Happy end of the weekend to everyone! Here at Retro Game Network, we have been quite busy around here over the weekend. With great vintage video clips, awesome retro gaming news, and of course, all of the epic music at Nerdapalloza, which is of course where RGN’s very own Matt, Jes and Adam are as we speak, as they wrap up their excellent weekend. Typically, I do my Retro Game Retrospectives on Saturdays, but take this as a tip: Save your work and save often. (Whoops!) But, better late than never! So today, we will be continuing our special three week series of Olympic style video games, naturally in honor of the 2012 Summer Olympic Games. This week we will be advancing 9 years past “The Activision Decathlon”, and taking a look at a game entitled “Gold Medal Challenge 92”: A 1992 offering from Capcom for the original Nintendo Entertainment System.
Gold Medal Challenge was a title that was based on the 1992 Summer Olympic Games which for those with good recent memory, took place in Barcelona, Spain. This cartridge has a lot of events to compete in during the course of the game. There are 5 running events (100, 200 and 400 Meter Dashes, as well as the 4 x 100 Meter Relay & 110 Meter Hurdles), 3 jumping events (Long, Triple and High Jumps), 5 swimming events (100 Meters in Backstroke, Breaststroke, Butterfly and Freestyle matches, as well as the 200 Meter Individual Medley), Shot Put, Javelin Throw, Gymnastic Vault, Weightlifting and the Marathon Run. This is for a grand total of 18 events, which is eight more than was offered on The Activision Decathlon 9 years prior. Since I discussed the concept some of these events last week, I’ll only give you a rundown of the events that are new for this title.
On the 4 x 100 Meter Relay, there are a total of 4 runners per country. Each runner will sprint for 100 meters, and then pass a baton to the next player at the end of their hundred meters. The new runner will then run for one hundred meters, and so on and so forth, for a total of 4 unique runners and 400 meters run in total. On the Triple Jump, the object is after a running start, to take as much momentum as you have, and jump the furthest, leaping three times total in hopes of obtaining the maximum distance. The 100 meter swimming events have the competitors swim in backstroke fashion (swimming on your back with your chest upwards of the water), breaststroke fashion (with your legs doing a “frog kick” and arms doing an outsweep/insweep/recovery motion), butterfly fashion (swimming with your chest to the water, doing butterfly kicks), and freestyle fashion (unregulated style, typically swimming front crawl). The fifth swimming event is an individual medley which combines all four relay types. Weightlifting is a competition in which the player has to lift the most weight. (Obviously!) Gymnastic Vault is when the gymnast runs down a runway, leaps onto a springboard, jumps onto a horse and perform an acrobatic handspring before landing. Finally, the Marathon is nothing more than a running race, which has a total distance of 42 kilometers.
On this game, you get to pick from 12 different countries to represent. These are the USA, Great Britain, Canada, Japan, France, China, Germany, Spain, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, and the Commonwealth of Independent States. This already is a lot different than the previous review, where no countries were selectable. (Of course, this game is actually BASED on the Olympic Games.) I personally prefer it when games like this offer the various countries. Especially since the Olympics is a world wide event! There is just something very rewarding about seeing your country written in lights. (If you don’t think it’s a big deal, just go on your Facebook or Twitter feed this week. With all of the USA wins recently on this set of Olympic Games, someone is bound to be talking about it, whether they are from the United States or not!)
Now that we have all of that out of the way, let’s talk specifics here! First off, kudos to Capcom for including such a wide number of events! Even though there are a lot of different variations of certain events, some of the unique events are very nice touches. But no matter how you organize the sprites on screen, just like most other games of this genre, it’s a lot of typical “button mashing”. For the all events involving track, field and indoor events, it should come to now surprise that pressing A+B rapidly will charge or run. Pressing A rapidly during swimming events generates a stroke. That is quite typical for this style of game. The NES offers something that the Atari games couldn’t, which is perfect for these kinds of games: TURBO! (Yeah, I know it’s cheating.) If you have a controller like the NES Max or the NES Advantage, trust me. Plug them in and use the turbo. Your poor thumbs (and your precious NES controllers) will thank you immensely in the morning.
