Monday, July 14, 2014

The Best and Worst Games at Evo as a Spectator. by Mike Fatum

This weekend, fighting game fans the world over were treated to three solid days of incredible action, as Evo 2014 took over Las Vegas. The best fighters from around the world converged on the Westgate Las Vegas resort to compete for glory and huge cash prizes. Like other years before it, the entire event was streamed live on Twitch, allowing fans the world over to watch their favorites like Daigo, Mang0 and Garireo compete.

There's long been a stigma attached to fighting games that it takes as much time to learn to watch the games as it does to learn to play them. To someone who's never played one of these games, the nuances can be completely lost. This weekend, I found that to be not entirely true. For some games, being a spectator is awesome. For others, it's damned near impossible. Here are the best and worst games to watch at Evo.


BlazBlue is considered an "anime game", both for its beautiful, hand-drawn art style and its fighters' ability to dash in the air. It helps that this year, Blazblue had one of the most intense and exciting grand championships, but the game itself is really fun to watch. The characters are wild, but their attacks are all understandable, and the insane combos the pro players pull out are all beautiful to watch. The commentary was spot on this year, too, explaining what was happening just enough to allow us to figure out the game. Definitely one to tune in for next year.

Street Fighter is the daddy of all fighting games, and so it stands to reason it'd be one of the best games to watch. However, Street Fighter IV is a lot slower paced than the other two games on this "best" list. To many, that would make it more boring to watch, but in fact, it makes it more exciting. The players are constantly shifting position, waiting for their opponents to make a mistake - and when they do, the punishes are insane. It's well worth taking the time to sit down and enjoy the greats pummeling each other in this one.

Melee is one of the most interesting cases at Evo. The game is thirteen years old, and was supposed to be obsolete with the release of Smash Bros. Brawl for the Wii. Instead, Melee fans have kept this game alive, believing it (most would say rightly) to be the superior version of the game. You can see why, watching it. The game is insanely fast paced and interesting, and matches move between the insane combos of Blazblue and the slow chess matches of Ultra Street Fighter IV depending on the matchup. It's only downfall is that, as a "new" game to widespread streaming (while the game is thirteen years old, it had its largest resurgence in the last few years) its commentators aren't as interesting or informative as, say, Blazblue. 



Killer Instinct was one of the brand new games this year, and had a lot to prove on the grand stage. The fighters all did incredibly well - but the game itself is just not that exciting to watch. The old combo focus from the original KI is still present, but watching the pros trade combos here feels more like watching Ken and Ryu toss Hadoukens at each other in Street Fighter. There's none of the drama or excitement of watching a slip up lead to tons of damage like in BlazBlue or Injustice.

Just from the above screengrab, you would think Tekken would be tons of goofy fun to watch. Speaking from experience, I can tell you its tons of goofy fun to play. But to watch? Not so much. The game feels like an older fighting game, and in a world where a thirteen year old game like Melee can feel fresh and new, that's an unforgivable sin as a spectator. One of the least exciting games to watch in the entire tournament, and given how hard the players are working, that's a shame.

"WHAT?" I hear you say, as you flip a table and prepare your commenting fingers. I know, I know. UMC3 is a damn fun game. It's over the top in the best possible way, with as many as six characters on screen doing giant moves that do billions of damage all at once. Here's the problem: The very things that make it so much fun to play make it nearly impossible to watch. Once the pros start going, the screen is so filled with stuff that it's nearly impossible to tell what's going on unless your eyes are glued to the life bars. As spectators, we'd rather watch the action. During one of the last semi-final matches, I knew that one guy was getting beat up, and then he did a thing, and won. I didn't know how, or why, or even really what character he was using. It's a shame, because this game is awesome to play, and with Disney pulling the Marvel license from Capcom, this may be one of the last years we get to see it.

So, there you have it. The best and worst games at Evo 2014 from a spectator's point of view. What do you guys think - how would you change the nominations? Let us know in the comments.

Mike Fatum is the Editor in Chief and podcast co-host of the Ace of Geeks. He loves fighting games, but hardly ever has any friends that want to play them with him. 

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