Street Fighter 5's salty runback potential, Guilty Gear on home turf, Tekken gods clash, Smash brings the character specialists - EVO Japan preview

When are the finals? Who's coming? What are the storylines? All this and more revealed right here

Posted by Nicholas 'MajinTenshinhan' Taylor • January 24, 2018 at 7:51 p.m. PST | Comments: 29

With EVO Japan 2018 around the corner, it only felt pertinent to jot up a preview for the event for all of our loyal readers.

Although I already did one piece that talked about the entrant numbers for each game, this time I will be focusing more on what to expect from the event from each game, beyond just the large entrant sizes.

The year has only just begun, but we're going to see a gathering of some of the best players in the entire world, and the place these battles will take place is in Japan, the home of some of the most legendary players the genre has ever seen.

With 7 titles getting main stage action, this is going to be a very big deal, so you'd best tune in and enjoy the show when it kicks off Friday morning Japan Standard Time.

Until then, here's some information and a few writeups to tide you over.

Street Fighter 5: Arcade Edition

Number of entrants: 2217
Top 8 timeslot: Sunday 05:40 PM JST
10 notable players attending: FOX|Tokido, Rise|MenaRD, AW|Nemo, YouDeal|Yukadon, DNG|Itabashi Zangief, Ponos|Moke, CO|Dogura, GRPT|Haitani, GRPT|Fuudo, CYG|Daigo

By all counts, this is as big as Street Fighter 5 events get.

As the event's name suggests, we truly have another EVO on our hands. Just look at those 10 names listed there, we've got multiple EVO champions ready to battle it out.

Obviously, many international players have made the trip to fight in Street Fighter 5 as well, so whichever region you're from, odds are that one of your countrymen is attending the Street Fighter 5 tournament at EVO Japan. Make sure to cheer them on.

Although one of 2017's biggest MVPs PG|Punk isn't going to be at the event, we just might get to see a rematch of the Capcom Cup 2017 grand finals which shook the whole community between FOX|Tokido and Rise|MenaRD.

Of course, that means they'd both have to battle their way to the top 8, which is a very tall order indeed. With all the absolute beasts attending this event, it's going to be a slaughter through and through from the very earliest stage of pools.

Adding to just the pure talent level present, this is also a brand new version that players haven't gotten used to yet. We're hearing a lot of Japanese players saying that Sakura seems really bad, and although it's a bit early for her to shine, you never know, we might see some real pros get caught off guard much like they were against Birdie just a few months ago.

Whatever the case may be, this is an absolute gigantic event featuring an downright unreal talent pool, very recent balance changes and brand new V-Triggers for the whole cast. If that's not a recipe for hype, I don't know what is.

Guilty Gear Xrd REV 2

Number of entrants: 1187
Top 8 timeslot: Sunday 02:10 PM JST
10 notable players attending: Omito, Tomo, Machabo, Ogawa, Samitto, Nage, Haaken, Zadi, Ruki, Fumo

Japan is the veritable Mecca of Guilty Gear, and we've got almost 1200 players gathered to show their awesome skills to the world via live broadcast.

Anyone who follows the Japanese Guilty Gear scene knows very well the absolutely insane level of play that's seen here on a regular basis, not least from the regular Mikado broadcasts courtesy of Joniosan.

This isn't casuals, though. The stakes are high, and this is an actual EVO event right on their home turf.

There are obviously international players attending as well, who will have the incredibly difficult task of trying to defeat the Japanese gods and titans in their home, where they're the most comfortable and collected.

For any Japanese Guilty Gear Xrd player, there's no room for excuses. Home turf, high stakes, the game they've devoted their lives to, this is the ultimate stage of battle for Guilty Gear Xrd REV 2.

There's really nothing more to say beyond Heaven or Hell - Duel One - Let's Rock!

Tekken 7

Number of entrants: 1202
Top 8 timeslot: Sunday 11:05 AM JST
10 notable players attending: FOX|JDCR, Qudans, FOX|Saint, Yamasa|Nobi, COOASGAMES|Noroma, Knee, PBE|Doujin, PG|Speedkicks, Yamasa|Take, UYU|Jeondding

South Korea is by far the most famed region when it comes to Tekken mastery, though Japan is not very far behind.

That's why it's going to be such a glorious experience seeing a tournament of this caliber being played out close to the home base, with over 1200 players attending.

Obviously there's some non-Asian players coming to fight as well - you can see U.S. representative PG|Speedkicks listed right above - but the sheer amount of top level Asian players at EVO Japan 2018 is going to be a sight to behold indeed.

Not only do we have the EVO 2017 champion FOX|JDCR coming to defend his title as the EVO chief, but we also have the other two EVO champions from Tekken 7's competitive lifespan, FOX|Saint and Yamasa|Nobi.

Disregarding EVO for a second though, we also have the legend himself, Qudans, who took home the Tekken World Tour Championship in November of last year, outplaying and outplacing every other player who had qualified for the event, including the three names listed above.

While we've seen complaints in comment sections about Tekken 7 always boiling down to FOX|JDCR and FOX|Saint in the end, the latter half of 2017 was a very clear indicator that although those two players are icons for a reason, them being undisputed at the top is simply not the case.

With Qudans, COOASGAMES|Noroma, Knee and all these other Tekken masters attending, anything can happen. We might see the EchoFox boys in Grand Finals, but it'd be a fool's choice to bet money on it.

Super Smash Bros. 4

Number of entrants: 757
Top 8 timeslot: Sunday 08:00 AM JST
10 notable players attending: FOX|MKLeo, KEN, P1|Tweek, 2GG|Komorikiri, Abadango, DNG|Kameme, PG|MVD, Earth, DNG|Nietono, PG|Esam

Contrary to the other games being played at EVO Japan 2018, it's hard to argue that Japan is actually a dominant region in this particular game.