The one event that is very unique to the cartridge is one that very often gets missed in games like this. (To be honest, I cannot think of any other game of Olympic Games that feature this one… Can anyone prove me wrong?) That event is the Marathon Run. Unlike all of the other games that are played live in front of you with all kinds of fast paced controller mashing, the Marathon will be playing in the background while you are playing the other games. (Trust me: I don’t think that anyone would want to be playing this event traditionally, with a 42 kilometer distance and all!) All you have to do is tell the Nintendo how fast you want your player to run, taking into consideration how much energy is left. Depending on your available strength and your speed (which you can adjust a few times throughout the game), will depend on how far you go. If you completely run out of power, you will stop running for a while to catch your breath. Updates on how your players are going will occur in the form of a “television broadcast” where the anchorman will give you a live news report on how the race is going. If a player runs out of steam, the next event will be “interrupted” by a “special report”. Like I said, this plays in the background, which basically makes this a logic and mathematic statistic game, which ironically, as weird as it sounds, is kind of fun to play since you don’t have to button mash. It’s the part of the game that will make you actually think. (So what I’m curious about now, is why couldn’t the math functions of Donkey Kong Junior Math be this interesting?)
Let’s talk graphics for a little bit, especially since this game is certainly not just Pitfall Harry in shorts. In some weird way, an interesting aspect with the running and field events especially, is that the contestants look like caricatures. The heads are almost bobble-like and are certainly not in proportion to the rest of their body. Sometimes, depending on the event, they also seem to suffer from “Jay Leno” chin. Their bodies are just so, small looking. You would think that in a game that involves a lot of physical attributes, that these men and women would be a little more on the muscular side. In comparison, on the NES version of “Track & Field II” (which incidentally, was released 4 years before this), the body sprites of the track runners and field players look rather muscular and much more realistic. But, if you like the looks of a cartoony looking character, the graphics are good. For a comparison from technology then to technology now, picture a game that could either have near photogenic quality sprites, versus playing the game using a Nintendo Mii character. It’s all in your personal taste, actually.
Now let’s chat for a quick moment about the music from the game. The music that plays in the background during the events are not terrible at all. In fact, they are quite good. But there is one major problem. As soon as you start running or swimming, or basically, once you start doing your thing on the event you are competing in, the sound effects from the workout interfere too much, so much to the point that the background music is unbearable. If you listen to the music on its own, some if it is rather pleasant to the ear. With a situation like this, it goes to show that sometimes, the option to turn the music off is essential. Sadly, this game does not offer such a feature, so you can either have the music/FX conflict, or turn off the sound and put your own music on. (I think blasting my copy of “Eye Of The Tiger” on vinyl would be a better mix anyway!)
For some reason, these kinds of games were always a favorite of mine. I really can’t put my finger on it, but I always very much enjoyed playing them. It could be because on typical games, I often tended to be not so good. Since these games are typically “just press A + B very fast”, there isn’t much to memorize. (I still have a problem with some of today’s modern games, with the multiple analog sticks and sometimes up to what seems like a dozen buttons.) Games like this were perfect for the NES controllers. (Like I said earlier, with turbo, it’s even better!) And unlike The Activision Decathlon, where you could only play 1 player, this game goes to the other extreme, and allows you to play with a total of EIGHT people! That can be you and seven of your friends, playing together. Nice! (Of course, you can only play the game 2 contestants at a time, but who cares?) I think it was a nice touch to be able to play the game with that many people, without the need for special hardware or adapters. Goes to show that the people at Capcom realized that this was a game designed for competition, so multiple players were not an option, but a must. Just the simple act of thinking while programming is most appreciated with this game, and I would very much recommend Gold Medal Challenge ‘92 to those looking for some good old-fashioned button mashing goodness.
Next week, I’ll be performing the closing ceremonies this three week special “Retrospective” event in celebration of the 2012 Summer Olympic Games. Which game will it be? You’ll just have to tune in this coming Saturday to find out! (But please check us out throughout the week with more excellent stuff ahead!) Have an awesome week!
(Note: Video preview contains spoilers. Shows entire gameplay from start to end, but text is mostly from the Japanese version of the game.)