sunnuntai 12. elokuuta 2012

REVIEW - Track & Field II | NES | 1988

GENRE(S): Sports
RELEASED: September 1988

Track & Field II was actually the fourth game in the Track & Field series, and it came out exclusively on the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1988. The game boasted with some of the most enhanced graphics seen at those times, and with a cavalcade of 15, somewhat unorthodox events, of which only two were part of the original arcade version of the first game. The game was one of my favourite NES games back in the day the old box was in the spotlight, but after all these years, I think it was the untypical nature of the events and the graphics that hit the right spot. I know there are people out there who consider this button mashfest a milestone in the history of sports games, and it does have its shiny spots, but in general, Track & Field II has seemingly outlived its usefulness on my account, whereas the first game still manages to satisfy every time I take it for a spin.

Harder, faster, and with deadly precision

The iconic arrival sequence.
Me and my brother rented this game for God knows how many separate times from a local video store back when it was released in Europe. Back then, it felt superior to Track & Field in Barcelona in almost every way, but like I said, it's now obvious that it was because it looked so amazing. Track & Field II is an unforgiving, uncomfortable experience. It would be quite all right if it was just one game, but it's a sequel to a great NES game, and that casts a whole different shade of light on it.

The game looks great, for the fourth and final time. The music is also quite inspirational stuff, with a genuine atmosphere. It's funny that now that the game looks and sounds better, it plays out worse. In the case of some specific events, a lot, lot worse.

Fencing. Not as tactical as it would first seem.
There are 15 different olympic events, of which one is wholly exclusive to the Versus Mode, and two of them present themselves as bonus events during the Tournament Mode: Fencing, Triple Jump, Freestyle Swimming, High Dive, Clay Pigeon Shooting, Hammer Throw, Taekwondo, Pole Vault, Canoeing, Archery, Hurdles, Horizontal Bar, Hang Gliding, Arm Wrestling and Gun Firing. Sounds odd, huh? Although the Tournament Mode comes with shotgun encouragement to go for the gold totally absent from the first game, the game is full of odd events, most of which suck ass on the top of it all.

There are surprisingly few events that consist of raping the A button, and even in those events, it's not enough: you have to MURDER it. Gaining anything near to maximum speed is almost impossible with a regular controller, or without the Speedboard (there's actually a game that makes that piece of junk useful?!), and an event like Triple Jump demands ultra-high precision with the jumps for you to just qualify that simply isn't fun anymore. Finally, the track for you to run in that specific event is way too long. Pole Vault is another nightmare of an event in the same vein.

I used to break world records at Triple Jump. Now
simply qualifying is a pain. What gives?
"What do I have to do to win?" is a question that you'll be asking yourself a lot. An optimist would say "practice". A realist like me would have to go with "beats me". But it's true, practice will help you, and luckily you'll be able to do that 'til the cows come home in Training Mode. After you've learned the basics of each event and got them hammered to the back of your skull, you're ready to take on the main mode of the game, which is the Tournament Mode... MAYBE. The events are divided so that each of the five days has a dealbreaker, be it Hammer Throw, Pole Vault or Canoeing - events in which your performance is affected by a stroke of good luck above everything else. The qualifiers are just crazy. Luckily there's a password, but only after each day of competition.

Although there's a feeling of accomplishment every time you pass a day at the races with flying colours, the game is just way too hard and strange to enjoy. It certainly left its mark on me back in the day, and I still have that mark, but I wished that a couple of decades later, it would've left a couple of new ones besides wounds. I'll always silently nod to Track & Field II as one of the best-looking 8-bit presentations, but it's not the classic game I remembered it to be.

+ It looks and sounds great
+ There are a few events from all sides of the cube I honestly enjoy
+ The feeling of accomplishment
+ The very welcome, albeit limited, password system

- It's strange; the choices for events are mostly very odd
- It's unforgiving; succeeding demands perfect precision and maximum speed, which is all but unobtainable
- The events are not only strange, but there are a lot of simply unplayable ones such as the age-old scourge called Hammer Throw

< 6.4 >

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