Last night, for the first time in twenty five years, was the Nintendo World Championship. The caveat being it was only open to those from the United States of America (colloquially referred to as the world) but was streamed to the world for all to watch online. I wasn’t actually planning on watching it, even though I watched the Super Smash Bros tournament that Nintendo held at last years E3, but with the promise of new games I gave it a go; despite already approaching midnight where I am.
I managed to catch the tail end of the pre-show which culminated in the announcement that the original Mother game (the game prior to what is referred to as Earthbound in the West) was to finally come to the West (including Europe) fully translated for the first time ever! The updates for Super Smash Bros might have been leaked, but Nintendo is still the best in the business at keeping big reveals hidden.
The individuals competing were comprised of a mixture of people invited (such as Arin Joseph Hanson aka Egoraptor from Game Grumps and Legend of Zelda speedrunner Cosmo) and the others were those who had been successful in the challenges that took place at participating Best Buy stores in the US.
After announcing the way in which people would proceed through the different stages, with those who failed being given a second chance via what was dubbed the “underground”, the competition kicked off with recently released Splatoon. This was a great way of dealing with the initial sixteen participants and they were split into four teams. In addition to the main commentators, was one of their children who was nicknamed “Mini Wheat”. His high pitched American accent was a bit much at times, but his heart was definitely in the right place. The later rounds did get incredibly close which added to the excitement. Definitely a good choice to kick things off, as it hooked me in early on.
The first Underground game was the original Legend of Zelda with the challenge being the first to get the Triforce piece in the first dungeon. This was done simultaneously on different machines, although a couple seemed to have an issue with accidentally bringing up the WiiU menu screen. This seemed to be a problem that afflicted others throughout the Underground stages, as all were retro games available on the Virtual Console.
Next up was a brand new game never before announced! Blast Ball. This is what we’d been waiting for. Although I don’t think anyone expected a multiplayer Mech based three on three football (soccer) game on the 3DS. After getting over the surprise of the new game, things kicked off, or rather shot off, as the ball was manoeuvred towards the goal by shooting at it. Opposing mechs could also be disabled using power ups. It was a bit chaotic, especially as everyone was still trying to comprehend the entire game. But that did not detract from the excitement. And after all, what better challenge than a game no one has ever been able to play.
The second Underground retro stage was Super Metroid with the challenge being to defeat Mother Brain and then escape Zebes (or as everyone there referred to it as ZeBBes rather than ZEEbes, unusual for Americans to chose the hard Z). Defeating Mother Brain herself wasn’t the main challenge, that came after with the escape, and this provided the tensest moments of championship so far, providing a close but clear winner.
The third main stage was, perhaps unsurprisingly, Mario Kart 8. Then again this isn’t meant to be easy, so it was set to 200cc. The contestants were split into two groups each racing on the same three tracks, Baby Park, Animal Crossing Town, and Big Blue. The first group seemed to struggle with the challenge 200cc provides, but the next group were very close, constantly battling it out between them for the top four positions.
The final Underground stage was Balloon Fight. Here they just had to get the highest score, and death only lost you time, as the cumulative score was used. It was impressive to see some such as Arin get over 10,000 points at one instance, but it wasn’t enough to keep him in the competition.
Super Smash Bros. Given the prominence it received last year it was obviously going to be present. But before things kicked off with the remaining four contestants we were reminded of what was said at the end of the tournament last year between Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime and the winner Hungrybox that they would face off between one another. Well that’s exactly what happened, and my body was ready! Unfortunately Reggie was not. No one was expecting Reggie to win, but his choice of newly playable Ryu was a poor choice given the complexity to the fighter. Reggie was thoroughly trounced by Hungrybox’s Jigglypuff. Reggie did manage to get in a solid kick KO so it wasn’t all bad. Nice touch, but embarrassing for the President.
Now back to the contestants. There are two rounds, the first taking place on one of the Animal Crossing stages and the second on the newly re-released Dreamland stage. This was pure stock Smash Bros with items on and a timer, albeit longer at 5 mins a round. Quality action taking place, although it was possibly the least memorable stage of the championship.
With two now left remaining, Cosmo (the invited) and John Numbers (the challenger) what was to be the defining final challenge? Many thought it might possibly be the new Star Fox and a 1 on 1 dogfight, but no it was the new retitled Super Mario Maker. In a way it had to end with a Mario game, but at first Super Mario Maker’s involvement felt more like a marketing push. Cosmo was up first, whilst John Numbers was blindfolded (and had noise cancelling headphones on), and was greeted by what looked like Stage 1-1 from Super Mario Bros. Quickly we all realised that this was a ploy as quickly all conventions were thrown away and the pure unadulterated chaos that Super Mario Maker can provide became evident. This stage had been made by Nintendo’s staff from the Treehouse internal team, and they were proving how masochistic they could be. Cosmo was unable to complete the stage, so up came John Numbers. He fell for the same trick as Cosmo, but then suddenly he discovered the strategy to progressing, the whole audience gasped as they saw his Mario travel to new areas of the stage up along the clouds. At that moment suddenly everyone understood the magic of Super Mario Maker. This was no gimmick, some fun could be had here, and some truly spectacular moments could be shared.
With John Numbers winning this round he currently had control of the 15 second bonus for later, but would he hold onto it after the next round? Round 2 was a Super Mario Bros 3 themed stage, and this further cemented how all previous notions of how to play a Mario game could be subverted. The key to completing the stage was riding in a red stiletto shoe which protected you from spikes underneath. Round 3 now used the Super Mario World theme and had much fun with doors to different areas of the stage, one highlight was a door opening to an area of multiple Bowsers; a collective “nope” was shared by everyone.
The final round was to be played simultaneously with whoever reaches the end of the stage first winning. Except because John Numbers had won two for the previous three rounds he had a 15 second head start, which he used to his full advantage. This stage was New Super Mario Bros themed and basically revolved around being able to effectively wall jump. Cosmo struggled here and was quickly forgotten as John Numbers showed off his skills and confidently powered through (without making it look too easy) and won with a clear advantage.
Both contestants were presented with a New 3DS signed by the one and only Shigeru Miyamoto who was there to congratulate them and to present the winner John Numbers with a special golden trophy (that had some weight to it). For an event that originally I wasn’t going to watch I had a great time watching at home. If this is the future of eSports I’m in, as this was the nail biting stuff that sport people talk about, except much better. The show was a reminder that Nintendo understands their games, and damn do they know how to show them off.