The uncontested meta-winner of EVO 2012 was King of Fighters XIII. Though the other grand finals matches displayed admirable skill and a furious intensity, no other matchup delivered so thoroughly or had as much on the line.
For context, the developer for KOFXIII, SNK Playmore, was seemingly inches from a long-stalled death knell. King of Fighters XII did not receive positive reviews; the producer for the KOF series had just left a year ago; there were rumors circulating that if KOF XIII did not, at minimum, warrant a port and revitalize the hardcore community that SNK would discontinue new iterations for all of their IP’s. Instead it would focus on licensing its numerous arcade classics and even individual characters on other titles, potentially leading to any number of ill-begotten combinations.
Instead of following a Sega-esque trajectory, SNKP started its bounce back when KOF XIII received critical acclaim upon release and got ported to 360 and PS3. Before you could Max Cancel, KOF XIII had widened its base and was being played competitively at EVO 2012. Enter Café ID’s MadKOF from stage left, clawing his way all through the losers and winners bracket to the grand finals. In a drawn out matchup, he reset the bracket on the heavily favored IGL BALA as they battled for the win. Even those without a familiarity with fighters can appreciate this back and forth:
Somehow finding himself the underdog, BALA almost pulled off an epic comeback but fell short. The whole experience far outweighed the supposed headline event of Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition in terms of excitement and emotional gravity. No one back in 2009 could have guessed that over 100,000 people would be streaming the KOF XII’s sequel at EVO.
SNKP’s Aram Jabbari described the scene:
I was at Evo 2012 this past weekend and left the hall amid chants of “K-O-F.” For anyone who was there, or who watched it online, it was an unforgettable Top 8, and one of the most exciting Grand Finals ever. The air in the ballroom was absolutely electric. For myself, witnessing the rise of THE KING OF FIGHTERS at Evo was a thrill. For the people who’ve been working hard in the KOF community for so many years, it must have been something much more. Truly, it was a moment that couldn’t have come without their dedication.
It does not seem an overstatement to say that this one flashy matchup marshaled enough enthusiasm to save the KOF franchise, SNKP’s other IP’s, and Christmas itself. All in one Las Vegas fortnight – I challenge anyone to provide me a more productive evening in that city’s history.
So now that the company is (slightly) more confident, what’s their next step? A new Samurai Shodown? Super KOF XIII? Garou 2?
The runner-ups for best Grand Finals at EVO 2012: