Over 5000 world warriors from across the globe signed up to compete in the first ever Street Fighter V tournament at the pinnacle of fighting game events: Evolution.
The headline game of the event, with the Top 8 matches live broadcasted on US television at ESPN 2, there were tons of emotions, from hype to upsets, as thousands gathered at Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas in celebration of the event.
The gruelling pools were full of intense matches, like G-League winner’s Xiaohai struggling against Mr. Street Fighter himself, Alex Valle, a veteran in the fighting game community (FGC). Valle, a Rashid and Ryu main, brought a strong performance but missed out from the top 32 with a loss against Mutiny|OmGiTzAndre. TS|Sabin, a strong player who has once topped the online leaderboards of Street Fighter V, had a close match against EG| Momochi in the pools too.
An incredible list of players made it to the top 32, with plenty of representation of both Asia and the West. Zangief main Darryl “Snake Eyez” Lewis struggled to get good results, now switching to Ryu more often. The efforts were however fruitless after being knocked out by HM|GO1-3151 (or GO1- Goichi) and his Chun-Li. Japan’s Itabashi Zangief showed a different performance in the same Zangief-Chun-Li match-up, with him taking a win over Ricki Ortiz. Europe’s rising star and Capcom Pro Tour Premier Event winner BX3|Phenom did not make it out of the top 32. Tokido could not replicate his awesome run at CEO after losing to AW| Nemo, a Vega player that also knocked out Itabashi Zangief.
In the end of the top 8, we saw 6 Japanese players, the one South Korean guy that is the RZR|Infiltration and only 1 sole American and it’s not who everyone would expected. Not PR Rog, not Snake Eyez, not the ever consistent EG|Justin Wong. It was “The Pride Of Long Island”, LI Joe.
Most days, he's known as Long Island Joe.
— Red Bull Esports (@redbullesports) July 18, 2016
LI Joe is a strong personality among the FGC, organising tournaments in the East Coast of the US as well as being really good at the game. But his extremely good run to the top 8 has all the home crowd rallying behind him, chanting “USA! USA!” as he was the last to qualify after beating GGP|Kazunoko.
Clawing his way from the loser’s bracket, his first match against HM|Eita’s Ken was a close one. His next one was a Nash mirror match against Yokudan, a new face in major tournaments. Deemed one of the best Nash players in Japan, Yokudan just lost against Infiltration at the winner’s bracket and his match against LI Joe in the loser’s bracket was nail-biting. It was all down to the last set and the last round but Yokudan’s patient playstyle trumps the lone American left in the top 8.
— Wario64 (@Wario64) July 18, 2016
Despite the lost, LI Joe definitely stole the crowds’ hearts, with a display of camaraderie against his opponents, a beautiful speech after that heartbreaking loss, and even shared a bonding moment with his father, a long-time supporter of his video game playing lifestyle who was there to cheer him on.
AW|Nemo’s Vega was no match against GO1’s aggressive Chun-Li. GO1 advanced to face MOV in a mirror match of Chun-Lis. MOV, a name last seen big in the Third Strike days, was strong during the pools and Top 32. Yet after a defeat against’s Fuudo’s R.Mika in the winner’s bracket, he struggles to gain a good momentum. GO1 then proceeds to the next round, but Yokudan’s Nash was too powerful for him to handle.
RZR|Infiltration and RZR|Fuudo, both teammates and both previous EVO champions, proved a strong showing on the winner’s brackets, throwing off Yokudan and MOV respectively. But in the Winner’s Finals however, Fuudo did well enough to throw down the supreme SFV player down to the Loser’s Finals. The patient Yokudan won the set against GO1, netting him another rematch with Infiltration in the Loser’s Finals, but to no avail.
With Fuudo having the one set advantage and a strong performance before, it would seem to be a hard climb for Infiltration to grab anything worthy here. But after Fuudo winning a round, Infiltration’s Nash starts to change his playstyle and dominate, even grabbing a set with two perfect KOs. And dominate he did, wining 3 sets, resetting the bracket for another best of 5 series of matches. Infiltration just snowballed into a 2-0 lead, winning 5 straight sets before Fuudo was able to muster a fight by taking one set.
Unfortunately for Fuudo, Infiltration denies him his qualification to the Capcom Cup as he takes the last set, taking it 3-1 and wins EVO 2016. This is his fourth EVO championship win, and he is the first champion for Street Fighter V.
When interviewed post-match about his surprise comeback from the loss to Fuudo, he simply answers what most FGC fans would have expected:
— Wario64 (@Wario64) July 18, 2016
With Infiltration winning EVO, this secures his supreme reign as the top Street Fighter V competitor to watch. Despite hailing from South Korea, where the FGC over there are mostly concentrated in other fighting games like Tekken, he displays a level of consistency- and adaptability- that no other players can match currently. While he can be defeated, would any other player can match his level of consistency in the future?
Congratulations to all the warriors participated in the huge tournament. Here is the top 32 (out of 5000+!) players that made it big, courtesy of Shoryuken:
1. RZR|INFILTRATION (Nash)
2. RZR|Fuudo (R. Mika)
3. yukadon (Nash)
4. HM|GO1-3151 (Chun-Li)
5. LI Joe (Nash)
5. MOV (Chun-Li)
7. HM|Eita (Ken)
7. AW|Nemo (Vega)
9. Kenneth Pope (Necalli)
9. GGP|Kazunoko (Cammy)
9. GamerBee (Necalli)
9. RZR|Xian (F.A.N.G)
13. Tokido (Ryu)
13. ESR|Wugo Oil King (Rashid)
13. EG|JWong (Karin)
13. YP|Filipinoman (Chun-Li)
17. PandaTV|Dakou (Karin)
17. Itabashi Zangief (Zangief)
17. ROM (Vega)
17. CBZ|Onuki (Chun-Li)
17. BxA|Squall (Necalli)
17. RB|Luffy (R. Mika)
17. BX3|Phenom (Necalli)
17. Ino (Ken)
25. Mutiny|OmGiTzAndre (R. Mika)
25. EG|Ricki Ortiz (Chun-Li)
25. Coin Up|Ludovic (Chun-Li)
25. TS|Sabin (Dhalsim)
25. PandaTV.KDIT|Ren (Rashid)
25. RB|Snake Eyez (Zangief, Ryu)
25. CKD.DS|Babushas (Necalli)
25. Hsien Chang (Necalli)