One of the advantages video game have over sports is that video games can imitate and build upon sports, but sports can’t do the same for video games. You can have a video game where, instead of just playing football, you’re playing some kind of crazyass murder football featuring the Visigoths vs. the Vikings in 621 A.D.. With sports, however, you can’t have a game where you simulate with a ball sieging a castle on the Moon with a dozen of the rough n’ tumblest anti-hero space marines this side of every shitty 3rd person shooter made in the last 10 years. As awesome as it is that games let us experience what our favorite American pastimes would be like with gratuitous violence (most of them would be like the NBA is currently), sometimes games go a bit over the “(sport) with a twist” category. In fact, these games put such a twist on sports you’d think they were the voodoo zombie of Fats Domino.
Kirby’s Dream Course
Sport: Mini Golf
Ok, granted, mini golf is already a weird take on golf. But Kirby’s Dream Course takes the concept of putting balls in holes to crazier new heights than Tiger Woods, Happy Gilmore, and the entire porn industry put together. And honestly, even though you can see the mini golf elements in the game, it’s really more of a physics game than anything else. Yes, that’s right, a modern-style physics game. 9 years before Half-Life 2. Just look at this video:
These shots are beautiful, and show off the crazy mix of physics and physics-altering special powers that make this game so fun. It’s also kind of depressing to think that in 15 years we still haven’t been able to create a better physics engine for putting than Nintendo came up with for a zany, cartoonish take on mini golf.
Sport: Cycling? Stunt Cycling? Is Unicycling a sport?
First, an interlude:
I remember Uniracers mostly as being a big feature of the Play It Loud! campaign Nintendo ran. It looked crazy, although even at the time I couldn’t figure out how riderless unicycles doing stunts in an existential clown hell fits with the “extreme” image Nintendo was trying to foster. In truth, a big part of the campaign was Nintendo combating Sega’s “grown up” image. In the early 90s, most exchanges between the companies went like this:
Sega: Oh, look, it’s the Super NES. Whatcha playin’? Faggot Brothers 4? That’s a great game, if you’re a dick-humping homo emperor!
Nintendo: No, I’m playing The Legend of Zelda.
Sega: Oh, yeah, that game where you’re a gay blond baby! That game’s pretty good, even though ONLY BABIES LIKE IT! Boy, Nintendo, you’re lucky your own game developers are good! Otherwise you’d be screwed!
Nintendo: Actually, I just finished playing Donkey Kong Country, Super Castlevania IV and Contra III and was thinking of playing Final Fantasy II, Killer Instinct, or Actraiser.
Sega: W.. well… those are all baby games! For BABIES! OUR Mortal Kombat has blood!
Nintendo: Our Mortal Kombat doesn’t have wonky controls. Additionally, our Mortal Kombat 2 beats the holy shit out of yours.
Sega: Um… yeah, but… um… we have arcade-perfect hits like Ghouls n’ Ghosts!
Nintendo: We have games that are superior to their arcade versions, like Super Ghouls n’ Ghosts.
Sega: Well… um… well… ALL YOUR FANS ARE BABIES!
Nintendo: Sigh. *goes back to playing fucking Zelda, for God’s sake*
Going into the mid-90s, however, somebody did a poll of some very, very stupid children, and what they found was that really dumb kids didn’t like to admit they played the SNES because they saw it as being for “little kids.” Nowadays, we know this is retarded, and no one falls for that argument anymore (haha, just kidding), but at the time, Nintendo took it seriously. This, in turn, led to the creation of the Play It Loud! campaign. (Because I grew up the 90s, I am forbidden by law to leave out the exclamation mark in that phrase.) Basically, they showed off how superior the SNES was to the Genesis while trying to associate it with youth culture. From it came the special colored Game Boys, the Virtual Boy, some incredible games, and some ridiculous commercials (be careful with that last one, it’s fucking gross. You’d probably be better off just not clicking it. It still makes my stomach churn). A lot of people point to the Play It Loud! campaign as a low point in Nintendo’s history, and while I’ve covered how untrue that is from a game release standpoint, I guess I kind of see what they’re saying. The ads were pretty hollow, I guess. I dunno. I don’t think Nintendo should have been trying to compete with Sega on that front, but because that hit campaign right at my prime marketing age, I just can’t hate it. I remember everything from this era very fondly, and it still warms my heart. Most of the people who chide Nintendo for their advertising from this time are the same people who still talk about how awesome Transformers and G.I. Joe were, and those were basically 30 minute long toy commercials. And I really don’t have a problem with that! I’m old enough to love those shows too. But no one acknowledges that transparent attempts to advertise to children existed in their generation, because they were in the prime market at that time. You can look down on Play It Loud! with a holier-than-thou attitude if you want, but the fact is, my generation is reaching their 20s, and we’re about to take over the internet. We’re going to be looking back on the commercials we grew up with as fondly as you look upon the ones you grew up with. They made us as cool now as He-Man made you in the 80s. So why don’t we call off the dogs and learn to take things at face value?
Anyway, what was I talking about?
Uniracists? What the fuck is that?
