It’s time to get hype, son. Street Fighter IV headlines the biggest fighting game tournament in the United States, in what is expected to be one of the most exciting EVO’s ever.

If you’re serious about fighting games — we’re talking eat, sleep, breathe competition — the Evolution Championship Series (better known as EVO) is your Super Bowl, World Series and Stanley Cup rolled into one beast of an event. As the longest-running fighting game tournament in the world, EVO draws the best of the best together from all parts of the globe to Las Vegas, Nevada, in order to find out who reigns supreme in an always changing list of fighting games.

This years line-up is full of surprises as a few staple franchises are nowhere to be seen due to various circumstances. Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros. series, the presence of which has always been highly contested by fighting game enthusiasts, has been dropped from EVO, most likely due to the perceived quality of last years Super Smash Bros. Brawl, and the length of time needed to run a proper tournament for it, as the minimum match count required by the game is far too high. Having been at EVO for years, Tekken is also out of contention as the community has found itself between releases. The arcade release of Tekken 6 was blasted by its players as an inferior offering, while its update, Bloodline Rebellion, has yet to be embraced by US players, not to mention lacking a console release. What’s left, however, is one of the more impressive line-ups to date.

Street Fighter IV: The main event and bound to be the most fascinating tournament in quite sometime. It seems as though with every arcade tournament, whether we’re talking the US or Japan, the mix of characters spotted within the top 8 is wildly different than the last. With the console release looming and new characters coming into the fold, we’ve barely scratched the surface of what is possible in this game.

Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix: Last years high-definition upgrade for the 15 year old veteran has been embraced by US players as a more-than-worthy title, though the lack of release in Japan may hurt its longevity. Still, any excuse for more Super Turbo is always a good thing.

Soul Calibur IV: It’s been quite some time since a Soul Calibur title has appeared at EVO, and while the quality of SC4 is still up in the air, the strength of its community has practically demanded its place.

Marvel vs Capcom 2:This is Mahvel baby!” The hype-monster returns for another round of unstoppable drama, trash talk and side-bets. While most games at EVO2K9 will be run on PlayStation consoles, MvC2 is currently listed as “TBA,” leading many to believe that it’ll be played on the rumored Xbox Live Arcade or PlayStation Network port of the “curleh mustached” fighter.

Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike: The hardcore darling is back for one last go, only this time as a two-on-two team based tournament. The community for this game, after nearly a decade of support, is finally starting to wane. I suppose that even the most dedicated of players start to tire of nonstop Chun-Li vs Yun.

Guilty Gear XX Accent Core: ARC Systems’ 2D favorite took a year off, but due to community support its back once more with the latest version.

Also on the schedule is a Tatsunoko vs Capcom invitational tournament, as well as a regional five-on-five exhibition for Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix, which is sure to tear at the emotions of every player in attendance. The EVO 2009 tournament takes place July 17-19 at the Rio Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. Get hype.

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