This year's Evolution Championship Series marks Marvel vs. Capcom 3's seventh appearance at the world's largest annual fighting game tournament. In that time, players have come and gone, and each year saw a different champion ascend the growing mountain of talented competitors. Now, with Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite waiting to take the game's place in 2018, many are treating Evo 2017 as Marvel vs. Capcom 3's swan song.
The possibility of a repeat champion has dominated conversation ever since Marvel vs. Capcom 3 earned its spot at Evo 2017 in a tense donation drive against Pokken Tournament. Of the six previous victors, four -- Jay "Viscant" Snyder, Ryan "Filipino Champ" Ramirez, Justin Wong and Christopher "NYChrisG" Gonzalez -- will compete, but the fighting game community is a much different place than it was just a year ago.
Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is often seen as a more ridiculous alternative to traditional Street Fighter gameplay. Thanks to its usage of teams and assists, players are capable of pulling off incredible comebacks in a more fast-paced environment. High-level players need to be capable of keeping track of the barrage of information the game throws their way at every moment, as well as the unique strategies its mechanics allow opponents to come up with on the fly. If Street Fighter is a strict, well-composed symphony, Marvel vs. Capcom is more like freeform jazz.
With the release of Street Fighter 5 in 2016 and the formation of numerous high money leagues, players who once reigned supreme in Marvel vs. Capcom 3 have moved on to the greener pastures of developer support. Even competitors such as Filipino Champ, Wong and NYChrisG, who were once referred to as gods due to their respective periods of dominance, have shifted their focus, allowing new competitors to rise up and fill in the ranks.
Over the past year, Ryan "RyanLV" Romero has taken the community by storm, combining Morrigan's overpowering fireball game with the keepaway prowess of the underused Chun-Li. Raynel "RayRay" Hidalgo has been a consistent threat for years and is on a recent tear that could see him go deep in the Evo brackets. Vineeth "ApologyMan" Meka, the player everyone loves to hate due to his use of arguably cheap tactics, is capable of stealing games from the best.
For many, Marvel vs. Capcom 3 at Evo 2017 comes down to just two players, an assessment with which inaugural champion Viscant agrees. "I think RyanLV is the big favourite this year, as he's won almost everything he's entered so far," he told us. "The smart bet is on grand finals being RyanLV vs. NYChrisG, with RyanLV coming out on top. But it's Evo, anything can happen!"
Wong's line of reasoning follows the same trend.
"I think it's a toss-up," he explained. "I believe the favourites to win this year are RyanLV and NYChrisG. They are looking very strong this year. I believe Chris has the best chance to repeat as Evo champion. He and I will have to fight for a spot in [the] top eight winners if we win our matches, and he has to beat me if we both make it to the finals."
Since there has never been a two-time champion, the player who accomplishes such a feat would go down as the game's greatest competitor. It's this distinction that drives Filipino Champ, though he admits the arrival of the latest Street Fighter has changed things quite a bit.
"I think at this point there will most likely be a new champ since the Marvel gods have been focusing on Street Fighter 5. A lot of players have caught up to us. Of course, I want to win so I can close out Marvel vs. Capcom 3 as the true 'GOAT'. I've given my heart and soul to this game, won multiple majors, played countless hype exhibitions, streamed multiple hours of content, and gave so many lessons to the new players. But if Chris or Justin win, I will be content and happy because I know that they truly deserve it. They have been so consistent throughout the life of the game."
Marvel vs. Capcom 3's history at Evo has been a testament to the game's evolution and the community's dedication. Winning the largest fighting game tournament in the world is no easy feat, and every previous champion has proven they are among the best Marvel vs. Capcom 3 has ever seen. Should a new player join their ranks, they will be able to lay claim to a legacy only a handful of their fellow competitors have before. And on the same note, a repeat champion will cement themselves as, arguably, the greatest of all time.
Evo 2017 is scheduled for July 14-16 in Las Vegas. Evo 2017 is scheduled for July 14-16 in Las Vegas. Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 kicks off on Saturday, July 15, with the finals taking place at 8AM on Sunday, July 16 local time.