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New International Track and Field on the DS is an update of a classic 80s arcade game that I spent far too much money on in the past. It sees you competing in a range of standard Olympic events, such as Javelin, shot put and 110 metre hurdles. In order to qualify for the next event, you have to achieve a certain time or distance. Fail and it's Game Over, Man.
One of the strengths of New International Track and Field (NITF from now on) is the huge variety of events - 24 in total - in which you compete, together with a range of different game modes. You can practice individual events or tackle them in sequence. Good performance is rewarded by progression to the next level and, to keep interest levels up, there are extra awards and features to unlock. Extra characters, costumes and cups can be won to keep you coming back to the single player mode. There are world records and personal bests to aim for, so that even when you master an event, there's always the challenge of trying to beat your best time or furthest distance, adding an extra element of compulsion to the game.
Inevitably, with such a variety of events, some are more enjoyable than others. There are some which I really enjoy playing, others which I just have to do to be allowed to get to the next one. Obviously, favourite events are a matter of personal choice, but there are one or two (such as diving) which I really hate having to do. It's a shame you have to follow a fairly restrictive path and can't choose your favourite events to build up your own tournament. Still, for the occasional weaker events, there are plenty of others that will keep you coming back for more.
Where NITF really comes into its own, though, is in the online mode and there has clearly been a lot of thought given to this. There's obviously something far more satisfying about competing against other people, rather than the computer controlled characters. The game can be played wirelessly (from a single cartridge) against other DS users meaning you don't all have to buy a copy of the game. I believe you can also go online to compete against complete strangers, although I've never done this. This adds a tremendous extra dose of fun - particularly when you are in the same room as your human opponent and can hurl insults at each other. Unfortunately, when using a single cartridge, the loading times for events are pretty slow so it can be a slightly frustrating experience. On some of the shorter events, you feel as though you are spending up to a minute waiting for just 20 seconds or so of game playing action.
The graphics in NITF are the kind you either love or hate. The events venues (running tracks, swimming pools etc.) are fairly bland, although quite colourful. The characters on the other hand are cartoony. Rather than aiming for the realism of most sports games, NITF deliberately goes for a quirky, almost manga look. The characters all have very oversized heads, which I find a little disturbing somehow. The animation on some of the characters (personal warm-up routines, celebrations etc.) can also be annoying, although younger players will probably find them funny.
Sound is also functional. There's a fun reworking of the Chariots of Fire theme from the original Track and Field game, together with various bright and chirpy tunes, which you will either find endearing or annoying. In-game effects are limited to cheering crowds, the bang of the starter pistol and the thud of running feet, but to be honest this is all the game really needs. It's both atmospheric and suitably nostalgic for those of us old enough to remember the original.
One of the issues with the Track and field games has always been the controls and the DS version doesn't entirely resolve this. You can either use the stylus and the touch screen or the built in buttons on the DS. At the start of each event there is a brief tutorial for that event, which is a good way of learning, without slowing down the action. On the whole, the controls are well implemented and fairly straightforward to pick up, but there are issues whichever method you choose.
Using the stylus and touch screen method, you have to rub the stylus vigorously along a power bar to build up speed. The faster you rub, the faster you will run. This method is probably the easiest to use, but not one I would recommend long term. Inevitably, when using this method, you have to press quite hard on the screen to ensure that it registers your movement. After just a few events, I started to notice some scratch marks appearing on the screen on my precious DSi.
The alternative will immediately be familiar to anyone who has played the original game. Press the A and B buttons on your DS as fast as you can to build up speed, and use other buttons for actions such as jumping or throwing. Whilst this makes the game true to the spirit of the original, it can also cause issues. Due to the small size of the DS, the buttons are quite close together; using them for such a fast paced game where timing is critical can be awkward and feel a little cramped. It's too easy for your finger to slip off the A or B button at a critical moment. It also suffers because, unless you are playing the game on a firm surface, pressing the buttons rapidly can cause your DS to shake violently. This is a problem in events such as the javelin or long jump, where precision is required as well as speed. The DS can be shaking so much that it's hard to see when you are meant to jump or throw, resulting in much frustration as you commit a foul.
Both control methods are pretty exhausting and you'll soon find yourself massaging your hand between events to try and get some feeling back. This has always been a problem with the Track & Field series, so again, you could argue NITF is capturing the spirit of the original! Some of the events may also be a little too tricky for younger children to master, and lead to them getting bored quite quickly - even older gamers may get frustrated if they keep failing at a particular event and being sent back to the beginning of that section. For these reasons, this is a game I tend to play in short bursts, rather than prolonged periods.
