If this blog is any indication, I have a deep affection for video games. I played them quite a bit growing up, sticking with the Nintendo line of consoles. I was also fortunate enough to have my brothers (a.k.a. natural friends), and since we always got along, we would play games together. Nintendo seemed to revel in the fact that video games are a social experience, so a lot of games were multiplayer. As we played together, we got better at the craft. I rarely played with other people since this was pre-Internet, and none of my other friends were really into video games.
When I went to college, I would often go to study at the commuter lounge, where they had a GameCube set up. The commuters and I would play Soul Calibur II, Mario Kart: Double Dash, and Super Smash Bros. Melee between classes. It was at this point I found out that I was actually pretty good at these games! I would beat my brothers by a slim margin, but I could win a 5 stock match of Melee without losing a single life (all hail Dr. Mario!!). My sister-in-law once said that I should play competitively, but I was never in the know of any tournaments in the area. I was happy playing for fun!
One evening, my fiancée and I were watching YouTube videos, and one of the related videos had Nintendo’s announcement for E3 2015. What I witnessed had me… confused. I didn’t know if it was a joke until the very end.
I was three when the original Nintendo World Championship took place in 1990, so that was a missed opportunity. It was cool to see them having another one, but I had never played competitively. I’ve been told I’m good, but I really doubted I could compete on a national level. My fiancée, knowing my love of video games, asked if I would take part. I really didn’t feel confident in my abilities, especially since they didn’t announce the game (though I had a good idea that it would be similar to the 1990 competition). That’s when she made chicken noises.
Crap got real.
A few days later (May 19th if I’m remembering right), we saw the announcement for the locations and game. The only one on the east coast was a Best Buy in Long Island City, NY. I live in the central Pennsylvania area, so this was a good four hour trip from my place. The game was Ultimate NES Remix; specifically, the Championship Mode.
[Ultimate NES Remix cover]
The Championship Mode allows 6 minutes 21 seconds to get the highest combined score of three games: Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 3, and Dr. Mario. Players have to collect 50 coins in Super Mario Bros., where the points accumulated had a multiplier of 2. Once the 50th coin is collected, players are thrust into the World 1 map of Super Mario Bros. 3, where they must get 25 coins. The fact that you start on the map rather than 1-1 is kind of a jerk move. SMB3 has a multiplier of 1, so don’t bother going for points here. The remaining time is dedicated to Dr. Mario to play for points. Since Dr. Mario has a multiplier of 100, the first two games serve as time wasters without significant impact on the final score.
The cool thing is that I got Ultimate NES Remix for free as part of the last Club Nintendo Elite offer. I previously bought it for my fiancée so she could learn the ropes on some classic games. I hadn’t played Championship Mode before Nintendo’s announcement, so now seemed like a great time to start. My first run ended with about 1.2 million points. I figured that was a good score. I watched enough videos of NWC 1990 playthroughs to know the best way to get through SMB (take the tunnel, die at the last Goomba to start midway through the stage next to a coin block. Collect as many as possible, die against the last of the parade of Goombas, and get the 50th coin). After a while, I could finish that task in less than a minute. The fastest way to clear SMB3 is to get the mushroom and leaf and fly into the clouds.
Dr. Mario is the main tripping point. I forgot that you only get points by clearing viruses, not stacks of pills. Chaining combos gives higher points, though the relative position of the viruses changes each time. When I played Dr. Mario as a kid, I was only worried about clearing screens, so my mentality was still on clearing rather than points. After shifting my focus, my average scores were no less than 1.4 million.
My highest score I got was on May 25th, which was 2,046,400. I connected to the internet to see how I ranked in the region. To this day, I have no idea what it means with ‘region,’ whether it is North America, Eastern time zone, or my immediate area/state. In any case, I checked my rank for the first time and saw I was listed as #32. I liked those odds! The top 8 had at least 3,000,000, but I also reasoned that some of those scores were a one-time deal. The key is to get your top score consistently.
You can tell that by this point I was getting pretty into it!
I tried a few days later on May 28th, attaining a score of 1,966,200. This was the Thursday before the qualifiers in New York, so I felt pretty good about my skills. I tried again on Friday and couldn’t break 1.5 million.
