The Evo Lineup Cometh Again

The first-ever Evo Japan delayed the announcement of the main Evo World Championship tournament series lineup by about two weeks. That didn’t stop it from being any less exciting, or in some cases, controversial.


Primed for the first weekend of August, Evo 2018 had its official lineup unveiled by the tandem of Joey “Mr. Wizard” Cuellar and Mark “MarkMan” Julio back on February 6th. This year features a blend of the usual suspects and some new challengers, which includes:

Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition
Tekken 7
Injustice 2
Super Smash Bros. for Wii U
Super Smash Bros. Melee
Guilty Gear Xrd: Rev2
BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle
Dragon Ball FighterZ

The majority of this lineup has been featured at Evos past, so most of it will be familiar to many. Street Fighter has been one of the defining fixtures of the tournament series since its early days as Battle by the Bay, so there was no way it wouldn’t show up. Also, with the Arcade Edition update of Street Fighter V coming out at the beginning of this year, there’s no way it wasn’t going to be closing out Evo.

Injustice 2 made its way to the Evo roster just last year, so it’s still relatively recent. But a bevy of balance updates and all-new downloadable fighters, including the likes of Dark Horse Comics’ Hellboy and even the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, should shake up the metagame substantially. Of course, there’s a good chance we’ll see Dominique “SonicFox” McClean of Echo Fox somewhere in the finals again, but let’s not get into bold predictions just yet.

Guilty Gear Xrd and Tekken 7 have been a part of the main Evo lineup since 2015, and yearly updates to both have changed the experience each year. With a total roster rebalancing coming to Rev2 next month, and Final Fantasy XV’s Noctis Caelum coming to Tekken 7 at some point in the Spring following the game’s most recent addition, The King of Fighters’ Geese Howard, that shouldn’t change this year.

Finally on the returning titles, both Smash Bros. in the main lineup is still a polarizing point of contention, as I’ve made clear before. In Super Smash Bros. for Wii U’s initial year, I could understand having Melee on the main lineup. However, now that the game has proven to stand well-enough on its own in regards to entrants and viewership, that should no longer be the case. Just last year, the Smash Bros. U finals featured a thrilling grand final set between current champion Saleem “Salem” Young and recently-retired Gonzalo “ZeRo” Barrios, a complete ten-game run where Young ultimately prevailed. Contrast that to Melee’s four-game grand final where Adam “Armada” Lindgren handily beat Joseph “Mang0” Marquez, and it paints a pretty clear picture as to which was more exciting.


The only two brand-new additions to Evo this year are Dragon Ball FighterZ and BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle. FighterZ making the cut doesn’t come across as a major shock, given Dragon Ball’s immense global popularity and the excitement surrounding the actual game going back to its initial E3 announcement. With how well recent FighterZ tournaments have gone, and more characters on the way in the coming months, it should make for an excellent watch.

That just leaves Cross Tag Battle as the only real surprise of the lineup, though I use the term “surprise” a bit loosely. While I’m overall glad it’s part of the main lineup, there’s something about its inclusion that hasn’t quite sat well with me. I mentioned back in my blog about the game’s controversial DLC plans that there was a sneaking suspicion of internal pressure to get the game out by Evo season. With this news, there could very well be a ring of truth to it. It’s not a bad thing, but if Evo was the reason for ASW’s release plans being what they are, it’s not exactly a good look, either. In short, it’s complicated.


One quick note: In addition to Street Fighter V: AE, traditionally the game to close out Evo, the other Sunday titles for this year include Guilty Gear Xrd: Rev2, Dragon Ball FighterZTekken 7, and Super Smash Bros. Melee. While it’s a strong lineup, I’m torn on Melee’s inclusion.

I see what the Evo staff might be trying to do: The plan, provided both games find themselves on the main Evo lineup in the future, seems to be that Melee and Smash Bros. U will rotate Evo Sunday duties year to year. Still, I don’t see why the staff didn’t opt to ride the hot hand and give Smash Bros. U another go-round on Evo Sunday, given how phenomenal the game’s finals were last year. There’s more I could go into, but I’ll save that for a potential later entry.


By this point, you might be wondering: “Where’s Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite?”

For the first time since its introduction at Battle by the Bay 2000, the Marvel vs. Capcom series will not be on the main docket. Naturally, this has become the biggest story of the whole reveal show, yet there hasn’t been a concrete answer as to why. Cuellar said that player support for Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite “fizzled,” which is a rubbish statement when you consider the fact that entry numbers for the game have landed within the top five of every single major tournament it’s been in since launch.

However, tournament turnouts only tell half the story. The other half, to be blunt, is the fact that Infinite tanked. While many agree that the gameplay lives up to the series’ pedigree, they also mention that everything else does not. Between dull visuals, a roster with a handful of issues (leaning too heavily on the previous entry and banking on the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s success being chief among them), sparse single-player content, and questionable PR management in the months leading up to the game, the game has not been all that well-received, and is likely the reason why Infinite will be regulated to a side tournament at best.

