The classic gaming series Track and Field celebrates its’ 25th Anniversary by releasing a new version of the classic, exclusively on the Nintendo DS. Developed by Sumo Digital with help from a few Undon artists, Konami's New International Track and Field provides a fun sporting experience in perfect time for the 2008 Summer Olympics.
From the initial look at the new version of Track & Field you will instantly notice this isn't your old timing 8-bit sporting event. The new “International” edition of Track & Field inhearits a new cartoon-esq look, but it still will has the goods to please both nostalgic and new gamers alike. Konami’s revival of this series is perfectly timed with this years summer Olympics in Beijing, China. Thanks to the talented Sumo Digital team (Driver ’76, Outrun 2, and SEGA Superstars Tennis) New International Track & Field becomes more than a rehashed money grab. Developed with a nostalgic mind and a upgraded body it is easy to grab the stylus and run a few laps on Nintendo DS.
Chasing the Gold
The main mode in NITF (New International Track & Field) is the medal chasing career mode that offers three difficulties of competition. Along with the single player career mode you can also pull up single events from unlocked events or unlocked challenges in the challenge mode. The meat and potatoes of Track & Field is the career mode that brakes down a number of events in groupings to challenge your skills. Before an event instructions are given so you should have no problem ripping through each event. However, even with full instructions I was snagged a few times, most notable "snagging" was perpetrated by the evil Discus event in the third grouping. The Discus event was my only real hang-up with all the other 23 events feeling perked up and well fitted.
The gameplay has been kept simple and only requires a fast wrist and the use of your thumb. The majority of time with NITF will require you hand to be moving the stylus in diagonal direction, or moving wildly about drawing circles. This is the main use of the stylus, other than moving it around at a fast speed you will only be required to hit the D-Pad in a timely manor. One drawback to NITF simple gaming elements is the repetitive nature of the gameplay. If you are not only for fast swiping of the stylus then Track and Field will likely send you into a frustrated frenzy. Even as simple as the game is to play and understand you will be doing a lot of the same motions in each event which can become a little tiresome when you are sitting down with the game for any time longer than an hour. However, this a DS game and what makes the DS so good is the pick-up-and-play stylus action which fits NITF like a glove.
Sumo Digital takes Track and Field to the next level by adding an online component to the design. The only aspect of the game breaks down your scores in events for bragging rights for event leaderboards. Going beyond the call NITF lets gamers pick out friends and manage them on a list that updates you when records are being broken. This brings out the natural competitive nature of sports perfectly for the gaming world, and on a handheld to boot. If this doesn’t add a little a fuel to your competitive fire then I’m sure Track & Field isn’t the game for you. I had a blast checking the global hi-scores and seeing how my skills measured up. At the time of this review the New Track & Field website boasts 2164 registered athletes all competing for world wide gold.
In total INTF gives you the chance to compete at 24 events that cover everything from Skeet Shooting and Archery to the 100 Metre Backstroke and Pole Vaulting. 24 events are showcased in New Internation Track & Field which comes out a little short when you get down to the hammer, but this is acceptable given the fun atmosphere and creative approach of the title. Along with the events as entertainment, the excentric cast of characters including the stereotypical gang along with a few cool new ideas. Konami also adds a few Konami character appearances from their classic and not-so-classic franchises from the past into the mix for that borrowed "Nintendo" feeling.
Meet the Undon's Athletes
The characters available from the get-go include some interesting and creative designs by the UNDON, the comic book company (the ones that did the Capcom comic books). The first loveable and highly stereotypical eight you will meet covers the happy go lucky Harlem born afro man Ashley, The jacked up golden boy Dirk, The karate master Oolong and the big man of the group Kang. For the females you have alternative (oh no EMO) rocker chick Yoko, beastly cave-dwelling Helga, spunky and voluptuous Kiko, and the spoiled trust fund blonde of blonds Claudia.
The Konami characters that invaded the Track & Field events showcase the diversity of Konami’s characters with a few rough patches along the way. Starting with the most popular characters like Solid Snake (Metal Gear Solid), Simon Belmont (Castlevania), and Frogger (Yes, the Frog). Then things get a little iffy with Evil Rose (Rumble Roses), Pawapuro (Powerful Pro Baseball) and Pentarou the penguin from Parodius. It’s clear to see Konami has a few trademark characters that have burst out as established faces, but its nothing like the likes of other companies like Nintendo, Namco Bandai or SEGA.
When you get down to it, New International Track & Field is a number of mini-games wrapped around a cohesive package. Sumo Digital found the magic that made this series memorable after all these years. This classic cartridge really feels like the old game with its over the top style and simplistic gameplay. The only real negative x's towards Konami's effort is that the game lacks and real depth and is highly repetitive. This is expected given the nature of the game, so you can fault the decision to keep the experience dumbed down and accessible to all ages.
25 Years is a long time to revive a franchise into a reinvent game that carries on both the tradition of the old game along with styling's of games of today. The New International Track & Field is an easy to learn fun game that mashes the love of summer sports with great art and over the top character designs. If you have Olympic fever and you’re are looking for an fun pick-up-and-play styled game New International Track & Field is perfect for the job. Konami steps onto the podium with one of the best DS showings in months; New International Track & Field is pure gold.
Gameplay: 8, Graphics: 8.5, Sound: 8, Innovation: 7, Mojo: 8. Final: 7.9 / 10
Reviewed by Downtown Jimmy | 07.18.08