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Review #200 (I am insane)

New International Track and Field
Publisher: Konami
Developer: Sumo Digital
Genre: Sports
Release Date: 07/24/08

Holy jebus, this is my 200th review.

In my review of the horrible Beijing 2008, I reminisced about my love of the first two Track and Field games. The graphics, the music, the button mashing, and more. Just wonderful games from my youth.

Now we have the newest entry in the series with New International Track and Field. This marks the first appearance of T&F on the Nintendo DS and Konami fans were thrilled to see how this venerable franchise would hold up on the DS.

With Sumo Digital behind the driver’s wheel, does New International Track and Field score a gold, or is the game taking the walk of shame?

Let’s Review

1. Modes

There are a lot of different modes in the game, but each has their own specific problem. First up is the Career Mode. Here you must compete through a set of four events each game day. You have to qualify in each event in order to move on to the next day. You must always play the same grouping of four and in the same order. This is fine, and it’s similar to the old NES games, but Career Mode directly affects Single Event which grows to be annoying quickly.

Single Event allows you to play any event you want as often as you want, but only if you unlock that event by playing it in Career Mode first. This means if you can’t beat say, Pole Vault, for whatever reason, you will never be able to play events past the first three days. This is uncool and very different from any other T&F game that came before it, where all events are unlocked from the start – AS IT SHOULD BE.

Challenge Mode contains six specific events where you have to play as a particular character. These too have to be unlocked and are generally not worth the trouble of doing so.

Expert mode is exactly like what one would expect.

Classic Track and Field is unlockable, but it takes some time to get. Alas, due to issues we’ll see later on, it’s almost worthless.

You can demo NIT&F with three of your friends through a single card which is great, and of course there is full four player action through the Wi-Fi connection for people who know three others who own this game.

Finally there is online mode, where the game interacts with the video games website so that you can find online opponents, schedule tournaments and so on. This is great in theory, but it’s actually the second worst part of the game. Why? Because due to poor planning by everyone involved, the game is accessible to ROM’s, hacks, and cheats so that the board is littered not by those who own the game legally, but by those who have stolen it. This is outright stupidity from Konami and Sumo Digital and it’s even worse that it is incredibly blatant with things like the current world record for the 100m dash being ONE SECOND. Or that the weight lifting record is 375kg, when the game only goes up to 350kg! EVEN WORSE is that as soon as you go online, the website records are instantly added to your game meaning you have to look at the hackers’ ratings FOREVER. Oh, but you get a panda furrie as an unlockable character to balance it out. Yippee.

I’m still shocked that a company like Konami could make this big a blunder and even more shocked that people are being so utterly blatant about the cheating and ROM usage. As I mentioned, this is only the SECOND stupidest screw-up with the game.

Although there are an amazing amount of modes and options, complete with four page bios for each of your athletes, each mode has a serious defect to it that ruins full enjoyment of the game. Considering these are issues that didn’t occur back in the NES days of this franchise, one has to wonder what Sumo Digital was thinking.

Modes Rating: 6/10

2. Graphics

This is not a pretty game. There characters are all weird chibi people, and not in a cute way. Most are creepy looking or badly designed character models. For every so many points to get, you can unlock a new costume for the character you just played as, except for the fact the costume, like the 3-D model of the characters are jaggie and rather unappealing.

Backgrounds are half-assed as can be seen in events like diving or the vault, where you basically have three judges watching your character that are utterly static and appear to be made of cardboard with SNES (at best) graphics. Crowds again are utterly static and the only motion is of your characters that have jerky unfluid movements which gets annoying fast.

The game also switches between anime artwork, badly done 3-D models of characters doing poses no human body was meant to elongate in, and 2-D gaming that is a rather pale mockery of the earlier titles in this series.

The game isn’t hideous, but it’s definitely below what the DS is capable of. You know it’s bad when the best looking thing in the game is the unlockable Chibi Pyramid Head, which honestly I wish was unlockable in all Konami games from this point on. Hilariously demented.

