Evolution 2017 preview: A spectator’s guide to Tekken 7 at Evo

By on July 5, 2017 at 2:00 pm
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Tekken 7 is entering its third year in the Evolution Championship Series, and this year should be the fiercest competition to date. Maybe that’s not a particularly bold claim to make, since the game has been closed off to the majority of the world until its console launch last month. But even with the game being in console infancy, high-level tournament play has already been full of intense nail-biters and hype upsets.

This Evo is also of significant importance for the defending champion, Echo Fox|Jin-Woo “Saint” Choi. Tekken has only had one back-to-back winner in Evo history: Christopher “Crow” Villarreal won both Tekken 5 events in ’05 and ’06. A back-to-back victory for Saint would be historic. But his biggest competition is his own teammate: Echo Fox|Kim “JDCR” Hyun Jin, a former Evo champion for Tekken Tag Tournament 2.

Looking forward to Tekken at Evo? Want to know the personalities you should keep an eye on? Well then, let me introduce you to…

The Spectator’s Guide to Tekken 7

There are a lot of components that make up a great Tekken tournament. If you’re completely new to Tekken at all, here’s some of what you’ll be in for:

The Neutral

Fans of advanced movement, spacing and teeth-grinding mind games should look forward to any top tier Tekken match. Check out last year’s Evo Finals between Knee and Saint: not just because of the players themselves, but as an example of the sort of character-specific footsies on display. Jack-7 is constantly working to maintain a range to where he can backdash or step a move, then whiff punish with his long range df+2/jabs/lows. While the big bot’s keep-out game is one of the more extreme examples of Tekken, space control is a central theme in Tekken play.

The Combos

Tekken 7 is notorious for its juggle system. While some characters in high-level play may not have generally difficult tournament combos, there is no way we won’t see some advanced conversions on the world’s largest stage. Remember that the longer a combo is in Tekken, the further the game sends the enemy flying away from you, making it harder and harder to actually connect with hits. There’s a reason why a video of JDCR’s hands has 18,000 views: the precision for high level play in Tekken is as mind blowing as it is crucial.

The Tech Traps

One area that will make this year’s Tekken significantly different is the impact of so many new players having access to the console version. We all know that when players get to spend time in the lab, they can cook up some wild stuff. There are a lot of traps in Tekken 7 based off the way you get off the ground or wall — I can promise someone will whip out a head-turning gimmick at some point on stream.

The Players

You can’t have a tournament without the players, obviously! Tekken is a legacy fighting game series with a wide variety of personalities. Over the last year, Korea’s cream of the crop Saint and JDCR have established themselves as the two to beat. Here are some of the players hoping to prevent yet another all Korea Grand Finals.

Speedkicks

Main: Hwoarang

Stephen “Speedkicks” Stafford is somehow a free agent despite winning 3 Tekken 7 majors in 2017 alone. He has a lot in his favor going into Evo 2017: Momentum, a rushdown heavy playstyle, and a difficult to deal with technical character in Hwoarang. The only thing really missing from his resume is a win over one of Team Echo Fox’s Korean powerhouses. It’s safe to say he’ll have some new ideas for dealing with them now that the game is out: but will he really be able to bring something to the table these pros aren’t ready for?

Tanukana

Main: Xiaoyu

Cyclops Osaka|Kana “Tanukana” Tani has been on a meteoric climb in Tekken 7. After traveling to a string of majors in the US, her most recent placement in 3rd at Combo Breaker has solidified her as a threat to anyone that runs into her. She plays a tricky, powerful character that requires advance awareness of her gimmicks to fight against. Tanukana herself is smart and agile, and she has shown that she’s not afraid to laugh and have fun mid-game: meaning you won’t be able to get under her skin.

Team ITS

Main: Read below.

Team ITS has positioned itself as the #1 North American sponsorship for Tekken players. The list of talent for Team ITS is borderline unfair to almost all other promotions in the country. There’s a lot of recognizable names: Spero Gin, JoeyFury, Crowder, Lil Majin, CuddleCore, MYK… you know what, just check out their website. It’s a laundry list of who’s-who in American Tekken. Team ITS has the claim to defeating the top Koreans, as well: Joey Fury beat both Echo Fox|JDCR and Saint at Final Round 20. At the same event, Spero Gin was the one to send Saint home. Final Round 20 was a good tournament for Team ITS, to say the least.

Knee

Main: Bryan

We cannot talk about major Tekken players to watch for without mentioning Jae Min “Knee” Bae. Knee has dominated in various Tekken games for a very long time, and his execution and skill with Bryan is the stuff of legends.

But a Tekken 7 major win has always been just out of reach of the taunting master. 2nd at Evo 2016, second at King of Iron Fist 2015. No one doubts his potential to get to the finals, but will he find what’s missing in his game so that he can get 1st?

Nobi

Main: Dragunov

Nakayama “Nobi” Daichi has somewhat fallen off the radar in 2017, but Evo could be the chance for this Japanese Tekken vet to re-emerge. He’s the winner of Evolution 2015, and one of Japan’s strongest all-time players. His lack of major wins this year only imply one thing: he’s probably going to be hungry for Tekken 7 championship #2.

GetNews|Pekos

Main: King

Kaichi “Pekos” Yota has been off the radar ever since his 5th place finish at Evo 2015. It doesn’t look like this King main will have any ring rust, though: he just got sponsored by GetNews, just in time for Evo. Will he repeat his magic from 2015?

Chikurin

Main: Jin

This elusive Japanese pro has only shown up at a few major events, but each time he proved himself to be a force to be reckoned with. He secured 9th in the King of the Iron Fist 2016 world tournament, and made it there by winning the Osaka qualifier.  You know who else was at this qualifer? Nobi, who crumbled in 4th. Chikurin is a threat, and with his presence at Evo, this could be his year to emerge from the shadows.

And so many more…

Frankly, the amount of talent that the Tekken series has built up over the years is staggering. There’s a lot of strong players in the world, and there’s always the surprise factor of a off-the-radar player scoring a big win.

Evo 2017 is just around the corner, running from July 14th through 16th. Tekken 7 has officially broken 1,000 entrants, making this the largest Tekken tournament ever at Evo [it closed at 1278 registrants! – Editor]. In just a little over a week, we’ll know which one of these is the Tekken 7 world champion at Evo 2017!

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