31st October 2010

FIFA rank Portugal as the 8th best footballing nation on Earth. The International Rugby Board ranks Portugal at 22nd behind Uruguay and ahead of Spain. At the 2008 Summer Olympics, Portugal collected one gold medal and one silver, giving them a final ranking of 46th. When it comes to the highly respected sport of Mega Drive, Portugal are clearly the number one nation. The 2010 European Mega Drive Championship replicated the events of 2009, Team Portugal dominanting proceedings from beginning to end and with nobody able to match them for their overall awesome 16-bit abilities. But do these Iberian Warriors risk becoming victims of their own success? Have the European Mega Drive Championships become a stifled and predictable contest?

Alberto Campos
prepares for another victory

Winning the 2010 European Mega Drive Championship in Nuremberg made this Portugal's third successive tournament title. Alberto Campos and Dário Pelixo having represented their country in all three of Portugal's triumph while Pedro Bragança returns after showing his skills in 2009. There had been a number of changes to the European Mega Drive Championship since the competition in Lisbon; subtle rule changes designed to enhance competition such as the away player given first refusal on any character or team in an attempt to prevent cheap victories, there was a marked increase in Administration selected games, which, for the first time, included one-players; Golden Axe 2, Gunstar Heroes and Sonic the Hedgehog all getting a run out. Yet none of these alterations prevented Portugal marching inexorably to their third tournament title.

Predictability is the killer of competitions (See also: Scottish Premier League), however, addressing the causes of predictabilty is seldom simple. In most sports resources are often the cause of inballances, however, finance is not a factor with the Mega Drive Championships, with participants still very much playing as amateurs for the love of the competition. The problem of predictability was first noted in 2009 after Portugal won their second tournament with such dominance that the English and German teams merely floundered in their wake. While nobody would want to deminish the Portuguese for the efforts they undertook to dominante the 2009 European Mega Drive Championship, it was noted that any continuous monopoly would be deterimental to the ever expanding sport of Mega Drive.

A number of suggestions have been made since the tournament, as how to address this problem and they will be assessed upon merit and any necessary amendments will be made. Team England, who finished last for a fourth successive tournament, bore the brunt of some of the criticism for not taking the competition seriously enough and it is true that the lack of practice once again reduced any chance the English had of finishing above last place. To attribute predicability to England's attitude seems like scapegoat seeking and while it is true that the English should take resposibility for their performances, training cannot be forced upon teams, just like it cannot be banned, to attribute Portugal's third triumph to over practicing is also folly. The idea of withholding the fixtures until the day itself might address the issue of practicing, but in reality it would just lead to a tedious situation of constant home-wins, devaluing the competition completly, and this is before the practical issue of allocating away-picks before a tournament makes it wholly unworkable.

Too easy!
Dário Pelixo, three times Champion

Another motion mused is that of breaking up the team format and either replace it with an individual based competition or an individually selected team games competition. Both these ideas have their merits as well as their failings, however, the competition structure is not failing and drastic alteration seems over the top. The current situation facing the Mega Drive Championships is simple and that is the lack of additional nations. Team Hungary became the first new nation to participate since 2008, however, they are a long way from breaking up the league table. Ireland, winners of the 2007 Tournament, spoke of returning to the fold, having been absent since they won in 2007. In spite of efforts to raise teams from Austria, Estonia, France, Holland, Scotland and Switzerland, frequent obsticles prevented any of these from materialising. Ideally 2011 will see fifty-four nations travel to England to participate in the European Mega Drive Championship, but this seems an unrealistic utopeian view.

None of this should take away the effort and achievement that went into making Nuremberg 2010 a wonderful journey for those travelling to participate. Two years ago Germany did not exist as a professional Mega Drive playing nation and their first forray into the world of 16-bit athleticism was at the Nottingham 2008 Championship where the Germans and the Portuguese took the fight for the title down to the last game. Just out from the centre of the historic city of Nuremberg, across tree covered roads that hinted at beautiful bavarian forest, the 2010 European Mega Drive Championship took place. Endorsed by Sega of Germany, who generously provided t-shirts and lolipops, the contestants gathered to play for the ulitmate prize of being crowned Mega Drive Champion and to claim the almost erotic winners trophy.

