Gonzalo "@zerowondering" Barrios announces his return to competitive Smash Bros and his signing with @Tempo_Storm
Gonzalo “ZeRo” Barrios, revered as the King of Smash 4, announced via Twitter that he would be making his return to competitive Smash Bros.
To coincide with his decision to exit retirement, ZeRo has also lifted the curtain to reveal his new affiliation with Tempo Storm: a well-rounded esports organization rooted in Los Angeles, CA. This, in turn, puts an end to his previous journey alongside Team Solomid, who signed ZeRo in late 2015 while he was at the apex of his domination.
Along with ZeRo, Tempo’s FGC team also consists of a collection of esports legends such as Alex Myers (Street Fighter), Axe (Smash Melee), S2J (Smash Melee) and RIP (misc.).
To celebrate the beginning of the next chapter in his legendary career, ZeRo compiled an approximate ten-minute long video in which he discusses his decision to come out of a retirement period that he’d entered into after his participation in the 2GG Championships. Throughout the year, the best twenty Smash 4 players from across the world would qualify for the Championships via a series of qualifier events, each of which were named after either community members or products licensed by Nintendo.
The 2GG Championships would take place at the original Esports Arena in Santa Ana, California. ZeRo had finished in second at the Championships, losing only to Echo Fox MKLeo, who is renowned for his masterful armada of characters - notably his Meta Knight.
Born in Chile, ZeRo began playing the Smash Bros franchise since its first entry for the Nintendo 64 in 1999 and has subsequently played the remainder of the franchise as it expanded over the years. In 2005, he fashioned his current gamertag of “ZeRo” for himself and has since never changed it.
He temporarily entered into competitive Melee in early 2007, attending tournaments at a local Akiba Game Store. Afterward, he stepped away from Smash until December 2010, at which point he focused exclusively on Smash Brawl, which marked a dramatic shift in the direction the gameplay would take in the franchise.
It was during the earlier half of the current decade that ZeRo’s competitive career began to gain traction. He found himself placing alongside competitors who would go on to be among the first pioneers in high-level play for Smash 4. To add to his results in Brawl, ZeRo took up Project M (a modified version of Brawl that integrates the mechanics from Melee) and Melee. His character choices differed with each game: Pit for Project M, Meta Knight for Brawl, and Fox in Melee.
ZeRo’s astronomical skill level eventually caught the eyes of Nintendo, who would go on to organize an invitational event in 2014 celebrating the arrival of Smash 4 for the Wii U and 3DS. ZeRo was directly invited to compete in this event, which he would win after narrowly defeating Liquid Hungrybox via a Sudden Death scenario in Grand Finals.
After the invitational, ZeRo continued to build upon a godly resume for himself in the older Smash titles up until November 2014, when Smash 4 finally came to the Wii-U. ZeRo immediately went straight to work cleaning up the competition in the new game, and over the span of a whole year, he amassed a legendary 56-win streak at Smash 4 tournaments, including the game’s debut appearance at Evolution 2015, where he defeated Mr R’s Sheik in the Grand Finals to win it all.
It is that very streak that propelled ZeRo into the video game Hall of Fame, as he would be archived in the Guinness World Records Gamers Edition 2017 for what may be the most consistent streak in all of modern gaming history. This impressive run spans from a UGC biweekly on November 29, 2014 to The Big House 5 in October 4, 2015, though ZeRo experienced quite a number of close calls when upcoming competitors, such as Jason “AnTi” Bates and Nairoby “Nairo” Quezda, came within inches of ending his reign.
Finally, during the MLG World Finals in 2015, the unthinkable occurred. After suffering from a losing streak against ZeRo, Nairo, coming from Loser’s Bracket, met him in what would be a historic Grand Finals. Using Zero Suit Samus against Diddy Kong, Nairo defeated ZeRo in two consecutive sets, shattering his streak and sending the entire venue into a screaming frenzy.
Graciously accepting the loss, ZeRo congratulated Nairo for his achievement, and he continued to compete in Smash tournaments up until early 2016 when he suffered a hand injury that put him out of commission until May 2016. After making his return, ZeRo remained dominant - but less so than before his injury; the Smash 4 community had leveled up dramatically ever since, meaning that more and more players were able to hold their own against him.
However, that did not stop ZeRo from adding to his own share of achievements. He continued to take the win at a respectable number of tournaments in 2017 and came within arm’s reach of winning his second Evolution tournament that year. This particular EVO would not only be live-streamed, but would also be broadcast via the Disney XD and ESPN2 television networks, with Disney XD showcasing the Top 8 finals for Smash 4, for which over 1,500 players entered.
When ZeRo broke into the EVO 2017 Grand Finals from the Winner’s side, the addition of a second Evolution trophy to his collection seemed inevitable…or so everyone thought. MVG Salem, a Bayonetta specialist who would later be signed by Team Liquid, had a resounding message for the king. It would be received after a pair of vicious five-game sets. One of those sets culminated in a bracket reset in favor of Salem, and the other led to one of the most mind-blowing conclusions ever to occur in a Grand Final:
Despite enduring such a heavy defeat, ZeRo had enough gas left in the tank to finish his participation in the 2GG Championship Series last year. Having claimed the gold in a handful of 2GG Sagas, he remained one of the favorites to take home the crown, but Echo Fox MKLeo would end his ambitions with a terrifyingly strong Meta Knight.