Indeed, entrants are much lower than they were in Las Vegas last year, but that doesn't mean the stakes aren't high. The mere fact that 757 can be called "relatively low attendance" is actually mind-boggling when you think about it.

One thing that's always been particularly exciting about the really big Smash events is to see the Japanese players coming out, partly because they're a rarity to see with such an American-based tournament scene, but also because there are so many interesting character specialists in Japan that make it really far.

Abadango first made headlines in the game's early days when he placed at tournaments with Pac-Man of all characters, and since then he's continuously developed other characters before they grabbed mainstream appeal, including Meta Knight and Mewtwo.

We'd also be remiss not to mention DNG|Kameme, who blew the audience away when he reached second place at EVO 2016 (then going by the name Kamemushi), mainly by employing the Blue Bomber himself, Mega Man.

Another one to watch is Earth, generally accepted as the best Pit player in the world.

Of course, all of these Japanese prodigies have their work cut out for them, because although the international players aren't all showing up, some of the very best and brightest indeed are.

It'll be a tall order to bring down Mexico's FOX|MKLeo, especially after his victory at the juggernaut event Genesis 5 just last week. On top of that, U.S.A. players P1|Tweek, PG|MVD and PG|Esam are all frequent top 8 placers at major events, so this'll definitely be a struggle for everyone involved.

BlazBlue: Central Fiction

Number of entrants: 595
Top 8 timeslot: Saturday 02:20 PM JST
10 notable players attending: CO|Fenrich, BE|DoraBang, Fumi, IGS|Monster, Souji, Tochigin, Mt. Takao, Meister, YMST, PONOS|Garireo

Although EVO 2017's champion Ryusei seems to be conspicuously absent from the event despite it taking place in his home country (his Twitter suggests he's been grinding Street Fighter 5 since his victory in July), that doesn't mean the event's BlazBlue: Central Fiction tournament isn't jam packed with talent.

CO|Fenrich, the second placer at EVO 2017 might not get his revenge against Ryusei, but he can at least hope for redemption in the form of victory at this event, though it will obviously not be easy to come by.

While he hasn't posted nearly as impressive results as of late, PONOS|Garireo was the EVO champion back in 2014, winning against CO|Dogura in a set that's gone down in the hall of fame as one of the most exciting matches ever played on the EVO stage. A player capable of a showing like that is never to be counted out.

Most of the usual suspects from last year's EVO top 8 are present as well - Fumi, IGS|Monster, Tochigin, Souji, Mt. Takao and DoraBang - they're all here to try and get what they couldn't last time.

Obviously, the competition is even fiercer this tme around. With entrant numbers higher than they were in Las Vegas last July, and it being based in the most skilled region for BlazBlue play in the world, this tournament is practically scripted for some major shakeups.

If you've filled out a fantasy bracket for this event, don't be surprised if you get all of your top 8 picks wrong. It's a jungle out there, disorder and confusion everywhere.

King of Fighters 14

Number of entrants: 542
Top 8 timeslot: Saturday 11:00 AM JST
10 notable players attending: HuomaoTV|E.T., DouyuTV|Xiao Hai, SANWA|M', HuomaoTV|ZJZ, KCO|Luis Cha, TC|Pako, VSLASH|WhiteAshX, MadKOF, ViolentKain, Koukou

Anyone who's anyone in the King of Fighters 14 scene is going to be here, and we wouldn't have it any other way.

The EVO 2017 champion HuomaoTV|E.T. from Taiwan will be looking to defend his title at the inaugural EVO Japan event, while you can bet that China's shining star DouyuTV|Xiao Hai is out for revenge and won't lie down without a fight.

Obviously, neither player can get ahead of themselves. They're surrounded by beasts at every turn, and indeed we can see that 5 out of 6 of the remaining top 8 placers at EVO 2017 - KCO|Luis Cha, HuomaoTV|ZJZ, TC|Pako, VSLASH|WhiteAshX and Sanwa|M' - are here to try and grasp the victory they were previously denied as well.

On top of that, you've got MadKOF, a former EVO champion in King of Fighters 13 showing up to make some waves, as well as many other seasoned King of Fighters 14 players with notable placings.

But let's not forget that we're in Japan, which means the arcade monsters are out to play, too. It's hard to imagine anyone showing up that can bring down any of these beasts, but with over 500 people participating, you'd best get ready for some serious upsets right from the start.

ARMS

Number of entrants: 327
Top 8 timeslot: Friday 06:00 PM JST

As you can see, there's no list of notable players attending for this particular game.

To be frank, that's because there hasn't been a big enough event for ARMS yet for us to know who's notable, which, in a way, makes this the most exciting event out of the bunch, because you really have no idea what to expect.

Over 300 players is huge for any game, and for such a fresh face to the fighting game community to get a spot at the first Japanese EVO event and having such success with entrants is a grand sight indeed.

Are we going to see seasoned fighting game veterans from other titles in the top 8? Entirely new faces we've never heard about before? I, for one, can't wait to see what's in store for us with this one.

Beyond all this, there's almost an overflow of big side tournaments which I will be covering results for to the best of my ability, so look forward to that, while stream links for these side tournaments can be found via Kakuge Checker.

Another thing to keep in mind is that with this being an EVO event and all, it definitely wouldn't be out of place to see some big announcements for the games from the developers. After all, it's their home base everyone's playing on, too. I wouldn't say to expect this wholeheartedly, but at the very least, keep it in your mind as a possibility.

EVO Japan begins at 09:00 AM JST on Friday the 26th of January (which translates to Thursday the 25th in all American time zones), and as always, you'll be able to follow the results here at EventHubs, so please look forward to it.

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