Elemental Challenge Day Eighteen: Sports

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This is what happens when national pastimes collide. Today we’re talking about Sports games, what are essentially games about games. Several of us do more than our fair share of contributing to the stereotype that gamers are nerds who don’t like sports, but the fact is that video games based on football, baseball, hockey, basketball, and so on have been around since the dawn of gaming. For many people, these are gateway games into the digital universe with rules they already know and understand. For others, these are just reminders of a lack of athletic ability and general disinterest in the sports scene.

Regardless of what faction you personally fall into or if neither boot fits, the fact is that there are a lot of similarities between hardcore gamers and hardcore sports fans: generally speaking, both are extremely dedicated, both look down on the other, both are interested in what are essentially games, both have fandom wars with intense patriotism, both can talk at length about their games of interest, both verge upon fanaticism with their love for the game, both purchase all kinds of paraphernalia to demonstrate their support. Sports fans and gamers are more alike than you think and sometimes the person who understands your life least does so because nobody has tried to reach out to help them understand the other. The end, there’s not much difference between volley ball and blitz ball.

Here come the games…

 

FF3-NES-Summoner2.png  The Green Screen Mage

Mario Tennis on the Nintendo 64. Okay, so I don’t really play sports games at all, but I remember being really good at this one. Birdo was my go-to.

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blackmage  The Black Humor Mage

Sports? PAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA Wii Sports is fun.

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mystic_knight1 The Midnight Mystic Mage (Sublime Reviews)

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. Now I will be the first to admit that this series has completely lost its way, most likely to never be recovered to its former glory. I also was not sure whether to pick this or Skate because of how much better the quality is of the Skate games. I had to go with the classic though for all time favorite. There was nothing like this at the time and I just remember being so incredibly excited to actually be able to control some awesome skateboarders. (Honorary Mentions – MLB The Show, NBA Jam, Skate)

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spoonybardmageright.jpg  The Spoony Bard Mage (Nerd Speaker)

Wut r sports? I am not the most sporty individual, but back in the NES era, I used to play Bases Loaded 2 with my brother all the time. I used to love playing as my local sports squadron.

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HandheldMage1  The Hopeful Handheld Mage (Retro Redress)

Pro Evolution Soccer 2011 (Xbox360). Talking about Pro Evolution Soccer is like discussing The Simpsons with a diehard fan; watching something that was once amazing fall so far is depressing. Sure there is the odd flash of hope (‘Insane Clown Poppy’, PES’s new game engine) but generally it’s all been downhill.

PES11 was the series’ last great game and probably the peak of the series. The game was smooth and challenging, plus it had an amazing online mode. Weekly leagues ruined lives, friendships, sleep and joypads. Staying up till 2am looking for left backs was considered normal. Asking your friends if they knew of any midfielders who had the ‘enforcer’ card was considered normal…I miss those days, but I’m not sure how I survived them.

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Kx18GL1dNEW  The Dapper Zaffre Mage (Save File 02)

I’m not quite sure where to begin with Pitball on the PSX. It’s basically futuristic 2v2 basketball in space. I can’t even recall what the premise -was-, only that there were several races to play and no such thing as fouls; if anything, violence was heavily encouraged as a proper way to ‘intercept’ the ball, either through race-specific special attacks, or simply through decking an opponent in the face and running off with the ball. Pitball was actually a pretty fun concept, and the game might have fared well with better controls and a fairer A.I.

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nostalgiamage  The Over-Caffeinated Nostalgia Mage (Nostalgia Trigger)

Backyard Baseball. To be honest, sports games never really blew my skirt up during my younger years. It wasn’t until the Nintendo 64 that a handful of titles made their way on to my radar, with the likes of NFL Blitz and Major League Baseball Featuring Ken Griffey Jr. shattering the mold of traditional sports titles that seemed to require doctorate degrees in their respective sport to understand. That being said, there was one game that came out for PC just before the Nintendo 64 made waves, and that game is Backyard Baseball. It turned the sport into what it was to me at the time, by showing it through the lenses of a kid playing baseball with his or her friends. Up to that point, sports games always seemed too tough and professional for me, without much of a focus on fun. But by replacing the adults with kids, it made sports games in general far more approachable. Today, the franchise isn’t what it used to be, but Backyard Baseball always holds a special place for me. And Pablo Sanchez is arguably the best player in any sports game, period.

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  The Rage Mage

Nothing says the prostitution of an IP for profit quite like Mega Man Soccer. At the height of his popularity, before Capcom decided to make him clean toilets, Mega Man starred in a bizarre soccer video game with some robot bosses. I guess on their downtime between bouts of trying to murder each other they played a friendly game of British football, to a boorish reception. This game should’ve taken cues from sports classics like Mario Bocce Ball and Mario Shuffleboard.

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rmage2.jpg  The Well-Red Mage

So at first I was reluctant to include this genre of games. I definitely fall into the category of a gamer showing disgust for extreme sports fans. I have a friend who will hang on to every word of a ballgame broadcast and we’ve had some banter back and forth about the ridiculousness of her love for the Dodgers and my love for Nintendo, but it dawned on me that we’re really talking the same thing in two different languages. In the end, that epiphany led me to keep this genre in our Elemental Challenge. I might not understand why someone would be excited by the headline “In sports today: man hits ball!” but then, the same thing is true from her perspective.

