Five memorable moments from Evo 2014 (and what questions they raise for 2015)

This year's Evolution Championship Series tournament begins on Friday. Today, Shacknews is taking a look back at five of the most compelling moments from last year and also look ahead to this coming weekend's festivities.

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Is it really that time of year again? Indeed, the Evolution Championship Series tournament begins once more from Las Vegas, NV this weekend. That means the greatest fighting game players in the world (as well as the average Joes hoping to knock them off) will all converge upon the Bally's/Paris hotel to engage in a full three days of intense competition.

Last year's Evo delivered some truly incredible moments across a number of premier fighting games. Since this year should prove no different, Shacknews is taking a look back at five of the biggest storylines from last year's tournament weekend and poses five questions that fans should think about as this year's festivities begin.


EVO 2014: Mango dominates Super Smash Bros. Melee again

The Smash Bros. community is filled with die-hard players and some of the most competitive players across any game. But those that only tune in to EVO might not necessarily know that, because EVO has proven to be Mango's house. In 2013, Joseph "Mango" Marquez won the final two sets to overcome Wobbles and his Ice Climbers. Last year, Mango was slightly more dominant, never losing a set to claim victory over Juan Manuel "Hungrybox" Debiedma's Jigglypuff.

But don't let that final set fool you. Mango won that by the narrowest of margins and got the luckiest of breaks in the form of an opportune cloud in the Yoshi's Story stage. If the cloud hadn't been there, the story may well have been different. But once that happened, Mango didn't look back and cruised to his second straight championship.

EVO 2015: Can Mango pull off the three-peat?

It's one thing to win a tournament and plant some fear in the opposition. But when you win two in a row, the target is squarely on your back. The Smash Bros. Melee players will all have Mango in their sights and will look to be the one to knock him off. There are more than enough players that are capable of doing so, including Hungrybox and his Jigglypuff, Armada and his Peach, PPMD (the former Dr. PeePee) and his Marth, and Axe and his party hat Pikachu.

But if there's a favorite to overthrow Mango's reign of terror, it's William "Leffen" Hjelte. Leffen has been a force in the Melee world for the past year, having beaten many of the top players this year and also winning his share of tournaments, including three in the last few months. Leffen has been known to be something of a hothead, but as long as he can maintain his focus, he stands as one of Mango's biggest threats. He also comes into EVO with a high sense of confidence, boasting on Twitter that he considers himself "the best players in the world right now."


EVO 2014: CDJR and Sadira take EVO's first Killer Instinct tourney

Killer Instinct was among the most curious titles on display at EVO, just because it was one of the lone games at the show running on a next-gen console. And the man leading the wave of the future was Emmanuel "CDJR" Brito, who quickly established dominance with his Sadira. Taking command of the air, CDJR rode the winners' side all the way to victory, defeating eventual runner-up Rico Suave twice over the course of Top 8. Rico Suave did his best to counter, going with an unusual Jago pick to kick of Grand Finals, but he made little headway against Sadira's aerial offense.

While casual viewers would be wise to back CDJR as an early favorite, it's important to remember that this year's Killer Instinct tournament will have something of a different look...

EVO 2015: How much has Killer Instinct changed under Iron Galaxy?

Original developer Double Helix has gone to Amazon Land, leaving Killer Instinct in the capable hands of Iron Galaxy. Since last year's EVO tournament, Iron Galaxy has overhauled Killer Instinct in some noticeable ways, adding in air combo breakers and introducing an entire slate of new characters that all have unique quirks that no one saw coming. While defending champion CDJR will likely go to war with Sadira, is he ready to face off against unusual fighters like Kan-Ra (who has grown into a tournament favorite), Hisako, and Aganos? If his performance at CEO 2015 is any indication, CDJR may be in for a tough title defense.

More importantly, with all the changes Killer Instinct has undergone, how different will it look to the viewing public, compared to last year? Can Killer Instinct's new unique characters and expanded combo breaker mechanics make for a more entertaining tournament? Or will Iron Galaxy have to go back to the lab before next year's tournament?


EVO 2014: Injustice flies off into the night

Last year marked the final year at EVO for Injustice: Gods Among Us. With an expanded character set and a full year for players to learn the ropes, the game proved to be far more watchable last year than the snoozefest that was put on in 2013. A surprisingly entertaining tournament ended with total dominance from Sonic Fox, whose Batgirl completely wiped the floor with Pig of the Hut and his Zod. Injustice showed some final flashes of brilliance, expressing just how much NetherRealm's superhero fighter had matured.