A fun and entertaining DS title (particularly when played against other people), but not an essential purchase by any means.
© Copyright SWSt 2009
I remember playing International Track and Field back in 1999 on the original Sony Playstation. Playing this in single player mode was boring it was a game to be played with mates and we used to enjoy nothing more than going head to head across the wide range of athletics events available from the 100m sprint to the hammer throw.
I remember the abuse the control pads took whilst playing this game. Frantic button bashing was required for every single event, with the 100m, 400m and swimming events giving the control pad the most abuse. Through trial and error we learnt that rather than bash the buttons separately if you put a scarf or old t-shirt over your knuckles and scrapped it across the buttons you could get your character to run faster of throw further.
June 2008 saw International Track and Field launched on the Nintendo DS. Celebrating the 2008 Olympic games there were many other games of the same genre released around the same time so Konami had a big task ahead of them if they were to capture the lion's share of this market.
Would this be a pure replica of the original or would it come back new and improved? More importantly could this game now compete against the competition of Mario and Sonic at the Olympics and Asterix at the Olympics?
Career mode involve six different sets of four events across three difficulty levels and each difficulty level must be completed in full before you can move on to the next.
Training mode gives you the chance to compete in each event on its own giving you the opportunity to practice your skills and ensure that you are able to complete the events in career mode.
The graphics are actually quite good with bright vibrant colours and clarity. They are not up to the high standard of those found in Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games but they are a lot better than those found in Asterix at the Olympics.
This game uses the touch screen and stylus of the DS to its full extent. All events are completed using this and the ferocity of scrapping the stylus along the screen to get more speed or power can certainly take its toll on the touch screen,
After a few hours game play I decided to put International Track and Field down in order to save my DS' touch screen. I found the more I tried the harder I was using the stylus and the more likely I was going to damage the screen.
It was then I realised that the game can be played using the buttons, hence leaving the touch screen alone and preserving its life. This is a fantastic feature of this game, although constant long term button bashing may also cause significant damage to your DS.
At the start of the game you can choose from four classic Konami characters.
As you progress through the game you unlock the chance to play one of eight additional Konami characters, such as Sparkster, Solid Snake and Simon Belmont.
In addition to the above, there are additional team kits and outfits unlocked as you progress through the game. Whilst this may not seem much it does give you the chance to personalise your characters a bit which is a nice touch, although it adds nothing to the game at all.
****Events and difficulty****
There are 24 different events to complete, each with its own strategy to get that all important world record.
This is quite a difficult game as the stylus motion required in some events is difficult to master. The series of movements is difficult enough on its own but when you need to consider timing as well it makes it that much harder. I found the hammer throw and the discus the hardest events to master, although I am sure this will change from individual to individual.
Using the stylus will get your speed or power up to an acceptable level quickest and this is the suggested method for beginners, although make sure that you watch out for your DS' touch screen.
If using the buttons as opposed to the touch screen this game becomes even more difficult. Frantic button bashing in order to increase speed or power is a test of stamina itself nit helped by the hand positions you will be using to ensure that you can reach all the buttons. It should be noted, however, that the button bashing method will give higher top speeds and if you are looking for the world records or making sure you can pummel your mates' times in to the ground then you need to adopt this method.
The sound, like virtually all DS games I have played, is really weak. There is cheesy music and limited sound effects and these add nothing to the game at all. In fact, they are quite annoying and I find it best with all sound off.
This game has a great multi player option that can be used both on and off line. This can lead to some great nights with mates where you can go head to head and then have small disagreements and calls of foul play between you all.
****Price and availability****
International Track and Field can be bought from all good game retailers. From a very quick online search I have found it at £17.99 from Play.com, £23.99 from ShopTo.Net and £24.99 from Gamerz World.co.uk. Note - all of these exclude postage and packaging and insurance.
There are many other places so if you are intending to buy then carry out a bit of research before hand to ensure that you get it at the best price.
This game has barely changed from the original version I played on the Playstation back in 1999. It still consists of the same frantic button bashing approach in order to get any world records, however, instead of destroying a game pad which can be replaced for a few pounds (and yes, we did end up breaking a few of these during our time playing International Track and Field) you are running the risk of damaging the console itself.
Don't get me wrong this is a great game and really good fun to play. If nothing else it is worth progressing through the game purely to play as some of the classic Konami characters but would you want to do this at the expense of your DS? I don't and decided to get stop playing it.
Mario and Sonic at the Olympics is a much safer bet. Thanks to the 'speed locking' feature it prevents unnecessary rubbing of the stylus and hence damage to the screen. In addition, both the graphics and sound effects in Mario and Sonic at the Olympics is much better.