Graphics Rating: 4/10

3. Sound

On one hand, the game has the classic “Chariots of Fire”song throughout the game which instantly transported me back to single digits where I would hammer on my old NES joystick until I developed calluses on my finger tips.

However, that is the only kind thing I can say about the sound. The rest of the game is filled with cringeable sound effects that you want to turn off. Thankfully there is that option…but in doing so it also turns off the voice going “Ready, Set, Go!”for certain events leaving you royally screwed. Again, who on earth was on the playtesting or quality control aspects of this game?

The voice acting annoyed me so much. So very, very much. Every character has their own specific voice, but it makes your eardrums want to bleed with how shrill, scratchy and offsetting they are. And god forbid you do bad at an event because you will have to hear that voice repeatedly until those awful noises alone make you want to break the game.

This was the one area I was hoping to praise for multiple paragraphs when I turned the game on. Instead I got a bait n’ switch where they tried to disguise some of the worst aural aspects in a DS game so far with the awesomeness of the old Ben Cross movie.

Sound Rating: 4/10

4. Control and Gameplay

And here’s where I get really mad. If this wasn’t an E-rated game, this section would be primarily curse words.

You all know Track and Field right? It’s a button masher. Well here the emphasis is on stylus mashing. That’s right. You want to do well at this game? Then mash your stylus repeatedly on the fragile touch screen. Also drag it back really fast back and forth as fast as you can so as to wear out the stylus nub and again, scratch and potentially ruin your touch screen. Yes, my friends New International Track and Field is DESIGNED TO RUIN YOUR DS. How screwed up is that. Personally, I have two very rare limited edition import DS’ and I was pissed as shit to see visible wear and tear on my stylus after only an hour of playing. Honestly, this game was so poorly thought out in this regard, I won’t be surprised if Konami gets hit with a class action lawsuit to replace DS touch screens or provide new ones altogether. THAT’S HOW BAD THIS IS.

Sadly the touch pad controls are solid for the most part, with the only real problem being the exceptionally poor instructions given to you before each event. Once you realize the difference between what the game is telling you to do in say, Shot Put, and what you actually HAVE to do, you’ll be fine. Except for you know, DOING PERMANENT DAMAGE TO YOUR DS

Now you might be saying, “Alex! Can’t you just switch to button and d-pad controls?”Well, in fact you can, but you won’t be happy. You see, the game was designed primarily for stylus controls and well, the classic control scheme appears to be an afterthought. There are severe button detection issues and it’s as if Sumo had never played a classic track and field as you don’t actually button mash. Instead you have to hit two buttons in a rhythmic pattern for things like running or swimming. Utterly stupid. How the hell can you mess up the straight forward controls of a button masher? What next, a Double Dragon game where you have to do SNK super special move commands just to throw a punch? What the hell were you guys thinking?

Really, if the game didn’t risk screwing up your DS every time you played it, the game would be a mostly solid playthrough. Instead this is a Wrestlemania XXI level fiasco, but with most reviewers not bothering to warn you about what will happen to your DS because hey, free game and the DS is a business write off for them, right? Screw the actual consumer. But hey, at least you have me warning you…and probably getting a call from Konami because of it.

Control and Gameplay Rating: 1/10

5. Replayability

With approximately 30 events, over a dozen playable characters, the ability to go online, and multiple difficulty levels, New International Track and Field is strongest in this category. The question is, how stupid are you to want to keep playing?

Okay that’s not fair. Some gamers might choose to risk ruining their handheld for a single game, but for me, this knocks a few points off in this category simply because the game is so poorly designed.

In other words, there is a lot of potential for replay, but only a masochist or someone with a large disposable income would think of doing so.

