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.”
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.
This year will mark the 15th anniversary of the legendary 2004 Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike matchup between Daigo Umehara and Justin Wong—dubbed EVO Moment 37, or the “Daigo Parry”—and just in time, there’s some brand new footage of the legendary matchup, thanks to EVO’s Mark Julio.
In the newly-unearthed footage, you can see the complete fight from a different angle, and more importantly, hear a few people in the crowd talking about the match in real time. Even if you know what’s coming, hearing the spectators process everything is a trip, and helps the dramatic finale you’ve seen hundreds of times before hit with the same giddy rush all over again.
For reference, here’s the original footage:
If you’d like to see even more, check out Kotaku’s documentary catching up with both Umehara and Wong years later, and talking about how their lives have changed since.
Making a living in competitive gaming is difficult, but it’s even harder for folks living in Japan. The island nation limits prize money for video game tournaments, and also, strangely enough, its gambling regulations also apply to the world of esports. These two legal hurdles have made it almost impossible for competitors to maintain a feasible esports career without significant support from sponsors. A year ago, Japan started issuing official esports licenses, which would allow pro gamers to win and keep their prize money under certain conditions. However, the core issue reared its ugly head once again when a Street Fighter player who had previously refused to take a license won Evo Japan earlier this month.
The Japan eSports Union (JeSU) was established in February 2018 as a way to legitimize pro gaming within the Japan’s notoriously anti-esports regulatory framework. By recognizing the competitive aspects of games like Street Fighter V and Winning Eleven 2018 and by partnering with their respective developers, JeSU planned to issue licenses that would allow competitors to bypass Japanese law and earn money playing games in tournaments. A small group of players were chosen across six games to act as inaugural licensees, and over time, more were eventually added as players won official competitions organized by Capcom, Bandai Namco, and other JeSU-partnered developers.
Not everyone in Japan was happy with JeSU’s methods, though. When the organization’s plans were first announced, Capcom mentioned that one of the initial Street Fighter V players to whom they had offered licenses had rejected the opportunity. Rumors swirled that it was Street Fighter legend Yusuke Momochi who had turned down the JeSU license, and Momochi appeared to confirm those rumors with a lengthy blog post detailing his problems with the new system. While he agreed that something needed to be done in order to help professional gamers in Japan scratch out a living, he had a few key issues with how things were being decided by executives at JeSU.
“The things called ‘games’ in Japan have gotten big because of the initiative of all the communities that dot the entire country,” Momochi explained, according to a full translation done by fighting game community leader Andrew “jiyuna” Fidelis. “With those communities supporting us, we were able to perform and work as pro-gamers; but I think the fact that we are even respected as professionals is because of the power of the ‘community’ and ‘all of the players.’ Therefore, to ignore the people who one-by-one built up the value of a ‘pro-gamer’ in Japan, decide on the ‘License System’ in some unknown conference room, then come out and arbitrarily make an announcement to the community and players… I feel like this way of doing things is in no way sincere, and it is difficult to feel any sort of affection for games or the people involved.”
At this time, the awarding of licenses is completely at the discretion of the developers who have partnered with JeSU. Since last year, Capcom has regularly granted licenses to non-licensed players who happen to place in the money of official Street Fighter V events, but there’s nothing to stop Capcom from simply declining to do so in the future and withholding guaranteed prize money from competitors they may personally dislike or disagree with. Placing so much power in the hands of the developers allows them greater control over how their games are used in competition, which benefits those companies but also places the grassroots competitive scene in danger of getting swallowed up by developer-backed invitationals that may be considered more “official” than community-run tournaments.
