Evo 2008 Season Wrap Up
It's that time of year again!
"After another year of Evo has come and gone, I'd like to officially end the Evo Season with one final 'State of the Games' post. I've had a good month to stew on Evo and read the general community reactions and let everything sink in. Thus, I would like to sum up my feelings in one last post."
(Same disclaimer as last year: Though I am on the staff, please DO NOT use this article as evidence of any theories you have on what may happen at Evo 2009. My opinion is only one person strong, and over the course of the next few months, so many new games will come out, circumstances may change, and moods can alter so that what I say now may not even reflect how I feel half a year from now. So don't go quoting me as a source of proof that next year will feature such-and-such game or not.)
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I love basketball. It's by far my favorite sport to watch. And it was extremely exciting to watch the U.S. Olympics basketball team take back the Gold Medal this past Summer Olympics. The team, this year, called themselves the "Redeem Team" as a play-on-words of the original Dream Team back in 1992. It's almost not fair to call them that, however, because they were a Dream Team of their own. They certainly did not blow away their opponents as badly as the original Dream Team did back in 1992, but the competition was pathetic back then compared to now. You just didn't have teams like Spain and Argentina to actually pose a threat. So, actually, I'd rather call this year's team the Dream Team Part 2.
So the question comes into play: which team was actually better? They ran a poll on ESPN asking people which team was better. They compared all the positions (Center, Forwards, and Guards) and asked which you would prefer. And as I scanned the choices, it was impossible to vote against names like Michael Jordan, names like Magic Johnson, names like Larry Bird. And after I submitted my choices, it was very apparent that everyone else agreed with me. The original Dream Team was better in just about every position.
But I'd like to think about that for a second. Yes, the players on the original Dream Team are amazing. Probably the greatest pool of talent ever assembled in sports history. But the one thing you tend to forget is (and I mean no disrespect to any of the original Dream Team members at that time)... well, they were OLD in 1992... some of them even past their prime. Larry Bird barely played because he could barely play at 36. Johnson had already retired from the NBA after contracting HIV. David Robinson and Scottie Pippen were the youngest players at 27. Otherwise, everyone else was 29 or older, which is late in your career in the world of sports.
Meanwhile, the new team had almost equal talent. Except that the players were young! Jason Kidd was the lone exception, being the only player older than 30 at 35. But the next oldest player was Kobe Bryant at 30. And there were five players younger than 25! And when you look at the names of those five players -- Lebron James, Deron Williams, Dwight Howard, Carmelo Anthony, and Chris Bosh -- those are all almost guaranteed future Hall of Famers!
So can we really say that the original Dream Team was better? You have a bunch of guys who were pretty much all 29 and older vs. a bunch of young, athletic and super talented guys who were pretty much all 29 and under! So when you think about it, it's probably actually pretty accurate to believe that, maybe, the Redeem Team is a better team at the time of its existence. In fact, I'm willing to bet that if the 2008 Redeem Team played against the 1992 Dream Team, the Redeem Team would win because of their youth and athleticism and their talent.
And yet, even believing so, if I answered that ESPN Poll again, I'd still pick the Dream Team over the Redeem Team.
In every position.
Because frankly, it doesn't matter how old those players were. You simply CANNOT vote against Larry Bird, even at 36 with a bad back. You cannot vote against a Magic Johnson, even though he was already retired and 32. You cannot vote against Jordan, who was better at 29 than he was at 24. You cannot vote against Karl Malone, who was still ticking long after being 29 in the Dream Team. These names simply mean too much. If you love basketball like I do, you would pick the Dream Team in that poll even if they gathered those same eight players in 2000. I would still pick Larry Bird at 44 years old over anyone on the Redeem Team. You just can't disrespect these names.
Magic. Jordan. Bird. Malone. Stockton. Ewing. Barkley. Drexler.
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Super Turbo. Capcom Vs. SNK 2. Third Strike. Marvel Vs. Capcom 2.
