This past weekend I visited Green Bay for the very first time. Not to check out Lambeau Field or try famous Wisconsin cheese, nay!
This was a work trip. I was thrilled to be a part of the latest major video game tournament in America: King of ’94 WI.
You’d think that Green Bay, although it is home to the USHL’s Green Bay Gamblers, wouldn’t necessarily be the first place to organize an ice hockey retro video game tournament but they certainly pulled it off. Based on the success of local football video game events, there was an opportunity to expand and include NHL ’94.
The tournament was organized by “Trojan Voice,” aka Troy. A native of Green Bay, this is his third event. The weekend began with a Tecmo Super Bowl tournament, with Trojan on play-by-play and me joining him on color. I can tell you that he’s got great pipes and really knows his stuff. I hope he is able to call Tecmo Super Bowl tournaments around the country one day.
Then, on Saturday, the main event. Forty people jammed into the Edge VR Arcade to move 16-bit pixels organized as NHL players around a screen. Being a kid of the ’90s, this is extremely fun not only to play against people who also love this game but to call the action.
Lots of local fans will enter the tournament just to enjoy a day of playing videos games with fellow fun-loving geeks. But events like these also attract the best players from around the country.
There’s Coach Mac, a football coach from Nevada who doesn’t at all like video games but loves NHL ’94. “It’s a hockey game, not a video game,” he would tell you.
You also have Kevin, who’s from Brooklyn and funny enough I ran into him last weekend at a retro expo I hosted at the Aviator Events Center where he bulldozed all comers to easily win that NHL ’94 tourney.
But, especially in the later rounds, all eyes always end up on KingRaph and AngryJay. Raphael and Greg. Ask anyone on the scene and they would tell you these two are the best of the best. Raph is the guy that collects Guinness World Records in the game and dominates online play (oh yeah, the NHL ’94 community modified the game to be able to play online, how cool is that?). “AJ” is usually the one that nabs the trophies in tournaments.
Last September, at the World Championships in Vegas, AJ beat KingRaph in the finals. Now, here they are, poised for a rematch. But they had to get through the rest of the field first.
At this point you might be wondering, didn’t this game exist for both Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis? (If you’re not wondering that, just follow along.) Yes, it did.
Most expert players will tell you the Sega version is the cleaner and better version to play against the top players. It is also the version that has the famous “weight bug,” when you are controlling a light player (say 188 pounds or less) in the Genesis version, that person suddenly becomes a steamroller, thunderously checking everybody to the ice, no matter how massive they might be (hence the “weight bug”).
Troy’s Green Bay tourney saw both a Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis competition. And it was KingRaph’s time to shine.
Maybe it was the fact that he was still reeling from coming up empty in September. Maybe it was the high of being a part of a video feature that aired on MSG Networks during a Devils broadcast where he got to finally play a player in the game (on the giant Prudential Center Jumbotron no less), Mr. Devil himself Ken Daneyko. Whatever it was, Raph came to play.
In the Super Nintendo tournament, Raph torched his way to the finals and won the whole thing. AJ was eliminated in the earlier rounds so we didn’t get our world championship rematch just yet.
During the Sega Genesis half of the tournament, things got interesting. Coach Mac defeated KingRaph in the round robin portion, but then they met again in the quarterfinals. “Imagine the U.S. Men’s Olympic team beating Russia in 1980, but then playing Russia immediately after again in the gold medal game,” was the way he described it. Raph recovered pretty fast and sailed to the next round. He even chose the Devils, and put Dano on the ice, to seal the deal against Coach.
AJ, battling stomach issues from possible food poisoning, valiantly battled opponent after opponent until he booked his ticket to the finals.
And there it was: AJ vs Raph. Only this time, Raph was ready.
Both games wouldn’t be close. Raph, typically the more emotional of the two, was dialed in. Every move you remember trying in this game worked. The one-timers, the crease cut, the slap shot from the lights, even the expert “pass goal” was lighting the lamp for Raph. In the end, Raph took the series and the championships.
Troy had custom trophies, named “Lord Manly’s Cup” created for the winners of each respective tournament. Raph took home both. King of the mountain.
Congratulations to Raph and to those that traveled just to play and have fun this weekend. Also to Troy, for putting on a great tournament.
We will see you next year!