Video Game Mania 8: The Games

Okay, so here are the rules. I set up a bunch of single-player games in my basement that people can play at their leisure between noon and 4PM. There are sheets of paper where initials and high scores are recorded. While that's happening I run a series of mini head-to-head tournaments, recording the results on an elaborate "leaderboard". Players received three points for each first place finish, and one point for each second place finish. At 4PM the single-player points are added into the mix, and the top eight players are seeded for an exciting playoff finale. The unofficial theme for VGM8 was snow and ice, which is fitting since it actually snowed during the event. Most people didn't even know that until they stepped outside afterwards.
Finding a good game for VGM is tougher that you might think. Each game must have the following characteristics:
- Easy to play, with minimal instructions. Anybody should be able to jump in and figure things out. For most games, I did allow a practice round.
- Games need to be short. If a single-player game runs long, it will be monopolized. If a head-to-head game is too long, it will limit the number we can squeeze in.
- For single player games, I have to be able to limit the continues, and the score must remain displayed on the screen after each game.


The Single-player Games

Metal Slug (Playstation 2, 2007)
I like to have plenty of shooters at VGM, and Metal Slug is probably the pinnacle of 2D shooting action. With rapid-fire controls, non-stop action, and gratuitous destruction, you cannot go wrong with this game. I set up the Metal Slug I from the Metal Slug Anthology with five continues and the difficult set to easy. There was a little confusion at first, as it was necessary to press "select" to reset the game between players. Shawn N was a close runner-up in this one with 156,614, and should probably kick Dean's ass if he hasn't already.

1st place: Joe 204,050 2nd place: Dean 162,144


Gradius 3 (SNES, 1991)
This is an old-fashioned 2D space shooter where you blast your way through caves while selectively upgrading your weapons. What makes the Gradius games so great for VGM is that they are so freakin' hard that the games tend to be very short. Nick came in third with 34,000.

1st place: Hawk 53,400 2nd place: Steve 39,000


Dragonfire (Atari 2600, 1982)
I can't believe I've never used this in a VGM before! It's easy to play, addictively fun, and a lot of my friends remember it from the old days. Dragonfire features two alternating screens. In the first, you dodge fireballs while crossing a bridge, and in the second you frantically snag treasure as a dragon spits fireballs from below. I used variation #1, which was ideal in terms of difficulty. Scott and Hawk vied for the high score in this for the better part of an hour before Matt took the wind out of their sails.

1st place: Matt 10,550 2nd place: Hawk 6,470


Q*bert (Atari XEGS, 1983)
Like Pac-Man, Q*bert is a universally-loved, timeless classic. You hop a funny looking creature around a pyramid, trying to change the squares into the same color while avoiding hazards like Coily the Snake. This game was super popular at VGM8, but ultimately Shawn P decimated the competition.

1st place: Shawn P 45,330 2nd place: Eric 18,305


Protector (Vectrex, 2003)
I fell in love with this Defender clone a few months ago, and knew it was a good choice for VGM8. The graphics are terrific, and the complicated button arrangement is very consistent with the original coin-op.

1st place: Dean 14,950 2nd place: Hawk 13,525


Thin Ice (Intellivison, 1986)
For every VGM I like to have at least one game that nobody's ever heard of, and this rare Intellivision title certainly fit the bill. You control a skating penguin trying to sink other penguins by carving out chunks of ice. I didn't really know how this would go over, but people seemed to love it! A few mentioned it reminded them of Qix.

1st place: Hawk 16,340 2nd place: George 11,080


Dragon's Lair (Philip CD-i, 1994)
For those of you old enough to remember the 1983 arcade scene, Dragon's Lair was a legitimate phenomenon. Although this laser-disk game featured minimal interaction, the imaginative cartoon visuals were a lot of fun to watch. I didn't expect people to get very far in this one (it involves a lot of trial and error), but Mark turned out to be an old Dragon's Lair veteran, effortlessly cruising through a large chunk of the game. In an amusing twist, most people were frustrated by Dragon's Lair and didn't even bother to record their scores. They might have thought different had they known that 15 points would be good enough for second place!

1st place: Mark 557 2nd place: Nick 15 (!)