That said, I went for a compromise with a Nintendo sports action-puzzle classic: Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! This game about a series of boss fights is one of the best on the NES for its complex mechanics, timing, difficulty, and visual cues. The quirky characters were even designed by Shigeru Miyamoto! Though Nintendo later dropped Tyson’s name from the game, the game itself survived the legend of the real life boxer, and it’s regarded well by fans in the retro community. I’m not the best at it and I always struggle with it every time but its intricacy is entirely admirable.

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Well whew… we got through that. See? It wasn’t so bad. Thanks for reading, even if sports games aren’t your thang! Tomorrow we’re featuring a genre that’s sure to get your heart… racing.

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26 thoughts on “Elemental Challenge Day Eighteen: Sports

  1. I just secured an original Mike Tyson’s Punch Out cartridge. I can’t wait to take on Iron Mike again.

    Anyway, for me it has to be NHL ’94. While later versions of the series have added more features, made the game look prettier, and made it play more like real hockey. None have replicated the level of pure fun in NHL ’94.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I nominate Mario Strikers Charged on the Wii. Unfortunately, I do not really feel I am able to enjoy sports games without the inclusion of cartoonlike power ups and special moves (I have always thought that if someone wanted to play a sport, it would be more enjoyable to play outside with friends). I liked the different characters (with special moves) and pitches (with different features). I also liked the use of power-ups. There was also an interesting feature called the Mega Strike, which launched six footballs at the goal keeper and one player had to control the goal keeper to block the shots. I remember playing this game online with friends and it was interesting to experience playing against a diverse range of opponents. I would like to nominate Virtua Tennis 2009 on the Wii as the worst sports game as I played the game expecting to see Roger Federer playing tennis dressed as a clown, but it did not happen.
    I agree that, while I do not really enjoy this genre, it should have been included in the challenge to complete it and gain perspectives from players with different opinions. I like the way you have identified enjoyable aspects of Punch Out, while not liking the sports genre. Does Punch Out consist of a series of fights? What are the quirky characters?

    Liked by 2 people

    • I think a lot of us feel the same way. Sports games have to have some additional elements in order to be appealing. Check out the Punch-Out!! review for more information. The characters are quite hilarious.

      Like

  3. I tend to gravitate toward Sports games that aren’t grounded in realism more so than traditional simulations. With that in mind I’m going with Ribbit King. It’s an obscure golf game for the Gamecube introduced to me this past New Year’s Eve by my pals The Best Spuds.(Check them out on YouTube. They chronicle play throughs, and have even taken challenges from some larger name YouTubers like Pat Contri.) Anyway, it differs from Golf by replacing the golf balls with frogs, and golfers with trippy characters. When you hit your frog, it will start jumping toward things it’s interested in. Like flies. Or a lake to swim in. You get huge points for every one of these instances. So while you can try to go for Par, or better, you’ll actually do really well for yourself hitting bogey or worse sometimes. It’s not the cheapest GCN disc around, but if you find it, check it out.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Reblogged this on nostalgia trigger and commented:

    The topic of the day is: Sports Games! What are your favorites? I had to go with the original Backyard Baseball as it really changed the sports game landscape, but there are plenty more great choices. Read all about it on the Well-Red Mage’s Elemental Challenge: Day 18!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Reblogged this on Sublime Reviews and commented:

    Step up to the plate and swing for a touchdown! Today is the Sports genre in Day 18 of the Elemental Challenge. I had to go with Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater in this category, but there are definitely plenty good ones to name. What is your favorite Sports game? Come let us know over at The We’ll-Red Mage.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I was kinda tempted to type ‘Tiny Toon Adventures ACME All Stars’ here … it depends really. If you class wrestling games as sports, then either Super Fire Pro on the SNES or WWE No Mercy on the N64. If you’re classing wrestling as less sports and more entertainment then International Superstar Soccer Deluxe (Mega Drive), NBA Jam (Mega Drive) FIFA Road To World Cup 1998 (PS1), SSX Tricky (PS2), and the recent NHL games score highly … BUT … Mutant League Football and Mutant League Hockey (both Mega Drive) take it for me. Bones Jackson and the crew were great entertainment!

    Liked by 1 person

      • Absolutely. As I’ve said to many peopel before, even if you ‘know how to fall’, you’re still gonna feel it. Wrestling rings are just lumps on wood on a metal framework with a bit of canvas over the top, after all. Plus, most decent schools teach you the legit stuff at the same time as the pro stuff.

        Liked by 2 people

  7. I greatly enjoyed the parallel drawn here between sports and video game fans. That was a great deal of fun to read, and spoke volumes. It seems to me to be very true, and quite important to keep in mind.

    Honestly, I don’t play many sports games for reasons related to my dislike for shooters, but with the added complication of not really understanding the rules well. Occasionally, a great sports game comes up that really catches my attention, though. My favorite sports title has to be Rocket League. You can’t beat zipping around a chaotic arena as a little toy car chasing a crazy ball toward a goal. I constantly lose the ball, and regularly score on my own team because I forgot that the goal matching my color is the one I should be protecting, but it’s still a lot of fun.

    Liked by 3 people

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