played at this year's tournament. But the biggest shock was the tournament's biggest omission. After six successful years on the EVO main stage, Super Smash Bros. Melee will not be in attendance at this year's tournament.
Part of Joey "Mr Wiz" Cuellar's reasoning is that Super Smash Bros. Ultimate has united the Smash communities like nothing before. And with Ultimate uniting the Smash communities, two Smash games are no longer needed. But he did state that Melee's contributions to EVO are greatly appreciated, as he put together a
eulogy tribute to Melee's history at the big dance.
Melee has indeed had a rich history at EVO. Today, Shacknews is taking a look back at some of the game's most unforgettable moments on the EVO stage.
The plucky underdogs prove they belong
Melee's history at EVO goes back to 2013, where the game's devoted community wrangled today $94,683 in order to have their game on stage. With such massive contributions going towards the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, Melee had earned its spot at the biggest fighting game tournament in the world. There were certainly bumps in the road, the biggest one coming from Nintendo itself.
But when it came time to play, play everyone did. Melee proved to be one of the most exciting games of the weekend. Part of it was because it was so different from traditional fighters like Street Fighter IV and Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3. Another reason was the aforementioned community, who brought a cheering section unlike any other. The wild Melee fanbase stood out from everybody else and while there have certainly been knocks against them in the past, nobody will deny that their unbridled enthusiasm brought an unparalleled atmosphere to EVO.
That atmosphere extended all the way to Twitch. Over 100,000 viewers watched Joseph "Mang0" Marquez defeat Robert "Wobbles" Wright in the Grand Finals. At the time, it was an EVO record for concurrent viewers. It was a record that Melee would continue to threaten and break in the years ahead, with only Dragon Ball FighterZ able to compete with last year's incredible Top 8.
Melee's second year at EVO proved to be as memorable as the first. While Nintendo of Japan was still wrapping its head around one of its flagship games (a decade-old one, no less) being used in a worldwide competitive tournament, Nintendo of America had been monitoring Melee's unlikely prominence. And while Nintendo's Japanese branch was still coming around, Melee had earned NOA's full blessing. In fact, NOA President Reggie Fils-Aime surprised EVO viewers and competitors by delivering a personal address to the Melee community prior to the game's Top 8.
Mang0 was back to defend his championship and he made it all the way to the Grand Finals. The only other person left standing was Juan "Hungrybox" DeBiedma. Hungrybox was a known quantity to the Melee community, but casual fans who were seeing Melee for the first time were largely unfamiliar with this young man. Someone was using Jigglypuff? What kind of craziness was this?
Hungrybox quickly stood out for his defensive play and his incomparable ability to hit Jigglypuff's Rest move right on the button. Mang0 kept things close and was ultimately able to put Hungrybox away in a wildly competitive Game 5 that went down to the final stock. Mang0 was a two-time champion, but Hungrybox began forging a legacy that would make him a household name in the esports.
Hungrybox breaks through
Hungrybox had come close to EVO immortality for years, but has continued to come up short in key moments. Two years later, Melee would reach the biggest of EVO stages, as the tournament hit the Mandalay Bay Events Center for the first time. There was a pressure on Hungrybox like never before. Not only was he playing in front of a full capacity arena crowd, but his opponent was considered by some to be the single best player in the world.
While competitive Melee was recognzied for its "Five Gods," Adam "Armada" Lindgren had begun to break away from the pack. With a Fox that stood out above the pack and the best Peach in the world, Armada proved to be a nightmare in the competitive Melee world. And he left a path of destruction behind him en route to the Grand Finals.
Hungrybox got off to a fast start, going up 2-0 on Armada. But Armada came roaring back and nearly ran it all the way back until Hungrybox reset the bracket. The second set proved even more tense, with Armada going up 2-1 and nearly clinching it with what would have been an Up-smash finisher. Hungrybox survived and tied the set with a well-placed Rest. Game 5 went down to the last stock, but Fox's Fire Fox couldn't find the ledge, giving the victory to Hungrybox in what remains one of the most iconic EVO celebrations in the tournament's history.
Saturday night Melee party
Melee was sent to Saturday in 2017, where the idea was to close out the second day of competition in the grandest way possible. The top Melee players in the world were up to the task, but nobody was more prepared for Saturday than Armada.
As noted, Armada was already considered one of the best players in the world. But after his loss to Hungrybox the prior year, Lindgren went on an absolute tear, winning tournament after tournament and major after major. Armada was firmly in a class of his own, but the EVO loss continued to haunt him. With that, it was time to avenge that loss.
While Armada didn't encounter Hungrybox again, he did encounter another worthy challenger. Two-time EVO champion Mang0 had clawed his way back to the Grand Finals, knocking Hungrybox out twice along the way. Armada had beaten Mang0 in the Winners Finals, but Mang0 wasn't ready to go home just yet.
With Mang0 picking Fox, Armada was ready to put his Peach on the EVO Grand Finals stage. Peach proved a nightmare matchup for Fox, with Armada using Peach's tilts and vegetables to keep Mang0 off the stage. While Mang0 fought valiantly, there was just no beating Armada, who capped off a year of total dominance with his first EVO win.
The Leffen era
The road to the top of the Melee mountain was a rough one for William "Leffen" Hjelte. Beyond constantly being on the cusp of godhood, Leffen experienced a number of setbacks regarding his visa, which kept him out of the United States. Leffen's visa would eventually be reinstated, at which point he'd go toe-to-toe with the top players in the Melee world. EVO glory had eluded him for more reasons than one, but 2018 proved to be his year.
The day started off well enough for Leffen, as he defeated hated rival Hungrybox to kick off the Top 8. But Armada awaited in the Grand Finals. And though Armada wasn't quite as dominant as he was the year prior, he was still considered the cream of the crop. It came down to two Foxes, but Leffen asserted himself early and took a quick 2-0 lead. Armada's ace in the hole was his Peach, but she was only good enough for one win and Leffen would cement his victory on Final Destination.
In hindsight, this turned out to be Armada's last stand. Not only had the rest of the Melee pack rapidly caught up to him, but he was rapidly growing disenchanted with week-to-week competition. Armada would compete at a few more tournaments before abruptly announcing his retirement just weeks after his EVO loss.
Meanwhile, Leffen has reflected upon his victory and is now eyeing his next conquest. In addition to competing in Dragon Ball FighterZ, Leffen has his sights set on Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and will most likely be among the thousands of registered competitors at this year's EVO.
What are some of your favorite Melee moments from EVO over the years? Join the conversation and let us know in the comments.