Cautiously optimistic – that was the mood set before my attendance of this year’s Nintendo World Championships. While the stage had previously been set in a somewhat negative light – hardly any Best Buy locations participating to really consider the tournament representative of the ‘World’ – the event had garnered quite a bit of buzz. With promises of potential surprises and high profile announcers and guest contestants, there was hope that this could still be turned into a fun and memorable event. This was Nintendo after all, where there’s always the E3 potential for something exciting around every corner.
Dedicated Nintendo fans lined up around and down the block to ensure they had prime choice of seating at the Microsoft Theater (previously known as the Nokia Theater). While very little was actually known about the event to the attendees or the contestants, the fun and energy of the Nintendo fandom was clearly on display. Costumed attendees could be found playing 3DS and marveling at a rather impressive Amiibo collection one individual had chosen to bring. When the competition was in full swing, everyone raised their voices and applause, loudly cheering on their favorite contestants and characters. And in real life, the chant ‘Roy’s our Boy!’ was heard many times throughout the competition.
For the contest itself, the setup was staged in a very unique manner that made it both fair and very entertaining. At the outset of the competition, the 16 contestants (8 regional champions and 8 selected competitors) were pitted against each other in a large scale gaming event, where 4 players were eliminated and sent to the ‘Underground’ each round. From the Underground, the losers were given a challenge to overcome the fastest or score the highest to continue forward in the competition. This allowed players that had been eliminated due to poor team events one last hope at the chance to continue forward on their own merits and keep their dreams alive of claiming ultimate victory. This style of switching between larger competitive games and classic Nintendo challenges made for an exciting atmosphere where the underdog could rise from the ashes, and ultimately a very entertaining event.
One thing that struck me about this contest was the number of different types of video games that Nintendo chose for this event. Making good on the promise of the title of the event, the competition was comprised of games from franchises spanning the entire Nintendo World, both classic and completely new. Represented in their respective order in the competition were Splatoon, The (original) Legend of Zelda, Blast Ball (a completely new Nintendo IP), Super Metroid, Mario Kart 8, Balloon Fight, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, and Super Mario Maker. This lineup of games was completely unannounced, making it impossible for the contestants to truly anticipate and train for the event. This added a level of surprise and required adaptability from the competitors, which led to some really fun to watch competition. The best part was that Nintendo used their true competitive franchises as their main event games, making the whole experience feel much more like a true competition.
One final element that was not necessarily captured on the livestream was the full immersion of being in the crowd and reacting to the ups and downs of each of the player’s trails. While the first couple of events saw select pockets of excitement for specific fan-favorite players, the crowd really came together for
Blast Ball, and it only continued to escalate into Mario Kart 8 and Super Smash Bros. When the final head to head between Cosmo and John Numbers came to its climax, the crowd was on its feet, roaring with each successful string of jumps and portion of the stage cleared through the grueling levels of Super Mario Maker. Adding in the overwhelming crowd response when Shigeru Miyamoto took the stage and the reveal of EarthBound Beginnings, it was a fantastic event to be a part of the live theater audience.
Overall, while the press leading up to the Nintendo World Championship was rather negative at worst and confused at best, the actual event was pleasantly very exciting, full of surprises, and a blast to be a part of. I hope Nintendo continues to surprise us and surpass our expectations throughout the rest of this week of E3, and I do indeed hope that Nintendo doesn’t wait another 25 years to bring back the next round of the Nintendo World Championships.