Yeah, that killed that good feeling…
On May 30, 2015, my fiancée and I traveled to Best Buy, taking the ferry and subway stations to get there. Some guy behind me in New Jersey flashed his lights at me. Don’t know why that stuck out to me, just did. Registration started at 9:00 with the competition starting at 10:00, so we shot for 7:30-8:00. We got in line where others had camped out the night before, and I got to meet someone who participated in Power Fest 94, which was neat.
There were a lot more kids than I thought there would. Don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of adults around my age or older, but I figured there would be almost no one under the age of 20. It was really cool seeing the younger generations get so excited about the games I grew up with!
Everyone there was pretty cool. There were a couple of Nintendo representative in Mario Kart 8 polos and one with a Splatoon Staff shirt. I want one… The woman handing out the registration forms had a strap for her glasses that read Duck Commander. That would be an awesome sequel to Duck Hunt!! (Hint, hint, Nintendo) The other players in line were practicing Championship Mode, and one teen boy asked aloud who got over 1 million points. The man in front of me stated proudly that he got a high score of 1.2 million, which floored this kid. Again, started feeling good about my chances! Just to warm up, I played a round and got a little over 1.4 million. It felt like that was about what I could expect when I entered those doors.
At 10:00, they took in the first group of fifteen participants. They were very strict about the rules on this:
- You get one shot at this.
- Make sure to put your registration form under the 3DS you picked up.
- When finished, DO NOT hit the A button. Doing so is a disqualification!
That last one made me nervous someone would accidentally bump a 3DS and advance the screen too far…
They had a display where the Nintendo representatives would write down the current top score. Only the number one spot would advance to the finals at E3! One person would stand inside Best Buy, waiting for the group to finish, and report back to the line the highest score on the board. The top contender was 1.4 million, so I had a pretty good shot at taking the lead! I was #66 in line, meaning I was in the fifth group to go back.
It was a cramped space in the games section at Best Buy. As we entered the area, my hands were shaking. I won’t lie, I was extremely nervous!! It didn’t help matters when I saw that blue circle with the current top score.
That is a phenomenal score!!! I never made it halfway to that one, but who was to say this time wouldn’t be a miracle for me?
Once we started, I pulled my usual strategy for SMB. I died the first time without a hitch, but took too long to kill myself on the Goomba the second time, meaning I had to waste time jumping off the cliff. It took over a minute to get the last coin.
I had my volume turned off, but others kept it up. While I was on SMB3, I heard the 1-2 music from the others. In fact, looking around, it seemed a vast majority of the 14 others were playing it straight through! I managed to finish SMB3 before some were done with SMB!!
I came to the title where my Melee main debuted. I cleared the first screen in one chain, which was a great start! I even managed to dig myself out of a mistake on the next screen. I made a pretty bad flub in the last minute of play when I misjudged which column a blue virus was in. I ended up dumping three blue pill pieces on a yellow virus… It cost me a few seconds and points, but I still managed to play around it until time expired.
My final score was 1,745,850.
Considering I did better than my previous practice runs, I was happy with how I performed! I certainly had the best score in my group, where the next highest I heard was less than a million. If what the guy reporting the scores earlier said was correct, that meant I had the second highest score at the time!! I’m sure there were a lot of other strong showings and I would be curious to see the rankings of the qualifiers to see where I stood at the end of the day, but I’m still proud of that score.
Nintendo did an exit survey, and I got some freebies: a Project STEAM poster, some Fossil Hunter stuff, and Mario Kart 8 stickers! Nothing like the NWC cartridges from the first competition, but I was happy!
My fiancée and I spent some time in Manhattan where we got to try out Splatoon for the WiiU. We each got a T-shirt, I got her a Pikachu plushie, and I managed to find a Wario and Silver Mario amiibo! Neato!!
I may not get to go to E3 for the NWC 2015 finals, but I’m glad I got to meet some nice people and experience that world. I’m not sure if I’ll ever get to do something like that again, but it would be interesting to see what Nintendo does next.
On the way home, a car in New Jersey flashed their high beams at me. Pretty sure the state of New Jersey is just trolling me at this point…