Nintendo World Championships 1990
The information in this article may not be 100% accurate; I didn't attend the events (I was six at the time), so I've had to piece together the information here from experience playing the ROM, and hearsay gathered from the internet.






This was a cart made for a series of tournaments in 1990, wherein competitors were pitted against one another in a competition to get the highest score.  116 copies of the cartridge are known to exist, 90 of which were plain gray carts were made for the competitions.  These carts weren't intended to be released to the public, but after much pressure from the contestants (and their parents), Nintendo caved and gave them away to the tournament's finalists.  The remaining 26 carts were gold in color, and were given away in a Nintendo Power contest.  Due to its rarity and place in nintendo history, the cart is considered the holy grail of the NES library, and copies have been traded online for thousands of dollars.

  NWC1990 is basically a compilation of three games (Super Mario Brothers, Rad Racer, and Tetris), and gameplay switches between them when certain criteria are met.  In addition, a time limit is imposed on the games, ranging from five minutes to nine minutes and forty-one seconds, depending upon the settings of the dip switches on the cartridge.  For the competitions, the time limit used was about six minutes and fifteen seconds.



 



Pressing Start on controller two begins the timer, bringing up this screen.  Afterwards, you'd be dropped into Super Mario Brothers, with the goal of collecting fifty coins as quickly as possible.  An easy enough task; most veterans of the game can accomplish this task in about a minute and fifteen seconds.



 
Armed with 99 lives and a hankerin' for some coins






Once you gathered enough coins, you'd be taken to this cheery screen, and then it was off Rad Racer.  However, between the "victory" screen of Super Mario Brothers and the start of the race, about twenty-five seconds pass, with the timer ticking down the entire time.



 



Go fast and don't hit signs or other cars.  Not exactly a top choice for gaming strategy, but it was a popular piece of software at the time.


Once you finished the race, the total points earned from the race would be multiplied by 10 and added to your score.  Of course, the main focus here was not the score, but to finish as quickly as possible - the course took a solid two minutes to finish, even longer if you made a mistake that sent your car screeching to a halt.







Another fifteen-second wait was in store, and then it was off to the final event, Tetris.  This was the part that could make or break a competitor in the tournaments - some players scrambled to make as many single lines as possible, while others stacked blocks as high as possible waiting for the straight pieces to rack up Tetrises.  The players who seemed to do the best, though, were those who played in a more "casual" manner,  laying their blocks where they could and scoring doubles and triples whenever possible.  By contrast, the points from a reliance on singles didn't add up enough, and those relying on Tetrises were often disappointed when the straight blocks didn't come up when needed (a fate every Tetris player knows all too well).




Nintendo's jealously-defended prize, Tetris




Alright, one Tetris coming up... NOOOOOOO!!!


Once time ran out, your score in Tetris was multiplied by a whopping 25, and the tally of all three games' scores would be presented to you.



 
The ROM I'm running seems to end after about 5 1/2 minutes, so this was my final score on a good run



Of course, the intended path was for players to complete the first two events as quickly as possible, then rack up points in Tetris to skyrocket their final score with that massive 25x multiplier.  It seemed like a solid strategy, earning the top players in excess of 400,000 points in the lower age brackets, and well into the millions in the higher ones.

What won a few of the contest meets, though, was a popular trick in Super Mario Bros, where the player would warp to World 3-1 and repeatedly bounce Mario off of a Koopa shell on the stairs before the flag to rack up points.  After accumulating a huge score using this method, the player would then quickly collect their last few coins, rush through Rad Racer, and use their last few seconds to lay a few bricks in Tetris - a strategy that would earn them in excess of 900,000 points.  Nintendo hadn't anticipated this twist before the tournament began, so they had no choice but to award these players the victories. 

Here's an article about the tournaments on |tsr's page.
A review of the cart by Pat the NES Punk
You can also buy a reproduction cart of NWC1990 here for $55, complete with some tips from the tournaments' top scorers.  Test your skills against your friends!

Rating: 7/10
One-line synopsis: A shame it wasn't more widely released.  This is a pretty fun way to test your video gaming skills against your friends.

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2005 Spoony