Nintendo held the its latest Nintendo World Championships (NWC) on the muggy evening of October 7, 2017, in the Manhattan Center's Grand Ballroom. The NWC doesn't adhere to any kind of set schedule; it just happens when it happens. There was a competition in 2015, and the one before that dates at 1990.
The haphazard scheduling is a decent look for the NWC, however, as the event is powered by an undercurrent of chaos that makes the ordeal a lot of fun to watch. Competitors span a wide age range (the under-12s compete against each other), and they don't know which game they're going to play in each round until Nintendo plonks it in their hands. The contestants might end up playing Nintendo's earliest commercial successes, or they might try their luck at a game that hasn't been released yet. This year's competition reminded us Nintendo's not shy about reaching into its catalogue of obscure titles, either.
I attended the 2017 NWC. I chronicled my journey and the event. I decided to skip writing about the bits with the street preachers and dudes screaming from street corners about how they're Jesus reincarnated, but rest assured, they happened.
I've been to New York City several times; in Toronto, a bus down to NYC is cheaper than a steak dinner and a couple of drinks. Actually, Toronto is a good unit to measure NYC by. I'd say one NYC equals ten Torontos in terms of sprawl, noise, sensory overload, and general wackiness.
I'm fond of NYC. I think the stereotype of New Yorkers being cold and uncaring is unfair: They're a surprisingly warm crowd with some very rough edges that are admittedly hard to tiptoe around sometimes.
I definitely recommend a visit. Watch yourself when you cross the street, don't drink from the greasy-looking yellow puddles by the curbs, and you'll be dandy. The only real hazard are the costume-wearing hustlers who demand exorbitant "tips" in exchange for pictures with them. The one time I felt fear in NYC was when a gradually-tightening circle of Elmos shook me down for ten bucks.
Well, here I am at hub of the world's best and most diverse cuisine. What should I have for breakfast—
Look, the light's shining down on the place and everything. I'm not about to ignore a sign from our Lord and Savior, Ronald McDonald (ora pro nobis).
New York Comic Con was happening at the same time as the NWC, so I didn't even double take when I espied a red-crested breegull carrying a bear on her back. Then again, I know New York well enough that I would've shrugged the sight off outside of Comic Con.
We're here! Woo-hoo! Let's-a go! And other relevant Mario catchphrases.
Everyone attending the show received a 2017 NWC towel. Cool! I'll use it when I start doing cardio! Which will be … I'll get back to you on that.
Press and VIPs were seated up on the Ballroom's balcony. I was thankful. Not just because the seats were comfortable, but when you're five feet tall, you dread events that seat everyone on level ground. A big person can really ruin your day—or even an average-sized person wearing a big hat.
There was a standee up on the balcony, too. Toad begged to be loved. Peach and I laughed and laughed.
Reggie wasn't at the event in person, but he kicked off the Nintendo Hunger Games via a pre-recorded video. Unsurprisingly, people have tried to lip-read what Reggie's saying when the video bleeps out the name of the "secret project" he's supposedly working on. The answer: ""Everyone is trying to figure out what I just said by reading my lips," or thereabouts. Oh, Reggie.
Now, the NWC is interesting because it doesn't simply knock out losers from the get-go. Instead, players who fail to rank at "regular" games are pitched down to the Underground. There, they fight one another for a chance at redemption (via more games, not with shivs and crude brass knuckles made with rolls of quarters). The two winning players progress to the next stage of the Underground, but they must keep fighting against a steady stream of runners-up who are pitched downward. Finally, the single surviving denizen of the Underground is allowed a shot at the championship round.
It's a little complicated to take in at first, but it becomes clear once the contest begins.
Speaking of which—
Player Start ! !
Stage One Game One: Shield Surfing in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
The competition kicked off with an unconventional challenge: Participants had to complete the Shield Surfing challenge in Breath of the Wild in the best time possible. A couple of players slammed into wandering moose, prompting the audience to cry "MOOOOSE!" at any hazard on-screen—including deer and Lizalfols.
2015's NWC champ, John Numbers, wasn't one of the top scorers, but he wasn't knocked down to the Underground, either. Competitor Cole G took the gold.
Stage One Game Two: Home Run Contest in Super Smash Bros Wii U
Poor Sandbag-kun got roughed up in the next portion of the competition. In some instances, he flew over 7000 feet. Roy and Ganondorf were the fighters of choice for this part of the event. The top three scores belonged to TubooRon, Asa Butterfield, and John Numbers.
Stage One Game Three: Metroid: Samus Returns and the Diggernaut Race
My least favorite part of Metroid: Samus Returns was the focus of the third game. Players had to outrace the gargantuan Diggernaut enemy, whose single-touch death is hard to avoid thanks to all the hazards in the way. The fastest times went to 360Chrism, Kyle W, and TubooRon.
Underground Game One: Balloon Fight's Balloon Trip
Contestants knocked out of Stage One scratched at a chance to see the light again with the aid of Balloon Fight. The challenge: Get the highest score possible in the Balloon Trip portion of the game. Balloon Fight is an old Nintendo game, even by the standards of some of NWC's older competitors. No matter your age, though, Balloon Trip is an existential journey.
Kyle S and Emil P won the right to continue existing. All other losing participants were given a certificate. I hope they immediately burned their high school diplomas.
Stage Two: Super Smash Bros Wii U Eight-Player Smash
Sandbag-kun got a rest. This time, it was all about eight-player Smash. John Numbers took the top spot with Shulk. He was really
("Don't say it, Nadia.")
