|Round||North Division Final|
|Match Date||Monday, August 26th, 2002|
|Mario - 44.24%|
Considering the two matches that had just passed, it would be difficult for any match to draw the attention away from what had just happened. But along came the much-anticipated Mario/Cloud duel, and suddenly everyone forgot what had just went down. For many people, the entire contest rested on this one match. For others who were already out of the contest, this is the one match they wanted to see. For the rest, a complete lack of order was the main desire. Everyone got all they wanted and then some from this matchup. There was a massive vote total on both sides, likely cheating on both sides, supposed admissions of vote-stuffing that went unpunished, massive amounts of spamming, and of course, a two day long board explosion that saw this board reach its busiest point ever. By the time the purge hit, this match generated well over 100 pages of topics and well over 100,000 posts. It was that crazy.
When the bracket was first released, it was somewhat obvious that the relatively weak North division would come down to Mario and Cloud. There was simply no one else to get in their way of each other, and after two rounds, it looked like Cloud would be able to take down Mario. His vote totals were higher than Mario's. In the third round, however, Mario's killing of Donkey Kong paired with a Cloud performance against Alucard not up to par with his first two matches put this match in the air once again. There was absolutely no way to know who would win this thing.
After the massive board explosion of Sonic/Samus, the massive anti-Square whining of Mega Man/Sephiroth, and the massive anticipation of Mario/Cloud, there was only one thing left to do; 1 AM EST was closing in fast, and the match from hell was about to begin.
When the poll first opened, Mario had to do all he could just to prevent Cloud from steamrolling him from the start. Cloud wasn't the hated character who gave up the early lead in every match like he is now; in fact, he was rather well-liked back in 2002. But despite Mario's efforts to grab the early lead, Cloud eventually weathered the storm and started taking the advantage. His lead was small at first, but he was eventually able to begin increasing it. As the match went on, Mario was fighting back less and less, to the point where Cloud was able to stretch out his lead into the hundreds without much in the way of resistance. This pattern continued all through the night, and Cloud continued to do well even as the morning vote --- a vote that usually favors Sega and Nintendo --- began. By the time the match was well into the morning hours, Cloud had built a lead of 1000 votes, and it looked as if Mario was going to be unable to do much about Cloud's eventual victory.
It was at this point however that everything began to completely collapse for Cloud's momentum. First of all, this match took place on the very day that Super Mario Sunshine was released. This didn't matter for the early parts of the match, but once everyone who went out to buy the game came to GameFAQs to seek help, a massive amount of people who may not have noticed that a poll was even going on began to vote for Mario. This stalled Cloud's advance, and gave those rooting for Mario hope that Mario at least had some life left in the match.
But Super Mario Sunshine alone was not enough to take down the mighty Cloud in this matchup. Mario getting votes at the same rate as Cloud didn't mean much; he had to actually overtake him. This is where www.planetgamecube.com comes in. PGCN is a Nintendo-loving site that eventually took notice of the contest. When they noticed their hero losing by 1000 votes, they couldn't help but put a direct link to our contest on their home page. That was all Mario needed to begin his comeback. Aided by PGCN, the typical Nintendo day vote, and Super Mario Sunshine, Cloud literally found himself going up against Super Mario himself. Mario would likely be unable to take down Cloud on any other day, but on this day, he had everything he needed to get back into the match. The comeback was slow at first, but once everything started clicking on all cylinders, Mario was able to begin a methodical siphoning of Cloud's lead that would last all the way until the end of the match.
Unfortunately for Mario, despite everything going his way, his comeback may not have been fast enough to allow him to come back and win the match. When the evening rolled around, Mario was still down by a few hundred votes despite the massive effort to get him back into the match during the afternoon.
But then, out of literally no where, Mario went on a massive push to not only tie Cloud, but to pull ahead of him by 200 votes. The push looked odd, and it was, considering how slowly Mario had come back in the first place. But even still, Mario was only up by 200 votes, and he still had to hold off Cloud for the rest of the match during a time when Square usually does the best.
Unfortunately, despite every effort Cloud could have possibly made to come back in the match, Mario was one step ahead of him the rest of the way through. There was simply too much going Mario's way for Cloud to be able to overcome, and no matter what Cloud did for the rest of the match, everything and everyone that was supporting Mario was able to keep Mario's 200 vote shield in tact. Mario would eventually go on to win the match in one of the closest matches you'll ever see in one of these contests, but there were a horde of questions posed after the match was finally over.
