20th June 2010

Here at Tournament Towers we often muse on deep and philosophical questions. Why it was just the other day, while singing along to Benny Lava in the shower, when such a thought occurred: We currently have Mega Drive Championship in five countries, but which individual member is the best? The name that leapt to mind, rather quickly actually, was Dário Pelixo the current Mega Drive Champion of Portugal. So was the name that occurred in the shower an accurate assessment, or was it merely a soap induced error? Who else would be in contention for such an honourable title? Is Dário Pelixo the correct choice for it to be bestowed upon?

His loony bun is fine Benny Lava

If only Benny Lava
played Mega Drive...

At first you might not notice the thin, unassuming electrical engineer from Setubal. He modestly blends into the background. At first meeting him at the 2008 European Mega Drive Championship he seemed quite anonymous besides the quiet but chatty Ferdinand Menéndez and the confidently assured creator of the Portuguese Tournaments; Alberto Campos. But draw near to Dário and discover a wealth of opinion, some often controversial with a sharp and scrutinizing wit, punctuated with exasperated sighs and gasps! Laughing and joking, Dário is at the humerous heart of the Portuguese Mega Drive Championships.

Prior to 2007, when tournaments only existed in England and Portugal, there were just three people who may have qualified for this title "best in the world"; Chris Dilks (England), Daniel Smith (England) and Jorge Esteves (Portugal) were the dominant players in their domestic tournaments. Of course, this was under the assumption that a similar level of Mega Drive ability was present in both countries, but in 2008 (and 2009) this illusion was shattered for good. The European Mega Drive Championships for the first time allowed the competitors from different nations to go head-to-head and it was quickly established that the English are not nearly as dedicated or competent as their Portuguese counterparts. For this reason we can dismiss any English "threat" Dário may have for the title of "Best in the World". We have also decided to discount our brothers from Brazil and the United States of America. The U.S.A. have been discounted primarily owing to the fact their system is based upon teams and not the individual, while Brazil are estimated to operate at a level similar to England, either way, in spite of any proof, we doubt either nation would have anybody capable of challenging the Portuguese elite.

Mr Smith will still destroy you on Sonic 2

Chris Dilks and Daniel Smith
the best in England, but not nearly good enough!

Portugal don the stage as Champions of Europe

Dário Pelixo celebrates with Alberto Campos and
Ferdinand Menéndez - Champions of Europe 2008

It was winning the 2008 European Mega Drive Championship that caused Portugal to grab our attention. At the time, had we made a judgement call, Alberto Campos would have been quickly dubbed the best player Portugal presently possessed (Aah! Alliteration!) and this article would be arguing his and Jorge Esteves's merits to be dubbed: "Best in the World". Undefeated in all twelve of his European games, Alberto also seemed on top of the domestic game, having won the Fifth Tournament he reached the final at both the Seventh and Eighth Mega Drive Championships. Dário's performance in 2008 was good, but he was statistically the weakest of the three Portuguese players - Ferdinand Menéndez performing better. So, would we have considered Dário back then? The answer ranges somewhere between "unlikely" and "no". Back then we joked about the self-confessed "Cristiano Ronaldo of Mega Drive", but who's laughing now?

Before we move on let us dismiss both Ferdinand Menéndez and Pedro Bragaça as challengers for the noble tagline: "Best in the World" - say it a few times and a little bit of warm and glowing pride might build up inside. Both are recognised as extremely strong players, both have won a recent domestic tournament and both have participated in the victorious Portuguese Mega Drive Teams at the European Championships. Yet it has been claimed that both men have significant weaknesses, which the longer serving and tactical minded players know and do manipulate (e.g. Pedro Bragança and sports games, Ferdinand Menéndez and Virtua Racing etc) and while both lay claim to a domestic league title... Dário claims three!

Dário hinted that Portugal's victory at the 2008 European Mega Drive Championship was not as complete as they would perhaps have liked. After a nervous start saw them loitering in second place, team work and adapting to the hated 3-button controllers found them form. Team Germany had been the leaders for the majority of the competition, but going into the final fixture, the pendulum had swung towards Portugal, who now led the Germans by two-points with two-points to play for. Maybe this was the moment the metaphorical Dário fish crawled out of the primordial pond and began to evolve. With just four-points under his belt (do metaphorical fish wear belts?) Dário's points tally was comparable to the embarrassing English and now he went head-to-head against the undefeated German, Tobias Berg, in a match that would decided the entire fate of the Universe 2008 European Champions!! Did anybody really fancy Dário's chances? Having already been defeated on Super Street Fighter 2 by England's Atheer Shakib, perhaps his Portuguese teammates knew of his prowess, but everybody else was blissfully ignorant. That probably made victory all the sweeter...

