New International Track & Field Review for the Nintendo DS (NDS)

New International Track & Field Review for the Nintendo DS (NDS)

Go for the Gold!

The original Track & Field in the arcades had major wrist-cramping potential, and Track & Field for the NES was among a handful of button mashing games that prematurely caused the death of many controllers – at least until people smartened up and plugged in the auto-fire capable NES Advantage.

New International Track & Field screenshot

Repeatedly hammering on buttons as fast as humanly possible wasn’t particularly fun in sports titles – or any games on the NES, for that matter – back then, and similar, painfully repetitive forms of control input in games these days isn’t much better. Konami’s release of New International Track & Field on the DS coincides with the series’ 25th anniversary, and it’s incredibly nostalgic to see some of the old school 8-bit sports challenges revived and updated. However, this is one instance where some things are best left in the past, and bringing back the original’s uncomfortable control scheme in new and insidious forms wasn’t a great move. Instead of button mashing alone, this DS update features high-speed stylus raking. It’s bound to be a source of pain and consternation in more than once sense, though the game as a whole is actually rather entertaining.

There’s no denying the fact this collection of sporting events brings out the competitive spirit and gets the blood pumping. Developer Sumo Digital has done an excellent job here of breathing fresh life back into the classic events in the series as well as packing in lots of extra content that references Konami’s history. The six main events from the original game – 100 meter dash, javelin throw, hammer throw, long jump, 110m hurdles, and high jump – have been brought back in their full glory with new visual and gameplay updates. Additionally, 18 other events featured in other versions of the franchise are also back, including breaststroke, pole vault, cycling, rowing, discus, archery, and many more.

New International Track & Field screenshot

Each event tests your stamina and precision, and some may even test your patience. You’ll frequently have to build up speed with rapid button presses or stylus movements, while managing well-timed moves and trajectory angles. Given the broad range of sporting activities included in the collection, you’ll likely come across a few fast favorites and a handful of events that make your blood boil. Each tier of mini-games is played in groupings of four events. Achieving a bronze, silver, or gold medal in a group will unlock the next set of events. Fortunately, you don’t have to excel at every event in a series to win, but you will have to at least qualify in each. Doing extremely well in a few activities will help boost your overall score and let you move onward.

The giant, bubble-head characters are more than a little goofy. There are a few hulking brutes (including a behemoth man-woman named Helga), a couple of cocky-looking jocks, a few punk rock girlies, a bad-ass Mr. Miyagi-like fellah, and the token guy-with-an-afro. Gaining points through scoring well on the events will unlock different outfits for each character. Elements from popular past Konami titles are worked sneakily into various areas of the game. They’re frequently subtle but exciting to discover. Also, six Konami characters (including Solid Snake from Metal Gear Solid and Pyramid Head from Silent Hill, among others) can be unlocked for play in Challenge Mode. Otherwise, the presentation is very close to the original sporting events – only with improved graphics. The stands full of cheering fans and a new take on the Chariots of Fire theme definitely help put you in the mood to go for the gold.

New International Track & Field screenshot

Neither of the control variations available is particularly enjoyable to wrestle with. The default control scheme has players putting the violent rub down on their touch screen – not so fun if you wish to preserve it from getting overly scratched. Many of the games require you to drag the stylus repeatedly back and forth (or in circles) across the screen at high speed, while occasionally tapping the screen or hitting the D-Pad to engage a maneuver.

New International Track & Field screenshot

Normally this might not be a problem, but the gameplay quickly becomes very intense as you try to build up enough momentum or power to perform well in the various events. Trying to worry both about doing well while not damaging your system is doubly taxing. It’s a nerve-wracking and tiring process. Plus, it’s often distracting when the entire top screen is shaking as a result. The alternative is to go back to mashing different combinations of buttons, which is an option for those who dig the old way of doing things. However, it’s not recommended. Also, if you’re up for the added-head rush, you can blow into the microphone to “cheer” your character on in some events for an extra boost, but it doesn’t seem to have much of a substantial impact on success.

Most of the mini-games take a few tries to get the hang of things, but it can be extremely frustrating when you’ve done well in several portions of a series of events only to fail at the one you’re not quite comfortable with yet – forcing you to start over. An option to practice individual games is helpful, if you have the patience to test each one out before you enter into a tournament. You’re given step-by-step instructions on how to play each event, but in some cases it isn’t necessarily clear exactly how it translates when playing the actual game.

Single-card multiplayer is fairly limited, but Sumo Digital raises the bar with the level of online features and gameplay through the Wi-Fi connection. Your Wi-Fi profile can be tied in directly to a free account at the game’s website. You sign up to play to challenge other players, get ranked worldwide, join a team, and participate in tournaments. It’s a pretty slick interface, and there’s a solid level of extended play possibilities to be found online.

Track & Field’s main downfall is its shoddy controls, but other areas of the game have been given the proper attention to make this a sturdy competitive package for fans of Olympic sports. The events themselves are mostly quite enjoyable and the spirit of competition is alive and well on this classically inspired collection on the DS.

A little goofy but relatively pleasant. Subtle Konami series references are a nice touch. 2.0 Control
Button mashing and stylus grinding are unpleasant at best; the one sour spot in an otherwise solid package. 3.8 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Features some great classic sound effects from the original. Plus, the Chariots of Fire theme is a nice touch. 3.8

Play Value
Get beyond poor controls and there’s a lot to unlock and do here.

3.5 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • More than 20 athletic challenges, including 100 meter sprint, high jump, archery, pole vaulting, and javelin.
  • Massive online feature set: Four player game sharing, worldwide rankings, and online tournaments.
  • 15+ characters that are both original to the game and fan favorite Konami characters.
  • Six Konami characters have a Challenge Event that will test your skills in unique and entertaining ways.
  • Customize your athlete with new costumes and other cool items.
  • Voice Boost: Use the microphone on the DS to give your character a boost by shouting words of encouragement. The louder you are, the bigger the boost!

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