EVO is the illustrious event that takes place in Las Vegas, and features the world’s best fighting game players who compete against each other for the title. For the longest time, Japan has always been at the top of the rankings when it comes to EVO, but for some reason there were never any major events that took place within the country. All of that has changed as Hameko, a well known player in the community, organized what’s now called EVO Sai and is a pre-EVO event for Japanese players who wish to attend the main event in North America. This is the first EVO Sai event to ever take place in Japan, but it will most certainly not be the last as more and more players are coming out to showcase their talents in fighting games.
Fighting game tournaments have been going on for more than a decade, with players from all around the world attending to demonstrate their skills to those watching. EVO Sai 2017 is Japan’s first big major event before EVO 2017, which takes place in North America and where all of the world’s best show up to prove themselves. The event location wasn’t as big as we expected but the turnout was massive, with a lot of players from the Smash Bros. community showing up to prove to the world that Smash is worth paying attention to. Expect to see lots of high level action from some of Japan’s best players from a variety of titles such as the aforementioned Smash Bros. for Wii U, Guilty Gear Xrd REV 2, Tekken 7, King of Fighters XIV, and Dead or Alive Last Round. If you’re coming to compete at the event then expect there to be a lot of fierce competition waiting for you, as everyone has come prepared with every weapon in their arsenal to make sure they take home the gold. If you’re just coming to spectate, then make sure to grab an early seat because the event gets packed very quickly.
What to Bring in Order to Enjoy the Event
If your intention is to compete at EVO, then it’s best to bring your fightstick or gamepad, since there are no extras lying around. Sure, some players may be kind enough to lend you theirs but it can be quite cumbersome over the long term to ask random people all the time. The most important thing to bring is your A-game because there’s just no telling who you’ll run into, and with so many strong players in Japan just hungry for the win, there’s always going to be a surprise waiting for you. If you can’t take the tension that comes with competing then just bring along your camera so that you can capture all of the action, and share it with your friends on social media. Free drinks are available at the event care of Red Bull so if you’re ever feeling thirsty there’s always a stand nearby waiting. Food wise, however, you may need to go outside of the venue because it’s never a safe option to have food around electronics, and nobody wants to lend their fightstick or pad to someone with greasy fingers. Luckily the event is in Akihabara so you’re likely to find just about anything you need in order to satisfy your cravings. Oh also, don’t forget to bring your fighting spirit!
What to do While There / What is Available
Competition is Fierce
With any fighting game tournament comes the likelihood that you’re bound to run into someone you don’t want to play. As a competitive gamer you always have to come prepared in the event that such things could happen, but more importantly, you want to stay focused at all times and not let the jitters get to you. EVO Sai 2017 was a stacked event, with every player around Japan making their way to Akihabara to show the world just what they’re made of. For such a small country, Japan has such a high ratio of high level players when compared to the rest of the world. A lot of players from the US and Europe make their way to Japan in order to brush up on their skills, because they know that Japan is no slouch when it comes to fighting games.
Japan has an illustrious history when it comes to fighting game tournaments, dating back all the way to the mid 90’s when Street Fighter II Turbo was the main attraction and eventually bred some of the world’s best today such as Daigo Umehara, Sako, and more. Sadly, Street Fighter V wasn’t at EVO Sai 2017 but Capcom producer Ayano Tomoaki was in attendance perhaps just to relax and get his mind off of things. This event catered to the more well known titles that receive a lot of attention in Japan, one of which is Guilty Gear XRD REV 2. The Guilty Gear franchise has been around for just as long as any other fighting game, however in North America a lot of the community has created a negative image around it due to its anime style and learning curve. In Japan, that’s the total opposite as the game is widely regarded as one of the best games on the market at the moment, with more and more players joining the ranks to make a statement in the game.
The same can be said about Smash Bros for the Wii U which has always been regarded as a “Party Game” by many players, but if you attended EVO Sai you’d be dead wrong as every player proved that this game can be played at a very high level. Echo Fox made their presence known at the event as Smash player MKLeo took part in the 3v3 tournament and SAINT who participated in the Tekken 7 event. Both players came out swinging and once again proved their dominance, but Japan’s players came prepared and didn’t want to lose on home turf. That’s actually one of the perks of the event is that now Japan has their own major event to prepare for, so players don’t need to worry so much about traveling too far and risk losing more than what they initially invested. Other notable players in attendance were DNG’s Nietono, who proved to be an unstoppable force in the team tournament along with Rain, Earth, and Japan’s other powerful Smash contenders. We took to the mic at the event to commentate on Smash and it was a pleasure to be able to educate the viewers on everything taking place during the match, while helping to bridge the gap culturally by having English and Japanese commentary.
Every game was a blast to watch all the way to the grand finals. Tekken 7 brought out a lot of players and the ending was spectacular, as both players brought out all of their weapons to ensure that they take home the top spot. However it was Guilty Gear Xrd REV 2 that gathered a huge audience as it was the main event, and the competition was so fierce. Fan favorite Nage, a incredibly strong Faust player, was unfortunately knocked out early in the loser's bracket by Kazumi. FAB, another fan favorite with his wicked Potemkin, made it very far in the brackets but ran into Summit and Zadei who made it very hard for him to move on and eventually was sent home in 5th place. Our favorite LOX, who used the very flashy and agile Jam almost cemented his spot towards top 4 but sadly ran into Summit, the highly aggressive Chipp player who completely destroyed the competition. In the end Summit took home the championship title and was greeted by none other than Daisuke Ishiwatari, the main head behind the celebrated series, who handed him some exclusive Guilty Gear posters along with a beautiful fightstick that made us want to start competing again. In the end EVO Sai 2017 was such an incredible experience and we hope that Hameko will continue to show his passion and encourage more players to help grow the community here in Japan. Until then, we all must prepare for EVO in Las Vegas and then EVO Japan 2018 in January.
That’s perhaps the beauty of gaming as it stands at the moment, much like the human race, there’s so much to learn and discover from everyone and everything you encounter. Gaming has no boundaries and just about anyone can participate in this event whether you’re a solo artist looking for a big break, or a relatively large indie company looking to expand on an international level. With so much diversity both culturally and on a gaming level, Tokyo Indie Fest is like the UN for gamers who are passionate about what they love and use that to build long term friendships and help to unite a community. Whether you’re from Canada, Japan, China, Singapore, or Korea, it doesn’t matter what language you speak because in the end gaming is universal and it’s a language that’s understood no matter where you go.
Honey's Anime Final Thoughts
EVO Sai 2017 will go down as one of the best tournaments we’ve watched in a long time. With so many up and coming players making their appearance now in Japan, there’s no telling as to what direction the scene will head in. Of course it’s going to go in the right direction but we just never know who the next top player will be, because it could be just about anyone even ME! We hope to see ARMS at the next EVO Japan event because you’ll be seeing the Honey’s team there repping with Mechanica! Let us know how you feel in the comments below, and always be sure to follow us on social media to keep up with everything happening in Japan!
As always, for everything sweet be sure to keep it locked here on Honey's Anime!
Author: Rob "NualphaJPN" B.
A passionate fan of gaming, writing, journalism, anime, and philosophy. I've lived in Japan for many years and consider this place to be my permanent home. I love to travel around Japan and learn about the history and culture! Leave a comment if you enjoy my articles and watch me play on twitch.tv/honeysgaming ! Take care!