But alas, time goes on and it's time to move on to the next thing...

EVO 2015: Can Mortal Kombat X avoid a repeat of Injustice's ignoble debut?

Let's look back at exactly why Injustice: Gods Among Us was such a letdown in 2013. The biggest reason was that with such a short time between release and tournament time, not only did players have little time to acclimate themselves to characters, but NetherRealm had just as little time to make balance adjustments. The result was some truly boring Superman spam fests.

Mortal Kombat X goes into EVO with roughly the same time between release and tournament time. And Twitter has rapidly filled up with balance complaints about some of the game's characters, with Johnny Cage and Jax high among them. There's a difference here, though. NetherRealm has been focused on the competitive element of MKX for a while, not only putting on more tournaments, but listening to more feedback for additional balance tweaks. MKX should prove to be more watchable for its first year than Injustice was, especially with a solid roster of players (like the aforementioned Sonic Fox and Pig of the Hut) that know how to put on a show. Get your popcorn ready.


EVO 2014: Justin Wong re-takes his Marvel throne

This was undoubtedly one of the most compelling storylines of the entire show. After coming up so heartbreakingly short in 2013, could Evil Geniuses' Justin Wong finally reach the top of the Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 mountain? That answer was an emphatic "yes," as Wong went into this tournament a ball of fire and never let up for a second, dominating some of the game's best players. By the end, the one person standing in his way was tournament favorite Chris G.

By this point, Wong was all-too-familiar with Chris' team of Morrigan, Doctor Doom, and Vergil. Wong switched his team up so that he led off with Storm, which threw Chris for a loop that he never truly recovered from. Wong took the win and the passionate exuberance over his win is one of those unforgettable moments that makes EVO one of the most memorable events of the year.

EVO 2015: Can Chris G finally take top Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 honors?

For the past two years, Chris G has entered Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 as the heavy favorite. Both years, he's fallen short, losing to Justin Wong both times. For Chris, being the favorite is no longer enough. Nothing less than victory will be acceptable and he'll go into this weekend's tournament with a focus similar to Wong's gritty determination from last year. The usual gang of suspects will be entering the UMvC3 tourney, including Angelic, KaneBlueRiver, Filipino Champ, and Cloud 805. And more than that, Wong has decided to put out a bounty to make things a little more interesting. Can Chris G overcome all of this to finally take the championship victory that has been eluding him all this time?


EVO 2014: Ultra Street Fighter IV begins with a bloodbath

Ultra Street Fighter IV had a heavy share of favorites that entered the tournament, including Infiltration, Daigo Umehara, PR Balrog, and "Prodigal Son" Ryan Hart. Many of those favorites didn't even make it past pools, making Friday a true bloodbath in every figurative sense of the word.

Not even defending champion Xian was safe. After losing early in pools, the champ was knocked out by Southern California native Darryl "Snake Eyez" Lewis and his Zangief in one of the weekend's most thrilling matchups. Snake Eyez became the sentimental favorite from there on out, but he would ultimately lose to eventual EVO 2014 champion, Louffy and his Rose.

EVO 2015: Can the United States stand toe-to-toe with the great USF4 players of abroad?

The EVO tournaments for Street Fighter, by far the most marquee of the fighting games on display, have not typically been a great showing for American players. While the U.S. has some formidable fighters, they largely haven't fared well against some of the Eastern nations' greatest players, like Infiltration, Momochi, Fuudo, and Sako.

This year, the U.S. has bolstered its ranks and its players have stepped up their game in a big way. Snake Eyez has taken last year's experience and used it to propel himself into consistent Top 8 finishes. Dieminion has improved leaps and bounds with his Guile and has become one of the more underrated players in the country. Even Eduardo "PR Balrog" Perez has shown signs of rejuvenation, putting on an absolute clinic during a recent exhibition at CEO 2015 in Orlando. The competition from abroad will be fierce, as always, but the American players are poised to present a greater challenge than they have in recent years.

Look for the chaos to begin when this year's Evolution Championship Series tournament begins on Friday.

Senior Editor

Ozzie has been playing video games since picking up his first NES controller at age 5. He has been into games ever since, only briefly stepping away during his college years. But he was pulled back in after spending years in QA circles for both THQ and Activision, mostly spending time helping to push forward the Guitar Hero series at its peak. Ozzie has become a big fan of platformers, puzzle games, shooters, and RPGs, just to name a few genres, but he’s also a huge sucker for anything with a good, compelling narrative behind it. Because what are video games if you can't enjoy a good story with a fresh Cherry Coke?

