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A looser definition of sports games

A friend just brought Cyber Stadium Series: Base Wars to my attention. I don’t know how I missed this game growing up but it is worth mentioning in the wake of my recent post on baseball video games.

Evidently, Base Wars was released on the NES towards the end of the system’s 8-bit lifespan in ‘91.  It seems like my favorite approach to sports games: take a sport and make it more awesome by removing any semblance to reality and adding sci-fi elements. This is precisely why I can’t recommend Mutant League Football or Mutant League Hockey enough.

Base Wars takes fragile humans out of America’s pastime and replaces them with robots that come in a variety of robot flavors: tank robots, motorcycle robots, UFO-floaty robots and boring bipedal robots. In addition to regular baseball related activities, close outs result in a robot fight. When this happens, the game switches from the overhead view of the field to a side-view 2D fighter perspective. If you were, for example, trying to slide into second and you best your opponent in brutal robot combat you were safe.  Likewise, if the second baseman shoots you in the face with his robot gun arm you are out. The way baseball should be.

In a similar vein, Capcom released Mega Man Soccer in ’94 for the SNES. Players put together a team of various Robot Masters from the Mega Man franchise and, as you might expect from the name, play soccer.  Even though characters can use special kicks that resemble their boss powers from Mega Man, regular, non-robot soccer is probably more interesting. As an American, that’s saying something.

What’s really odd is that Capcom never released the game in Europe. Why they chose to release it in the US but not in Europe is beyond me. I hear people in Europe go nuts over that soccer thing.

Personally, I prefer Midway’s goofy take on the great sport of hand-egg.

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July 9, 2012 · 6:25 pm

It begins

Coming up with a name for this blog was a struggle. A lot of what I originally thought of contained some version of the phrase “classic gaming.” The more I thought about this, the more I realized “classic gaming” is a bullshit term. As is “retro gaming.” Mainly because what counts as “retro” or “classic” is largely a generational thing. It can also lead to a bunch of twenty-somethings having a “back in my day” conversation, which is a fruitless and stupid enterprise.

Even people my age (I’m 24) have different opinions when it comes to classifying classic gaming. Not surprisngly, this is dictated by what system you could get your hands on as a kid. One of my close friends explained that his first prolonged exposure to video games happened when his family got a Nintendo 64, originally released stateside in fall of  ’96.

He also told me he missed out on 8-bit gaming because he traded his mom’s NES with a bunch of games (complete with the NES Zapper!) for some Pokemon cards. As someone who works with kids who often have learning challenges, I try to avoid using the word retarded. But after telling me about this trade, I called him retarded like it was my goddamn job.

But these are my 8-bit and 16-bit childhood biases which are, again, dictated by the consoles I had access to as a kid.

Cool story. You should tell it at parties (read: don’t). So what?

I’m going to revist the 8-bit and 16-bit games from my childhood and see how they hold up. Historically, a lot of modern gaming conventions can be traced back to these formative years. I’ll be looking at the innovations these games were making with the hardware available at the time.

Naturally, I’m going to try and avoid looking at these games through rose-tinted nostalgia goggles, but no promises there.

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June 17, 2012 · 3:52 pm