Momochi’s status as a non-licensed player surged back into the spotlight last weekend when he won Street Fighter V at Evo Japan. Without official JeSU recognition, the most money he can earn at events is just ¥100,000 JPY, which is about $900 USD, but as the Evo Japan champion, he was supposed to be awarded at least ¥1,500,000 JPY, or around $13,500 USD (CORRECTION 3:00 pm ET: This story originally misstated the amount of prize money Momochi won at Evo Japan). Would he be forced to leave thousands of dollars on the table? In speaking with Kotaku, an Evo Japan representative said that Momochi would receive all the money he earned from his victory, and Momochi said the same thing during a recent Twitch broadcast, but it was unclear how that could be possible with Japan’s stance on earning money via competitive gaming. Fortunately for both parties, there are a few ways for events to go around these strict regulations.
As detailed in Kotaku’s previous reporting on the subject, Japan places competitive gaming in the same realm as gambling when it comes to funding prize pools with player registration fees (as is the case with most grassroots tournaments). The country’s laws also consider direct payouts from developers as being “geared towards selling a particular product” and limits these payouts to buckle down on “unjustifiable premiums and misleading representations.” Evo Japan, however, is funded by sponsors, the largest of which this year was NTT Docomo, a Japanese mobile phone carrier. Because the payout comes from a sponsor, that should, in theory, allow Momochi to get paid in full for winning Street Fighter V, and in turn he’ll be able to make money without neglecting his principles on the JeSU licensing process. It’s a win-win situation that some believed wasn’t possible shortly after Evo Japan’s conclusion. This should also extend to every Japanese player who earned money at the tournament.
Japan’s esports situation is frustrating, but it’s important to remember that the country isn’t alone in making competitive gamers’ careers difficult. Despite being home to some amazing players, the Philippines implemented a number of regulations last year that threaten to hamper grassroots tournaments and dissuade international players from even setting foot in the country. Brazil’s own restrictions on payouts meant that Capcom Pro Tour events in the country have been regularly unable to provide the same prize money as their counterparts around the world. Japanese players are often able to find sponsorship and travel for competition due to the country’s status as a global fighting game hub; sadly, these are opportunities that players in the Philippines, Brazil, and other restrictive regions are rarely given, despite these players’ growing presence and skill within the community. These situations show that, unfortunately, the world at large is still struggling with the legitimacy of pro gaming as a career.
Ian Walker loves fighting games and loves writing about them even more. You can find him on Twitter at @iantothemax.
Despite only having happened twice so far, Evo Japan has already become a prestigious stop on the fighting game community calendar thanks to the level of talent it attracts. Last weekend’s Tekken 7 competition was no different, but the champion didn’t come from the ranks of South Korean and Japanese powerhouses who traveled to Fukuoka for a shot at glory. No, the winner was a relatively unknown player from Pakistan, whose dominating performance immediately put him on the map.
Evo Japan is a strange beast. Its name and brand carry the legacy of the most important tournament in fighting game competition, but for now, the event still isn’t attracting the same volume of players who are drawn to Las Vegas for the Evolution Championship Series every year. Due to its location, however, the players Evo Japan does entice tend to be of a higher caliber, not to mention much different than those who participate in Evo proper. This results in comparatively small yet talent-dense brackets for games like Street Fighter V, Tekken 7, and Guilty Gear Xrd Rev 2, featuring players who don’t always have the opportunity to travel outside their home countries or regions to compete.
One such player is a 23-year-old who goes by Arslan Ash. He’s a Tekken 7 competitor from Pakistan who went to great lengths just to attend Evo Japan. In a post-tournament interview with ESPN Esports, Arslan described his trip as “very difficult,” due in part to the laborious process of receiving a Japanese visa as a Pakistani citizen. Once that was settled, traveling from his home of Lahore, Pakistan to Fukuoka, Japan took Arslan five flights in total over two and a half days. After numerous delays and setbacks, including a snafu with a flight from Malaysia to South Korea and a Japanese airport’s refusal to exchange his Pakistani rupees for yen, Arslan was finally able to make it to Evo Japan, heading straight to the venue after arriving in Fukuoka with only an hour to spare before Tekken 7 pools started on Saturday.
