Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sticking Points: Track & Field II

First of all, I would like to make a correction to my review of Track & Field II. When I brought up the fact that you have to play a harder version of Championship Mode after going through it once, I said you were unable to continue if you failed an event the second time around. I only said that because I couldn't get to what would have been the first milestone. But, I recently bought myself a decent turbo controller (the SNES Super Advantage), and it worked well enough to take West Germany all the way to the end. Now that I have finally beaten the game, I would like to retract what I said before and officially state that you are indeed allowed to continue in the finals. As in the preliminaries, you are given a password after every third event. It's just that the game ends immediately after failing an event instead of waiting for the next checkpoint. I admit it's something I wish the game did before, since having you go on if you were already doomed to a game over didn't make sense to me.

Well, now that I got that out of the way, I figured it would be a good excuse to take an in-depth look at all the events found in this game. Some are good and some are bad; the rating of 60% that I gave this game reflects that.

Fencing: A simple versus-fighter game. The first player to land five hits on the other wins. You stab with A, holding Up or Down to aim high or low, and block by holding B. It's not a very polished game, as was nearly every fighting game before (the first) Street Fighter II. The easiest way to win is to always aim low, so skill isn't as important as luck.

Triple Jump: Since this is the first sport that involves button-mashing, this was a major roadblock for me, and we're only two out of twelve sports in! You mash A to build up speed, and when you get up to the foul line, press B to jump. Holding B for longer increases the angle of your jump; I recommend aiming for 45 degrees for each jump. This sport returns from the original Track & Field, and I imagine not much has changed.

Freestyle Swimming: This is another button-masher, but this time you have to deal with two buttons instead of one. A builds up speed, while B builds up oxygen. If your oxygen meter depletes, you'll stop for a moment to breathe automatically, which kills your chances of making the qualifying time.

High Dive: To start out, you select the type of dive you want to take (your choices vary between Forward, Backward, Reverse, Handstand, and Twist), but there's really no difference that I know of. Then, while you're in the air, you perform tucks and pikes by pressing B with Left or Right pressed. Ideally, you're supposed to stop just before you hit the water in order to get the best angle. The truth is, I have not found any consistent way to get high grades; I would even go so far as to call the judging completely random. At least you have four attempts to be lucky enough to get a qualifying score.

Clay Pigeon Shooting: There was a similar event in the first Track & Field, but it's much more straightforward this time around. Press B to manually launch your targets, the Control Pad to move a cursor, and A to fire. It's pretty fun, except for the fact that at 40 targets total, it drags on for a while.

Hammer Throw: Here's an interesting twist: instead of mashing a button to build up power, you "rotate" or hit directions on the Control Pad clockwise to swing the hammer around. Then, once your athlete starts flashing, hold and release A to throw it. Because of the control mechanism, I was able to score well on this even without a turbo controller, but it all goes wrong when you try to throw it. Unlike in the Triple Jump, you have to hold A for a while before the angle starts going up, and if your timing's off, it may not respond at all.

Taekwondo: Another fighting game, except this is possibly even more broken than fencing. The A button punches and B kicks, and you have to whittle down your opponent's stamina bar before he does the same to you. The problem is, every so often you or your opponent might collapse from a hit. It's not like in Punch-Out!! where you have to mash buttons to get back up; as long as your life isn't at zero, you'll always get back up. So, it's nothing more than a waste of time. Besides, the punches are useless; it's way more effective to just spam kicks. Two-player enabled.

Pole Vault: Similar to the Triple Jump. You start out by selecting your starting height, and (once again) you have to mash A to build up speed. Then you have to press and hold B when the blue tip of your pole is over a box on the ground, then release it when you're over the bar. It takes practice to get the timing right without being fouled out, but I got it down quickly. A successful jump will increase the bar height for your next at

Canoeing: This one is interesting. You have to go through a series of gates, mashing A to move forward and B to go backwards. Some of the gates make you enter from the back or in reverse; missing adds a 30-second penalty. Strangely, the qualifying targets are given in points instead of time. The physics are a little off, too; if you run into a wall while going too fast, your momentum going in makes it tough to get away.

Archery: This event plays completely differently than the arcade-oriented version in the first Track & Field. Mash A to build up strength and press B to fire the arrow. You don't need to be at full power to hit the closer targets, and in fact I would advise against it, too. The catch is that you also have to adjust your aim with the Control Pad, taking wind into account. The directional arrows in the wind meter correspond to the mimi-map at the top of the screen and not to the main view, but other than that there's not much wrong with this event.

Hurdles: Another revival from Track & Field, plus the closest thing this sequel has to a straight-up race. Mash A to run and B to jump over the hurdles. Oddly, the hurdles all have a shallow pool of water behind them, as if it were a horseback steeplechase. Still, there's to complain about with this event.

Horizontal Bar: Way to end on a low note. This, the final event in Championship Mode, combines nearly everything wrong with this game into one. It's a button masher, the non-mashing controls are poor, and like the High Dive, it's based on a grading system which seems to have no relation to what you just did. Building up power by mashing A changes the tricks you can do by pressing B, but loading your routine with high-powered maneuvers won't necessarily earn you the best grades. You can help things along by sticking the landing (press and hold Up just as you land), but really you'll be lucky to get at or above the qualifying mark.

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