When Nintendo discussed their E3 plans for this year, I don’t think anyone expected them to announce the return of an event that has been in hibernation for twenty five years. For all the things that they do to irritate their fans (stock shortages chief among them), they are really quite brilliant when it comes to drumming up press and getting social media to talk about them. Just check out this ingenious promotional video hyping the event:
To participate, fans must head to one of only eight Best Buy locations in the country where the first 700 or so attendees will be able to compete. Seeing as how one of the locations was fairly close to me, I figured I’d take a stab at it. After all, I was only five the last time they did one of these, so how many opportunities would I really get? And with that, I cleared my schedule for May 30th, 2015 and headed to the Best Buy in Maple Grove, MN.
Registration for the event wasn’t until 9am, but even so, a half an hour before the doors opened there was a line going around the corner. By the time participants were beginning to get registered, there were already over two hundred people in line. Some of them traveled from quite a distance too as indicated by my 3DS street passes. I passed people that were from North Dakota, Canada, and even New York.
Lots of folks were dressed for the occasion. I saw a fellow dressed in a Pikachu cosplay (yes, really), another guy with a Kirby beanie hat that garnered a lot of compliments, and yet another in a full on Mario outfit greeting people with his son (I had no idea Mario procreated either). Most everyone else (myself included) was satisfied with just a t-shirt adorned with some form of Nintendo franchise. Perhaps most amusing of all is that I recognized a large number of folks from my various amiibo hunting ventures and our frustrations with the hunt is what comprised most of our conversations.
Once the line moved inside, I was thrilled to see that they had more than one 3DS running at one time. It seems like that would be common sense, though during the two days Best Buy had people sampling Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, they only had one machine set up at any given time. Rather, they had what appeared to be at least a dozen 3DS systems going at once, with a handful of Nintendo employees watching over the players and accepting applications (given by other employees that patrolled the line). When it’s your turn, you’re asked to proceed in a single file line and stop in front of one of the stations. The game? Ultimate NES Remix.
The play session consisted of three phases and you have six minutes to get through all of them. The first, is to play the original Super Mario Bros. until you collect fifty coins. It doesn’t matter how many stages you have to progress in order to do this, though certainly knowing where all of the hidden coin blocks are in the various stages is incredibly helpful. The second phase is to do the very same thing in Super Mario Bros. 3 only this time you need just twenty five coins. Finally, the game concludes with Dr. Mario, which is where the majority of your points are going to come from. What’s unfortunate is that there is a lot of luck involved in the third phase, with things such as virus positioning and pill colors factoring heavily into the experience. I personally had a string of bad luck with pill colors, though I still did well enough that I beat the high score that was on the system I was playing. Still nowhere near close enough to top the 2.7 million running high score at that location though.
Once you finish playing and the Nintendo reps tally the scores, you’re free to pick a prize at the end table, which consisted primarily of stickers and posters (a number of which I recognized from the Super Smash Bros. event). I opted for the Splatoon poster while my fiance got the Paper Mario stickers. Not terribly exciting, though it’s hard to complain about free stuff at an event I didn’t have to pay for. Even though I didn’t win, it was still a fun experience. An event like this apparently only comes around once every twenty five years, so I’m glad I am able to say I was a part of it. Whoever did well enough to advance to the finals taking place at E3, I wish you the best of luck.