Those are some more names that elicit the same feelings from me. The reason I brought up the Dream Team vs. the Redeem Team is because I feel about these games the same way I feel about the players on the Dream Team. And I bring this up because that seemed to be what the theme of Evolution 2008 was: the old vs. the new. While we played these four old games at one side of the room where Evo was held, at the other side of the room loomed all of the younger games ready to supplant the veterans. Street Fighter IV and Tatsunoko Vs. Capcom were being played on the cabinets in the back. STHD Remix was on an XBox 360 kiosk. BlazBlue was being played on a special setup off of a PC laptop.
It's true that the games played at Evo 2008 feel old now. All four of those games have grown fairly stale. CvS2 never has any new players in the top 8. Marvel Vs. Capcom 2 is usually fairly anti-climactic because it just didn't feel like Justin Wong would lose, despite being knocked into the Loser's Bracket. Street Fighter III: Third Strike is just Chun and Yun and Chun and Chun and Yun and Chun. And Super Street Fighter II Turbo is just as old as CPU, the player who won the Super Smash Bros. Brawl tournament!!! Just think about that for a minute. Even Tekken 5: Dark Resurrection felt old, since most Tekken players didn't even make the trek to Evo because they were too busy with Tekken 6. It's really easy to write these games off. In fact, my initial plan was to write about how old these games are and how nice it will be to move on to newer games, hopefully, for Evo 2009.
But I can't. I just can't. In the exact same way that I could never speak ill of a 36 year old Larry Bird, how can I speak ill of a 14 year old Super Turbo? As much as I dislike the smattering of Chuns and Yuns in Third Strike, can I discredit the game that gave competitive video gaming, including all genres like FPS's and RTS's, its greatest moment ever? As much as I gripe about CvS2's top 8 being the same players every year, can I deny that somehow those same top players always make CvS2 look extremely exciting? As anti-climactic as it felt when Justin Wong won MvC2 soundly in the final match-up, can I ever pretend that there is a game with more hype and more drama than MvC2? Even though the games are stale, they've all given us so much over the years that cannot be forgotten.
But that still doesn't change the fact that the general word is that the games at Evo are old and it is time for a changing of the guard. While there is still a chance that one or two of those four games may return for Evo next year, it's pretty much a consensus amongst the Fighting Game community that a bunch of new games will be good for Evo next year. Many people considered this to be CvS2's final run. Most people have already figured that STHD Remix will replace Super Turbo. And you know a ton of people were playing Tatsunoko Vs. Capcom trying to evaluate if it could possibly be the next MvC2. And quite naturally, wouldn't Street Fighter FOUR replace Street Fighter THREE? So some new pedigree is definitely welcome.
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In the past couple of years, I spoke about each and every game individually to give an idea of how I felt about the games. I'm not sure if I can do the same this year. There just isn't as much to say about each individual game this year because there IS this feeling of change. But I will still give it a shot, but I will be fair: I'm not only going to talk about the 6 games played at Evo, I will also include thoughts on the 4 new games on display. And since I have so many games to talk about, I'm gonna keep it short for each game.
Super Street Fighter II Turbo - I think America is at an all-time high for hype on this game in the past 10 years, despite it being 14 years old. Two things have helped turn Super Turbo into the "hot shit" this past year: the awesome online play of GGPO and the advent of STHD Remix. These two things have spawned a resurrection of Super Turbo interest. And now we can add a third thing to the list: John Choi's victory. It makes us feel like America, after already having Alex Wolfe and Jason Nelson win Anniversary Edition, has reached a point where we can legitimately challenge the Japanese. It's interesting to me that the OLDEST game is the one with the biggest upswing in interest. It's a sign that this really is truly one of if not THE greatest Fighting Games of all time. And though it most likely will be replaced by HD Remix next year, at least it still lives on in some form.
