This week marks the start of the 2012 London Olympic Summer Games. For the next month we'll be inundated with medal reports and packaged pieces created to make us feel a sense of patriotism. Before the torch is lit and the athletes compete, we've decided to take a look at five old school games based on the Olympics. Not all of the games are officially licensed, but they all embody the true spirit of the Summer and Winter Games.
CONTEST: Can you guess what games I'm reviewing? Below you will find clues for to all five games I'm reviewing. Tweet me @DefunctGames with your guesses for a chance to win a download codes and other valuable prizes. The person that gets the most right before Friday wins! [UPDATE: The prize has been claimed, but that doesn't mean you have to stop guessing!]
Track & Field [ System: NES | Pub: Konami | Release: 1987 | Score: C ]
In the last few days leading up to the 2012 Olympics, I've realized that the closest I had come to experiencing such a grand affair was watching previous events on TV and playing two video games. The first was the joystick destroying
Daley Thompson Decathlon on the old ZX Spectrum. The second was this conversion of the original hit Konami arcade game, Track & Field.
This is a game that's cruel to your fingers, as many a willing victim will confess upon mentioning its name. The source of this pain came from the main running controls found in most of the events on offer. The player must tap A and B in rapid succession to emulate to rhythmic cycle of feet and sustain this at full speed until reaching the finish line or jump area. Fatigue can set in fast and many weird techniques were created by players to maximise the tap rate and minimise the ache!
Maybe it's because I live in a state known for its rain, but I've always preferred the Winter Games over the Olympics' more popular Summer Games. There's something about the snow on the ground, the ice rinks and all of that curling that gets me in
the mood for an international sports extravaganza. Who cares if everybody else prefers the sun and skimpy outfits found in the Summer Games, I'll be the guy that waves the torch for winter.
As it turns out, there's a practical reason why the Winter Games trump their summer counterpart. When it comes to their video game counterparts, the Winter Olympics are full of skiing and racing tournaments. In sharp contrast, Summer Olympic Games are packed with button mashing. Winter Olympic Games: Lillehammer 94 for the Sega Genesis is the perfect example of how to make a sports game without adding button mashing.
Summer Games [ System: Master System | Pub: Sega | Release: 1988 | Score: B- ]
Years before Epyx traveled to California and took on the World; they were busy overseeing Summer Games. This 1984 masterpiece was the high water mark for sports compilation, going on to inspire Konami's popular Track & Field series. Although it doesn't use the Olympic Games license, this Sega Master System port brings all of the athletic action you would expect. Running, jumping, pole vaulting and more await you in this fun, albeit woefully out of date, track and field simulator.
While some ports of Summer Games have included as many as seven different events, this Master System version only offers five. You get the pole vault, 100 meter dash, gymnastics, platform diving and the 100 meter freestyle. The good news is that all five events are completely different, employing unique game mechanics that require both practice and patience.
If you were to tell me that U.S. Gold took the name just so it could secure the rights to the Olympic Games, there's a good chance I would believe you. But alas, that would be fiction. What is
true is that Olympic Summer Games: Atlanta 1996 was the publisher's final retail game. Talk about a crummy way to go out.
Olympic Summer Games: Atlanta 1996 is a product that singlehandedly proves the point I made in my review of Winter Olympic Games: Lillehammer 94. Like it or not, the Winter Games are more compelling than their summer counterparts. The Summer Games may get more viewers, but sledding is more compatible with the video game experience than running and jumping.
The Olympic Games are all about disappointment. Every four years we expect the best, but we're always let down. Sometimes it's the opening ceremonies, sometimes the athletes are long past their prime and sometimes there's too much smog to breathe properly. The truth is, most Olympic
Games athletes will go home empty handed. Just like clockwork, every four years the Olympics disappoint.
But once and awhile this two-week event is able to shine through the many layers of cynicism and live up to the hype. There's that athlete that wins eight gold medals in a row, the sob story about the team that comes from behind and an opening ceremony you'll never forget. All of a sudden you understand why the Olympic Games matter. Track & Field II is that shining light. Of any Olympics-based game (official or not), this Konami sequel earns the gold.