Sometime between 1996 and 2000, Sony lost the rights to make ESPN video games (they'd made games like National Hockey Night on the Genesis and the Xtreme games on the PS1 with it), then somehow Konami gained this license. I'm not sure who decided this was a great combination, since Konami had been a bit player in the sports game for some time (they released hockey and basketball games in the fifth gen, but not regularly, as well as their Winning Eleven/International Superstar Soccer/PES series of soccer games). But they made 2 ESPN games for the DC, and here's one of them. A video review is embedded.... here!
Do you want a polygonal version of the over 20 year old NES/Arcade Track and Field game? If so, this is your game!
Otherwise don’t bother. I don’t quite know why every company that makes track and field games uses the button mashing gameplay. Be it Konami, Sony in their Olympic games, or any other unit, they all decide that the only way to play a track and field type game is to smash buttons until your controller breaks or your fingers do.
This one looks like a PS1 game (admittedly it is one, and an N64 one, and a PS2 game). Pretty ugly characters, even when there’s just one competitor on screen, terrible crowds (NFL 2k had better ones a year earlier), and just bleh graphics otherwise make this not a pretty game at all. Oh, also, there’s no commentary. Just a stadium announcer telling you that you fouled or your result. While most events are over in less than 30 seconds (then making you sit through unskippable animations and skippable replays), it would have been nice to see anything.
This game manages to have EVEN LESS modes than the basketball counterpart. There’s trial and championship modes. Trial is a practice where you can play one of the events you’ve unlocked, and Championship makes you play 8 events in a row, possibly at random, but both times I played through I got the same events in the same order. That means I never unlocked the other four events, but all of them have the same gameplay, with one exception.
The gameplay is ugh. All of them have the same idea, except the horizontal bars. You alternate the X and B buttons to build up a power gauge, and sometimes you have to use the action button (either L or R) to do something. Maybe use the analog stick for deciding a difficulty. And for the most part, it’s stupidly hard. In 6 attempts, I couldn’t do the lowest weightlifting once. I never finished higher than last in a race. But the pole vault seemed to work best, somehow.
The basic thing is, you need to have the controller like in your lap mashing buttons with your forefinger and thumb, while having another finger on the trigger to do an action. In hours I couldn’t find a way that was completely comfortable and useable. Of course it sliding around didn’t help. I couldn’t even use my arcade stick, because when it uses a direction input, it won’t recognize the d-pad, just the joystick.
The horizontal bar is different, in that you press the trigger in time with a gauge, then do directions to complete a move. Of course with the joystick and not the analog stick, a few times I’ll be moving it one direction and it thinks it’s the side or perpendicular one. If I could use the d-pad, or my arcade stick, it would make it easier to properly put in the directions.
Maybe this might be a decent party game, just because then up to 4 people can suck at the same time. But there’s better party games on the system.
ESPN International Track and Field gets a 3 out of 10.