HE'S ON FIIIIRE!!!!
Dear god, how many quarters did I plug away into those NBA Jam
machines at the arcade? How many times did I rent NBA Jam
at my local Blockbuster? To be perfectly honest, I'm not sure. But I'll be honest, all the time playing NBA Jam
, I was never more interested in sports, in basketball, and in sports videogames. Hell, when NFL Blitz
came out, I was happy to glom onto that for a bit.
Flash forward to today, I find sports games to be a complete waste of time and money. What happened?
Let's start from the start. The year is 1990. I'm 3½ years old. My family's owned an NES since... Christmas, I think? Like every young boy, the family is trying to get me interested in sports, namely baseball. They, of course, try the usual things... playing tee-ball in the backyard, taking me to a Mets game, little catch in the park with my pop... but what I remember most fondly was a little NES game called Base Wars
I can only imagine the meeting that went on while they were designing this game. "Well, Capcom seems to be making a killing with this 'MegaMan' character. How do we capitalize on that?" "BASEBALL!" Still, the game worked. Something about nixing the umpire in favor of killer robots duking it out just made it work. Pitching was strange, since you could control the ball like an RC plane. But the game just clicked with me. To this day, I still remember the ditty that plays whenever you shot one over the fences, complete with the Double-Dribble-Speak "HOME RUN!" that would accompany it.
Speaking of Double Dribble
, I do have some memories of playing it... mostly of the 8-bit cutscene of you walking back to your locker room when your team lost, done in a glorious 1 frame-per-second. When it came to basketball, as I said, NBA Jam
was my... well, jam. Being completely naive to the sport, I had no idea who all those players that Midway got the license for, or the teams. Which is probably why I, a New Jersey native, never played as the Nets... that, and people saying something about the cabinet being haunted? I don't remember.
After many years of Midway's arcadey, action-packed sports titles, it never quite stuck in my head that was what I liked about games like NBA Jam
and NFL Blitz
. So imagine what must've gone through my mind when I picked up All-Star Baseball 2002
for my Gamecube and saw all the micro-management crap I had to deal with. I didn't want to have to manage a bullpen or adjust the starting lineup to prepare for the other team... I just wanted to hit some dingers! It was a game for fanatics of the sport, for those who knew all its ins and outs, and I was lucky if I could catch one game a week.
I'll be honest... I was never any good at any of the games I mentioned. Yeah, I loved Double Dribble
, Base Wars
, NBA Jam
, NFL Blitz
... hell, I also loved Mario Tennis
and Mario Golf
. I know sweeping generalizations are bad, but to me, it seems the more we strive for ultra-realism, we're seem to leave behind fun and accessibility. There are still some of the more arcadey sports games out there, but I almost never see them. And while nowadays I can say I understand baseball more than I did 6 years ago (why, again, was a sports title for 2002 released in 2003?), that one game has left such a bad taste in my mouth that I couldn't play another baseball game again... unless Konami decides to revisit Base Wars someday with a next-gen update.
As for games about other sports? ...Honestly, if there's ever a lull in the gaming season, and the game focuses on the action rather than managing the team, I'll give it a whirl. After all, I'm not looking to manage... I'm looking to score.