Tekken games have had some seriously far-out guest characters like Final Fantasy XV’s Prince Noctis and The Walking Dead’s villainous, bat-swinging Negan. It’s a series where anyone might show up. During the Tekken 7 grand finals at the Evolution Championship Series this past weekend, a short video made it look like Metal Gear’s Solid Snake would join the fray. Turns out, it was a joke. Unfortunately, the joke appears to have backfired in a big way with fans.
During last night’s Tekken 7 grand finals, a video played showing Solid Snake talking to Tekken producer Katsuhiro Harada. The iconic stealth hero snarked about some “good ass Tekken” for a moment before the feed was cut. The video wasn’t shown on the livestream, but multiple people in the live audience at the event uploaded video of the audience’s excited reaction to social media. Snake’s already in the Super Smash Bros. series as a guest character, so this video invited an obvious question: would Snake be coming to Tekken next?
The answer, it turns out, is no. In a tweet this morning, Evo confirmed that the video was not an official tease for anything. It was a joke video that the event had run without consulting Tekken series developer Bandai Namco.
“Just to clear things up, the Snake cameo video that we showed during Tekken finals was our idea of a little joke,” Evo’s statement says. “It was not intended to imply a character reveal, and was done on our own, without consulting Bandai Namco. Sorry for any confusion!”
Tekken producer Katsuhiro Harada also posted about the matter on Twitter. His tweets, loosely translated by Kotaku’s Tim Rogers, appear to reiterate the situation for Japanese fans. Harada mentions how surprised he was by the video and by the subsequent fan anger that it wasn’t a real announcement, going on to mention that he feels bad for Hideo Kojima and Konami.
There were official announcements for Tekken 7’s next season pass at EVO, which will include the return of Middle Eastern fighter Zafina and a brand new character called Leeroy Smith. It’s unclear what, if any, new guest characters may be on the way. But hey, if we don’t have Snake, maybe we’ll get Raiden instead.
Evo 2019’s Mortal Kombat 11 tournament ended with Dominique “SonicFox” McLean lying on stage, his weekend of competition finally over. He was once again the king of Mortal Kombat.
Although SonicFox has competed in multiple games over his career, NetherRealm Studios franchises have always felt like his home. He first made his mark on Evo history by winning Injustice: Gods Among Us in 2014 before earning back-to-back Mortal Kombat X championships in 2015 and 2016. SonicFox’s focus strayed a bit with the release of Dragon Ball FighterZ, which he won at Evo 2018, but he can never be counted out when it comes to the games where he first found huge success.
Heading into Evo 2019, SonicFox had two apparent goals ahead of him: defending his Dragon Ball FighterZ championship and winning the event’s very first Mortal Kombat 11 tournament. He barely missed out on the former, losing a close grand finals match to Japanese rival Goichi “GO1″ Kishida on Saturday afternoon, but followed that up shortly afterwards by qualifying for the Mortal Kombat 11 finals. SonicFox would have one more shot at Evo gold before the weekend was over.
To say SonicFox made the most of this opportunity would be an understatement. He tore through the bracket, sending up-and-comer Julien “Deoxys” Gorena to losers and fending off a brief challenge from Evo 2017 Injustice 2 champion Ryan “Dragon” Walker in winners finals. When it came time for their rematch in grand finals, SonicFox pulled off an incredible 3-0 sweep, collapsing on the stage behind them afterwards. His day of competition had started at 10 am, and now, over 12 hours later, he had an Evo trophy to show for it.
Mortal Kombat 11 is still relatively young, and there’s no telling whether SonicFox will be able to maintain the stranglehold he currently has on the playing field. Several players have proven they have the potential to rise up and knock him off his throne, so it should be exciting to see how competition in Mortal Kombat 11 develops after this first Evo appearance.
Dragon Ball FighterZ is in a very different place than it was in 2018, especially when it comes to the Evolution Championship Series. The shine has worn off the game a bit due to various factors, and attendance dropped considerably compared to 2018, relegating the once-beloved game to a Saturday finals placement rather than a spot in the arena on Sunday. But all of that outside noise fell away as soon as the Evo 2019 finalists took their place on stage.
Much of the fighting game community was looking forward to seeing a rematch in the high-profile Dragon Ball FighterZ rivalry between Evo 2018 champion Dominique “SonicFox” McLean and Japanese legend Goichi “GO1” Kishida. Spectators got their wish when both players qualified for the finals without any losses, setting up an eventual winners finals match after SonicFox finished playing with his food in an impressive effort against Japan’s Hirohiro.