Capcom Vs. SNK 2 - Last year, I said there weren't enough up and comers in CvS2. And this year was no different. Let me update my count from last year. Since 2004, the top 8 American finalists in CvS2 have been Ricky Ortiz (4 times), Justin Wong (4 times), Peter "Combofiend" Rosas (4 times), Campbell "Buktooth" Tran (4 times), John Choi (3 times), Kim-Hahn "Ohayo1234" Hoang (2 times), and Gene "Hail and Kill" Wong (2 times) with Eddie Lee also reaching the finals in 2004. On the Japanese side, we have had Kindevu (4 times), Bas (3 times), Tokido (2 times), RF (2 times), and a four others who have each made one Top 8 (Daigo, Mago, Nuki, and Dan). That means out of 40 possible spots, all but 5 of them have been players that have made it to the Top 8 more than once, and Dan has only come to one Evo, Nuki doesn't play CvS2 anymore, and Mago and hasn't been to Evo since 2005. In other words, nothing has changed. CvS2 needs some new pedigree, and I honestly don't think it'll ever happen. I will never claim that the Finals aren't exciting (this year in particular was exciting thanks, again, in part to John Choi's amazing finish in 1st place). They always are, but I just don't think there is any room left for this game to grow in America.
Street Fighter III: Third Strike - This year, in the Top 8, we had Chun, Chun, Chun, Chun, Chun, and Yun. In 2007, we had Chun, Chun, Chun, and Chun. In 2006, we had Yun, Yun, Yun, Yun, Chun, Chun, and Chun. In 2005, we had Chun, Chun, Chun, Chun, Chun, Yun, and Yun. I don't think there's anything left to say about this game.
Marvel Vs. Capcom 2 - Of the four "old" games I've been talking about MvC2 suffered the most by the lower turn out. Many of the East Coast's greatest players did NOT make it out to Evo. There was no Yipes, there was no Santhrax, and there was no Demon Hyo. And thus, the number of people able to make an interesting Finals were down to but a few, namely SmoothViper and Chunksta. Otherwise, there was few who could provide an adequate challenge to Justin regaining the MvC2 crown. But it goes beyond just the Finals: even during the course of Evo, the presence of MvC2 felt a bit smaller than usual. I know it is more difficult for the East Coasters to make it out to Vegas for Evo than it is for the West Coasters, so all I will allow myself to say is that I really hope that more MvC2 players will take a real consideration to make it out to Evo next year if MvC2 remains. There is no community like the MvC2 community, period.
Tekken 5: Dark Resurrection - Again, not much to say about this game. The turnout was around 75 or so players, which was extremely low. But Tekken 6 is where the focus of the community lies now. So this was almost a throwaway year for Tekken. I can't imagine Tekken 6 not being at Evo 2009 next year, and hopefully the majority of the Tekken community will come to Evo along with it.
Super Smash Bros. Brawl - *Phew.* Man, do I really wanna talk about this game? Controversy, controversy, controversy. Evo 2008 chose to run the game with items, and as a result, the Smash Community turned away in droves. The results have been questioned by the entire community, including their champion, CPU, himself. Even after Evo was done, the drama continued online. And as a result, a lot of friction has been created between the Smash community and the Evo community. It's been argued from members of both sides, though, that Smash doesn't need Evo and Evo doesn't need Smash. But to me, that's just a lot of bravado. Because frankly, despite what a few people want to believe, Smash Bros. Brawl IS a Fighting Game. And a darn good one. And though Smash and Evo may not NEED each other, it would be beneficial for both sides to continue forward with a amicable relationship and I truly believe both sides desire that, despite the claims to the contrary. Last year and this year could not have been more polar opposite on how the Smash community felt about Evo. Hopefully, next year, we can go back to the first year's mood if Smash comes back.