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From The Chatty

    • reply
      July 16, 2015 11:09 AM

      This year is going to be CRAZY!!!! 7 evo streams to cover all the stuff....

      I need more monitors.

      • reply
        July 16, 2015 12:28 PM

        7 streams?! I need more TVs for Fight Night.

    • reply
      July 16, 2015 12:51 PM

      No BlazBlue, Ozzie? That final was easily the most memorable.

    • reply
      July 16, 2015 1:12 PM

      GIVE ME SF5 DEETS

    • reply
      July 16, 2015 1:12 PM

      DIS WEEKEND. OH SHIOT

    • reply
      July 16, 2015 1:51 PM

      It's funny that you mentioned MKX and the fact that NRS is listening to feedback from fans and patching the game. It's the rapid patching of the game that some people think is one of the reasons NRS games don't have as long a shelf life in the competitive scene as some of the other games.

      There have been a lot of complaints from people about NRS not letting the meta game develop as well as letting the player base come up with counters to things that seem powerful at first. It also makes it hard for serious/tourney players to prepare and learn the matchups when the game is getting serious balance tweaks every few weeks.

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      July 16, 2015 3:33 PM

      Smash Melee might be the most consistently nailbiting esport I've watched. Doesn't matter which major tournament it is, I'm never ever let down by the best-of-8 and how close/exciting the games are.

      Smash always delivers. I can't say that about Dota, Starcraft, CS, etc.

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        July 16, 2015 4:42 PM

        Another game that suffers from bad announcers. I loved the originals as a kid, so I should be able to enjoy watching high level play, but the announcers are so fucking annoying.

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        July 16, 2015 5:33 PM

        I know it's a bit silly to ask, but do they have Melee tournaments without the use of Wavedashing and such? I don't mind watching stuff like that (seems to help characters like Ganondorf which is a plus!), but still, I'd like to see how people play without the use of "glitches" and all that :P

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          July 16, 2015 5:44 PM

          There would be no competitive Melee scene without wavedashing, so no, there isn't.

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            July 16, 2015 6:07 PM

            Here's a tournament from 2006 between two high level Japanese players using no advanced tech: https://youtu.be/FLgMxF9R78I

            No wavedashing, no SHFFLing, not even short hops!

            Its really weird, almost like watching Smash 4, except that people short hop these days

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              July 16, 2015 6:15 PM

              All tech would do is make that match faster. The fundamentals don't change if you are using wavedashing and shuffling. It's basically like watching me and my friends play Melee now since we don't play on the same level as we used to in college.

              I love Smash 4 now that I'm older and slower.

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                July 16, 2015 6:20 PM

                Totally. All tech does it open more options but the fundamentals of spacing, converting a neutral game to your advantage, etc etc, is all the same.

                And yeah, Melee is something I lack the hand speed for. We're talking Brood War levels of APM and loads of practice to play consistently with that movement tech, its ridiculous.

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          July 16, 2015 5:54 PM

          Nope. IMHO its like asking for a Quake tournament without strafe jumping.

          Exploiting the physics of the game is what gives players more movement options, making the game more fun to watch. It isn't even like these mechanics are that obscure to begin with. L-canceling, a core mechanic in "breaking" Smash because it reduces landing lag, was even explained in the Smash 64 manual.

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        July 16, 2015 6:18 PM

        I've never actually been entertained watching smash at all, but I've only played it casually. It's fun enough for that.

        I'd say I've found dota a much more watchable eSport for me, so obviously people will trend towards favorites/etc.

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          July 16, 2015 6:20 PM

          I don't play dota but I enjoy watching top level play. I like watching high level play in just about any game.

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            July 16, 2015 6:22 PM

            I think some are more watchable (better spectator sports) than others.

            I think CS struggles with this, a bit. I mean you can definitely get good clips out of any game, of course.

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          July 16, 2015 6:22 PM

          I play Dota 1000x more than I've played Smash, ditto SC2. Point is I've seen great tournaments in other games and I've seen shit ones. Hell, TI4 semis through the finals was one of the most disappointing things I've ever watched, total opposite of TI3, and I was in the audience for both!

          Smash Melee has been surprisingly consistent. If you get the "gods" together, your BO8 is guaranteed to be amazing every time.