We’re just hours away the biggest Fighting Game Community (FGC) event of the year - and once again it’s Smash Bros making the headlines at Evolution Fighting Championships, or Evo for short. The game series that has long been derided as "not a real fighting game" and that has consistently topped the viewing figures at Evo is back, although not in the form most of us are used to seeing.
For years Melee was the face of Smash, garnering respect from FGC veterans who had actually attempted to play, and the fans who just wanted to watch people do insanely creative and technical things. Sadly, the management of Evo have never really been able to get themselves into a position to survive without dev support, and this year Melee finally fell foul to the money, with Mr Wiz basically turning his back on one of the most dedicated fan groups Evo has.
Happily, Nintendo has finally realised there is some filthy lucre to be had from the competitive scene, although sadly they still persist in treating Melee like the disgraced son caught stealing from grandma’s jewellery box to fund their anime habit. As a result, Smash Bros Ultimate will be at Evo 2019 and will, in fact, be the final event on the final day of the Evo 2019 schedule, which should in theory mean it gets great viewing figures from those parts of the world able to stay up late on a Sunday to watch the event.
No Heroes here
With the news that the latest Smash Ultimate character is now playable, it is also worth confirming that is looks as though Hero will not be available at the event for players wishing to see just how good the latest DLC offering is. Evo have apparently confirmed the game will be played on the previous patch, meaning the odds of a janky upset vs a new character are reduced, although in a game with more than 70 characters that doesn’t exactly make it any easier overall.
Prior to the event there are a few names every fan will expect to see in top eight, where if they are really lucky they might get to play a best-of 5 match. Until top three all players will be playing best-of three, with the reasoning being that the tournament organisers have never run Ultimate before, and therefore have no idea how long a best-of five can take, so they need to be conservative with the schedule.
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This increases the likelihood of shocks in the bracket, but the names you’ll most likely see getting to play a proper set are going to be fairly familiar. At the top of the list of most likely winners is Leonardo ‘MKLeo’ Lopez Perez, representing the embattled Echo Fox, and clearly the world’s best player, but there is an amazing group on his tail and this event is wide open as a result of the strength in depth at the top of the Ultimate scene.
Challenging the Mexican will be the likes of TSM’s Gavin ‘Tweek’ Dempsey, Panda Global’s Tyler ‘Marss’ Martins, Team Liquid’s Samuel ‘Dabuz’ Buzby, eUnited’s Ezra ‘Samsora’ Morris and many others. We are also going to see international players such as Japan’s Shuto ‘Shuton’ Moriya and France’s William ‘Glutonny’ Belaid, the latter of whom made such an impact at Smash Summit in reaching Grand Finals with his signature Wario.
MKLeo vs the world
Who will win is difficult to predict, but the most consistent player in recent months has been the Mexican magician, and it’s going to take a lot to dethrone MKLeo. With Smash 4’s GOAT Gonzalo ‘ZeRo’ Barrios having lost the urge to compete there hasn’t been a real rival for Leo, even if Tweek has come close at times, and the depth of Echo Fox’s finest’s character pool means he has a big advantage over the likes of Samsora and Glutonny, who tend to stick to one option most of the time.
We are also in a best-of three situation until the top three, which limits how effective character switching can be, and prevents better players reading and adapting to their opponent, meaning this could be one of the most unpredictable events in years, although not really for the right reasons. Either way, it’s good news for the fans that we don’t know who will win, and whoever you’re supporting this is going to be a high point of the Smash year, so clear your calendar and get ready for the Ultimate Smash Bros tournament, live from Vegas.