Pride, tension and passion are a potent concoction of emotion; a successful throw started the onslaught! Dário hurled a plethora of fireballs towards his flailing opponent, who grappled with his three button controller. The two men danced nimbly across the screen, but it was a failed jump-kick that left Tobias vulnerable and Dário capitalized with a throw to score victory in the first round. With the scent of victory and the European Championship, Dário elegantly executed his superiority. The match climaxed with Tobias's Ryu tossed from the corner before Dário's Ken lobbed two fireballs across the screen, Tobias successfully leapt over them and, anticipated a third, jumped again - straight into a dragon punch! The knock-down blow came in the form of a fireball before Tobias was even on his feet. 16-bit action had transcending into poetry. Victory belonged to Dário and Team Portugal.

Download video: Dário Pelixo Vs Tobias Berg, 2008 European Mega Drive Championship Final (6.25MB)

Tobias Berg is still regarded as the strongest Mega Drive player in Germany. Of the three man team who participated in the 2008 and 2009 European Championships, it is Tobias who was ranked highest. He won the inaugural German Mega Drive Championship in 2009 and it widely speculated that one of the main reasons Richard Neumann was able to win the Second Tournament was Tobias being unable to attend! Germany finished four-points behind Portugal when they duelled 16-bit style in England 2008. For 2009 the competition moved to Lisbon, giving the hosts the opportunity to defend their title upon home soil. Would the Germans show their championship credentials and give the host nation another epic engagement across a battlefield of Mega Drive games?

Tobias Berg: Living legend

Tobias Berg:
King of Mega Drive in Germany

"It was on our home soil, with our friends in the audience cheering for us and We trained so hard for it during so long. And then the result was way beyond what we could have ever imagined. Absolutely brilliant play from the entire team and a day full of great memories!" - Dário Pelixo discusses the 2009 European Mega Drive Championship victory

Portugal dominated the event from start until end. The German threat never materialised, indeed for the first portion of the contest they even trailed behind Team England! Tobias Berg was once again the highest ranking German, but it was the unquenchable Dário Pelixo who produced the best individual performance; undefeated in all his home and away games. Head-to-head Dário and Tobias have battled three times, with Tobias beaten twice. Germany are a fantastic nation of Mega Drive athletes, but Portugal are better.

The 'invincible' Jorge Esteves

Jorge Esteves of the First Epoch

Mega-lo-Mania describes them as epochs, these are large spans of time during which technology and humanity progress dramatically. The English Mega Drive Championships have seen marked changes with both the competition structure, the games employed, the methods of game selection. In Portugal, the structure of the contest has remained constant and the range of games has always been extensive, although a divide can be drawn when the competitions shifted location from Sintra to Amadora, we can also define the Portuguse ephochs by the most dominant member in that era and, for an article where we are determining the best Portuguese player, this will obviously be the logical definition for the term! Other tournaments across the world are too far in their infancy to have developed any such distinctions.

José Chança was the winner of the original Mega Drive tournament. Jorge Esteves would not arrive until the following competition, but when he did he was swift to exert his authority over the other participants. Romping to victory on an array of games in the group stages; performing well in the sports and better in the fighting games, he finished top of both elimination leagues before crushing Fátima Campos (in the days when she was feared as a Mega Drive athlete) on Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 before a final game of Street Fighter 2: Championship Edition where he beat his brother, Flávio Esteves, to win his first tournament title. The second came just one tournament later in which the playing of the event seemed like a mere formality! Jorge Esteves was supreme, with a commanding performance in the second stage, the outcome seemed inevitable; Victory over one tournament entree Marcio Costa (is that the correct adjective, or have I just described him as a starter meal?) setup a final fixture against David Magueijo on Street Fighter 2: Championship Edition. A few fireballs, a hurricane kick, a sweeping low kick and Jorge Esteves was the winner - a small chorus of boos competed with a ripple of applause for the man who had retained his title and is the only player in history to do so. The word "invincible" became attached to his name following his second tournament triumph.

