Something For Most Players
After two years off, EVO plans to return in person August 5-7 at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. Registration is open now. In getting things open, EVO had to let players know what they’d be registering for so last night they rolled out the red carpet for the nine games set to appear.
While the big news from this lineup was announced ahead of time, with Super Smash Bros being pulled thanks to Nintendo, there are still nine big time titles set to appear including a number of games that seemed obvious and a few surprises.
Let’s get the no duh picks out of the way first. Street Fighter V is here. You can’t have an EVO without Street Fighter, though if Street Fighter 6 manages to come out this year it could be the last EVO for the game. So is Guilty Gear -Strive-, almost certainly the biggest fighting game to launch during the pandemic. The only competition for that title is The King of Fighters XV, which will also appear in the main lineup. Tekken 7 was always an obvious choice too as it continues to have a thriving scene even now, seven years after its initial release.
The other five games were less obvious. Perhaps Mortal Kombat 11 Ultimate should have belonged in that obvious group. It’s been a consistent feature in EVO’s online tournaments over the last couple years and it’s the latest Mortal Kombat after all. After being left off the nine game lineup in 2020 though, before that show would be cancelled anyway, it was hard to be sure how EVO saw it. There was always a chance the online featuring these last couple years was mainly due to the game’s strong net code. Well, apparently not. It made the lineup.
A couple of rising franchises made the lineup for the first time too. Melty Blood will make its main stage debut with the latest game in the series, Type Lumina. While cool for fans of the series, it’s not overly surprising with a new title having launched just last year. More of a shock is the inclusion of Skullgirls 2nd Encore. Originally released in 2015, this one never made the lineup even in the days after its release, yet somehow seven years later it’s going to show up. It likely has a lot to do with the slow release of fighting games the last few years, combined with Smash’s absence opening up some slots, but still welcome news for the Skullgirls community. The game still has an active following with new characters still in development.
Two final games return from the 2020 lineup that wasn’t to be. Dragon Ball FighterZ isn’t a huge surprise, with the game just finishing up its DLC and it having drawn major interest at the last couple EVOs. Its following seems to have dimmed a bit but I’m sure the fans can still put on a show. Maybe the biggest shock of the lineup though is the inclusion of Granblue Fantasy Versus. This one was set to be featured at EVO 2020, but at the time it was a new release drawing solid reviews and trying to build a community. It made a lot of sense. In 2022 though it’s a strange pick. The game hasn’t managed to consistently build a tournament scene and it honestly feels like most in the fighting game community had forgotten about it. It’s great to see the game didn’t miss its chance entirely thanks to the turbulent events these last couple years, but it will be interesting to see if there are enough players to fill out a strong tournament.
What’s missing? Not much if we’re being honest, nine games left room for even a lot of unexpected titles to make the tournament. There are a few snubs of course, but they’re mostly smaller ones. If we look at that 2020 EVO that wasn’t to be, Soul Calibur VI seems to have made its last appearance at EVO, a shame if only because of the limited number of 3D fighters in the mix. Under Night in Birth Exe was also set to return, but probably has too much community crossover with the new Melty Blood. Samurai Shodown was also set to return after putting on quite a strong tournament in 2019, but that’s another one where the scene has clearly faded. It didn’t even get a tournament at this year’s Combo Breaker, where they went 22 games deep. It also probably has some community crossover with The King of Fighters. A shame though, its top 8 was my favorite at EVO 2019.
Some (okay, me) speculated they might swing big to try to find a Smash replacement with Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl, which drew a lot of community interest upon release last year. It always felt like a long shot for a serious tournament though and that proved true. Some would have hoped for Virtua Fighter 5 to return after a new release of it came out last year, but its still fundamentally the same game that came out in 2006 so that isn’t a huge surprise to see miss the cut either.
One of the night’s biggest surprises actually came after the announcements were over. Back in 2020 EVO announced a special tournament to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Marvel vs Capcom 2, dubbed the Tournament of Champions. Some of the best players in the game’s history were set to square off in an eight player invitational. The tournament hadn’t been mentioned since the cancellation of EVO 2020 though and the game was nowhere to be seen in the main announcement this year. Afterwards though, Rick Thiher, the General Manager of the show, took to Twitter to make sure fans know they haven’t forgotten about the game. Whether that means something for this year, or just that at some point they still plan to feature the game, remains to be seen. Still, its nice to have something to look forward to regardless.
What did you want to see at this year’s EVO? Let us know in the comments below.