Fighting game tournaments are trying ordeals without having just spent over 48 hours on a plane, but Arslan persevered, even in the face of the veritable minefield of Evo Japan competition looming on the horizon. He quickly made his way through the early portions of the Tekken 7 bracket, defeating three straight opponents before coming face-to-face with Tekken god Jae-min “Knee” Bae of South Korea.
Arslan actually has a brief history with Knee, and his past successes put him in a good position for his matchup against the Korean powerhouse. Just a few months ago, the two players met twice at OUG Tournament 2018, a smaller event hosted in the United Arab Emirates, and Arslan emerged the victor in both matches, the second of which made him the tournament’s champion after a 3-0 blowout.
Although he only had two games to work with, Arslan and Knee’s match at Evo Japan was very similar to their previous meeting. Arslan swept Knee, who had been one of the favorites to win the entire tournament and was now relegated to the losers bracket after just four rounds of competition. Knee said on Twitter after the match that he might be going to Pakistan to learn Tekken in recognition of both Arslan’s personal skill and the local community that helped him improve. From there, Arslan suffered his own loss to another Korean player—a netplay warrior who competes under the name BoALuvb—and found himself staring down a losers bracket that was filled with masterful players eager to remain in the tournament.
Unfortunately, neither Arslan’s win against Knee nor his loss to BoALuvb were shown on stream. Arlan’s first broadcast appearance at Evo Japan would come two rounds later during his match against yet another South Korean hopeful, Sun-woong “LowHigh” Youn. Since suffering his first loss, Arslan had defeated two more strong players in off-stream matches—Tekken veteran Sung-ho “Chanel” Kang and American visitor Ricky “rickstah” Uehara—sending them home in the opening rounds of the top 32 bracket. As Tekken 7’s reigning Evo champion, LowHigh’s experience far outweighed Arslan’s, but the Pakistani competitor appeared unshaken by the pedigree of the player sitting next to him. At times, Arslan would even dash his fighter right into the world champion’s face, seemingly confident in his ability to counter whatever LowHigh threw at him.
Heading into the finals, Arslan continued to demolish whoever was put in front of him. He took out Thai challenger Nopparut “BooK” Hempamorn, Jimmy Tran of the United States, and Japan’s Yuta “chikurin” Take, eliminating the trio in rapid succession before coming up against South Korea’s last hope in Jae-hyun “CherryBerryMango” Kim. Apart from the player who had sent Arslan to losers in the first place, CherryBerryMango ended up being the only opponent to take more than one game off the Pakistani upstart. On paper, this constituted the greatest challenge of Arslan’s championship run, and as a losers finals match, tensions ran high as the two competitors fought for the right to enter the grand finals.
As usual, Arslan started the match strong, winning the first two games thanks to his stalwart fundamentals. In using Kazumi’s competent normals and long-range tiger summons, he was consistently able to both pressure his opponents as well as play it safe when the situation called for it. As in the rest of the tournament, Arslan completely controlled the pace of his match against CherryBerryMango, forcing the South Korean to play at his speed. Whether that was fast and in-your-face or slow and steady, Arslan excelled in putting opponents on their back foot whenever possible. Nowhere was this more apparent than when Arslan eliminated CherryBerryMango with a perfect, securing his spot in the grand finals.
Arslan’s counterpart in the championship would be young Filipino competitor Alexander “AK” Laverez, who made a name for himself back in 2013 as one of the best Tekken players in the world at just 13 years old. While it wasn’t too shocking to see AK make the grand finals at Evo Japan, it came as a surprise that the match would be played between competitors from Pakistan and the Philippines rather than featuring at least one player from South Korea, Japan, or even the United States. Still, the venue settled in to see which of these promising challengers would walk away champion.