In spite of the bumps in the road, ZeRo remained at the top of the first four consecutive iterations of the Panda Global Rankings, a statistics system keeping track of results attained by competitors in the Smash 4 community. This achievement all but cemented his reputation as the King of Smash 4.
Following the publication of the PGR v4 Rankings at the start of the year 2018, ZeRo closed the book on his competitive journey in Smash 4 with a multi-page letter written straight from the heart.
All of this said, perhaps many have considered ZeRo’s eventual return to competitive play as imminent.
Mere months after ZeRo opted to step away from Smash 4 in favor of a full-time career in content creation, Nintendo held their next Direct livestream in March 2018. The entire Smash community watched the Direct eagerly, hoping for a possible update on the next entry in their beloved franchise, though not many were confident that such an announcement was forthcoming.
But much to the shock of everyone watching, a teaser trailer for the upcoming Super Smash Bros Ultimate broke the surface at the tail end of the Direct (seen at the 32:44 mark in the video below).
Suddenly, the Smash 4 community - soon to be re-branded as the Smash Ultimate community - was alight with renewed vigor. Speculation over what was to come became commonplace on social media, even as competitors continued to guide Smash 4 through the final year of its competitive lifespan.
Then along came E3 2018, also known as the Electronic Entertainment Expo: a yearly convention celebrating the gaming industry at its finest. To commemorate Smash Ultimate’s eventual arrival, a second invitational event was put together by Nintendo so as to showcase the game in its early stages of development. To aid with this cause, up to eight players would be directly invited to take part in an eight-man double elimination bracket.
Naturally, ZeRo was among those invited to the tournament, having previously taken the win in the 2014 invitational for Smash 4. The remainder of the lineup consisted of an even split between the Smash 4 and Melee scenes: MKLeo, Plup, Mang0, Armada, Abadango, Lucky and Mr. R.
As if the stars were aligned, ZeRo found himself opposite from MKLeo in a conclusive Grand Finals for the Smash Ultimate Invitational. With their latest battle governed by a mixture of old and newer mechanics, both titans unleashed character after character upon one another while struggling to play a captivating game of mental chess.
MKLeo led off their conflict with a bracket reset, but ZeRo responded with equal ferocity, using his powerhouse Mario to best MKLeo’s Sonic and become the two-time Smash Invitational Champion.
(note: to view the Smash Bros 2018 Invitational in its entirety, please check out this playlist via Nintendo’s YouTube channel.)
So positive was ZeRo's hands-on experience with Smash Ultimate, as well as his reunion with the Smash community in person, that the idea of exiting from retirement began to creep into the edges of his mind. To his growing fanbase, his post below heralded a sign of the things to come.
Fast-forward to today, where we now see ZeRo standing underneath the banner of his new home in Tempo Storm and with Smash Ultimate’s release just under a month away. Come December 7th, his retirement will be a distant memory, and fans everywhere can look forward to partaking in the next entry of ZeRo’s journey to retake his title as the best Smasher in the world!
Who will be the first of many obstacles in his path? Well, let’s rewind back to after the Smash 2018 Invitational came to its close, at which point the entire FGC’s attention was captured by the upcoming game. Shortly after settling back into his home, ZeRo received a challenge from an opponent whose own esports resume has earned him a home in multiple iterations for the Guinness World Records.
That opponent is Dominique “SonicFox” McLean, the three-time ESL MKX Pro League champion, holder of multiple EVO Championships, the Injustice 2 Pro Series Season 1 winner, and, as of late, an upcoming titan in Dragonball FighterZ.
As you can imagine, this is a match-up that practically the entire world dreams of witnessing, but will it come to pass? Given SonicFox’s recent practice sessions in Smash 4, a feat to which his teammate "@dekillsage” testifies, it seems inevitable.
ZeRo’s response to this call-out? See below.
While it is not exactly clear when and where this confrontation will take place, we could be looking at incoming details after Smash Ultimate is finally released into the wild. You can read this article here to learn more about what to expect from both of these esports titans.
Smash Ultimate releases exclusively for the Nintendo Switch on December 7, 2018, but if you are lucky, you may get to try the game before it releases! Starting today, Nintendo will be bringing demos for multiple Switch titles, Smash Ultimate included, to a collection of shopping centers around the United States of America. If you happen to reside in or near any of the locations affected, please read this article to learn more.
Otherwise, visit www.smashbros.com to pre-order your copy of the game and get ready for the “Ultimate” battle!
JagoBlake, the author of this article, is an esports enthusiast who just so happens to have a way with words. Whenever he is not scouring the Internet in pursuit of breaking news, he's investing time into his favorite fighting games so as not to appear inadequate in the face of competition. To support his work, follow him on Twitter - @xJagoBlake.
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