During the fight, Falco got demolished by a Final Smash from Captain Falcon. The rivalry continues.
Some day it will all end in fire and blood.
Underground Game Two: Bird & Beans
"What the hell?": Bird & Beans is an obscure Nintendo DSiWare game wherein a bird snags falling beans with his long tongue. Beans destroy the ground when they touch down, so missing one has greater consequences than simply missing out on points—though since the Underground's competitors were scrabbling for points, the "eat as many beans as possible" strategy proved to be sound.
What a cute little game. Emil P and YellowKillerBee won, and were permitted to advance to the next portion of the Underground.
Stage Three: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Races (Mount Wario 50cc, Electrodrome 200cc)
Stage Three of the NWC involved one of Nintendo's highest-rated competitive games. Not only that, racers had to compete in two very different challenges: a 50cc race on Mount Wario, and a head-spinning 200cc race in the Electrodome. This was one of the most intense parts of the show, as far as I'm concerned. Players were awarded points according to their ranks. Kyle W blitzed both races.
Underground Game Three: DKC Returns
I said earlier that Underground players didn't have to stab each other with shivs to advance, but Donkey Kong Country Returns' "Bombs Away" mine cart level may as well be a knife to the eye. It's brutal stuff. Players had six minutes to get to the end of the level, but only 360Chrism managed to hit the finish line—and boy, did the audience lose its mind.
Since no one else made it to the end of the level, there was a tie breaker to determine the second winner. Whomever got furthest in the level could go on. In the end, Dan S joined 360Chrism in the Winner's Circle.
Stage Four: Splatoon 2 Tower Control
In Stage Four, players temporarily put their solo goals aside and leaned on each other in teams. The challenge: Best-of-three in Tower Control at Snapper Canal. The Snapper Canal map dropped very recently, so everyone was more or less on equal footing. The Orange Team—the team containing 2015 NWC champion John Numbers—came out on top. Talk about a Splatfest.
Underground Game Four: Tetris on Game Boy
The next Underground game was Tetris. Not just any Tetris, though. We're talking about no-forgiveness, screw-your-infinite-spins Game Boy Tetris.
The father sitting in front of me had to explain this game to his seven-year-old son. Unsurprisingly, younger players had a bit of a time with this one.
The players persevered, and the Comrades of the Hour were Dan S and Kyle W.
Stage Five: ARMS One-on-One Fights
You knew ARMS would find its way into the 2017 NWC somehow. It was a straight-forward showdown, all things told: Random one-on-one match-ups, no items. Players could pick any fighter, but Ribbon Girl was the overwhelming favorite. John Numbers and Cole G came out on top.
Final Underground Game: Mario Party 2: Bumper Balls, Hexagon Heat, Shell Shocked
The Final Underground Game was the worst imaginable slaughter: Mario Party 2. Players had to survive three rounds each of Bumper Balls, Hexagon Heat, and Shell Shocked. Nintendo may as well have handed out butcher knives and said "Go."
As I noted on social media, when you play Mario Party, be careful not to play yourself.
Whew. I want to dab my forehead just thinking back on it. This was the last Underground challenge, so only one victor emerged: Thomas G. He moved on to the Championship Round slathered in the blood of his rivals, his fingernails worn down to frayed stumps. Good job, dude!
Championship Round Game One: Super Mario Maker Treehouse Level
As with the 2015 NWC, Super Mario Maker played a big part in this year's competition. Treehouse devised another devilish level, but this time the team took advantage of the features added to Mario Maker since 2015 to make a more complex stage. The competitors had a short amount of time to get to the end, but Treehouse threw tons of stuff to trip them up. John Numbers pulled through.
Championship Round Game Two: Super Mario Bros Deluxe
Did you know Super Mario Bros Deluxe for the Game Boy Color has a robust versus mode where two players trigger switches and try to hinder the other brother. This portion of the competition was a lot of fun to watch, and it was a real nail-biter. Super Mario Bros Deluxe is a nice piece of work, plus it's been adapted into my favorite Snoop Dog meme.
Thomas G won the Battle of the Brothers. The only thing blocking his path to utter victory: John Numbers, the King of the 2015 NWC. Is was time for a throw-down.
Final Championship Game: Super Mario Odyssey
Calling it now: Finals is gonna be Super Mario Odyssey. If I'm wrong, I'll buy Go Go Curry for everyone. #NWC2017— Nadia Oxford (@nadiaoxford) October 8, 2017
Sure enough, the Championship Game was Super Mario Odyssey. Nobody got any curry. Except me, after the show. It was delicious.
Super Mario Odyssey isn't due out for the Nintendo Switch until October 27. Plenty of people have gone hands-on with demo stages, but Thomas G and John Numbers competed in a couple of previously-unseen stages that climaxed with a boss fight against a huge-fisted statue.
The race for the gold came down to the wire—like all great competitions—and both Thomas G and John Numbers figured out the way to win against the boss was to "capture" its fists with Cappy and fly them back into the boss' face (preferably while chortling "Why you hittin' yourself? Stop hittin' yourself!"). However, Thomas G was just a little quicker on the draw than John Numbers, and he was the first to blast the boss into submission.
Congratulations, Thomas G!
And with that, my business at the 2017 Nintendo World Championships was concluded—but not my business with New York. After the competition, I walked to Times Square and visited its PokéStop (which was overrun with Team Mystic scum, unfortunately).
Then I caught a Times Square Pokémon.
I'd say, "See you next year," but we've no idea if Nintendo plans to hold another NWC in 2018. Let's part with a suitably vague "See you next mission."