Updated: Jan 28
The world’s most prestigious fighting game series returned this weekend, and it was interesting to say the least. Though some of the current narratives in Tekken had many people dreading the event, it was something we had been looking forward to since the day TWT Finals ended.
We’ll be the first ones to say that we weren't fully satisfied with the way the 2019 season ended for us. However, there’s no doubt that we’re proud of how far we’ve come in just one year. That was clear when you saw the rowdy GG section in the crowd supporting our boys. It’s important to remember that there’s a huge difference between proud and satisfied. For what we expected of ourselves, and what was expected of us, we underplaced in TWT Finals last year. The pain of early exits were compounded by the heartbreaking moments that capped them off. We all still feel like we have kidney stones after that rage art...
Sure, it was most of our players’ first TWT Finals. Sure, we haven’t been on the global scene for very long. We could hug to those excuses tight, hide behind them, or use them to make ourselves feel good for a while. That doesn’t change the facts. We’d much rather hear all the talk of “Flukistan” and washed up Saint and use it as bulletin board material.
Unfortunately, the evil villain, 'Master Visa,' kept us from being at 100% of our power. Our boys, Awais Honey and Atif Butt, were unable to attend because of said issues. It was disappointing, to say the least. Heartbreaking even. 'Master Visa' couldn’t keep us from having a dog in the fight, though. Luckily we still had Sainto-kun attending to try to avenge his teammates in an anime-style revenge arc. Even though he didn’t manage to crack the top 8, he put on one of the more electric performances of the weekend.
Saint set an exciting tone for the rest of his 2020 season with the performance. More importantly, he was able to debut his Ganryu play to the world on a huge global stage. Even though he hasn’t had a ton of time with the character yet, it’s clear that he’s gonna wreck some people's weekend with this character for a long time to come. Check out the best clip of the weekend from Saint’s performance here:
So, how was EVO Japan Tekken as a Whole?
Evo Japan very well could have been ruined by the plague of Leroy Smith. The hype of the coolest, most stylish original Tekken character to be added in years, maybe ever, quickly turned to rage when people finally got their hands on him. Long story short, the character has more tools, better tools, and better frames than any character currently in the game. It’s a hard observation to argue. The community had a bit of a collective uproar about it. The narrative upon release was overwhelmingly about how his dominance will be all but inevitable. The character has so much going for it, that he’ll be a juggernaut in the hands of top-level pro players.
It’s undeniable that this narrative unfolded for us at Evo Japan. Just look at the landscape. Evo Japan had 6 Leroy players in the top 8. Even leading up to top 8, there was a ridiculous amount of Leroy mirrors. There were character specialists switching from their tried and true mains to Leroy in the middle of an important set (oftentimes to overcome an opposing Leroy). Some of the most accomplished Tekken players of all time: Arslan Ash, Jimmyjtran, Knee, Nobi, and MANY others were sent to losers and/or exited the tournament early at the hands of Leroy.
Story-lines like this can easily ruin the spectator experience for a tournament. The lack of character diversity, and the dominance of one particular character is not what we’ve come to love about Tekken, certainly.
The response turned out to be quite the opposite, though. Instead of writing off the 75% Leroy top 8 as a wash, the community just decided that the Evo Japan story just has a powerful antagonist. The spectators set a bounty of ridiculous hype on his head. The two non-Leroy players (Mikio with Julia and Ulsan with Kazumi/Bob) had the opportunity to become one of the biggest heroes in recent Tekken history if they could kill all the Leroys and take the throne.
They came close, but no dice. Ulsan took home fourth place, but fought valiantly. He definitely continued his strong momentum from his second place finish at TWT Finals. It was his first tournament under his new sponsor, EQNX. Both he and the team are overjoyed with the performance. Mikio, mostly unknown to the scene at large before this tournament, took home second place. It was without a doubt the most impressive placing of his career. All of a sudden this lesser-known player had 99% of the world rooting for him. His Julia play was ridiculously fun to watch. His mix-up game was strong. He pulled out the entire arsenal, and partied without going too crazy. Even when he was facing an onslaught, he fought without fear and stood his ground. He gave us a hero to cheer for. There’s no doubt he can go home happy with his performance, and with a ton of new support to show for it.
Leroy did end up taking the whole tournament. The evil did take the throne, but we MUST shout out the pilot of the character, Book. Book is a very well-known and well-liked player, mostly known for his Jin play. Though he’s been one of the top players for a while now, that one, huge major victory has always seemed to elude him.
He’s made so many top 8's and has been left playing bridesmaid nearly every time. Finally, he takes home that major with an EVO Japan title. If ANY Leroy had to win, I think many people would agree that they’re glad it’s Book. He works incredibly hard, loves the game, and being from Thailand, does an incredible amount of traveling to make it to all the tournaments that he does. Hard work is rewarded, Leroy aside. He picked to win and played to win, and he won. Great work to a VERY deserving player. He capped off the tournament in a hilarious way that captured everyone’s feelings. When asked if he had any words, all he said was, “Uh, yes. Pick Leroy.” It was a great show of self awareness, humor, and humility. Don’t sell yourself short, Book, you’re a beast.
This weekend really speaks to how great of a game Tekken 7 is, though many would view it as the opposite. You could view the game’s health and balance as at an all time low with little argument. Somehow, we still ended up with an incredibly exciting top 8 with enough hype to hold us over until TWT starts. Even if it was relatively negative in nature, people still can’t stop talking about Tekken. People still can’t stop finding hype in it. We’re still so excited to be a part of it. See you at the next battle.
Written by Mayo
Edited by Sauce