Despite the depth of any single Dragon Ball FighterZ bracket, all eyes are, perhaps negligently, glued to what SonicFox and GO1 get up to. It makes sense; in addition to being two of the best players in the world, they’re also polar opposites, with SonicFox focused on smothering offense and GO1 seemingly capable of defending against just about any mixup an opponent throws at him. The crowd at Evo 2019 would be treated to a few more chapters of their story over the course of the finals bracket.
That doesn’t mean the rest of the bracket wasn’t full of killers. Dragon Ball FighterZ World Tour champion Ryota “Kazunoko” Inoue made it to the finals in the losers bracket, but was immediately eliminated by Shoji “Fenritti” Sho. Meanwhile, Joan “Shanks” Namay of Spain carried the entirety of Europe on his shoulders, managing to defeat both Christopher “NYChrisG” Gonzalez and Hirohiro en route to a semi-finals berth. That said, it would be Fenritti that advanced to a losers finals match, but he too fell to SonicFox despite at one point going up 2-1 against the previous champion.
If last year’s Dragon Ball FighterZ championship was like a glorious anime finale, Evo 2019’s grand finals was the rerun you can’t help but watch again. There’s just something special about a SonicFox vs. GO1 match, and they didn’t disappoint when it came to their final match of the tournament. There was no apparent favorite; the crowd roared just as loud for both players, only interested in seeing the best Dragon Ball FighterZ competitors in the world do what they do best.
In the end, there could only be one champion, and today, GO1 was the better player. With all his championships, Evo is essentially SonicFox’s turf, but GO1 managed to come back from an 0-2 deficit, winning three straight games to finally defeat his eternal rival. The story of Dragon Ball FighterZ revolves around these kinds of matches, and no matter the future of the game, GO1 and SonicFox can hold their heads high knowing they authored some of the most exciting moments.
Evo 2019 hosted a special panel titled “The Women of the FGC,” allowing female members of the community the opportunity to speak about their experiences within the competitive fighting game space. While the hour-long discussion would touch on a variety of topics, there was one clear through-line expressed by the women on stage: “Listen to us.”
For the past few years, the Evolution Championship Series has expanded from simply being the largest tournament for fighting game competition in the world to also including discussion panels about varied related subjects conducted by community members. In addition to panels on streaming, applying for sponsorships, and learning frame data, an hour was set aside for a group of women to talk about how the scene can further improve its inclusivity.
The women invited to speak came from a variety of backgrounds, including competitors, event organizers, community supporters, and everything in between. Samantha “Persia” Hancock and Carolyn “MamaDao” Dao have established organizations like XO Academy and Combo Queens to give women the tools to excel in the fighting game community and find support from other female competitors. Sherry “Sherryjenix” Nhan has played Street Fighter for close to a decade and now helps foreign players gain visas to play in the United States. Ricki Ortiz is perhaps one of the most accomplished competitors of all time, and she was joined by up-and-comer Mahreen, who participated in the XO Academy program and is attending Evo thanks to support from the Street Fighter subreddit. Caitlyn “Eidelonn” Thiher is co-director of Combo Breaker, arguably the second-most important fighting game event of the year after Evo. Emily “NyxRose” Tran owns Equinox Gaming, a competitive gaming team that supports a handful of Street Fighter V and Tekken 7 players. And finally, these women were also joined by special guest Junae Benne, an esports host and streamer who provided her own takes on the gaming scene.
To say these women are important to the fighting game community would be an understatement, but there was still some pushback online when the panel was announced, with some questioning why the panel was necessary. In the days leading up to Evo, Carolyn Dao reiterated that the panel was meant to “inspire more women to get into the scene.” Eventual Soulcalibur VI finalist Marie-Laure “Kayane” Norindr similarly defended its necessity on Twitter, writing, “I’m grateful to live in the FGC, but I also had to face some toxic attitudes. I can understand why some women are intimidated to join us.”
Come the day of the panel, the room was packed with attendees who wanted to listen to these women tell their stories, including a few of the Evo head honchos themselves. The women immediately opened the floor to questions, which were fielded by Dao in the audience and then relayed to the group on the stage. These inquiries ran the gamut, from basic inquiries about what the fighting game community can do to improve its events for female attendees, to questions about how to overcome the ubiquitous hurdles of competitive ambition. This allowed the panelists to share their experiences in the scene and offer suggestions on what can be done to improve a community that, while more inclusive than the rest of esports, still has work to do with regard to how it treats women.