What followed was a collision of true opposites: Arslan with his impeccable defense versus AK and his potent offensive mixups. AK had a natural advantage thanks to his perfect record at Evo Japan thus far in that he would only need to win one best-of-five set to Arslan’s two, but the Pakistani superstar wouldn’t go down that easily. Early on, Arslan made an impact on AK’s typical playstyle by subtly stepping out of range and punishing errant whiffed attacks from the young Filipino. AK took advantage of the moments he was able to put Arslan on his back by utilizing Tekken 7 newcomer Shaheen’s tricky setups, but Arslan again enforced his will on the match by slowing things down and forcing AK to run up against the wall of his defense. Even when AK switched to Paul in an effort to give himself even more power to work with, the strength of Arslan’s defensive wall did not budge an inch. Over the course of their two sets, AK was only able to win one game, giving Arslan a 6-1 advantage that secured the victory and the Evo Japan championship.
Although the fighting game community celebrates its egalitarian ethos, this aspect of competition has only become apparent on a wider scale over the past few years with the growth of international tournaments and the advent of live broadcasting. Just a decade ago, it would have been unheard of for a player from Pakistan, the Philippines, or anywhere else that wasn’t a major competitive hub to be considered the best player in the world. And yet, in 2019, we have Arslan Ash, who had to tackle a brutal itinerary, face off against some of the strongest Tekken 7 competitors South Korea, Japan, and the United States have to offer, and still come out the other side as champion. How did the community ever believe anyone had reached the pinnacle of the genre before now, when there were no doubt any number of challengers across the globe ready to fight for that supremacy but without the opportunity to prove it? Fighting games have truly entered a golden age of competition, where anyone from anywhere can be skilled enough to show up and take the crown. Arslan’s victory at Evo Japan is further proof of that.Source: Kotaku.com
Evo Japan 2019 kicked off festivities last night in Fukuoka, ushering in a second year of the Evolution Championship Series spin-off event. The broadcast day opened with a special Dead or Alive 6 exhibition, followed by a stage show that apparently got too risqué for the Evo organizers, who later issued an apology.
Dead or Alive has long been known to put its female fighters at the forefront of its marketing campaigns, with an entire “extreme” side series asking the question, “What would they look like in bikinis?” While the folks behind the next mainline installment say they are dedicated to bringing the franchise’s deep combat mechanics to the forefront, the Dead or Alive marketing team leaned hard into the more titillating elements of the franchise when showing the game off at Evo Japan alongside two models.
What began as a simple stage show demonstrating the fighting of Dead or Alive 6 veered off the rails as the women on stage modeled in clothing that had been torn up to show their cleavage and bras.
While waiting for the demo to be ready, the models hopped up and down to mimic the traditional Dead or Alive breast and butt-bouncing physics.
It seems the final straw for the Evo Japan broadcasters, however, was when the Dead or Alive 6 producer showed off the game’s photo mode by pausing an attack while the characters were locked in a pile drive move that, when paused, looked like a sexual embrace.. Just a few minutes later, the Twitch stream abruptly cut to black.
Shortly after, Evo head honcho Joey “Mr. Wizard” Cuellar wrote a now-deleted Tweet stating that the Dead or Alive 6 stage show did not “reflect the core values” of Evo or the fighting game community in general. “We ended the stream temporarily to protect the integrity of our brand,” he added. “We sincerely apologize to our fans.”
Meanwhile, the simultaneous broadcast on Japanese live stream platform OPENREC remained live the entire time.
When the broadcast returned, Evo’s director of global business development Mark “MarkMan” Julio reiterated these sentiments with a second apology. “I just wanna get on stream and apologize on behalf of the Evolution Championship Series,” he explained while commentator Steve “Tasty Steve” Scott sat in silence next to him. “The stuff that was on stream just recently from one of our partners does not reflect, of course, the content and intention of Evo. We do apologize if we offended anyone during the broadcast.”
Evo has not responded to Kotaku’s request for comment.
Ian Walker loves fighting games and loves writing about them even more. You can find him on Twitter at @iantothemax.