Face it. Without Mario Sunshine and PGCN, Cloud easily goes on to win this match with at least 53% of the votes. This has been accepted by most of the board, and is evidenced by Mario's crappy performances in 2003 and 2004. That said, I can accept these things happening. They were all part of the game back then, though CJayC laid the hammer down on PGCN after the match was over. Even to this day, you'll be banned from PGCN if you try to go there and spam. As for Mario Sunshine, the odds of another big-time match taking place on the exact day of a release partial to the match itself is next to zero.
My issue comes with the 500 vote surge in the evening. After the match was over (and assuming you could even find it among the massive amounts of posts/topics), a screenshot began floating around the board from an online game named Graal. The screenshot was pretty much someone saying that Mario would not lose, due to him having 500 proxy votes ready for Mario at any time during the match. There was also an accompanying chat log with the same Graal player that showed the same admissions.
Could Mario have won without a supposed 500 proxy votes? Of course. He was well on his way to coming back anyway, and there was no evidence of a Square evening vote back in 2002. Even if these 500 proxies existed but never happened, Mario and Cloud didn't stall until after the surge. There is little reason to believe that the supposed proxies couldn't have been made up by people simply spamming for Mario. I saw people spamming for this match on pogo.com, for crying out loud.
Were there, in fact, 500 cheated votes? No one knows. The problem with the screenshots is that they could have been easily faked by an angry Cloud fan looking for a way to get Cloud the win regardless, and even if they were true, the match would have long since been over by the time CJayC got a look at any e-mails regarding them. There is also the matter of a certain Sonic/Samus match two days before in which CJayC had already gotten loads of practice at scanning the IP addresses for suspicious activity. It's hard to believe that he didn't do the same for Mario/Cloud.
But despite any and all suspicions about the match, the results were official regardless, and in an odd way, this one match may have kept out contest around. Had Cloud won, there is no doubt that we would have seen a Cloud/Link final in 2002. And there was a Cloud/Link final in 2004. And there was essentially a Cloud/Link final in 2003. Mario/Cloud proves that on any given day, you can't know what will happen. You can guess with the latest in mathematical analysis, but you simply can't know. That's what's keeping the contest going to this day, I think. Every bracket will feature a Starcraft, Mario, or Sora that simply refuses to be gauged correctly.
There is one final thing to think about, and then I'm moving on.
No matter who would have won between Mario and Cloud, had the match been symmetrically reversed in every conceivable way, Mario fans would have been every bit as upset as Cloud fans were. To accuse Cloud's fans of being idiots for defending Cloud after looking at the facts is foolish.
Not that Cloud wouldn't get more than enough revenge in 2003 or anything >_>
Stats and Analysis Edit
The greatest all-time contest match is Mario vs. Cloud. On a website where we’ve seen over 500 contest polls since 2002, I personally feel that a match needs a combination of factors to set itself apart and truly be considered a classic. No one match exemplifies a combination of these factors better than Mario/Cloud, and here's a funtabulous list of reasons why!
Key for Classic Status #1: Hype and big-game feel.Edit
We’ve had several matches that have been decided by fewer votes. Frog/Master Chief was decided by seven. Liquid/Alucard was decided by three. Jill Valentine lost by 27 twice. All great matches, no doubt, but all would have been greater had we cared more. Whether people want to admit it or not, hype plays a pivotal pole in differentiating from a good close match and a close match for the ages, and Mario/Cloud is inarguably (don’t even try to argue it!) one of the two most hyped, anticipated matches in contest history. Link/Cloud? Halo/Starcraft? Mario/Samus? The Legend of Zelda/Final Fantasy? All child’s play. The only match which contends with Mario/Cloud from a purely hype-o-thetical (hahahahaha) standpoint is FFVII/OoT, and unlike that snoozefest, this one actually lived up to the hype.
Yes, people were waiting on pins and needles for this match. We were all wide-eyed contest virgins, and this match represented the face of Nintendo going up against the face of Square. Seven years prior, when CJayC established GameFAQs, the cosmic gears started turning, and the strings of time plucked themselves in a way that would give us Mario/Cloud on this day, as if to decide our collective fates. It was that big. I was a 16-year-old Nintendo fanboy who had never played a Square game. The very thought of god damned Mario losing to a spikey-haired, effeminate looking character I barely knew (and, truth be told, I didn’t even know who his buddy, Sephiroth, was when the contest began) had my blood already set to pre-boil. There were many others like me on both sides. I got to Board 8 on the contest’s second day, and Mario/Cloud was already the one match on everybody’s lips. The unprecedented big-game feel, coupled with the fact that Cloud actually looked like the favorite going into it, gave us hype that may never be equaled. Truly an awesome sight, and I wish everyone on the board now would have been there to see it.