While it’s not unreasonable to think that Marvel told Capcom to not lobby for the game in the main lineup as Julio suggested, I think there’s another possibility to consider. Perhaps Capcom realizes that they dropped the ball on Infinite, and are working behind the scenes to do something to improve it. Wishful thinking, to be sure, but I like to keep all possibilities on the table.


All things considered, I’m willing to say that this year’s Evo lineup is looking to be one of the stronger ones, even without the presence of Marvel vs. Capcom on the main roster. Granted, I do think it’s a bit heavy on the anime fighters, with three as opposed to two like they tend to carry. Otherwise, Evo 2018 should be an interesting experience. All that’s left to do now is count down the months and get ready for the next battle.

‘Til we meet again,
Tom

Advertisements

Cross Tag Controversy

Remember how excited I was for BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle a few months back? Let’s just say things have changed a bit.


During this blog’s Holiday downtime, Arc System Works plugged along with announcing new characters for their team-based fighter, a four-franchise showcase following what is arguably their tentpole fighting game for 2018, Dragon Ball FighterZ. But while both games received positive press throughout the second half of 2017, Cross Tag Battle’s general perception went into a tailspin at the turn of the year.

Arc System Works’ Fighting Game Awards earlier in January presented a handful of new information on Cross Tag Battle, including official release dates. The game will release on May 31st in Japan, and June 5th everywhere else, meaning it will be coming out barely a year after its initial announcement at the Evo World Fighting Game Championship last July. A surprise, to be sure, but it didn’t seem bad…at least, until fans heard the next bit of news.

(Screencap courtesy of Arc System Works’ January trailer for BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle)

The game’s roster will clock in at 40 characters from across the BlazBlue, Persona 4 Arena, Under Night In-Birth, and RWBY universes. However, only the characters revealed between Evo and the ASW Fighting Game Awards will be available from the start, and since 20 characters had been unveiled in that period, it effectively means that the game will release with half a roster. The other half will be downloadable content, divvied up into six packs of three characters apiece, and two standalone characters.

What’s more, it was announced that Blake Belladonna of RWBY would be among those 20 DLC characters, presumably one of the two standalones. That revelation has lead to assumptions that Yang Xiao Long from the same series would be the other standalone DLC character, and that in turn indicates that Cross Tag Battle’s launch roster will only feature RWBY’s other two heroines, Ruby Rose and Weiss Schnee.

Needless to say, backlash came in hot and heavy once word started making the rounds.


Really, what needs to be said that already hasn’t been? Of all the things Arc System Works could have done with Cross Tag Battle, paywalling half of its roster is the most boneheaded decision they could have made. Splitting up Team RWBY at the same time is just as short-sighted, and it’s an especially bad sting in the tail for any RWBY fans that might’ve been looking forward to this game on the premise that the series was getting a moment in the fighting game limelight for the first time.

Yes, there’s additional money to be made, and I understand wanting the game to have legs beyond its initial release. I also get that the RWBY characters take a little extra investment since they’re the only characters being created for this game from the ground-up. At the same time, however, this isn’t the way to go about turning a profit or extending the game’s lifespan. And as someone who was genuinely looking forward to this title, it’s disappointing. Arc System Works always seemed to be one of the smarter fighting game developers compared to the likes of Capcom, so to see them go down this road hurts.

Thankfully, details have come out recently to clear up the controversy. Director Toshimichi Mori has gone on record saying that the base game and downloadable content together would not total out to be that much more than a standard game, which is usually around $60 before any sales taxes kick in. DLC would also cost less than what it would normally, and if there’s enough positive reception on release, Cross Tag Battle may get additional updates beyond the initial DLC.

Arc System Works also mentioned on their official Twitter account that they have heard the outcry from fans, and as of this writing, will present something “very soon.”


Given the nature of this situation, there are a few potential scenarios that could play out. The first is that Arc System Works simply announces the official price points for both the base game and DLC, with the former being around $40 and the latter around $20 in total. Those prices wouldn’t be that bad in the long run, since, again, it would altogether cost about as much as a modern-day game would. While it still doesn’t fix the issue of having half the game’s cast locked behind a paywall, at least people would not be paying an arm and a leg for a complete roster.

Alternatively, Arc System Works could make substantial changes to their DLC plans. In this case, Arc System Works would delay the game’s releases by a month or two, and use the extra time to put Blake, Yang, and characters from two of the six DLC packs onto the main roster.

Personally, I’d argue the second scenario would work best. While it’s not a huge increase, 28 characters is a solid base to begin with for a tag fighter, and Arc System Works would still be able to add to the roster with the dozen DLC characters they have left. Plus, having all of Team RWBY will be sure to sway RWBY fans into purchasing the game early; whether or not they buy the DLC that comes afterward depends on whether or not the BlazBlue, Persona 4 Arena and Under Night characters provide a knock-on effect.