Uniracers honestly wasn’t a game I got to play when I was little. I always thought it looked cool, but I was lucky enough to live near a rental shop with a crazy good selection, so I was too busy renting other, better games to get it.
Ok, that’s not really fair. Uniracers is a good game. It’s just, 0there were so many good games at that time, and sorry, but Mega Man X and Earthbound will always beat out any racing game for me. It’s a very, very weird game, though. It tells the story of sentient unicycles who exist in an abstract series of multicolored tracks and loops. They’re thrown into courses by an unknown entity, and catcalled and hollered by invisible, omniscient hillbillies to do tricks and move as quickly as possible. And you move fucking fast. To tell the truth, I actually have a lot of trouble playing the game even now, because it just moves so quickly. I once played the game the last level of the game, and it moved so fast that everything turned into a blur. When I could see again, I found myself forced into a plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler in 1930. This was a big part of why Uniracers was released (to show off the system’s speed, not to assassinate Hitler). Nintendo wanted to prove what bullshit “blast processing” was (and it was) by showing that not only could it move as fast as Sonic, it could move far, far faster, for better or worse.
Plus, you moved faster as you did stunts, which was not only weird, but would pretty much be the wet dream of every person in charge of licensing extreme sports to be made as video games. Too bad they used the idea on unicycle racing, which, as extreme as it is, is too associated with clowns to be marketable.
Bonus trivia: This game was made by DMA Design, which is now Rockstar North, which of course is now famous for the GTA series. This fulfills my legal obligation to relate this piece of trivia, per Federal Statute 611-B, which mandates that, upon reviewing a game by DMA Designs, all journalists and writers much relate, in Paul Harvey fashion, “the rest of the story,” explaining what DMA Design eventually became.
Bonus bonus trivia: I met Billy Thomson, who worked for DMA and Rockstar creating GTA and GTA 2, and was also lead designer on Crackdown and Crackdown 2, at PAX East 2010. This isn’t related to Uniracers. I just like to tell people that.
Super Dodge Ball
Sport: Dodge Ball, specifically the super kind
Seanbaby already pretty well covered this game, so I’ll keep this brief. In fact, to sum it up in a word, Super Dodge Ball is dick-yankingly good. Actually, on second thought, ew. Anyway, the entire Kunio series, which also included such classics as River City Ransom and Nintendo World Cup, was actually pretty amazing (more on those later, on a day where I haven’t been writing for hours). Super Dodge Ball is one of the weirdest entries in the series, though. Apparently, in Kunio’s world, dodgeball is a blood sport, a brutal, murderous game of back and forth played by only the bravest, or most foolhardy, escaped lunatics with psychic dodgeball powers. The USA team starring you travels from country to country killing a veritable rainbow of minorities before finally ending up before the sinister USSR dodgeball team. Since SDD was released in the 80s, you probably already know that this means some serious shit is about to go down. The Russkies take forever to kill, and their brutally trained soldier-players are out for capitalist blood. But the real weirdness is when you beat them: while cheering about your victory, you suddenly enter an odd vortex. When you come out the other end, you are stunned to see standing before you… YOURSELVES. That’s right, part of a dodgeball tournament in the Kunio world is apparently the same thing as the force training Yoda gives Luke in Return of the Jedi. After vanquishing your own dark side, you then are transported to paradise! Haha, just kidding. You actually go back to soviet Russia, where ball dodges you.
Gamers have certain peculiar behaviors they exhibit when they’re playing games. Many of them, to the uninitiated, seem almost like tics, weird, inexplicable behaviors that make little to no sense out of the context of gaming. However, to us, they make perfect sense, and some of them seem so fundamental to what we’re doing that we’ve never bothered to question them. So, here’s a survey featuring some of these behaviors. Feel free to comment/repost on Facebook/whatever with your check marked answers to these:
1. I hold down the B button the entire time I’m playing Super Mario Bros. [ ]
2. When playing an FPS, I habitually reload anytime I fire a shot [ ]
3. When playing a first-person RPG (Oblivion, etc.), I’ll spend half an hour climbing over mountains to avoid spending 5 minutes walking around them [ ]
4. I never use special weapons that have limited ammo (boss weapons in Mega Man, MP-cost magic in RPGs, etc.) until I fight the boss [ ]
5. I can’t just walk through a level, even if walking is faster (I.E. bunny hop in an FPS or slide/dash in Mega Man) [ ]
6. After eliminating a nation in an FPS I’ll destroy every last trace of their civilization by killing all their remaining units and burning down all their buildings, even though they no longer pose a danger and don’t fight back [ ]
7. I spend most of a Final Fantasy game running away from enemies until I no longer can, then spend days tediously leveling up for the final boss [ ]
8. I sometimes play terrible educational and trivia games just because I find giving terrible answers funny (example) [ ]
9. When I play Super Castlevania IV I always moonwalk up the stairs. [ ]
10. When I get really bored I tried to fire my weapon in time with the music [ ]
11. I absolutely cannot, CANNOT allow windows in an FPS to remain unbroken. [ ]
12. (courtesy Raddevon!) I oftentimes walk in a game even if there is no advantage to doing so to make situations more dramatic. [ ]
I’d love to know if anyone else does any of these things.