Two competitors, one from Japan and another from the United States, face off against each other for the final matchup of the world championships at Las Vegas. Both have brought their own weapons to the stage; fighting sticks set in a flat panel studded with buttons and polished with long hours of steady practice and sacrifice.
As the fight begins, they each know that only one of them will walk away as the victor. That night, all of their hard work will be put to the test in the space of only a few minutes.
Another Evo2K has come and gone, but it was also one of the most exciting bouts ever to tear across the ‘net with plenty of anguish-filled defeats and thrilling comebacks. To those that only see a bunch of guys playing video games, one look at the videos being broadcast live from the Rio in Las Vegas filled with thousands of cheers and jeers easily demonstrate that those that have come to watch are as every bit as passionate as any other fan.
Fighting games have undergone a stunning revival in the last few years with Street Fighter IV, Marvel vs. Capcom 3, and Mortal Kombat setting the pace. And thanks to today’s high-tech arena and years of effort in getting that ever so valuable netcode just right, players have turned the globe into their own personal arcade, pitting their skills against each other as they used to years ago when spots were reserved by placing your token on the cabinet.
And at Evo2K this year, the crowd has only gotten larger and the excitement even more infectious. I don’t even play fighting games, but in watching players from every walk of life take part (anyone can sign up and play, even an eight year old named Noah who lit the screen up with incredible skill), I couldn’t help but cheer for my share of underdogs and sit in stunned disbelief when Japan’s Daigo “the Beast” Umehara was knocked out into fourth place by Korea’s own superchamp, Poongko, otherwise known as “the Machine”.
Watching these pros move their characters across the screen was like watching a ballet of sight and sound with every move, dodge, block, and feint as both players tried to read into what their opponent would do next. Some wore poker faces, others brought their own music to block out the world, and one or two would even do a little dance with their fists in the air or their body moving to the motion of their character onscreen. Some would bury their faces in their hands after losing a round. Others would just walk as quickly as possible from the stage in bitter disappointment.
The final fight for the Street Fighter IV crown went to Japan’s Fuudo who defeated Brokentier Latif (Brokentier is the team that Latif plays for), who had himself defeated Poongko in another stunning upset. Though Street Fighter was a huge focus for many, Evo2K had also held contests for Mortal Kombat, Blazblue, and Tekken 6 to crown the champs for each of those as well.
It wasn’t all fighting games, either. Panels were also held over the three days of Evo2K’s action, Namco Bandai had also shown off a little Soul Calibur 5 action to the crowd, and a few screeners were also present to help the crowd decompress. Capcom’s Seth Killian had also come down to help with the great commentary from the Evo2K crew, but in the end it was clear that the winners were not only those that flew thousands of miles to be there, but everyone who could be a part of it either by being in the crowd or watching it online.
It’s one thing to think of video games as “pushing buttons and sticks” to do stuff onscreen. But when events like these can level the playing field and invite anyone to join in where even an eight year old with enough skills can get the crowd behind him, it’s even harder to turn as much of a blind eye to that kind of awesome.
If you’re interested in reading up more on Evo2K and the fighting game circuit in general, you can hit up their official site along with Shoryuken which has all the latest including pics such as those above.