2016 Mega Drive Championship: Tournament Games

23 July 2016

Speculation has been rife, as the competitiors for the 2016 Mega Drive Championship wonder what 16-bit titles await them at the looming event. Now that question is answered! The finest and most challenging titles have now been selected and only mastery of these will separate the Champion from the pretenders.

The 2016 Mega Drive Championship will be the 26th domestically contested event in the UK since 2001. In honour of the 15-year anniversary, we have looked to celebrate that awesome achievement with games that embody everything wonderful about our epic history and competitive Mega Drive videogaming. Building on the lessons from the previous 25 Mega Drive Tournaments and a number of European events, while knowing it is impossible to please everybody, while staying true to our roots, yet open to the path ahead and the revamped competition structure which moves the tournaments into a new era, we now answer the commonly occurring question as to what games are to be used (well, actually, we posted this on Facebook yesterday, so it was answered yesterday):

World Cup Italia '90
Debut Competition: First Mega Drive Championship
Tournament Games Played To-Date: 94
This terrible and ugly soccer sim that cheaply attempts to cash in on the Italia '90 World Cup, has aged worse than Maradonna and has controls that feels like you are playing with boxing gloves on; is arguably taking a Mega Drive Championship curtain call, as its long history as a tournament game allows it to live on for another tournament. Indeed, there is no purer way to celebrate the 15-years of Mega Drive Championship history than on the game that was the first fixture way back in 2001. However, the 2016 Mega Drive Championship will not see participants subject to turgid 10-minute affairs where the result is pretty much certain by half-time and the only challenge for the second half is retaining the will to live. Instead, competitors will go head-to-head in an elimination knockout, with the first to score three goals assured passage to the next round. Should the game reach half-time, any player in the lead will advance, otherwise qualification will be determined by a golden goal and, if necessary, the hideously bad penalty shootout mode will decide the winner.

Sonic The Hedgehog 2
Debut Competition: First Mega Drive Championship
Tournament Games Played To-Date: 136
It is very hard to think of the Sega Mega Drive without thinking of Sonic the Hedgehog. Back in the days when Sonic games were a decent and enjoyable romp of platforming awesomeness, Sonic 2 stands tall as one of the finest examples of video gaming the world has ever witnessed. Quick, responsive and all out action with attitude, the blue blur has been at home in the Mega Drive Championships since their creation and is a necessary inclusion. This time around, however, the head-to-head contest of musing and putting into effect the strategy of collecting rings and points in the fastest time has gone. Instead players will enter the murky depths of the Mystic Cave Zone and attempt to record the fastest time. The Mystic Cave Zone 1 is a challenging test of a play area littered with enemies and hazards, which will happily snatch valuable seconds from participants. Some routes are quicker than others and even the most skilled player will struggle to pull out a perfect speed run in one attempt... weaker players are expected to perish. If any two players are tied then the deadlock will decided in Mystic Cave Zone 2 speedrun, where a flawless run can keep players on the fast route, but a fall will see them having to slog through the slower route... and there is the matter of defeating Robotnik at the end of the level!

Golden Axe 2
Debut Competition: Second Mega Drive Championship
Tournament Games Played To-Date: 88
The original Golden Axe game was used at the First Mega Drive Championship, but substituted by its almost identical sequel for the Second. Complete with long-standing tournament nicknames Gillius "Jimmy" Thunderhead, Ax "Mike" Battler and Tyris "Hannah" Flair, are the stars of this arcade hack 'n slash in which the objective was to defeat [insert name of whichever evil final boss you will face] and restore the Golden Axe to its rightful owners and bring peace to the land... because somehow a gold axe possesses this awesome power, yet was somehow stolen on numerous occasions. Anyways, traditional tournament head-to-head duels have been abandoned and epics such as the 15-minute duel between Mike and Hannah are consigned to the whispers of legends. Instead, competitors at the 2016 Mega Drive Championship will brace themselves for a 1-player duel, as they face wave after wave of hideous foes, trapped in a dungeon of no escape. The player who reached the furthest round shall claim victory... although 2-player head-to-heads will be used to decide any deadlocks.

Virtua Racing
Debut Competition: Seventh Mega Drive Championship
Tournament Games Played To-Date: 42
The magical SVP chip contained within this game enabled the Mega Drive to render actual 3D graphics... unfortunately, the Mega Drive being what it is, there is approximately 4-polygons the size of small mountains on screen, the car handles worse than driving a skip and there are only 3 tracks to drive around. All this extremely ugly and limited excitement could have been purchased, when new, for the obscene amount of 60... which is approximately 59 overpriced. Virtua Racing has been a tournament staple since the Seventh Mega Drive Championship when it was felt a racing title would add an extra dimension of skill to the contests. Rather than force players to race head-to-head, contestants will race in pairs around 5-laps of the Beginner Track with their fastest lap being recorded on a leaderboard. The player who scores the fastest time will be the winner. While the first lap will give players the chance to get accustomed to moving their blocky F1 car over what feels more like sheets of ice than tarmac, every second from lap 2 to 5 will count. With slowing down a necessity, as the risks for too much speed seeing the car spin or, worse, flip are high, the question is how slow will players dare to go? In the unlikely event that players are tied, the Medium Track will be used to determine the winner.

