If you were a teenager in the ’90s, you probably remember lining up your quarters to play Street Fighter II, Marvel vs. Capcom, or Tekken at the arcade. This weekend, you'll get to see how the masters do it at Brews n' Battles, a two-day fighting-game tournament that will bring Denver’s best players and out-of-town pro gamers together at Akihabara Arcade and Bar.
Akihabara, a Westminster arcade that boasts rare and imported arcade cabinets, microbrews on draft, and a constant stream of anime like Dragonball Z and Soul Eater on the TV, has become a home base for the Colorado fighting-game community since opening in 2016. According to co-owner Brandon Osha, the grassroots support Akihabara has received from local fans has been key to the bar’s growth.
“We always did want to run tournaments, but we decided to wait about six months, and got help from community members, and it evolved from there,” says Osha. “We started with Street Fighter every Thursday, and then other games and communities started coming in here.” He credits a network of local gamers — including but not limited to Ryan Meier, Tanner Strom and Francisco Carmora — with helping organize this week’s event.
Carson Hill, a local player who will compete at Brew n' Battles this weekend, says that Akihabara has become “the premier destination” for the Colorado fighting-game community over the past few years, thanks to the staff's welcoming attitude and “Versus City,” a dedicated, 1,000-square-foot area dedicated to fighting games that the bar opened in 2017.
“It gives me hope for the arcade scene, as people tend to say that the American arcade is a dying breed,” Hill says.
Since Akihabara first hosted Brews n' Battles in 2017, the tournament has nearly doubled in size: This year, Osha expects 200 players to compete across thirteen different games, including four different versions of Street Fighter, with another 200 or so spectators showing up to watch over the weekend. At stake is about $6,000 in prize money, as well as a trip for two and entry into Community Effort Orlando, a high-profile tournament in Florida.
One of the favorites to win big this weekend is pro Justin Wong, a nine-time Evolution Championship Series winner with one of the strongest records in game-fighting history. Wong, who’s coming off victories at Chicago’s Combo Breaker last month, will be competing in seven different events, including Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike, and Tekken 7.
“I like how passionate they are,” Wong says of the members of Denver fighting-game scene. “They've been running tournaments for a while, and they do get overlooked, but the retro games always get my attention.”
For Hill, that passion is the mark of a community that takes itself “seriously, but not too seriously.”
“At the end of the day, we're all here to enjoy our time together…and maybe toss up some quarters and find out who the best is from time to time,” he says. “Because what's a good skill-based game without the need to be the best?”
On-site registration for Brews n' Battles begins at 3 p.m. Friday, June 14, at Akihabara Arcade and Bar, 8901 Harlan Street in Westminster; participation costs $30. The tournament itself begins at 6 p.m.; spectators get in for free. Find a schedule and more information at smash.gg.
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