Monday, May 27, 2013

NES Replay: Athletic World

Developer: Bandai
Publisher: Nintendo
Released: 1987
Glad I Don't Have To Run: I'm Fat
One of the problems with video games as they're currently made is that they go obsolete so fast. After only a few short years, it can be nearly impossible to get some of the hardware in your hands, which means that the games themselves are rendered almost unplayable far too quickly.

Case in point: The NES Power Pad. The Power Pad was a peripheral for the NES that had players running and jumping in place in order to play games. Its DNA is found in games like Dance Dance Revolution and Wii Fit. Fortunately, Power Pads are still plentiful, but who knows for how long that will last. How can you review a game that needs the Power Pad to get the full experience, like Athletic World?

The answer: Imperfectly.
In order to play an emulated version of Athletic World, you first have to find an emulator that can emulate the Power Pad. Then you have to somehow figure out what keys correspond to what, which takes a lot longer than you think. It took me a good ten minutes just to figure out what buttons you have to press to get the game to start.

This is exactly how I feel when I exercise too.
However, once you get underway, you find that emulation can't do everything. Sometimes it can be a pale mockery of what it's supposed to emulate. For Athletic World, you simply can't get the whole experience of playing the game by banging your fingers on a keyboard rhythmically. It’s a game that’s meant to be played by running and jumping around, and “running” with your fingers on the keyboard just feels silly.

Even with that meager information at our fingertips (Ha!), it's clear that Athletic World is light on content. There are five games included, and all of them involve running and jumping. In one, you jump over hurdles, in another you run while jumping over logs, and so on. To be fair, there wasn't much else you could do with the Power Pad aside from that, but still.

There's something funny built into the game, though: The designers knew that people would try and cheat at Athletic World. I always find it hilarious that people will try and cheat an exercise program, but whatever.

How can you cheat at a Power Pad game? It’s kind of funny: Kids would get on their knees and smack the Power Pad with their hands, then lifting up their hands when it was time to jump. It’s a lot of work to go through just to fake running and jumping. I mean, at that point you might as well be doing the running and jumping normally.

The developers of Athletic World knew that players would try cheating like this, so if you're "jumping" for too long, your on-screen avatar comes crashing back to the ground and is stunned for a bit. That means that you actually have to run and jump normally in order to win, or at least cheat well enough to fake the game out.

With the way the video game industry is currently running, this is the sort of information that gets lost over time. Video game systems and peripherals pop up and become obsolete so quickly that it's near impossible to keep up unless you’re actively and constantly playing new games. I've never been a proponent of having just one video game system instead of several competing formats, but sadly, in time that may be the best way to preserve these pieces of gaming history for future generations.

Final Rating:

Next Week: Attack of the Killer Tomatoes

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