Millipede (Arcade 1982)
As the latest edition to my arcade game collection, Millipede takes the classic Centipede insect-shooting-mayhem to the next level. Yeah, Millipede is faster, and despite what the scores would suggest, it's a lot harder too. Mike pointed out that the default high scores are so high (over 50K) that few people were likely to even rank in. To remedy the situation I provided a sheet of paper for people to mark down their scores. Then something weird happened. Mark allegedly scribbled out Steve's high score, claiming he had "tied it". That didn't make much sense, as the chance of them both scoring 51,858 seems very unlikely. Using my pocket calculator from eighth grade (which I once used to spell BOOBLESS), I calculated the chances of this occurring to be a staggering 51,858 to 1!! Anyway, Steve and Mark had to engage in a mini-playoff to settle second place, and Mark ultimately prevailed. Who said crime doesn't pay?

1st place: Mike 52,226 2nd place: Mark 51,858


Centipede (Arcade 1980)
This was a hotly contested game, with no less than four people finishing with scores of over 30K! Sadly, only two would derive any benefit for their efforts.

1st place: Scott 33,876 2nd place: Steve 32,530


Tapper (Arcade 1983)
Dean has really become dominant in Tapper - it seems like he wins it every year! Apparently the game is an acquired taste, as I noticed a lot of people seemed to back off from it after the first play.

1st place: Dean 47,575 2nd place: George 24,850


Crystal Castles (Arcade 1983)
Steve ran away with this one, almost doubling the next highest score! Apparently Steve has a thing for bears that prance around in red sashes. I guess I shouldn't say anything, considering this is my game!

1st place: Steve 107,623 2nd place: Mike 57,898


Multi-Player Games

Winter Heat (Saturn, 1997)
I wanted winter weather to be the theme of VGM8, and this game was perfect. The events are quick, fun, and competitive. Heck, the game even displays the instructions before each event, saving me the aggravation of explaining things. George prevailed against Mark in the finals, despite the fact that his controller apparently did not have the ability to move left. Just like old times, George blames the controller!

First RoundFinalsWinner
Nick
Joe
Mark
Scott
Mark
* George *
Hawk
Matt
George
Dean
George


SSX On Tour (GameCube, 2005)
This is one of the better snowboarding games out there, with a killer split-screen mode and simple "race to the bottom" variations. I witnessed some very close races in this one, including one where Eric had a huge lead but got stuck behind a wall near the finish line.

First RoundSecond RoundFinalsWinner
Steve
Dean
Steve Steve

* Steve *
George
Chris
Chris
Shawn P
Shawn N
Shawn P Shawn P
Mike
Eric
Eric


Wii Fit Skiing (Wii, 2008)
I think people were a little apprehensive about trying this one, but once they saw how much fun it was, they were lining up. I decided to let everyone take two runs, and have the best two players compete in a final round. It's not exactly head-to-head, but it was fun to watch. In the end, George took a steady, slow approach, while Eric tried to go faster and was penalized for missing gates. It was the tortoise and the hare all over again!

First RoundFinalsWinner
Dean 57.03
Mark 1:48.00
Eric 44.40
Chris 2:00
Shawn P 1:00
Shawn N 56:43
Matt 58.55
Scott 1:03
Steve 1:25
Mike 1:06.58
Hawk 1:25
Nick 1:22
Eric
1:14

* George *
George
:46


Street Fighter Alpha (Saturn, 1995)
I knew that there would be several Street Fighter experts an VGM8, so I decided to level the playing field a bit by forcing people to select random characters. Chris, who was highly favored, got stuck with the slow-assed Birdie for the finals, but fortunately for him, his opponent Nick also had Birdie. Chris really had to sweat it out to earn his first VGM victory.

First RoundSecond RoundFinalsWinner
Nick
Hawk
Nick Nick

* Chris *
Shawn P
Matt
Matt
Mark
Dean
Mark Chris
Chris
Steve
Chris


Boom Blox (Wii, 2008)
I almost forgot to include this game at VGM8, and that would have been tragic, considering Boom Blox is the best new multi-player game to emerge in years. Designed by Steven Spielberg (seriously!), Boom Blox is sort of a "reverse Jenga", challenging you to knock over blocks for points. Not only is it very satisfying to see the towers topple, but there's plenty of strategy involves in zeroing in on the weak spots. People were really getting roudy during these games, and the screaming could be heard from outside.

First RoundFinalsWinner
Joe
Steve
Scott
Dean
Dean

* Nick *
Mark
Nick
Hawk
Chris
Nick
Eric
George
Shawn P
Matt
George


NHL 94 (Genesis, 1993)
I usually don't like to repeat games at VGMs, but since NHL 94 is the best hockey game ever and I hadn't used it since VGM2, I figured it was time. Little did I know how easily Nick would steamroll the competition. Despite being only 20 years of age, Nick regularly plays NHL 94 and knows every trick in the book. His wrap-around goals abolutely infuriated his opponents. The auto-controlled goalies had no chance at all, so next time I'll have to put the goalies on manual control. Maybe then Nick's reign of terror will finally come to an end.

