In what by now has become a biannual event, September third, 2011 marked the fifth time retrogamers from all around Germany banded together to determine who would be their strongest contender in the Mega Drive championship. While the fourth tournament had sported its largest roster of players to date (20), the fifth installment saw an unfortunate number of last-minute cancellations from both new and returning players – among them the winners of the last two tournaments, meaning that once more, the title of champion was up for grabs. In the end, 11 instead of the anticipated 16 Mega Drive fans met to battle for the crown of becoming Germany’s new Mega Drive champion – and to see who would be a hot contender to be part of Team Germany in this years’ European Championship.
Sega of Germany, though not actively endorsing the tournament, had been kindly supporting the championships with prizes since its second installment, and this time would be no different: In lieu with Sonic’s 20th birthday, the House that the Blue Hedgehog built awarded a special limited edition 14″x11.6″x12.8″ Sonic figurine as a trophy to whomever would carry away the title. In fact, this time SoG was so generous that every participant would be able to win a prize, even if he finished last.
As has become tradition for every odd numbered tournament, the fifth championship was carried out in a league system, where every participant could enter four games of his choice into the event. Over the course of the next five hours, the eleven contenders would battle each other in 22 different games, ranging from common and familiar titles like Street Fighter II Special Championship Edition and Mega Bomberman to rather uncommon Japanese import games like Yu Yu Hashuko or Puyo Puyo Tsu – even the rare Mega Drive version of Tetris made its first appearance in the German Mega Drive Tournaments (on a repro cartridge). In another premiere, the fifth tournament marked the first occasion where not a single Sonic game was played – although the blue hedgehog made a cameo appearance in the game Ultimate Soccer.
Only four players had been part of another German Mega Drive tournament before, so the decision was made to set the three most experienced tournament players into three different groups to create a balanced first round. In group A, former Mega Drive Champion Richard Neumann (who had won the second German Mega Drive Championship) controlled the event from the outset. Falling behind in his first game, World Cup Italia ’90, early on, he immediately turned things around and humiliated his opponent with a devastating 18-2 result. In the entire first stage of the tournament, the former champion would only lose a single game (Street Fighter II CE) and finish second in the groups’ multiplayer match, an all-out brawl in Yu Yu Hashuko. Thorsten Butschke, who had finished 10th place in the fourth German Mega Drive championship, also showed a very strong performance and easily managed to reach the finals behind Richard.
In group B, things weren’t quite as clear-cut. Sebastian Sponsel, who was considered a favorite and ranks second (behind Richard) in the German all-time Mega Drive scoreboard, had a very weak start into the tournament: After only barely managing a draw in his own home game of Sensible Soccer, he suffered two devastating losses against newcomer René Hubrich, who surprised himself when he booked an early ticket to the finals after beating Sebastian in Mortal Kombat 3 with an almost flawless victory. Going into the last match of the group stage, Sebastian Sponsel and second newcomer Klaus Nusser were tied, meaning that whoever would perform better in the last game (Gauntlet IV, Battle Mode) would proceed into the finals after René Hubrich. There, it was Klaus who unwittingly made things clear: after he fired a shot into an impenetrable wall, it bounced the projectile back into him, so that he accidentally knocked himself back into a pit and thus out of the tournament.
Group C consisted only of three players (contrary to the 4 contestants of each groups A and B), so only the victor would advance into the finals. Here, Alexander Klassen (who made his third appearance at the German Mega Drive Championships) had little trouble with his opponents and won every single match of his preliminaries.
Upon reaching the finals, the top five contenders were awarded with a bunch of plush Sonic hats SEGA had donated for the tournament. Entering the final group stage, the players decided to play the remainder of the event wearing those, which given the heat (it was a bright and sunny day of 30° Celsius/86° Fahrenheit) bore a challenge in itself, given that the contenders still had about 90 minutes of console battling ahead of them.
The final stage bore a few surprises. Sebastian, who had barely managed to book the ticket into the finals, suddenly unleashed some furious gameplay: Playing against Thorsten Butschke in Sensible Soccer, he managed to carry away a last second 3-2 victory in a wild and furious game. Freed of the frustrations of the group stage, he then took revenge on Rene Hubrich by defeating him twice, first in a Chin Li vs. Chun Li match of Street Fighter II, and then following that up by a crushing 123-4 result in Speedball 2, which he had been unable to play during the group stage. René, on the other hand, wasn’t quite able to keep up his strong performance of the first stage, losing every single one of his home games. Only during the final games of the tournament did he mange to get his game back on, barely managing to force Alexander Klassen onto fifth place after a 2-1 victory in Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine, and using a strong performance in the final 5-Player-match of Columns III to secure third place alongside Thorsten Butschke, both taking away six points out of the final group stage.
In the end, however, there could only be one winner: Richard Neumann managed to clearly dominate the final stage of the tournament. His loss in Street Fighter II against Benedikt Mitschke (who ended up in sixth place at the end) back in group A should remain his sole defeat. From then on he didn’t let off of any challenge thrown at him, handing out defeat after defeat and finally arose champion once more, sporting an unchallenged 20 points (out of 20 possible) in the finals. Sebastian Sponsel, who had a great second stage of the tournament, ended up on second place for the third time and still has to wait for his first title.
After a little more than five hours the event came to its end. And in great spirits, plans for the next tournament were already being made. There will be a few adjustments to the tournament in the future, since giving the players the choice of what games they wanted to compete in had apparently acted as a deterrent to join the tournament instead of an encouragement – given the vast amount of competitive games available, people often didn’t know what game to pick. Nevertheless, the first half of 2012 will definitely see the sixth installment of the German Mega Drive Championships. And with some more fresh blood injected into the roster, Team Germany is already forward to the next European competition.
The end results of the fifth German Mega Drive Championships are:
|Group A||Group B||Group C|
|1. RICHARD NEUMANN||20|
|2. SEBASTIAN SPONSEL||13|
|3. RENE HUBRICH||6|
|3. THORSTEN BUTSCHKE||6|
|Spiel um Platz 6 – 8||Spiel um Platz 9 -11|
|6.BENEDIKT MITSCHKE||8||9.MANUEL JOHN||8|
|7.KLAUS NUSSER||5||10.MANUEL LACHER||4|
|8.MANUEL SCHREIBER||2||11.PETER HABERLAND||3|