In this, the second week of the Olympic Games, I thought that I should take a look at one “Olympic” themed retro game. Obvious choice would be Konami’s original “Track & Field”, a remarkable game, that was genre defining, but not the best in my eyes.
Hyper Sports was released in 1984 (to coincide with the LA Olympics, presumably), and featured 7 events. Unlike the original Track & Field game (and probably why it’s not called “Track & Field 2″), these 7 events covered a number of disciplines in the olympics, and only 2 are field events, and no track. The events are 100m Freestyle, Skeet Shooting, Vaulting, Archery, Triple Jump, Weight Lifting & Pole Vault, so a more eclectic bunch than the original.
Also, unlike the original, there are far less button bashing events. This is only a good thing, as the first game I felt relied too much on button hitting. Instead, the Hyper Sports events focussed on timing rather than pure button mashing, which made the events a lot more fairer. For example, in the swimming, every 20 meters or so you have to take a breath, too soon and you lose your momentum, but wait too long and you cannot continue the race, knowing when to press is vital. Two events (the Archery and the Skeet) do not have any sort of button mashing whatsoever. Skill will win the day on most events.
The graphics pretty much are the same as the 1982 original, with your familiar bearded athelete from the original game taking up the disciplines. Second and third players (no fourth in this, wierdly) take control of pallete swaps of the characters. Graphics have been added, with the bearded fellow shown in more detail, but other than that it’s pretty much the same. As well as that, the sound is pretty much the same, with a few synthesized speech samples in the game, and a beepy Chariots of Fire theme.
Of course, the beauty with these games is that they are devilishly fun in multiplayer, and this by no means changes from it. I think I understand why there were now only three players – it would take forever to go through the events with four. In this game, the only race against another player event is the 100m freestyle, which is a bit of a shame, so it loses a bit of the fun factor because you’re not directly competing against your mates for the gold.
The other nice factor is that as well as world records, you are also competiting score wise. Occassionally, you can unlock fun little animations which will award you extra points. These points all add up, and the top 10 is displayed on the title screen for all to see.
Overall, this is your typical Olympics themed game with a great selection of events. Whilst not the most popular or by far the best, it was a little bit better than the original in terms of events. It seemed to level it out amongst players, so those who could simply hammer the buttons faster than anybody else weren’t running away with it, whilst the game – like the original – was incredibly fun to play.