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If you’re a gamer and have even a passing interest in the fighting genre, watching the annual Evo tournament can lead to thrilling moments. To be honest, this year’s lineup of titles was underwhelming for me. I’ve never viewed Mortal Kombat as a serious fighter, Super Smash Bros. Melee exponentially less so. Injustice: Gods Among Us still needs balancing and is basically a bloodless bastard son of Mortal Kombat, anyway. King of Fighters XIII is fun to watch but way overdependent on 50-hit super combos. Tekken Tag Tournament 2 is clunky and stiff compared to many of its modern peers. Persona 4 Arena couldn’t cram more tired anime clichés in with a crowbar and a tub of butter. I actually adore the total bedlam of Ultimate Marvel Vs. Capcom 3, but even the best commentator can have trouble trying to follow exactly what’s happening. Skullgirls is barely worth mentioning.
I don’t mean to sound all doom and gloom because I actually enjoy watching matches for many of these “lesser” games, but Super Street Fighter IV is clearly where most of the magic happens. And yet, so many fights you watch are basically projectile spam. It’s disheartening because I’m fully aware that those projectiles corral, chip, and harry opponents, but that doesn’t make the battles more interesting to watch. A match showing Akuma (played by “Infiltration”) vs. Ryu (played by “Laugh”) illustrates what could have been such a great match. The players were on the same team, probably friends, but forced to fight each other. Inevitably, only one winner could emerge. It’s a shame when the story surrounding the fight is more interesting than the fight itself.
Nobody wants to watch a dull encounter. Does anyone remember early Ultimate Fighting Championship tournaments? Gracie jiu-jitsu dominated them. The martial art almost exclusively consists of moves that involve hugging one’s opponent like a monkey and lightly kicking him in the ribs for 45 minutes until everyone passes out from boredom. Audiences hated this and rightly so. The UFC responded by, among other things, changing the rules centered on ground fighting and ultimately (hah!) have gone on to dominate the fight-for-pay scene.
Watching two Evo competitors trade fireballs for nine rounds elicits some of the aforementioned frustrations, despite requiring a constant response of dodge, duck, and dive. I don’t think it’s feasible to just remove projectiles, but maybe we can find a middle ground. My proposal is simply to introduce a bracket that prohibits using any character that has a projectile attack. This would do a couple of things: give people bored of fireball spam an alternative and provide much-needed exposure for some of Street Fighter’s less popular combatants. The crowd this year went nuts when a player swapped from Hadouken-happy Akuma to grapple-focused Hakan.
Imagine a whole bracket where every fight felt unique, shedding light on unexplored matchups.