With that being said, however, it’s more likely that Arc System Works will simply announce that the game and the DLC will be sold at lower price points than normal. It feels like this game is being made on a smaller budget than Dragon Ball FighterZ was, and a delay to implement more characters might not justify whatever is left. And while this is dipping more into tin foil hat territory, there could be internal pressure to get this game out as soon as possible to be in the running for this year’s Evo lineup, which is taking place in early August as opposed to the usual middle of July timeframe. It’s not like Arc System Works doesn’t already has a spot at Evo all but assured with Dragon Ball FighterZ’s staggering success, but that’s neither here nor there.


Regardless, Arc System Works needs to be smart about how they address their DLC plans. They already assured fans that they are aware of the backlash, which is a good start. Now it’s on them to prove to fans that they actually listened. And I hope that they have, because as a long-time BlazBlue fan and a more-recent RWBY fan, I want this game to succeed.

Whether or not they do rests squarely on what they do next.

‘Til we meet again,
Tom

Can’t Escape From Switching Fate

(Video courtesy of Arc System Works’ official YouTube page)

One of the most pleasant surprises to come out of last July’s Evo World Championships was the announcement of BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle. Hot off the heels of Central Fiction’s Top 8 finals, Arc System Works revealed that BlazBlue would be stepping into the world of crossover fighters for the first time. It was revealed that the series would be teaming up with characters from two other Arc System Works properties, Persona 4 Arena and Under Night In-Birth.

But to the surprise of many, ASW pulled out one last surprise that day: Rooster Teeth’s animated web series RWBY would be making its fighting game debut here, which meant Cross Tag Battle would be an unprecedented four-way crossover. On an afternoon full of tournament upsets and surprise reveals, this game stood as one of the best of the latter.


Following its July unveiling, ASW has been slowly snowballing momentum with new info. Three more characters were announced in September, and a playable demo was at New York Comic-Con earlier this month.

(Video courtesy of Arc System Works’ official YouTube page)

The real juicy news, however, came the week after Comic-Con. At Rooster Teeth’s inaugural RTX London event, Arc System Works revealed the systems the game would be featured on when it launches next year. These include Sony’s Playstation 4, Steam, and most-notably, the Nintendo Switch.

So. Show of hands: Who saw that coming?

Nintendo has already been having a monster year with the success of the Switch. 2017 has seen an embarrassment of great titles for the system, and there are even more on the way between the rest of this year and all of 2018. This now includes Cross Tag Battle, a title that most would’ve expected to not show up on a Nintendo console.

(Then again, nobody was counting on DOOM and Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus to show up on the Switch, either, and yet both are on their way to the Switch.)


What does this mean in the long run? A few observations:

  • Cross Tag Battle gives the Switch another high-profile fighting game franchise for its portfolio in the form of BlazBlue. There’s already a decent array of fighting games for the Switch that include the likes of Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers and Nintendo’s own ARMS, as well as smaller upcoming fighters like Blade Strangers. But Arc System Works is considered by many to be one of the best non-Capcom fighting game developers in the industry. They’re responsible for three of Cross Tag Battle’s four franchises, as well as the upcoming Dragon Ball FighterZ (which could also see a Switch release if the demand is there), and their legendary Guilty Gear series. That’s a helluva feather in Nintendo’s cap.
  • Similar to the previous point, this reaffirms the notion that third parties are willing to work with Nintendo again. A nagging issue during the Wii U’s lifespan was the sparse third-party support, which forced Nintendo to rely on its own franchises and smaller indie developers to fill out the system’s library. Now, developers and publishers like Bethesda, Square-Enix, and Arc System Works are willing to bring the big guns to the Switch’s library. This could even attract developers and publishers that Nintendo didn’t mention last year when the Switch was first shown off.
  • Finally, while I might be reading too far into things, I believe that Cross Tag Battle on the Switch could open the door for future communications between Nintendo and Rooster Teeth Games. Obviously, it doesn’t mean we’ll see a Red vs. Blue Switch title or Team RWBY being in the mix for the next Super Smash Bros. entry, but if all goes well, Rooster Teeth may be keen to call on Nintendo for future game developments. In addition to Rooster Teeth web series properties like RWBY, Camp Camp, or next year’s Gen:Lock, original titles in the vein of Super Rad Raygun and BattleSloths 2025: The Great Pizza Wars could also find homes on the Switch. It’s all just conjecture, of course, but if Rooster Teeth Games and Nintendo strike an alliance, it could make for some interesting stuff in the future.

Nintendo, for the most part, has been hitting all the right notes this year. Games like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Splatoon 2, and ARMS have been home runs, and Super Mario Odyssey is primed to put an exclamation mark on the Switch’s first year in the open. But what’s more, the fact that they managed to get a massive crossover fighting game like BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle on the Switch is a testament to how they’ve turned their fortunes around from the Wii U days. The only question that remains is where Nintendo could go from here.

Nobody truly knows the answer at this point, but I’d say the future’s looking pretty bright.

‘Til we meet again,
Tom