Street Fighter HD Remix / Super Turbo HD Remix / Whatever It's Gonna Be Officially Called - It'll be wonderful to bring a 14 year old game into the modern generation of consoles. Whether we play Remix Mode or not, just the fact that we can get the game on modern consoles with HD graphics and present it to a completely new audience is very exciting. With ST on an upswing in popularity already, STHD will be a real boon to the Fighting Game community. And having a hopefully more balanced game in Remix Mode will also be very welcome, injecting some new life into the game. The only shame that using Remix Mode will bring is the fact that we will then have an upper hand against the Japanese players, which is rough after such a breakout year for the U.S. at Evo 2008. If the Japanese players can also obtain HD Remix and embrace it, then it will be a better situation. But I'd hate to win ST at Evo and then skew everything so that we have the upper hand, unable to defend and prove our growth in the game on equal playing grounds.
BlazBlue - I didn't see much of the game, so I can't really say much about it. I will say that it looks beautiful, and that the things that I did see were great. The game looks like it bleeds creativity, and there are a lot of really interesting ideas in the game (not only with character specific stuff, but with things like adding full-fledged okizeme games into a 2-D fighter). So I can't wait to see more of this game and to learn more about it. And the Guilty Gear community looked extremely excited about the game.
Tatsunoko Vs. Capcom - This game looks awfully impressive so far. There is definitely a lot of tweaking needed to be done for the game, but it's early in development, so you can forgive a few things like Alex's super broken combo (which I heard is already removed from the newer versions of the game). I think this game has a lot of promise and everyone playing it seemed to be greatly excited by it. Will it be an MvC2 potential replacement? Hard to say... they are both similar but still very different. Plus, the question of whether or no the game will even be released in America is still unanswered. So if you want it here, make sure Capcom here's your pleas.
Street Fighter IV - Street Fighter IV is the perfect Fighting Game. No, actually, it sucks. No, actually, it doesn't really matter at all. It doesn't matter what I say about the game, because what this game has done is shocking, to say the least. There is a level of hype for this game that I haven't seen in the Fighting Game community in a long time. We had four setups of this game at Evo, and they were being played NON-STOP. Lines were piling up to play it. And even strangers who wandered by and peeked into the hall saw the banners we had, and were sucked in and excited by it. The internet has expressed so much anticipation for this game. And I think that Capcom has done a fantastic thing. They've managed to transition the game into 3-D with a VERY interesting and unique art style while preserving core Street Fighter gameplay. Hopefully, the Fighting Game community will experience a huge boost thanks to this game, and I gotta imagine that its inclusion into the Evo 2009 lineup is all but guaranteed. (As an aside, in case anyone really DOES wonder what I think about the game, I think though it has a very basic feel to it, it has huge potential. And I am curious to see what high level play will look like once everyone grows more accustomed to it.)
And before I stop, I need to add one more paragraph here:
Guilty Gear XX Accent Core - Talk about your turnarounds. After the disaster (my words) involving the Guilty Gear community and the Finals at Evo last year, this year showed mw that this community is not only still alive and kicking, but more dedicated to their game than I thought. I challenged them last year to prove themselves, and after Guilty Gear was revealed to not be in the Evo 2008 lineup, I challenged them to make it out to Evo anyhow and show me how dedicated their community was. So did they do it? They did and how! They ran two tournaments that weekend (a singles and a team tournament) and both had high numbers (the singles tourney had more players than one or two of the official Evo games). Both were run well and both had a lot of hype. And they did not interfere with the main Evo tournaments at all (outside of Hellmonkey stealing a TV without asking me... ~_^). So I have to give this community their props. I like what I saw. I can't guarantee anything for next year, especially because so many new games are coming out, but I can speak for myself when I say I took notice. And that makes me happy because, as I admitted last year, I am a huge fan of Guilty Gear.
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So maybe it is time to say adieu to a bunch of older games, but I will definitely never forget how great those games have been to Evo in the past few years. They can be considered the Dream Team, much like the 1992 U.S. Basketball Olympic Team. But after a year that people have been claiming that the Fighting Game genre has been growing stale, maybe it's time for us to get our own Redeem Team as well. No, scratch that. There is no redemption here. What we need is the Dream Team Part 2.
Here's to looking forward, already, to Evo 2009!