For the first time since it was released in 2016, Street Fighter V won’t be the final headlining event that concludes the Evolution Championship Series this weekend. Instead, that honour goes to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. This is the first time in the history of the series that it’s ever received top-billing at the event.
When the organisers of Evo first announced this year’s prospective line-up of game tournaments that would be featured on the main stage, some were outraged that Smash Bros. Melee hadn’t made the cut. The game may be old, but year after year, its top players still have managed to put on a great show. While some perceived Melee getting replaced by Ultimate as a slight, it was also a credit to the success of Smash Ultimate in bringing new players into the fold while also capturing the interest of veterans from throughout the series’ past. Enough, at least, to convince Evo to make it this year’s finale.
The move is also surprising given the deeply entrenched sentiment among some corners of the fighting game community that Smash Bros. isn’t an authentic fighting game series in the same way as, say, Street Fighter, which has traditionally been the cornerstone of every Evo. But the registration numbers for Ultimate tell a different story. 3,492 people are competing in this year’s Smash Ultimate tournament, as compared to 1,929 competing in Street Fighter V, which is down just over 20 per cent from the year prior. Kids these days wanna Smash.
Of course, Evo is about more than just the headliners. Tekken 7, Mortal Kombat 11, Soulcalibur VI, Under Night In-Birth Exe: Late[st], Dragon Ball FighterZ, Blazblue Cross Tag Battle, and Samurai Shodown are also being featured, the last of which I’m particularly excited to see unfold, given how veteran players from other games like Christopher “NYChrisG” Gonzalez and Justin “JWong” Wong have been tearing it up in the relatively nascent scene.
Evo 2019 gets underway today, August 2, at 6:00 pm UK time with competitive pools across every game. The big finale for the day is the Soul Calibur VI finals, which are technically tomorrow at 4:00 am. Here’s the complete schedule for the rest of the weekend:
Saturday, August 3
6:00 pm – Under Night In-Birth Exe: Late[st]
9:00 pm – Dragon Ball FighterZ
12:00 am – Samurai Shodown
Sunday, August 4
4:00 am – Mortal Kombat 11
5:00 pm – BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle
8:00 pm – Street Fighter V
11:30 pm – Tekken 7
Monday, August 5
3:00 am – Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
There are also a tonne of side tournaments at the event, including not just well-known games like Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and Smash Bros. Melee, but also a bunch of smaller competitive ones, including a Puyo Puyo Champions tournament that begins today at 8:00 pm UK time over on pxmacaiah’s Twitch channel. Also, at 2:00 am UK time tomorrow morning, a small Catherine tournament will be hosted on the same channel. These side events are all being organised under the banner of Anime Evo, which has a full schedule and list of corresponding streams over here.