This weekend played host to Evo Japan 2020 -- one of the country's largest fighting game events. Pro players from all over the world gathered to compete in the likes of Street Fighter V, SoulCalibur VI, and Samurai Shodown -- but without a doubt, the most talked about tournament of the weekend belonged to Tekken 7.
You see, Tekken 7's in a strange place right now. Ever since it first launched on consoles, the game has been hailed as a very competitive, very balanced fighter -- perhaps the most balanced on the market. And yet, the title's latest DLC character, Leroy Smith, has turned the game on its head.
Leroy is, at worst, incredibly cheap. And at best, he's just super strong. Most would agree that he's the most powerful character in the game right now -- he's got it all. Easy execution, godlike parries, deadly moves that are safe to throw out, and insane combo damage. And guess what? He was absolutely everywhere at Evo Japan 2020.
The tournament saw numerous seasoned Tekken 7 veterans cast aside their usual characters and bring Leroy to the fight, resulting in a crazy number of Leroy versus Leroy mirror matches. Needless to say, spectators weren't exactly pleased given Tekken 7's well earned reputation as an exciting watch.
Perhaps inevitably, the tournament's final day ended up being dominated by Leroy. Six -- six -- of the tournament's last eight competitors used Leroy to get there. By this point, you could almost feel the disdain for the character -- Leroy was the villain that had to be beaten.
Ultimately, the hope of the audience rested on the shoulders of one man: Mikio. A relatively unknown Japanese player (at least globally), Mikio had made it into the top eight with Julia, and in his first match of the final day, he was able to knock the current Tekken 7 world champion (now using Leroy) into the losers bracket. The hype was real.
However, Mikio had to go through another Leroy in the winners final. Book, a veteran Jin player from Thailand, who, of course, had switched to Leroy for this tournament, came back from the brink of defeat to knock Mikio into losers. But hope was rekindled when Mikio fought his way to a rematch with Book in the grand finals after beating Noroma -- one of Japan's best. Noroma had changed to Steve Fox having lost the first game to Mikio with Leroy, so he was just about spared the criticism of the crowd.
Out of the six Leroys that had entered the top eight, only one remained -- and he was waiting for Mikio in grand finals. It's safe to say that the audience -- both at the venue and watching online -- was rooting for Mikio and his Julia. The dream of Leroy and all of his overpowered nonsense being undone by a character loyalist was almost a reality, but in the end, it was just too big a mountain to climb. After a few promising games, Book found an edge and pushed Mikio to breaking point. Book won the grand finals 3-2 with Leroy.
It was a heartbreaking end to what had been one of Tekken 7's most disappointing tournaments. For all the hype that players like Mikio had brought to the table, Leroy was still triumphant in the end. As far as the crowd was concerned, the bad guy won.
It's worth noting, though, that Evo Japan isn't a part of the Tekken World Tour. As such, it's felt as though Bandai Namco has been biding its time as it surely looks to adjust the game's balance ahead of the tour's starting date in April. There's no doubt that Leroy's going to be toned down sooner rather than later, but it's perhaps a bit of a shame that he wasn't hit with some adjustments in time for this particular tournament.
That said, without Leroy in his current state, we dare say that Tekken 7's Evo Japan 2020 tournament wouldn't have created the buzz that it did. We're not going to suggest that the development team knew exactly what it was doing but... You never know.