Ricki Ortiz and Sherry Nhan, for instance, have both dealt with stalkers due to their prominence in the fighting game community. Nhan in particular said she was worried about going public after receiving little help from the authorities and tournament organizers. It wasn’t until she made a YouTube video describing the harassment she was receiving that events began taking steps to keep her stalker out of tournaments.
The panelists also provided clear, concise suggestions to the folks in attendance. “Listen,” they implored, after explaining that women have been open about these issues but have previously had their concerns fall on deaf ears. “When a girl at your local comes up to you and says they have a problem, take them seriously and then go talk to the person that did something bad,” Caitlyn Thiher said. “The biggest thing that I, as a tournament organizer, experience is women coming up to me, and they don’t just talk to me about what happened to them at the huge event that we’re at. It goes all the way back to their locals. Just listen and take it at face value.”
They also stressed the importance of keeping fellow tournament attendees in check, in essence saying something in response to casual and overt misogyny, especially if the person doing that is one of your friends. The panelists explained how little things like this contribute to an unwelcoming atmosphere. Making it clear that the community isn’t going to stand for that kind of nonsense could go a long way towards making the space more inclusive.
The fighting game community has long been lauded as a diverse space in the world of esports. Any number of factors could have contributed to this, but it’s clear walking into a tournament like Evo and being greeted by a wide array of faces that the fighting game scene includes people of many different ages, races, and backgrounds. That said, it’s still very much a dude thing, despite there being no inherent “men only” rule. The Women in the FGC panel at Evo 2019 was an important step towards improving the fighting game community for everyone, and if the scene is going to grow, the folks on stage need to be heeded both by those in positions of power and by the average Joes going 0-2 in pools.
If you want to check out video of the full panel, archives are available here.
Ultra Fight Da! Kyanta 2 is the brain child of Japanese developer Suzuki Katsunari, known online as Haramaself. A prolific artist and musician, Haramaself has applied his talents over the last few years to establishing a portfolio of indie games, each one absolutely exploding with a unique aesthetic that lies somewhere between a fever dream and the absurdist anime series Pop Team Epic. The fighting game community is nothing if not receptive to eccentric, slightly weird approaches to the genre, many of which get labeled as “kusoge,” a Japanese term that roughly translates to “shit game.” As such, Ultra Fight Da! Kyanta 2 has managed to cultivate a relatively small yet dedicated competitive fanbase.
“Ultra Fight Da! Kyanta 2 is probably the best kusoge ever made,” Matt “MiniMatt” Leher, fighting game player and commentator, told Kotaku. “It’s not just a weird game, it’s actually a very, very good weird game. If you get past the goofy sound effects and the MSPaint look, the game itself is solid. The system is something I would enjoy even if it wasn’t a free meme game on Steam.”
Leher first encountered Ultra Fight Da! Kyanta 2 a couple of months ago through his friend’s Twitch stream. It looked “ridiculous,” he explained, but the ease with which he was able to pick up and play the game thanks to its simplified controls—not to mention the fact that it’s free—gave him further incentive to see what it was all about. Since then, he’s attended small local tournaments and participated in online matches, first by using the pseudo-online client Parsec and then through the game itself when an update added netplay. “It’s got the best [online play] of any game,” Leher added. “It’s unbelievable that this game, of all games, has the best netplay I’ve ever seen.”
“Unbelievable” is a word Leher used throughout our interview, and it’s easy to understand why. On the surface, Ultra Fight Da! Kyanta 2 looks and sounds like a complete joke, with eccentric character designs and sound effects comprised entirely of Haramaself’s own voice. Still, there’s something special beneath the somewhat unnerving aesthetics: a competitive fighting game that gives every character something scummy with which to annoy and frustrate opponents. Also, the game’s simplified control scheme, which is devoid of inputs like quarter-circles and dragon punch motions, makes Ultra Fight incredibly accessible to players of just about any skill level.
At the character select screen, players are given the option to build a team made up of one, two, or three characters, similar to the system utilized in Skullgirls. Additionally, players choose a “type” for each character, reminiscent of the groove system seen in Capcom vs. SNK 2. These types run the gamut from a simple HP boost to an entirely unique Demon mode that replaces the ability to use super moves with unlimited EX attacks during the mode’s duration. One example of smart Demon usage Leher provided is with Tsukinami, who can activate and lock the opponent down with continuous, Zangief-like lariats until their guard breaks, leaving them vulnerable for further punishment. “That’s the kind of stuff you just have to accept when you play Ultra Fight,” Leher explained.
