It was the battle of the Retro titans: For the second time since 2008, Europe’s best Mega Drive players met in order to determine which nation possesses the best gamers the old continent has to offer! After the tournaments’ first edition in 2008 in the cozy (if somewhat murderous) English city of Nottingham, the second competition took place in the sunny portuguese capitol of Lisbon. Being held in the “sala de videojogos” of Portugal’s biggest Anime-Con, the tournament at times drew a few dozen onlookers, some of which attended in costume (though sadly, no Sega-related cosplay could be found).
As in 2008, three nations heeded the call. Title defender Portugal held a special qualification tournament, where the eight best Portuguese Mega Drive Players (determined by points won during the last three national tournaments) had competed against each in order to secure the three qualification spots for the European Championships. Germany had held its first nationals four months earlier and had intended to start with their top three players. Unfortunately both Germany’s numbers two and four competitors had forfeited their spot, instigating a last minute need for a substitute player. England also had some troubles and needed replacements on its team, drawing English veteran Daniel Smith out of retirement in order to compete at the European Championships.
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The teams met the a few days before the competition in order to get to know each other, discuss the upcoming games, and enjoy Portuguese hospitality, including a visit at a local fair outside of Lisbon. (Team Germany was a bit surprised when, on the day of the tournament, they found themselves in a village about an hour outside of Lisbon, resulting in their late arrival to the tournament site). On Sunday, October fourth, at 11:00 a.m., the five-hour battle for Europe’s throne commenced: In forty-one games (two three-way matches and three games two-on-two) the three nations determined the victor.
As with the previous year, the tournament started with a three-way battle of Mega Bomberman. From the very first game, Team Portugal demonstrated its dominance. Starting immensely strong, they hardly lost any games at all and safely secured the championship even before ¾ of the tournament had concluded. Nevertheless, the tournament remained exciting, especially since Germany and England found themselves locked in an intense battle for second place.
The Germans had dominated large parts of the first European Championships, only losing the title on the last game, and they had entered the 2009 tournament with the same players as the previous year. However, Team Germany started weak in the tournament, with even German Champion Tobias Berg losing his first home game to Portugal. In the first quarter of the tournament Germany scored only two wins and fell far behind. Team England, whose members had themselves declared to be “Europe’s whipping boys,” started out stronger than expected however, even taking the lead for one game.
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The turning point came in match twenty-seven, where Germany and England squared off against each other in a two-on-two game of NHL ’96. Germany had managed to creep up on the island nation and lay only one point behind them in third place. For the longest time, it seemed like they would stay there. In the first third of the game, England scored a 1-0 lead, while Germany had only managed to give off a single shot at the English goal during the period. England stayed dominant but wasn’t able to built up upon its lead. In period three, about three minutes before the end of the match, Germany scored a sudden equalizer. This was the turning point in both the match and the tournament: With only one minute to go, Germany returned with a double whammy, scoring two goals within ten seconds and securing a 3-1 win out of a 0-1 disadvantage. This was the wake-up call for the team, which proceeded to win almost every one of their remaining games. However, it came way too late. By this point of the tournament, Portugal had already successfully defended their title.
Another highlight of the tournament was the group battle of Street Fighter II C.E. between England and Portugal. Portuguese player Dario Pelixo proved his utter dominance in the game by defeating the three characters of his opponent with only his first selection, M.Bison. While his victory was nearly uncontested, by the third match he severely crushed his opponent while simultaneously spouting quotes from Raul Julia’s performance as the dictator in Street Fighter: The Movie, yelling lines like “you came prepared to fight a madman, and instead you found a god” while practically devastating his opponent – a true classic Street Fighter moment!
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Unfortunately, the victory celebrations fell a bit short. Team England and one player from Germany had to leave for the airport almost immediately after the tournament finished. In the end, the three teams reconfirmed last years results, with Portugal cementing its lead in the European circuit.
Even though the competition hadn’t grown, a new edition of the European Championships is already in the planning stages: In October 2010, the third tournament will be held in Germany. The second tournament was again lots of fun, and any nation willing to put up three players is openly invited to join into the fray. With tournaments being held in Brazil and (soon) also in the U.S., the Mega Drive gaming scene seems to be always growing, even more than ten years after the system’s demise. Let’s hope we’ll witness this growth with a larger 2010 European Mega Drive Championship.