It has said that this moment has shifted gaming competition to a higher level. Some have said that this moment has not only helped put EVO on the map as one of the top gaming competitions in the world, but help revitalize the fighting game community that was supposedly dying. A moment was shared and viewed multiple times on all social media platforms. A moment that had articles and books written about it, and a documentary of it’s impact. A moment that placed one of fighting games greatest players into god like status. This is EVO moment #37
Since the dawn of gaming, competition has been created among other participants in a lab room of a university school. At that time, you could only compete in video games if you were within the region and had access to the school grounds to enter, meaning only educators, staff, and students were allowed to compete. However, in 1972 a new competition was created. The SpaceWars Olympics. Officially dubbed as the first video game tournament, Space Wars show that gaming isn't just for fun, but also a form of competitive sport much like you would find in Chess.
Since then, gaming competition has slowly become a popular form of drawing a crowd towards popular games such as Donkey Kong or Pac-Man. In the 1990, Nintendo created the Nintendo World Tournament, consisting of games such as Super Mario Bros., Rad Racer, and Tetris. Nearly every genre has a tournament, except fighting games. Fighting games were a bit complex going up in gaming history. Games like Activision's Boxing and Data East's Karate Champs were good examples of fighting games to enjoy, but hardly consider tournament worthy appreciation.
This is until 1991 when Capcom released their super popular fighting game, Street Fighter II in the arcades. Upon the release, many companies follow suit on the fighting game genre, including Midway's Mortal Kombat, SNK's King of Fighter, and Sega's Virtua Fighter. 5 years following the release of one of the most popular fighting game of all time, EVO would soon be born at Sunnyvale, California. The tournament began with only 40 competitors in Super Street Fighter II Turbo and Street Fighter Alpha 2, but would grow massive over the years, switching venues from California to Las Vegas. Although EVO was a popular competition to attend to with popular games such as Tekken and Marvel vs Capcom 2 added to the list of games to compete in, it had its slump in the mid 2000's. With the newer generation consoles released, fighting games had a hard time breaking out alongside its newer technology. Games such as Guilty Gear and Tekken have held down the fort of interest to newer generations while Mortal Kombat and King of Fighters have attempted to do something new. EVO was also suffering from this as few games on their list have caused any interest in spectators' eyes including one particular game. But the mechanic from that game and those involved would turn the world upside.
On August 1st, 2004, Evo set their bracket for the finals of the tournaments, however, the feel of competition and enjoyment were hinder on that day thanks to Soul Calibur II finals, as two friends were in collusion by playing as characters they don’t normally play as, and jokily play the finals as a Saturday evening hangout. The mood would all change in the Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike tournament. While 3rd strike is considered to be one of the most polished fighting games coming out of Capcom Circuit, the game isn’t considered popular due to the parry mechanic. Players must predict and time the attack an opponent throws and press forward to parry the attack, allowing players to knock an attack away and leave their opponent open for a counter attack. If a player successfully parries an attack, the player gets a golden opportunity to unleash a devastating counter. However, if a player fails it can spell disastrous and at the mercy of their opponent. It’s a high risk, yet high reward mechanic that can change the fate of the game in an instant.
Justin Wong and Diago Umehara were set in the loser’s finals, where the winner of this match will get a chance to meet Kenji Obata in the grand finals. Despite never playing against each other in past Street Fighter games, Justin Wong Chun-li’s turtling and calm demeanor was a perfect test towards Diago Ken’s aggressive nature. At the start of the final round in the first game, it seemed that Justin Wong's strategy was working against Diago, chipping away Diago’s life bar, keeping the pace in his way and striking Diago at open opportunity. Diago was able to keep the pressure with only 20% of life left, but Justin was able to escape. After failing to hit Justin with two ex hadoukens, which sacrificed one energy bar off his and a trade hit between the two knock Diago’s life bar down to 5%, it seem Justin Wong have the match set, holding a well 40% life on his bar and two super attack stored on his meter, meaning a single special attack can chip away Diago’s life even if he blocks it all and result in an automatic victory for Justin. With no other option left, Diago decided to go for the gamble. Justin uses Chun-li’s super attack, the Houyoku-sen, a close range attack with a series of kicks that ends with a high kick, powerful enough to defeat Diago. Just as Justin unleashes his super, the unthinkable has happened. Diago timed the kicks perfectly, parrying each attack as if he is strumming the strings of a guitar to the tune of one of the most difficult songs man has ever created and matched the tempo. After parrying Chun-li’s final attack, Diago countered with a series of attacks before finishing it with Ken’s super attack, Shippuu Jinraikyaku. The crowd who bare witness his moment has gone wild, howling and roaring in excitement and rave. Shouting that this is the greatest moment in fighting game history. Diago would go on to win the set and take on Kenji Obata who he would eventually fall to in the grand finals and take second place.
In just a small auditorium room with just a camcorder, television, console, and arcade stick, Evo moment #37 has changed the landscape of fighting game tournaments. In Justin Wong’s words, it helped “saved” the fighting game community, reinvigorating the industry into being more active with fighting games and soon have more people be involved in fighting games as either a competitor or as an organizer. Moment #37 was also a challenge on the download version of Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike online edition, allowing players and fans of the genre and series to recreate the moment that brought fighting games back on the market.
Evo would see a 5 year hiatus, but would eventually return in 2009 in Las Vegas. The spirit of fighting games along with several amazing sequels released by Capcom, Namco, and Arc System brought back iconic players such as Diago and Justin Wong, both meeting in the grand finals of Street Fighter IV where Diago would once again triumph over Justin Wong. Afterwards, both Diago and Justin won't see another championship ever again in the Street Fighter circuit. Justin would however go on to win one more championship in Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3. The two would meet once more 10 years later in a rematch of Street Fighter III, where the recreation of Moment #37 has happened again. However, Justin Wong would have enough life left to win the match against Diago, avenging the loss he suffered 10 years ago.
The impact that EVO Moment #37 left brought in the technical aspect of fighting games and that anything is possible with a gamble payoff. Players from around the world has gotten more involved in fighting games than there were when in 90's and earlier 2000's and games such as Killer Instinct and Smash Bros would get an opportunity to shine thanks to the likes of the mechanics the game offers and the dynamics of a player's skill set. Nearly each year, players and fans are hoping for an EVO moment, radiating similar feeling just like what has occur 16 years ago. However, when most people think of a moment that change video game, a moment that exaggerate the passion and love for fighting games, a moment that blew up the internet and shown what fighting games can do in a tournament like capacity, This is the moment that will easily come to mind and forever be branded as fighting games greatest moment of all time.