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Melee’s Farewell to Evo

Fernando Mendez | Posted on March 22, 2019

One of Evo’s most popular games is absent this year

Evo is the biggest and most prestigious fighting game tournament. It’s a yearly event where the best fighting game players from all over the world go to Las Vegas to see who the best is. The tournament has around eight to nine main games which are the main focus of the event. Basically, when a game makes it to the Evo lineup it usually means that the game is popular and relevant at the time. In 2013, Evo announced a donation drive to vote on the eighth game for the tournament. The competitive community for Super Smash Bros. Melee raised around $95,000, securing their stay at Evo. Ever since, Melee has been one of the main games, consistently being one of the most viewed games in the tournament and solidifying Melee as one of the mainstays in Evo for six years.

Melee’s Farewell to Evo

Melee was the second most watched game at Evo 2018

Melee was the second most watch game in Evo 2018

But here we are now. On February 26, the official lineup has been announced for Evo 2019 with no sign of Melee in the roster. It has games people expect like Street Fighter V, Dragon Ball Fighterz, Smash Bros Ultimate, and Tekken 7, but Melee is nowhere to be seen. When I first saw the initial lineup I was shocked. I couldn’t comprehend why they would throw away one of the most popular games from their previous lineups. According to newzoo, in Evo 2018 Melee was the second most-watched game on Twitch and YouTube Gaming with 907k hours. I wasn’t the only person that was confused. Several top-level players, such as Mang0 and Hungrybox, have publicly shown their distaste for the lineup. One of the main issues people have with the roster are the two games that seem to stick out from the rest. One of these games is Samurai Shodown, the successor to SNK’s previous fighting game franchise with the same name. After watching the trailer the game seems fine. However, there’s one problem, it hasn’t released yet. Another controversial pick is Under Night In-Birth Exe: Late [st], or UNIST for short. UNIST is an anime-based fighting game released in 2015 that has never been a mainline game in Evo before. These games have not seen much light in the fighting game community as much as its competitors so why were they chosen for Evo?

Melee’s Farewell to Evo

Melee Top 8 at Evo 2013

Melee Top 8 at Evo 2013

I believe that Evo is giving UNIST and Samurai Shodown the same chance they gave Melee in 2013. Let’s go back in time to 2013. The Melee competitive scene was not as popular as it is today. Interest in Melee dropped and the community struggled to keep their game relevant. The only thing keeping them afloat was the community that continued to support their game with barely any support from big corporations or sponsors. When Evo accepted Melee in 2013, the competitive scene of the game flourished. Even though there were threats from Nintendo to shut down the event it still continued. With over 700 participants, the event was an example of the amount of passion Melee fans have for their game. After this, Melee would flourish with six fantastic Evo runs along with several other tournaments spanning throughout the years. For me, Evo is the sole reason I’m interested in watching competitive Melee. This inspirational story depicting a community succeeding against all odds shows me how much people care for this old GameCube game. Every year following that moment, I would watch Evo with the anticipation of watching some Melee action.

Melee’s Farewell to Evo

UNIST

Under Night In-Birth

If it wasn’t for Evo I probably wouldn’t be interested in competitive Melee today. So what’s to say the same thing won’t happen for UNIST or Samurai Shodown? I mean there are many other fighting games that also deserve a shot at the main Evo lineup. Games such as Skullgirls, Marvel vs. Capcom, and King of Fighters have all been requested for the main Evo lineup. UNIST has a similar story to Melee. UNIST is a game that hasn’t been in many major events, yet continues to stick around because of its passionate community. Nearly three years after its arcade release in Japan, the most definitive version of the game has been localized and released in the United States. UNIST purely survived in the competitive atmosphere through the community that supports it. I haven’t had much exposure to the competitive side of UNIST aside from a regional fighting game tournament I went to last month. Now that it’s been announced for Evo my interest in the game has piqued. This could be what UNIST needs to be a popular mainstay in the fighting game community.

Melee’s Farewell to Evo

Samurai Shodown

Samurai Shodown

In defense of Samurai Shodown, I see it as a return for SNK. SNK has been known for creating excellent fighting games such as King of Fighters and the old Samurai Shodown games. Samurai Shodown’s inclusion could mark a triumphant return for SNK. The only information we have on the game is through a few trailers released after the game’s announcement for Evo. The game looks visually impressive and looks like it aims to focus on grounded footsies and whiff punishing as the bulk of its gameplay. While it may be an oddball choice, I’m definitely excited to give this new game a try.

Melee’s Farewell to Evo

Leffen's win in Evo 2018

Leffen’s win in Evo 2018

While I’m disappointed by Melee’s absence from Evo, I’m also excited about the new games that will be shown in the event. Melee has had a good run in Evo, but it’s time to hand down the torch to some other games that deserve as much attention as Melee received. This doesn’t mean competitive Melee is done for. Melee is far from dying. Unlike Marvel vs Capcom Infinite, a game cut from the Evo lineup last year, Melee has had time to solidify itself as a competitive eSport. Even with Super Smash Bros. Ultimate taking some of the spotlight, Melee will never die. The game will only die if the community lets it die, not because a major tournament decided to cut it from the main lineup. Just like UNIST, the community will continue to keep their game alive without the need for Evo. Instead of getting mad at the tournament organizers, we should look back at the memories Evo has given us and look forward to the future.

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