New International Track and FieldESRB:
Platform: Nintendo DS , DSI
Developer – Sumo Digital
Publisher – Konami Digital Entertainment
Nintendo WiFi compatible
Nintendo DS Headset
I was avid lover of the original arcade tabletop version of Track and Field many years ago. I also loved the PS1 version that followed years later and moved the series into the realm of 3D. That game was really rough on the controllers but hammering buttons with reckless abandonment at super human speed was awsome. Of course if one’s fingers weren’t fast enough you’d happen to use anything within your grasp to aid our performance. Everything from coins to butter knives to pencils were widely known to be used for optimal speed across the buttons. Well Konami has recently released New International Track and Field for the Nintendo DS. In this brand new game created exclusively for the dual screened wonder, things are not quite what they used to be. The tiny DS is somewhat fragile to the controller pounding abuse suffered in previous games. So how is this game different? And does it still have that old retro charm?
Anyone who knows the DS well has come to accept that it is not the most extremely powerful machine in terms of graphics processing. So with that in mind I did not expect much in terms in the visual department. This being said, right off the hop I noticed how bright and colorful the game was as it jumped off the screen. While not a complex title, it portrays the source material very well and very cleanly. The crew at Sumo Digital has created a great set of characters and the art style that isn't hampered by the handheld's processing power. Mind you I found some signs of slow down and clipping in certain areas, but to be honset they were not too bad. The games online framerate suffers a bit more, but I thought this to be connection issues. You will most likely be far to busy to really notice or care about these issues though. The game is very basic in form and simple to look at, but that is part of its charm. The 3D modeled characters are cute in nature and are quite pleasing to the eye. The games menus are well designed and very easy to navigate. Overall New International Track and Field does a pretty good job visually.
The DS’s tiny little speakers certainly get a work from New International Track and Field. The sound effects in the game are pretty funny at times with particular sounds for everything from accelerating quickly to bonking your head. The crowd roar is cool too, they tend to howl pretty much everything, but there are times when they sound quite hissy.
The music is done with the old gamers in mind as most it has been lifted from the original game and freshened up a bit to grace this version. I still laugh out loud when hearing the Chariots of Fire theme. I think gamers young and old will love the music. Of course using the DS headphone jacks are once again the way to go when enjoying the title. The stereo separation is good, and the over the top aggressive announcer will sound as if he is specking in a huge stadium filled with tons of fans.
For me the biggest change and challange is the introduction of touch screen controls as the game was clearly designed to be played this way. Almost every event in the game requires you to move your stylus across or around the screen in combination with button presses. Instead of hammering buttons while running the 100m, you now repeatedly stroke your stylus back and forth across the screen. It’s a difficult task to do without getting tired. I found myself asking if it would be any easier using the tried and true button mashing method.
One bit of concern on my part is durability of the DS’s touch screen. Playing the game will expose it to obvious abuse as the stylus is used quite heavily. There are 24 events in total, so you’ll be doing a lot of stylus stroking. Some of the events included in the game are high jump, archery, pole vaulting, and javelin to name a few. The events have to be unlocked first by doing four separate modes in the career portion of the game. Each event has qualification requirements (e.g. time, distance, etc) that must be met for you to progress. Should you fail you will have to attempt the four events again. It can be kind of tough at first to qualify for everything, and having to start over can be a bit of a bummer, but the practice will make you better in the end. After you qualify you will be well on your way. For those who don’t wish to part take in the new control scheme there is an option to use a standard A-B button smash feast set-up. While it’s not as accurate as the old arcade games it comes very close and will appeal to the retro gamers.
Something I wasn't really expecting from New Internatioal Track and Field is how fiddly and tricky some of the events are. To be honest I was fully prepared to just hammer buttons while trying to set records right away. The stylus and screen make you work for your records, and my best efforts to break the 100m track event resulted in fairly disappointing times in the 12-13 second range. The timing-based trick events such as diving and vault were also quite difficult as you not only have to work quickly but also work with some smarts to make your jumps properly. For the first hour or so I must adimt I was frustrated with the whole set-up as I wanted it to be quick simple and satifiyng. However once I was over the hump however and I figured out the nuances of the game it definitely became a much more enjoyable experience. I suggest that veterans of the old style game need to use some patience with the new control scheme. For newbies however I think the learning curve may be easier and the rewards should come quicker.
The game has extra features throughtout. For starters you earn gold stars which unlock new costumes for characters, and there are some very fun and cool ones. Upon completing the career mode you will unlock new challenge events too such as a swimming challenge for the classic Konami character Frogger. How cool is that? You will also gain access to bonus characters too. The game also uses the DS’s headset. By attaching the headset you can utilize the Voice Boost feature. You can use your voice to boost the performance of your charchter by shouting words of encouragement and the louder you are the better and bigger the boost.
The game’s offline play has tons to offer any gamer, but it's really the multiplayer support and online functionality that will give New International Track and Field a life of its own. You can play locally with other DS users, either using a single game cartridge or with multiple copies of the game. If you each have your own copy the competitive jucies between buddies really begins to flow. This is also where the true nature of Track and Field comes into play, making it one of the best multiplayer DS titles on the market. The difficulty of certain events will almost definitely play on who wants to compete in any given event. Beginners will have a tougher time and they may want to choose any an easier event. Almost everyone should be able to play the basic events without too much trouble. The bonus here is the ability to play the game onliine through Nintendo’s WiFi Network. You can sit anywhere where you get a connection and you play against virtual athletes located all across the globe. I was also impressed by the fairly comprehensive online leaderboards, a cool community site and an in-game news feed. I must say this is one of the most complete DS games I have ever played. Fans of track and field sports (the real ones in a stadium) will love this title.
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