That may sound cheap, but Ultra Fight Da! Kyanta 2 is built on a foundation of scumbaggery. Every member of the cast has some nasty attack or setup that would be considered overpowered in any other fighting game, even pseudo-joke character Masao, who can still kill an opponent with one combo if he has the necessary meter. As such, the Ultra Fight meta is matchup-focused rather than having a definite individual character tier list. When creating a team—and yes, you’ll want a team of three fighters, because even the best characters can be countered—smart players focus on covering two important factors: being able to dish out as well as defend against the overpowered shenanigans.
Evo 2019 is something of a coming-out party for Ultra Fight Da! Kyanta 2. While its superior netplay has made it easy to grind out matches against likeminded opponents, an event like Evo is where players truly establish a game’s reputation. “I’m excited to see people do stuff I’ve never even thought of,” Leher said. “I want to see what the most busted thing in this game is. I’m going to be running the characters I think are extremely broken and can deal with every team, and I’m looking for someone to prove me wrong. I’m excited to see extreme bullshit, because that’s what makes the game fun.”
The Evolution Championship Series is special, not just because it’s the largest fighting game tournament in the world but also because you’re sure to find at least one other person interested in the same fighting game as you, no matter how obscure it is. Ultra Fight Da! Kyanta 2 seems like it would fit neatly into that niche, with its bizarre art style and gameplay, but its 64-player bracket makes it one of the more popular side events on the show floor.
“Ultra Fight comes together in a way that’s so much more than the sum of its parts,” Leher said. “If anyone doesn’t download it and give it a try, they are doing themselves a disservice. It’s unbelievable that one dude making this wack MSPaint game actually did a better job of making it easy and accessible for new players than any other fighting game at this point.”
In addition to hardcore competition, Evo 2019 has also provided a decent chunk of floor space for independent developers to show off their games. Flaming Flamingo took advantage of this opportunity to demonstrate its upcoming game, Hot Shot Burn, in a simulated living room environment, complete with an extra-large couch for attendees to lounge on as they play. And after spending a little while with this cute top-down shooter, one thing is for sure: I can’t wait to demolish my friends and family when it’s finally available in real living rooms.
Hot Shot Burn is a competitive multiplayer game that combines the basics of old-school 2D games like Combat with the varied hero selection of Overwatch. Up to four players can get in on the action, choosing from a cast of space gladiators that includes an adorably disgusting fish monster, a Mr. T knock-off, and a teleporting rogue, just to name a few. Each character is distinguished by their basic attack and a unique ability: The fish monster, for instance, can puff itself up to become invulnerable for a few seconds, while the game’s version of Mr. T surrounds himself with flames and surges forward, killing anyone in his way
Games of Hot Shot Burn progress through a series of levels that each come with their own special challenges. One may have a series of conveyor belts that changes your momentum or patches of tall grass that hide characters from sight. Players earn points in each level for things like surviving the longest or getting kills, and continue in this way until reaching 50 points. The player who reaches this threshold then has to win one match to win the entire game, bringing to mind the “win by two” system utilized by sports like tennis and volleyball.
Hot Shot Burn began its life as a very different game. While the basic combat was the same, every player was given the same ability to teleport. After noticing the popularity of hero games like Overwatch, Flaming Flamingo began work on creating a diversified cast. Now, players can choose which character works best for them and form a similar sort of attachment to their favorite that’s seen in fighting games. Are you sneaky? Or do you prefer more brute-force maneuvers? There’s a little bit of something for everyone, and the Hot Shot Burn developers said they look forward to collecting feedback on character balance from the highly competitive Evo crowd.
Hot Shot Burn is also helped by its aesthetics, which focus on a more cartoon style—the Flaming Flamingo developers specifically name-dropped adult-oriented animated series Final Space as an inspiration—instead of the pixel art that’s currently in vogue in the indie gaming space. This makes every character a vivid ball of emotion, and players can cycle through a variety of facial expressions to mock their opponents between kills.
Flaming Flamingo will launch Hot Shot Burnvia Steam early access on August 15, with Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Switch versions planned for the future. The brief picture I was provided of this game’s potential in the developer’s smartly-designed Evo booth makes me excited for the day when I can get my friends and family together and blow them up with a puffed up fish monster, talking smack the entire time.
For the first time since it was released in 2016, Street Fighter V won’t be the final headlining event that concludes the Evolution Championship Series this weekend. Instead, that honor goes to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. This is the first time in the history of the series that it’s ever received top-billing at the event.
