Let the games begin! On March 31st, the latest rendition of German Mega Drive tournaments was held. Once more, a change of venue was in order. Now deeper embedded into the national retrogaming scene, the 2012 German Mega Drive Championship (6. Deutsche Mega Drive Meisterschaften, or DMDM VI for short) were part of the HomeCon, a convention for retrogaming enthusiasts, itself taking place for the sixteenth time in the nice German town of Hanau. Amidst home computers and consoles from pretty much all ages (ranging from an old PONG mini arcade cabinet to the beloved Sega Dreamcast, with a few Sinclair, Atari, Apple and Commodore home computers thrown into the mix for good measure), 16-bit-enthusiasts battled one another for the crowning achievement to become German Mega Drive Champion. This time, a special prize waited for the champion: A hand-signed piece of Sonic & Tails concept art, hand-signed by none other than current Sonic Team producer Takashi Iizuka, was awarded to the victor. Needless to say, the sixth tournament sported a very promising quality roster: All three former champions from the previous tournaments returned to battle for first place. Overall, the championship could welcome 21 participants, shadowing the attendance of last years event (where 11 players showed), and setting a new attendance-record.
However, participation was not just limited to whomever joined the main event. For the first time in tournament history a separate Single-Player Challenge was set up as well. Over the duration of the Championship, players could compete in setting the highest score in the SEGA classic OutRun (set at Pro difficulty). Given that every player could join in and have as many tries as he wanted in snatching the top sport, this arcade classic also drew in other fans. Over the duration of six hours, the dedicated beamer spot was never left unoccupied. The attendance record and special interest in the Single-Player Challenge promised a quality event, and the performers didn’t disappoint. In six games spanning six categories (Virtua Racing for racers, Mega Bomberman for action, Columns II for puzzles, Sonic 2 for platformers, FIFA ‘95 for sports and finally Eternal Champions for fighters), the contenders battled one another in a series of knockout rounds, with one point gained for each victory.
The first event, Virtua Racing, started off the tournament with a big surprise: While most attendees expected an assured victory in this category for one of the two two-time champions Tobias Berg or Richard Neumann, it was Eric Voirin who surprised everyone. After eliminating Berg from the category during the quarterfinals, the semifinals saw a vicious battle between the challenger and title defendant Richard Neumann. With both contenders feverishly glued to their controllers, an excited crowd witnessed title candidate Neumann being eliminated, being beaten by only 1/100th of a second in a final round. However, Voirin failed to truly capitalize on that victory. In the Virtua Racing final, still flying high, he suffered defeat at the hands of Claudia Neumann, returning to the tournament circuit for the third time (after appearances at the second and fourth tournaments).
The excitement saw a bit of a lull during the third of the six events though. While definitely a challenging versus puzzle game, Columns III isn’t exactly a crowd-pleaser. Gamers battled one another viciously, so the best-of-three playing mode chosen for the tournament had to go into a decisive third round almost every single time, dragging the duration of that category out immensely.
Nevertheless, the tournament remained exciting. Julia Klenert, former champion of the fourth (2010) tournament, managed to amass a lot of single victories but was eliminated almost every time in a category semifinal. Eric Voirin, who had surprised everyone by eliminating two champions in one category early on, showed a rather mixed performance, rating strong in most categories but failing to proceed further than first round in both Eternal Champions and Mega Bomberman. In the end, he had to be content with third place.
Former champions Richard Neumann and Tobias Berg, however, were spurred on by their early losses and viciously tried to make up for them in the following events. Always sticking close together, they never were more than a point apart in any event, facing each other twice in two category finals (Mega Bomberman and Columns III). Tobias managed to win both of those encounters, however, while Richard had managed to reach four of the three category finals (he made it to the final round in both Eternal Champions and Sonic 2), Tobias could only enter three (also taking the final victory in FIFA ‘95). Leading the event by a hairs’ breadth, Tobias could only watch as Richard had to face Katharina Mayer (whose best performance up to that point had been sixth place at the fourth championship) in the decisive final of Eternal Champions. In another hard-fought battle entering a third decisive round, it was Richard who landed the decisive blow and in turn became German Mega Drive Champion for the third time and the first contender to earn the title twice in a row.
In the Single Player Challenge, things were just as exciting. As the first player trying his hand at OutRun, Richard Neumann had managed to breeze through the entire game on his first try, setting the high score at 10.779.550 points. Over the next six hours, dozens of contenders were dedicated of passing that bar, but in their ambition hardly anyone even managed to reach the goal before time ran out. Finally, about half an hour before the OutRun Challenge ended, the high score was shattered with a bang. Once again proving his racing prowess, Eric Voirin breezed into the goal, setting a new record of 14.234.800, a mark that remained unbroken until the end. In winning the single-player event, he thus earned himself a Vinyl Record of the Sega Mega Drive Classic Edition as a special award.
After seven hours, an exhausting but also exciting tournament reached its end, but the con still lasted, people playing games and challenging each other until way after two in the morning, with the most enduring of them continuing the battle the next day. HomeCon 16 was the perfect venue for the event, drawing in many players, both veterans from the 16-bit days as well as new gaming enthusiasts (with the youngest contender being ten years-old). Aside from a lull during the Columns stage (which will probably be curbed down a bit for future events), the 2012 German Mega Drive Championship was a thrilling joyride, and will look optimistically into the future – eagerly awaiting the next event.
Here’s how the final leaderboard looked:
1. Richard Neumann – 21 pts
2. Tobias Berg – 20.5 pts.
3. Eric Voirin – 17 pts
4. Jule Klenert – 14 pts
5. Claudia Mayer – 13.5 pts
6. Katharina Mayer – 13 pts
7. David Hessburg – 9 pts