Replayability Rating: 7/10

6. Balance

Like all mini game collections, there is always a diverse mix of game balance in NIT&F. Some events are super easy and require no real effort, while others have some weird controls and a horrible play scheme that neither simulates the event properly nor makes bloody sense. You’ll have events like the 100m dash or weightlifting which you should be able to get a gold medal on regardless of difficulty level because the controls are that easy and straight forward. Events like the Vault are a bit trickier until you realize that this is one of the events where you play better by using the D pad for your jumps instead of doing hard taps in your touch screen.

It’s not to say that the game is badly balance. It’s just the nature of the beast of these type of games, each with their own little control scheme. It’s a mixed bag and the difficulty of playing the game varies on whether you use the touch pad or the buttons and D pad.

Balance Rating: 5/10

7. Originality

Well this is one of the oldest game franchises still going on and it really hasn’t changed much since the days of the two button controller. Granted there are some new events, and an abysmal new control scheme with classic Konami character like Simon Belmont and Evil Rose from Rumble Roses competing in events like archery or javelin, but it’s still the same old game.

Kudos for adding unlockable characters and trying an online mode, and even giving the competitors a back story, but the game’s just another sports mini game, and sadly it is one that is nowhere as good as what was available two decades ago.

Originality Rating: 3/10

8. Addictiveness

I can’t deny I got sucked into this game. Before I realized the damage it could do to my DS I was pretty obsessed with the title. Sure I swore a lot at the descriptions of how to play the game and how they told you rather than showed you unlike most games of this nature, but hey, I wanted to sing Ming Ming beat the crap out of Sparkster at the breaststroke.

Once I realized the potential for having to try and find a new unused PokePark DS if I played this game any more, I threw it down and never wanted to touch it again.

In a nutshell the game is crazy additive and all consuming until you realize you just paid thirty dollars to potentially wreck the touch aspect of your DS.

Addictiveness Rating: 7/10

9. Appeal Factor

Much like 2-D fighters, Shoot ‘Em Up’s, and the side scrolling beat ‘em ups, the Button Masher has become an endangered species. Thanks to titles like this, they are one step closer to extinction.

Still, the name brand brings out a lot of Nostalgia, and although it won’t be one of Konami’s biggest titles this year, it’ll still sell to those looking for an old school game or who want to experience a new chapter in the franchise. As long as they stay ignorant of the game and how it affects your DS, they’ll be happy with the purchase. After all ignorance is bliss, and ignorance is a pretty big character trait in the average gamer.

Appeal Factor Rating: 7/10

10. Miscellaneous

Although there are a lot of ideas that no doubt looked awesome on paper, the reality is that the game is one of the worst designed releases in the history of the DS. Yes, that includes Lunar: Dragon Song. With an online segment ruined within the first week of the game’s release, a control scheme that will eventually wreck your DS with prolonged play and a total disregard for a functional button mashing control option over the Stylus, New International Track and Field is one of those titles like Fellowship of the Ring for the GBA or Evil Dead: Hail to the King that should have never made it past playtesting.

I do want chibi Pyramid Head in every game Konami ever makes from this point on however. So I’ll be kind and give you a few points for that and including a half-assed version of classic Track and Field

Miscellaneous Rating: 3/10

The Scores
Modes: 6
Graphics: 4
Sound: 4
Control and Gameplay: 1
Replayability: 7
Balance: 5
Originality: 3
Addictiveness: 7
Appeal Factor: 7
Miscellaneous: 3
Total Score: 47
FINAL SCORE: 4.5 (BELOW AVERAGE GAME)

Short Attention Span Summary

Hey you! Want a game that seems quite fun for the first hour or two until you realize you are doing irreparable harm to your beloved hand held? Then buy New International Track and Field\! Come on! Be a fan boy and praise chibi Pyramid Head and Solid Snake and give the game high scores knowing full well it’s going to cornhole you in the end! Thanks Konami! Thanks for your excellent quality control and your concern for your paying customers by ensuring the game rewards hacks and emulators over them! You did a great job all around of totally GIVING YOUR FANBASE A BIG SACK OF MIDDLE FINGERS.

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