Game 1: Mega Bomberman (4-players, man-o-mano):
The traditional tournament opening saw a flase start as Team England began with a non-working controller. Richard Neumann had to sacrifice the advantage, as the game was re-started. Portugal, Dário Pelixo in particular, have traditionally been strong on Bomberman and he was quick to grapple the advantage. England and Germany also managed to score points, but oddly, instead of the three other nations ganging up on the Portuguese superstar, they contended themselves in battling for the scraps at Dário's table. He won this game with ease, scoring the first two-points of many for Team Portugal.

Game 6: FIFA '98 (2 Vs 2)
"You picked the worst game in the series" the players moaned. Regardless, both games of FIFA '98 were enjoyable encounters. In Portugal and Germany's tie the score was level at 1-1 when the Portuguese resorted to some very aggressive tactics to try and secure the winner. With red cards distributed freely, Portugal's team were reduced to eight as they flirted with the in-game limit and risked suffering an automatic defeat, but their gamble paid off and they managed to get the winning goal and gave themeselves a decisive advantage over Germany. In the other game England were trailing Hungary in the final minute when a goal was produced out of nowhere to level the score, the spectators might have been forgiven for thinking England were about to score a point, however, the Hungarians scored again in the dying seconds to win the match and a hearty round of applause.

And the crowd goes... numb - retro football at its worst!

Spain Vs Spain, FIFA '98
The worst in the series!

Game 8: Mario Andretti Racing
Prior to the tournament the nerdy debate of whether or not a game containing the world "Mario" should be allowed in the Mega Drive Championships. "Who's Mario?" One of the participants asked and the question was settled! The big debate during this game was whether the cars sounded more like lawnmowers or electric toothbrushes. The game was tosh, but the commentary amusing.

Game10: WWF Wrestlemania The Arcade Game
Tobias Berg is largely regarded as the German Mega Drive king and insurmoutable on his favourite wrestling titles. For the past two years his tactics of selecting Yokozuna and performing his arse crush move have yet to be countered. This was until Dário Pelixo stepped up and turned the tide against the unsuspecting German. It was a Yokozuna mirror match and Dário crushed Tobias in round one, stunning the crowd with his perfect health bar. Round two saw Tobias reassert himself and he clawed the match back into an awesomely tight final round that was too close to call. It was Dário Pelixo who claimed the win, two-points and felled a giant - Tobias's dominance on wrestling games was ended.

Game 12: Marble Madness
The game of Marble Madness was largely irrelivant. This was the moment when Igor Zorbin received a cut to his thumb, the bleeding continued and while this complaint was largely ignored, Administrator Christopher Dilks stepped into apply some crude medical assistant to the ailing Hungarian, although his wild claims that he was a field doctor seem somewhat exaggerated!

Game 18: Doctor Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine
This was one of those rare occasions where Portugal lose a game. Against Hungary's Katharina Mayer, Alberto Campos gave an excellent account of himself, however, Katharina was swifter and her bean combos piled up faster. She gained an early advantage when dropping three rows of clear beans into her adversary's screen, but the game played out for a little while longer until everything came crashing around Alberto.

Game 22: Streets of Rage 3
A nice little romp that didn't descend into the usual A-button bashing melee and a rare victory for Team England. In the morning forest Derek Wheatley and Igor Zorbin fought and while the Englishman won comfortably the first round, the second was much more open. For a while the game flickered with the potential excellence, but not enough to make it a classic.