First RoundSecond RoundFinalsWinner
Nick
Matt
Nick Nick

* Nick *
Dean
Joe
Dean
Mike
Steve
Steve Steve
Shawn N
Scott
Shawn N


Call of Duty 4 Xbox 360, 2008)
No video game tournament is complete without some first-person shooting action, and Call of Duty 4 offers a fantastic four-player split-screen mode. This game was so fiercely competitive that Shawn P actually walked away from the game in disgust after getting shot in the face too much.

First RoundFinalsWinner
Shawn P
Chris
Eric
Mark
Mark

* Steve *
Dean
Shawn N
Matt
Scott
Dean
Steve
Joe
Hawk
Steve


Tecmo Super Bowl (NES, 1991)
I really wanted a football game to be represented at VGM8, but figured Madden 09 would run too long. Instead I opted for Tecmo Bowl, although I had also considered Super High Impact (Genesis). In the interest of time, I had to limit each game to one half.

First RoundSecond RoundFinalsWinner
Nick
Chris
Nick Scott

* Steve *
Scott
Shawn N
Scott
Dean
Steve
Steve Steve
Mike
Mark
Mark


Ridge Racer 7 (Playstation 3, 2006)
I really wanted the PS3 to be represented at VGM8, and while Ridge Racer 7 isn't the best game for the system, it has a nice pick-up-and-play quality. Plus, one of the tracks is really short.

First RoundSecond RoundFinalsWinner
Chris
Joe
Chris Scott

* George *
Hawk
Scott
Scott
George
Nick
George George
Shawn N
Shawn P
Shawn N


Point Totals

These totals were used to seed the playoff round.

Blue=multi-player
Red=single player

1. Steve - 15 (10 blue, 5 red)
2. George - 12 (10 blue, 2 red)
3. Nick - 8 (8 blue, 1 red)
4. Dean - 8 (1 blue, 8 red)
5. Hawk - 8 (8 red)
6. Scott - 5 (1 blue, 4 red)
7. Mark - 5 (1 blue, 4 red)
8. Shawn P - 4 (1 blue, 3 red)
9. Mike - 4 (4 red)
10. Chris - 3 (3 blue)
11. Joe - 3 (3 red)
12. Matt - 3 (3 red)
13. Eric - 2 (1 blue, 1 red)
14. Shawn N - 0 (goose egg!)
15. Jon - 0

Note: In case of tie, head-to-head points take precedence. If still a tie, order of appearance determines rank.


The Playoffs and Finals


Mortal Kombat Vs. DC Universe (Xbox 360, 2008)

Selecting this game for the playoffs was a ballsy move on my part, considering it was largely untested. Still, in the short time I had spent with Mortal Kombat Vs. DC Universe, I knew it was a winner. Plus I knew the ample blood and eye candy was sure to please the crowd of onlookers during the finals. I allowed the players to select whatever character they wanted. The high seed officially had the first pick, but this was never really a factor. The top four seeds all advanced to the second round.

The fights were exciting, especially when the fighters would fall of a cliff and fight in mid-air! Nick (#4 seed) stuck with a character he was comfortable with, Scorpion, while Dean (#3) selected the more agile (and extremely good looking) female characters. George (#2) went with The Flash, and stuck with him all the way through. Steve (#2) used Baraka to get through the first round, but took a risk by taking the Joker in the semi-finals. Steve did however beat Nick in the consolation match for third place, using Batman.

The final battle was a back-and-forth affair, and at one point in the third round George appeared to be toast. It took every ounce of skill and determination for him to answer with a mighty flurry and pull out and improbable comeback. The rest is one for the history books.

Quarter Finals Semi Finals Finals Semi Finals Quarter Finals

1. Steve (Baraka)

1. Steve (Ihe Joker)

4. Dean (Wonder Woman)

2. George (The Flash)

2. George (The Flash)

2. George (The Flash)

8. Shawn P (Deathstroke)

7. Mark (Sonya)

4. Dean (Wonder Woman)

4. Dean (Cat Woman)

6. Nick (Scorpion)

3. Nick (Scorpion)

5. Hawk
(Captain Marvel)

6. Scott (Rayden)

THIRD PLACE: STEVE


SECOND PLACE: DEAN


VIDEO GAME MANIA 8 CHAMPION OF THE UNIVERSE: GEORGE


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