Key for Classic Status #2: Uhh… match itself better be great.Edit
This kinda goes without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway so that this little write-up will have more than two or three Keys for Classic Status. =P
You can have all the hype in the world, but unless the match isn’t great, you won’t be remembered very fondly, or, even worse, won’t be remembered at all. The best example of this is the one match that I feel actually rivals this in hype, Final Fantasy VII/Ocarina of Time. Like this match, it was the one clash of the polarizing titans that everyone couldn’t help but get all up for in 2004. While it wasn’t as much of a complete toss-up as my favorite match, the fact that Ocarina was an absolute wrecking ball heading into the damn thing nearly made it so. Thus, the unexciting 54/46 result felt like the entire board letting out a big, tired beer fart in unison. Not very nice. This match, like I’ve said before, actually lived up to and exceeded the hype.
To tell you guys the truth, I don’t remember too many specifics from the match itself. We don’t have poll updates from back then, fewer and fewer people remain who can recall it, and it did happen over five years ago. Still, I remember going insane at the very beginning, when Mario jumped out to a big lead in the opening seconds (something that we’d see a mile away had this match taken place in 2007), and at the very end, when it was totally up in the air. With a fantastic battle raging on in the front page, the board was a madhouse all day, with Nintendo and Square fans ready to rip each other a new one or two or three. It wasn’t until the final few minutes (seconds?) when Mario did the deed, pulling ahead of Cloud in a comeback fashion and giving us a finish he’d come to be known for. For some, it was bliss. For others, it was ****ing bull****. For everyone, it was history.
Key to Classic Status #3: Controversy!Edit
Yeah, I guess you don’t need it, but oh boy oh boy congratulations if you can get it. Controversy, coupled up with hype and a good match, will ensure you with something that will be remembered for the ages. To this day, I feel the few matches that can objectively compete with this one for the title of best ever are Mario/Crono II, Starcraft/Halo, Starcraft/Wind Waker, and Frog/Master Chief. What do all these matches have in common? CONTROVERSY. Mario’s infamous after-hours comeback against Crono, Battle.net’s rallying that has turned into the stuff of legends, and Frog’s miracle comeback – these matches all had some people screaming “WTF is this ****?!?!?!” and others rejoicing “haha, when MY guy cheats, it’s A-OK!!lol!!!”
And when it comes to controversy, boys and girls, no match can contend with Mario/Cloud. I’m talking barrel loads of controversy. Truckfulls. God damned gobfulls. Heaping helpings of controversy! Gobs and gobs of the stuff! Mmmm it was delicious. For those of you unfamiliar with the legend surrounding this match, let me take this opportunity to blow your minds: Super Mario Sunshine launched on the day of the match. Yes, Mario got his first true platformer in six years on match day. If you believe in some all-powerful GameFAQs contest god, this fact better be the one you use most to back up your ridiculous claims, because it was inexplicable. I mean, how does something like that even happen? Coincidence? Nintendo conspiracy? No, it smacks of cosmic interference, and it proves that the forces governing the universe itself hate Cloud’s guts. Pwned.
In addition to getting his biggest game since Mario 64 right on cue, Mario also received help from several Nintendo-friendly sites linking to the poll. The most notable of these was the large Planet Gamecube community, and to this day, when someone so much as utters “Planet Gamecube,” a contest old-timer will immediately know what you’re talkin’ about, and will either shower you with candies or throw his plastic teeth at you thusly. It all made for a very controversial match, and the only match from our first contest which still gets serious consideration as the best ever.
Key to Classic Status #4: That… certain something.Edit
I don’t think I can explain it, which makes me wonder why I just put in a bolded title trying to. Despite all the classics we’ve had over the years, I feel that Mario/Cloud has an essence that sets it apart. It’s that special mystique that a crappy writer like me could never capture in words. Something very special that you guys just had to experience for yourselves. I suppose the best way to try and paint a picture of this is to imagine what would happen if some of the all-time greats were to happen again today. Starcraft’s matches? They could go either way. Chrono Trigger/Link to the Past? Either way. Mario/Cloud? An absolute embarrassment. Even if he pulls an infamous overperformance from his big butt, Mario would get killed, and I think we all know it.
It’s this realization that makes the match special. After five years of theories, analysis, and evidence, we realize that what happened in 2002 should not have happened. Cloud should have crushed Mario and gone on to challenge (and possibly defeat?) Link. But he lost. He didn’t lose to Mario Sunshine, or the various poll-linking, or even to Mario himself. He lost to the will of the people, the people that refused to see their gaming icon, the face of video games themselves, lose on what was easily GameFAQs’ most historic day. The fact that Mario and Cloud have never fought since, coupled with the fact that a rematch would feel so very unsatisfying, only accentuates this battle’s greatness.
Mario vs. Cloud, 2002:Edit
The greatest contest match in GameFAQs history.