Download video of Jorge Esteves winning the Third Tournament (25.8MB)

The decline of Jorge Esteves co-insides with the rise of Alberto Campos. The pair clashed on World Cup Italia '90 in the final of the Fifth Mega Drive Championship where Alberto claimed victory and the tournaments ushered into a new age. Dário modestly describes Alberto as "the best Portuguese player" because "he's so good at so many genres of games." Who am I to disagree with Dário? Actually I'm one half of the Mega Drive Championship Administration, I attempt to rise above prejudice to ensure fairness and competitiveness, this is my website, I am writing this article and I disagree with Dário, albeit only just! Alberto's epoch is perhaps more a title of convenience than an age of absolute domination. This era started at the Fifth Tournament and lasted until the Tenth, Alberto was clearly the single best player; his supporters would argue his roundedness as a Mega Drive athlete, but conversely, in spite of reaching the final stage in five of these six tournaments, Alberto has achieved just one domestic Mega Drive title. Instead the tournaments were won by a series of good, but not remarkable participants; Arsénio Ferraz, David Magueijo, Dário described his maiden Seventh Mega Drive Championship triumph as "pure dumb luck." hardly symbolic of a competition under one man's dominion.

Alberto Campos, tournament creator and dominant force

Alberto Campos of the Second Epoch

It was the Tenth Mega Drive Championship when the balance of power shifted again. Both Alberto Campos and Dário Pelixo had reached the third stage of the contest; having grappled their way through the treacherous team games of Stage Two. Alberto Campos struggled through a tough semi-final on World Cup Italia '90 against João Pires, arguably the greatest game that Portugal has ever witnessed, it was a penalty shootout that placed Alberto in the final, after the pair had tied 2-2 in the regular game. Dário had no such problems and effortly glided passed Ferdinand Menéndez, the score 5-0. Did those witnessing Alberto and Dário gong head-to-head at that Rugby World Cup '95 Final sense something passing? The baton of history shifting from one great power to another? Probably not! In what was far from an epic encounter, the outcome of this fixture was evident for an extended period of the match; Dário's 28-7 victory securing his second tournament title.

"The 10th was a deserved one. After being outplayed by Luis Xavier on some crap wrestling game [WWF Raw] at the 9th, I actually trained a lot for the 10th, studying every game that was gonna be there, and it payed [sic] off - That day I was the best player around and I proved it." - Dário Pelixo reflects on his second Mega Drive Championship title

Dário Pelixo, hero of men, King of Portugal, potential Pope

Dário Pelixo of the Third Epoch

Jorge Esteves, Alberto Campos and Dário Pelixo would come together to contest the Twelfth Mega Drive Championship. Jorge returning after an absence of five tournaments, "even after so long away, he's still very good at many games, even without training." Dário commented about his rival. But Jorge's "invincible" tag had been question when the Championships moved into the Age of Alberto and here they were completely shattered, as both he and Alberto Campos were eliminated at the Second Stage. So now Dário Pelixo was left alone to face an old European ally, Ferdinand Menéndez, in a two-person Stage Three (breaking with a tradition as old as the competitions themselves, which had always seen four-people participate in the Third Round). It was Ferdinand's selection of a missile free Combat Cars that cost him the title, although anybody who forces another human being to endure a game of Combat Cars deserves not only to lose, but should be aware Article Three of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental freedoms prohibits torture and degrading treatment. Dário went on to beat his opponent on NBA Jam: Tournament Edition; Ferdinand unable to upset the odds, Dário claimed his Third Mega Drive Championship title.

"The 12th was my best win so far. Being the first to win 3 Portuguese Tournaments and also make the Euro team for the third time meant a lot to me and it was one of the most close tournaments I've been to, which just makes it [winning] even better."
- Dário Pelixo on his most recent tournament victory.

As we move through time we discover different heroes and different villains. There are those that wander through life; some blissfully admiring all the beauty, those who walk unable to lift their gaze from the miserable floor. Then there are those who shape the world to suit their desires and whims: Three domestic Mega Drive Championships, two European Mega Drive Championships, Dário Pelixo's record is unsurpassed. Alberto Campos says of his rival, "he is really a great player and a fantastic team-mate to have." We say, arise Dário Pelixo, we dub you the best Mega Drive player in the world!