Evolution Championship Series 2017

It's the pinnacle of all fighting games. It's the top.

I was at EVO 2017 to show my Tekken skills. I had one of the more amazing experiences of my life so far. However, let's go back to the beginning.

The Origins

I first learned about Tekken at work last year, when I saw Nick, one of my coworkers, watching a gameplay video of a large Mexican wrestler in a jaguar mask throwing people around. Unfamiliar, I asked him what it was, learning it was a fighting game. I thought to myself: "fighting games are really boring", thinking back to the times I played through the story mode of Injustice, finding the fights getting in the way of the plot. Nick explained to me that the character’s name is King and how badass he is. I wanted to try him out for myself, so I went to GameStop and picked up a copy of Tekken Tag Tournament 2 for the PS3. I got home, popped it in, and looked through the character roster. There were a lot of really quirky characters: some had tall hair, others were animals, and some of them were old people that looked way too ripped for their own good. However, King stood out from the crowd.

Tijuana Twister

I gave King a shot in arcade mode. I mashed buttons and he did a throw where he picked up the opponent and smashed him into the ground. I paused the game and was like "whoa that was pretty sick, how did I do that?" I quit out of arcade mode and went into practice mode. It was then I was revealed to the insane glory that is King.

Reverse Special Stretch Bomb

King has a move called the “Reverse Special Stretch Bomb” in which he grabs the opponent and spins himself which is pretty awesome. Seeing what else he could do, I saw "During Reverse Special Stretch Bomb" and was confused. In Tekken's practice mode you are able to see a demo of what the move is supposed to look like, so I played it. What happened next blew my mind. King did the initial grab and flipped over his victim, picked him up with one arm, and smashed him into the ground. I was like "this is amazing!" I looked through his command list and it said "During Cannonball Buster (another throw move that is chained from the previous one)" and thought: "there's more?!" and indeed there was. King was apparently known in the series for his chain throws that caused countless rage quits over the years.

Rolling Death Cradle

The Rolling Death Cradle (RDC) is one of the flashiest chain throw moves in the game, for good reason. It does a good chunk of damage and your opponent is helpless if they don't break the initial grab. My current tournament handle is Rolling Deaf Cradle in homage to that move.

Going to EVO

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't nervous at the thought of going. EVO is huge - hosting multiple games during the span of a weekend. Tekken alone garnered over a thousand entrants. However, I am glad that I ended up going because I absolutely enjoyed myself. I met countless people all striving to become better at the game and to share their knowledge with other players. The community was definitely very accepting, some people that I met at EVO knew me already through the Boston Tekken scene, and even invited me to their hotel rooms to play a few rounds! I was amazed at how a game could bring together so many people from diverse backgrounds.

Playing at EVO

EVO is set up in a double elimination tournament format. You lose two matches, you're out. However, that's for the lower part of the tournament, dubbed "pools." Pools are where players can prove themselves to move up through the ranks and challenge some of the more famous Tekken players. It serves as a way to filter down the best 64 people out of all the entrants. I lost out in pools due to tournament nerves, but I did get to continue playing in some casual games, letting me meet even more people. A lot of the more famous people were playing on the big screen and their matches were streamed. Some notable names in the Tekken scene I personally played against were: Renoface, KoDee, OffInBed, StillElectric, and Bank.

The Finals at EVO

This years EVO finals were hosted at the Mandalay Bay Events Center rather than the convention center due to how many people signed up. It was probably the most hype thing I've ever been a part of. Seeing the top eight duke it out in a battle of wits, guts, and luck in a legitimate stadium was amazing. The people from Boston and I flipped our shit when Harada, the brainchild behind the entire Tekken series, announced Geese Howard as the first guest character for DLC. Geese Howard is a character from a different fighting game called Fatal Fury, and it was the second time a 2D fighting game character was included in Tekken; the first being Akuma from Street Fighter. All of this was definitely a step up from the small venues that I've participated in tournaments at before.

Final Round

All in all, EVO 2017 was a fantastic experience. I absolutely loved the entire environment of everyone pushing each other to become better at Tekken and how the fighting game community is so open to new players. Tekken isn't simply a game, but it's a battleground where countless people pour their heart and soul in order to grasp victory. In doing so, you learn more about yourself and your opponent.