This week, Nintendo News will journey through the lives of three qualifying Nintendo World Championships 2015 finalists ahead of the event this weekend. Today’s story follows Fernando Terracuso from Florida.
On the floor, cross-legged, sat a four-year-old boy, alone in the room. Beside him was a Nintendo Entertainment System loaded with Super Mario Bros. Before this day the two were barely acquaintances; they had watched each other from afar, but had never spoken.
The four-year-old boy, Fernando Terracuso, pressed power. The NES coursed to life, the TV screen lit up, and Mario beckoned the child to a world of daring jumps and whimsical fun. Terracuso held the controller in his small, youthful and curious hands.
What was before an acquaintance with the console was suddenly the start of a life-long friendship.
“That’s when I learned to hold the B button and just keep running,” Terracuso, now 31, tells me. For him, it was all about speed; to stop running would be a fate worse than Mario’s death. “If I died, I died.”
It paid off. By the time Terracuso’s dad and uncle discovered the boy’s new hobby, he had already surpassed the farthest level the adults had managed to reach.
But Terracuso is humble. He attributes luck more than talent to his prowess with games. It was luck, he says, that he grew up in an age where Nintendo dominated the console market. It was luck that he was already familiar with the three games at the Nintendo World Championships 2015 qualifying event. It was luck that he won with a score of 1.7 million — which was certainly lower than many of the other qualifying scores. And if he wins the NWC in Los Angeles on June 14, he expects to have to tip his hat to luck again.
The Nintendo World Championships of 1990 was almost a one-and-done event, but will finally return before E3 this weekend after a 25-year hiatus. Its prestige remains legendary as the pinnacle of official Nintendo competitions. The second NWC event asked potential competitors to prove their worth by earning a high score on NES Remix at participating Best Buy stores on May 31. Only eight fans, one from each location, would move on to the finals.
“I was at the right place at the right time,” Terracuso says about his qualifying bid at a Miami, Florida Best Buy. Had he competed at one of the other qualifying locations around the country, he would have likely been beat. In fact, he hardly practiced in the days before his tryout. He’d only had a Nintendo 3DS for six months, even. “I didn’t expect to qualify,” he says simply.
He played the same way he always plays video games, the same way he started playing video games as a four-year-old boy: cross-legged on the floor.
But qualify he did. Terracuso waited in line early the morning of the qualifying event, which was located about an hour away from his home in Tamarac, Florida. And when it was his turn to try out, he played the same way he always plays video games, the same way he started playing video games as a four-year-old boy: cross-legged on the floor.
For the six minutes and 22 seconds during which he sat there, Nintendo 3DS in hand before a table of Nintendo representatives, Terracuso says he blacked out. He can’t remember jumping through Super Mario Bros., collecting 50 coins in Super Mario Bros. 3, and then busting viruses in Dr. Mario.
But 1,742,100 points later, Terracuso set down the 3DS. The representatives congratulated him on his high score, telling him that if it held all day, he’d earn a place at the Los Angeles event.
Luck again, though. The vast majority of the qualifying round’s score comes from Dr. Mario, a game which can randomly give some players horrible setups and other players amazing combos. While skill is certainly a major factor, Terracuso called Dr. Mario an “equalizer,” letting casual players such as himself have a shot against professional puzzle masters.
“I’m the underdog, no question about it.”
It was still early in the day, and Terracuso wasn’t about to wait around. Maybe he’d get a phone call that evening, maybe not. Either way, he says, he already had a blast, and was happy that he gave it a shot.
Lucky for him, the turn out it Miami was paltry compared to other Best Buys. Lucky for him, his competition wasn’t as stiff as in, say, Dallas. Lucky for him, few people knew about the rule change midday allowing multiple tries per person.
At seven o’clock, just as the event finished and as Terracuso was hanging with some friends, Nintendo called. Shots of Fireball whiskey celebrated his victory.
Now he’s looking ahead to June 14. He, the other seven qualifiers and eight mystery contestants will battle, controllers in hand, through over 30 years of Nintendo gaming history.
“I’m the underdog, no question about it,” Terracuso says.
But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a chance at winning. It’ll just come down to luck again, he says. What games will Nintendo bring? What will the contestants’ experience be with those games? Will the games be skill based, or will they also be random like Dr. Mario? He says with the right combination of games, he truly believes he can bring home the trophy.
There is perhaps no game Terracuso is more familiar with than the one game announced so far: The Legend of Zelda on NES. He knows the game “up, down, left and right,” saying he can play it with his eyes closed. His fanaticism with Nintendo didn’t even truly start until his aunt introduced him to that game as a kid. It’s that one special game for him.
So again, luck of the draw, the humble man claims.
But when he was four, he mastered his first-ever video game without any help, sitting cross-legged on the floor. He says he was never a Warp Zone kind of player as a kid; he played Mario the hard way, beating every level from 1-1 to 8-4.
And when he was 31, he qualified for the Nintendo World Championships with hardly any practice, sitting cross-legged on the floor. No matter what setup and pills Dr. Mario gives, most players can’t come near the score Fernando Terracuso managed.
“I got here on luck,” Terracuso reaffirms.
We’ll see if this “luck” can conjure a win for the self-professed underdog.
The Nintendo World Championships 2015 will be held this Sunday, June 14. Other Nintendo E3 events include a Digital Event on June 16. Be sure to follow Nintendo News on Twitter, Facebook and Google+ for the latest E3 2015 news coverage.