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

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Quick Hits: Free-LC

Things might be turning around for our friends at Arc System Works.

Last night’s unveiling of the Evo 2018 games lineup didn’t have a whole lot of surprises; most figured that Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition would be there, as well as the likes of Dragon Ball FighterZ and Super Smash Bros. Melee. But there was one reveal that caught many, present company included, very much off-guard.

BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle, a game that found itself waist-deep in controversy with dodgy DLC plans a month ago, was announced as a part of the official Evo 2018 lineup. But in addition to that, Arc System Works announced that RWBY’s Blake Belladonna and Yang Xiao Long were both going to be free downloadable content for everyone.

While it doesn’t answer people’s questions about details like the pricing for both the base game and downloadable character packs, this is very much a step in the right direction. RWBY‘s main quartet making their fighting game debut is arguably one of the larger draws of Cross Tag Battle, and the fact that half the team would be DLC didn’t sit well with many. It’s hard to tell whether or not this was Arc System Works’ plan all along, but regardless, it’s a solid move that should bring back anyone turned away by the initial DLC announcement.

Hopefully, Arc System Works will be just as smart about everything else going forward.

‘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