When the organizers of Evo first announced this year’s prospective line-up of game tournaments that would be featured on the main stage, some were outraged that Smash Bros. Melee hadn’t made the cut. The game may be old, but year after year, its top players still have managed to put on a great show. While some perceived Melee getting replaced by Ultimate as a slight, it was also a credit to the success of Smash Ultimate in bringing new players into the fold while also capturing the interest of veterans from throughout the series’ past. Enough, at least, to convince Evo to make it this year’s finale.
The move is also surprising given the deeply entrenched sentiment among some corners of the fighting game community that Smash Bros. isn’t an authentic fighting game series in the same way as, say, Street Fighter, which has traditionally been the cornerstone of every Evo. But the registration numbers for Ultimate tell a different story. 3,492 people are competing in this year’s Smash Ultimate tournament, as compared to 1,929 competing in Street Fighter V, which is down just over 20 percent from the year prior. Kids these days wanna Smash.
Of course, Evo is about more than just the headliners. Tekken 7, Mortal Kombat 11, Soulcalibur VI, Under Night In-Birth Exe: Late[st], Dragon Ball FighterZ, Blazblue Cross Tag Battle, and Samurai Shodown are also being featured, the last of which I’m particularly excited to see unfold, given how veteran players from other games like Christopher “NYChrisG” Gonzalez and Justin “JWong” Wong have been tearing it up in the relatively nascent scene.
Evo 2019 gets underway today, August 2, at 1:00 p.m. ET with competitive pools across every game. The big finale for the event’s first day is the Soul Calibur VI finals tonight at 11:00 p.m. Here’s the complete schedule for the rest of the weekend:
Saturday, August 3
1:00 p.m. – Under Night In-Birth Exe: Late[st]
4:00 p.m. – Dragon Ball FighterZ
7:00 p.m. – Samurai Shodown
11:00 p.m. – Mortal Kombat 11
Sunday, August 4
12:00 p.m. – BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle
3:00 p.m. – Street Fighter V
6:30 p.m. – Tekken 7
10:00 p.m. – Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
All of the finals matches will stream live on Evo’s main Twitch channel, with pools play available on additional channels, a full guide to which you can find here.
There are also a ton of side tournaments at the event, including not just well-known games like Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and Smash Bros. Melee, but also a bunch of smaller competitive ones, including a Puyo Puyo Champions tournament that begins today at 3:00 p.m. ET over on pxmacaiah’s Twitch channel. Also, at 9:00 p.m. ET tonight, a small Catherine tournament will be hosted on the same channel. These side events are all being organized under the banner of Anime Evo, which has a full schedule and list of corresponding streams over here.
Evo 2019, the premier fighting game tournament, is less than a month away, and players are spending the weekend getting ready. With their game having only released in June, it’s an especially important time for Samurai Shodown players.
Nine-time Evo champion Justin “JWong” Wong hasn’t wasted any time getting up to speed after announcing in February he’d be competing in Samurai Shodown’s first-ever Evo tournament, which will have a $30,000 pot bonus partially thanks to the game’s publisher SNK. Wong, while best known for playing Street Fighter, has placed first in Samurai Shodown tournaments at both CEO 2019 in June and The Pinnacle last weekend. This weekend he faces competitors NeoRussell and ElChakotay at Toryuken 2019 in Toronto, Canada.
More Samurai Shodown competition will take place this weekend at Low Tier City 7 in Texas and Sonic Boom VI in Madrid, Spain. Since the game is still so young, and it’s been 11 years since the previous in the series, Samurai Shodown: Edge of Destiny, it’s too early to declare favorites—although given his experience, notoriety, and recent momentum, Wong remains an obvious contender to watch.
Meanwhile, there’s another grass-roots event for Halo 3 being held in Chicago on Saturday. The $10,000 old-school tournament will feature 2v2 team battles throughout the night. If you have trouble sleeping that night, you can catch the remaining players grinding it out in the finals at approximately 5:00 a.m. ET Sunday morning. Those matches will be streamed live on Red Bull’s Twitch channel.
Finally, the remaining Dota 2 teams from North America will be battling it out in qualifiers this weekend for a shot at competing in next month’s The International for a piece of the $25 million prize pool. The Round Robin stage is currently underway with Forward Gaming leading the pack undefeated. After a few remaining matches tonight, the top four teams will reconvene on Saturday at 2:00 p.m. ET for the start of the playoffs, followed eventually by the grand finals on Sunday at 6:00 p.m ET. You can catch all of that action on Beyond The Summit’s Twitch channel.