This article is part of our Super Smash Bros. series.
Evolution 2017 or more commonly known as "EVO" is widely regarded as the premiere fighting-game championship in the world. With over 3,000 competitors doing battle between Super Smash Bros. Melee and Smash 4, there was certainly plenty to talk about. Here's the top-five takeaways from EVO 2017.
Upset of the Year
Arguably the most distinguished highlight from Smash Bros was Saleem "Salem" Young's Grand Finals win over former EVO champion Gonzalo "ZeRo" Barrios. Chilean-born ZeRo is widely considered to be the best Smash 4 player of all time, and he boasts the trophy cabinet to back that up. The Smash 4 bracket told that same tale as ZeRo comfortably navigated the winners bracket advancing into Grand Finals. Someone had to rise up from an edgey lower bracket and take two sets off the greatest player in the world to walk away with first place status; that opportunity happened to land in the hands of Salem. The Grand Finals set persisted over 40 grueling minutes, reaching Game 5 twice and eventually reducing both players to their last life. At this point in the match, ZeRo held a heavy advantage with his opponent in definite KO percentage, forcing Salem to approach the battle with extreme precision. Salem capitalized, magnificently stringing together the combo that was necessary in order to topple ZeRo and KO him off the top of the stage.
Was Armada unstoppable or Mang0 subpar?
The Melee Grand Finals set at EVO 2017 between Joseph "Mang0" Marquez and Andreas "Armada" Lindgren may not have been the exhilarating match spectators had been hoping for as it was clearly one-sided in favor of Armada. Melee as a spectator sport, is a game that is enjoyed most being competed at its' highest amplitude. The set between Armada and Mang0 came across as anything but that. Mang0 was clearly distressed as the games continuously swung towards Armada, and as a result, appeared defeated before the set was finished. Specifically, it was Armada's irreproachable edgeguarding that was the clear ingredient in defeating Mang0 in the Grand Finals. Bottom line, Armada's gameplay was simply consistent and flawless, so much so that it through a normally consistent Mang0 off his game.
EVO 2017 showcased some fairly enjoyable and refreshing character representations in Smash 4, specifically. Given the high entrant count, surpassing 1,500 players, EVO was bound to come in contact with "lower tier" characters which made for some interesting sets. Most of the representations came from Japanese players, who in history, gravitate towards more gimmicky characters. Many fans either in-person or online had the pleasure of seeing characters such as Toon Link, Duck Hunt, Jigglypuff, and Pit, being represented at a high-level for the first time. Unconventional tournament characters shook up the battleground, utilizing a wide variety of unseen combos, often troubling higher caliber players. Japanese player Tomoyasu "Earth" Yamakawa's set against Chris "WaDi" Boston showed just that. Earth's Pit took a more seasoned WaDi and his Mewtwo to Game 3, in one instance reflecting a charged shadow ball to take a quick stock from the American. Seeing these characters appear in tournaments and performing well is absorbing and original, nonetheless at EVO.
You Never Know What's Going to Happen
Commentators mentioned this throughout the course of the tournament, and it was never more true than EVO 2017. Ryan "The Moon" Coker-Welch was one of the individuals to come out of the woodworks for a major run. A Melee Marth main, projected to finish near the top-16, The Moon, wrestled through an unforgiving lower bracket, crossing swords with James "Duck" Ma and Daniel "ChuDat" Rodriguez, discharging both from EVO before squaring up against his greatest challenge, William "Leffen" Hjelte. Leffen, widely considered to be a class above the majority of Melee players, including The Moon, was thwarted in Game 3 and eliminated in a sheer demonstration of professional Marth gameplay.
Evolution of Smash
Melee, released in 2001, is the oldest game to still be competed at a major level. 16 years later, Melee packs stadiums and surpassed an online viewer count of 150,000 concurrent viewers during this year's finals. Primarily accredited to the evolution of the game over the years is the discovery of new exploits, techniques and tactical advantages that has enabled the game to grow beyond what developers had ever intended. Although there is a feeling that Melee is beginning to stagnate, Super Smash Bros fans can finally look up to it's predecessor, Smash 4. Smash 4, comparatively new to Melee, has only been around for roughly three years. At EVO 2017, spectators observed first-hand the game evolving. Players utilized techniques and strategies that thicken competition and overall raise the skill ceiling for the game.