Super Street Fighter 2
Debut Competition: Eighth Mega Drive Championship
Tournament Games Played To-Date: 81
There is perhaps no game more perfectly designed for competitive Mega Drive gaming than Super Street Fighter. A good deal of thought went into which fighting game would be best for the 2016 Mega Drive Championship, but, in spite of much deliberation, Super Street Fighter 2 was the clear choice. With fairly basic controls and concept, a wide variety of characters to master with rapid and responsive action, it will always be an area of some confusion as to why this was not a tournament game from the off, instead, it did not make an appearance until the Eight Mega Drive Championship! In order to become the best brawler at the Mega Drive Championship, it is not simply going to be a case of mastering one character and button mashing away at your opponents. Instead of the Versus mode, the elimination mode will be selected and players must select 3 fighters in the early rounds and the last person standing wins. Players will have a number of factors to consider: does anybody truly know their 3 best fighters? Do they select their best fighter first in the hope of wiping out their opponent, or last, for a safety net? 16-bit Street Fighter has never been quite so tactical!

Streets of Rage 3
Debut Competition: Fourteenth Mega Drive Championship
Tournament Games Played To-Date: 27
The mean streets found themselves so much meaner in Streets of Rage 3. Blaze, Axel and Skate return from the second game (Max has disappeared) and are prepared to take on the fight of their life, in this rare title that often seems to get overshadowed by its predecessor game. Yes, the music is worse, but the controls are tighter, the moves are improved and even include weapons, the levels more varied and responsive and the enemies aren't limited by a number of palette swaps. Streets of Rage 3 was added to the tournament line-up at the Fourteenth Mega Drive Championship and, owing to its scarcity, was the only title to be used as a "Division One Only" and excluded from the Tournament Knockout. While the 25th Mega Drive Championship had seen us trail Streets of Rage 2 on mania mode in the Challenge, the 2016 Mega Drive Championship will revert to its tried and tested 2-player head-to-head elimination, as players attempt to be the first to win two rounds. It isn't just their opponent that the players will have to be weary of, as the levels themselves will attempt to sap their lives... there is also no health penalty for using special moves, provided the special bar is up to maximum, but a hefty health penalty if the special bar is depleted.

Mega Bomberman
Debut Competition: Nineteenth Mega Drive Championship
Tournament Games Played To-Date: 31
For its responsive controls, simple premise, but devilish difficulty, Mega Bomberman was quite a latecomer to the Mega Drive Championships, making its debut at the Nineteenth Mega as the Knockout Final, it was quickly placed as a league game for the following tournament. The idea is simple enough: wander around the play area, drop bombs and blow up your opponent. Blowing up blocks releases power-ups which can include an increase in the amount of bombs a player can drop, a larger blast radius, the ability to kick bombs and, sometimes, a egg appears and the player gets to ride on a cute sort of alpaca thing, with each variety possessing a different ability and allows the player to survive a bomb blast. Challengers will enter a pre-determined arena and face-off against multiple foes. Round One will be in the first stage, so no fancy gimmicks and just good ol' fashioned explosive action. This will give newcomers the chance to get accustomed to the controls before the real action kicks in. The first to a pre-determined number of wins will qualify for the next round when the level used will change and the action heats up as the wheat sorts itself from the chaff. Just try to avoid the embarrassment of trapping yourself in a corner with one of your own bombs at the start of the first level... self-respect is everything.

Micro Machines: Military
Debut Competition: Twentieth Mega Drive Championship
Tournament Games Played To-Date: 17
Nothing personifies the 1990's more than owning a box of microscopic cars and racing them around an array of everyday items and Sega captured neatly the spirit of childhood, but made it quicker, free-flowing and, in this particular incarnation of the game, added weapons! No more bombing around a toilet seat in dragsters, instead, you romp around a garden setting in a tank in a game where falling behind gives you the opportunity to put your bullets in effect. With Micro Machines being used in the Mega Drive Championships as early as the Ninth Tournament, it was not until the Twentieth Championship that Micro Machines Military was first used. So, with trigger fingers at the ready (the C-Button) qualification from Round One will be determined in the battle mode, where 2-4 players face off in an arena. Players will race in groups of two or more with the winner advancing to the later rounds. The tracks are perilous and obstacles abundant, but, your foes are now equipped with the ability to shoot you from your advantage and see your vehicle spinning desperately out of control. Unlike previous tournaments, the controversial crossing the line after 3-laps with the score at 4-4 will no longer equate to a draw and the sudden death mode will be utilised to determine a winner. The final will see the best three players go head-to-head-to-head in what might be the most epic micro car race in the history of everything.

Doctor Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine
Debut Competition: 2016 Mega Drive Championship
Tournament Games Played To-Date: 0
The premise of Dr Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine is a little bit like Mario and Sonic at the Olympics... the first time the 2-heavyweights of the 16-bit era joined forces in a game, which wasn't assembled by some fanboy using Games Factory, should have been an awesome and epic battle across time, space, dimensions and awesome, in which everything exploded inlcuding the person playing, where the laws of gravity, destiny, thermonuclear explosions and awesome were re-written and Sonic and Mario finally faced each other for a historic showdown in which the very fate of the Universe hinges in the balance and then the Universe explodes twice... instead we get long jump; these two heroes of a generation leaping into sand. The cold and calculated Dr Ivo Robotnik every so often attempts to enslave the planet Mobius (or surrounding Little Planet) destroy everything wholesome and green and replacing cuddly and cute soft things with evil machines, all in his mad quest to discover the chaos emeralds. Naturally, the first game with Dr Robotnik in the title doesn't involve even playing as Robotnik, instead we are playing a Columns rip-off where beans are falling from the sky and must be assembled in groups of 4 or more and clearing them allows competitors to rain clear beans onto their opponents screen... we assume the connection to Dr Robotnik is that of marketing. Making its debut in the Mega Drive Championships, players will go head-to-head in a best of 3 games competition, with the first round in the easiest mode, the next round in the easy mode, etc.

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