Game 26: Sonic the Hedgehog (1-player)
The highlight of the entire competition was Pedro Bragança's run on Sonic the Hedgehog. Each nation had ninty seconds to collect as many rings as they can in Green Hill Zone Act 1. Handling the pressure of the one-player game with ease, Pedro produced a nearly flawless run in which he grabbed 223 of the 225 rings available with two seconds to spare. This amazing specticle was not repeated from the other nations with Richard Neumann, Germany's Sonic Hero, buckling under the pressure and falling on a set of spikes and secure the win for Pedro.

The classic Sonic the Hedgehog

Watch the spikes!
The battle to collect the most rings in 90 seconds.

Game 32: Virtua Racing
England's John Maltby and Germany's Tobias Berg battled out a tight scrap on the expert track of this classic Mega Drive title. The early advantage lay with England, however, a couple of spins at that hatfully slow hairpin moved the game back in favour of the German. Costly errors in the final two laps allowed Tobias to extend his lead and claim the win for Team Germany.

Game 36: NHL '97 (2 Vs 2)
England were on the ropes at this point and on the brink of their worst European performance to date, and given their recent record this is an abysmal statement. Portugal were flowing with confidence having secured their third title. The contrast between these two teams was highlighted upon this 2 Vs 2 tie on NHL '97. Portugal were a polished and effective duo, swift and deadly, England were a ramshakle and chaotic mess that lacked organisation and ability. The final score of 8-0 did not flater the Portuguese victors.

Game 37: International Superstar Soccer Deluxe
Match point! Team Portugal needed to transform this soccer simulation into a win to secure their third title in as many years. Dário Pelixo and Tobias Berg battled for the honour of their respective nations and although Dário seemed to hold a marginal advantage the score at half time was 0-0. The second half continued as the clumsy characters looked to forge an opening. Two goals came towards the end of the game and they both went to Portugal. Dário secured the title for his countrymen and there was much rejoycing.

Game 44: World Cup Italia '90
Games of World Cup Italia '90 oscilate between the tedious and the sublime. Europeanly it has produced some amazing ties in both 2007 and 2008. This clash between Germany and Portugal certainly ranks as the sublime. By now the title was secure and the only thing remaining to play for was pride. This was a hard fought duel that neither player was able to exert much dominace on. The final score was a 3-3 draw and the penalty shootout was played for the sake of amusement.


































From start until finish the Portuguese once again dominated the tournament. The epic trio of Alberto Campos, Dário Pelixo and Pedro Bragança showed their might, as they claimed Portugal's third successive Mega Drive Championship victory. They were out of touch from the opposition following game six and out of reach by game thirty-seven. Dário Pelixo also strengthened his position is the personal duel with Alberto Campos, as the pair jostle for the supreme title of "Best Player in Europe", dropping just one point; he scored nineteen points from a possible twenty.

Of Germany's three attempts at trying to win the Mega Drive Championship this was neither their best or their worst performance. 2008 was their best when they challenged Portugal for the title until the final game. 2009 saw the Germans struggle to put distance between themselves and the English. 2010 Germany did neither and a tournament of anonimity saw them in a respectable second place, for the third time. Tobias Berg's coming undone on WWF: The Arcade Game was a jaw dropping moment and critcism was levied for attempting "glitch victories" the successor to 2009's "cheap victories".

The newcomers to Europe. While their inexperience meant they never threatened second placed Germany, they were still too good for Team England. Their third place finish did not flatter them and was never really in doubt. Igor Zorbin, Claudia and Katherina Mayer will have to band together if they are to improve, as Hungary will need to up their game considerably if they are to challenge in 2011.

Even for Team England this was a poor performance. Defeat after defeat followed for the whipping boys of Europe. After 2009's challenge against Germany might have given the English hope, part of this is now attributed to the "Smith" factor, which was absent this year. All three members struggled to get any sort of points on the board and were not just disappointing in their away games, but their home ones too. Criticism was levelled at them for not taking the competition seriously. 2011 will be a big test for Team England.