As Ryan and I arrived as PAX, we went into the auditorium that had been set up to house the line for entry. We stood in that line for about an hour and a half, although I now believe the line was probably just for the keynote, which we hadn’t planned on attending. There wasn’t really anything to do at that point, though, so standing in line gave us a chance to chat with some other attendees. I also took the opportunity to eat some pizza I had brought for lunch. As we got through the keynote line, my top priority was to get into line to register for the Super Smash Bros.: Brawl tournament, which was supposed to start at 15:30. Ryan wanted to see the Designing a Free-to-Play Game panel, so we split up and I registered for both of us. I then decided to check out the Exhibition Hall while I waited for the tournament to start. I didn’t have a chance to see much, but it gave me the chance to reacquaint myself with the layout of the Convention Center. When I went back to the tournament room, I found that Ryan had returned before his panel ended. Unfortunate, since the tournament got pushed back to 16:00. We decided to look around the Exhibition Hall to kill some time, then we returned, waited in line and finally got into the tournament room.
Rules for this year’s tournament were changed from last year to allow for longer competition. Items and particularly annoying stages were disabled. Stages were selected randomly, unless both players could decide on a map. Rounds were only three stock with a six minute time limit, but matches were best of three rounds. Any round ending in a draw was started over and decided with one stock, since Sudden Death heavily favors certain characters. The tournament roster had filled completely and there were many alternates waiting to be admitted. Observers were also permitted, so the room was pretty crowded. Yet, somehow, I found myself without an opponent for my first match. It was infuriating, because I was in the seventh of eight matches in my initial bracket, so I’d had to wait a long time – particularly with the best-of-three matches – just to be told I’d have to wait some more. Also, I was planning on using the GameCube controller for the for the tournament – which I had never done before in Brawl – and, because someone in my bracket thought the tournament had started 20 minutes early, I hadn’t had the opportunity to warm up. That later proved to be my downfall.
When I finally did get the chance to play, I was matched against a Toon Link player who was obsessed with throwing bombs. Our first round was on Green Hill Zone. I started out by jumping in place and firing arrows. I also shielded for no reason and performed basic attacks when I tried to jump. My brain was certainly not yet wired for the GameCube controller. It was pathetic, but at least I got the hand of the controls in time to avoid being swept. In round two, we fought on Jungle Japes. I was more comfortable with the controls at that point, but I still slipped up at crucial moments. As a result, I got pulled down into the water one too many times and once again lost the match. I was told, though, that I put on a good show and gave everyone an exciting match, which many of the other players I’d been watching had certainly failed to do. Ryan fared a little better than I did. He faced a Peach player in his first match and was able to claim a solid victory. Unfortunately, his second opponent – another Peach player – happened to be one of the players who would later make it to the finals. After our losses, we got in some open games, then we stuck around to watch the rest of the tournament. We caught an inspiring Link battle that had a terrific surprise ending. We saw our old pal F1st lose to a fearsome Samus player. Finally, we saw Mr. Game & Watch take victory over the Peach player who had beaten Ryan. I was disappointed because I found the player who won to be annoying and his play style boring. All he could do to make it seem interesting was joke about Mr. Game & Watch’s apparent invulnerability while he played, which is what I found most annoying about him. Fortunately, his opponent kept the match interesting.
After the tournament, Ryan and I went to the Console Free Play area. We didn’t even need to check out a console since they had two dedicated Brawl stations in one of the LFG rooms. We spent the rest of the night playing Brawl against other attendees, usually faring better than we had in the tournament. As it got close to midnight, we decided to leave to avoid getting locked in the parking garage. It may not have been necessary, but we didn’t want to take our chances. In fact, we thought we may have been too late when the entrance we’d used was gated off. Fortunately, the lower exit was still accessible. After a little turnaround trying to get onto the freeway, we finally got ourselves going in the right direction and headed home.
Our first day of PAX was fun, although it lacked any real surprises. We did about as well as we usually do in the Smash tournament. We missed a few panels that looked interesting in order to compete. We got some practice in against other players in Brawl. Outside of Smash, I got come pictures of some interesting cosplayers. We still had a lot of things left to experience at PAX and two days left to experience it. I shall tell of that another time. Fare thee well!