Quit playing those darn games and go outside, the sun is bright and it’s a beautiful day.
If you’re like me, that phrase was the bane of your childhood. Never felt like there was anything to do, and before the Gameboy came out that’s pretty much how it was back in the day. Sure, you could go to the local park and try to catch squirrels, but unless you had some friends about the outdoors was just a hot, bright, and boring purgatory I avoided like the plague.
One thing that did get me outdoors was organized sports. I played soccer, baseball, tennis and road hockey whenever I had the chance. I wasn’t good at any of them, heck I got more exercise running out of the chained area to get the tennis ball back after I’d whacked it over than I did playing the sport itself. I also barely understood the rules beyond how to score, and getting hit with a baseball really hurt (is that a rule? I dunno).
So you might be thinking- what’s with the long anecdote, aren’t you going to talk about a video game, who cares about outdoors things geez! To which I have two answers. First off, there’s so little to talk about here I needed to do this for filler, I’m getting paid per word after all. Second, one way many of us, whether children or adults, have found a way to play sports we’re bad at yet love is through video games. It’s so satisfying being able to pick up a controller, and suddenly be as awesome with a puck as Wayne Gretzky- perhaps in part because we’re actually playing as him.
Sports titles have long allowed us to live out that dream of being a pro athlete on the field.
But before we had sports games that allowed you to do this, there was a little title on the NES called Quattro Sports.
This was the second game I owned, after the Mario/Duck Hunt cartridge, and boy oh boy did it do nothing to make me feel like the athletic champion I wasn’t.
They fit four games into one here, it was like Mario Party before Mario Party was fun… so, basically just Mario Party. You have Baseball Pros, BMX Simulator, Soccer Simulator and Pro Tennis. So it has variety for those who feel like they’re pros, and those who like simulators.
Baseball Pros is the type of game that taught me nothing about the rules of baseball as a child. It did however allow me to be just as awful at catching pop flies as I am in real life. I started off with a game against the Tokyo Bullets, ironically named no doubt for their strict anti-gun laws, as the Mexican Sombreros- not so ironically named.
I would assume, with the decision to cram four games onto a single cart they didn’t have room to include rules, because other than first base you have to tag a player in order for them to be out- which almost destroys the ability to get double plays. When pitching or hitting, there’s a view from the umpire, and you can do a little bit of positioning before trying to bunt or hit. The pitcher can throttle a fast ball or a slow pitch- your curve balls are interesting as you control their trajectory only while it’s in the air… which also means you can change the direction. Unfortunately, curve balls only go left or right, even though the camera angle would support curves up and down.
Attempting to steal a base can be pretty awesome- but if you have multiple players on bases they’ll all start running. This difficulty in control extends to outfield play. You cannot switch to a play until the ball is almost past them, at which point you have no chance of getting underneath for a catch. Throwing the ball to the right target is just as rough, as you can be on the left side of the stadium and try to get it to second base for an out, but end up throwing it to first instead.
Unfortunately, it all goes downhill from here. Next is Soccer. I start up a game as West Germany- no East Germany unfortunately; the game devs gave them the cold shoulder. You’ll quickly realize you have to hold shoot or pass to add power, either that or you’ll wonder why your passes aren’t making it even a quarter way to the target. At least with passing, it always aims for an ally in that direction- for shooting, you have nine directions, and this can make scoring- nay, getting a shot on net hilariously difficult- though if you watch soccer that part actually feels a bit authentic.
The goalie doesn’t respond until the ball’s a couple feet away, which makes shots close up difficult to get past him, but from further away (if it’s on net) he seems to be sleeping on the job.
Penalty kicks are pretty much free points- and if you aim to win, trying to get penalized in the penalty box may end up being your best strategy. That said- it seems to be random what are considered penalties and what aren’t. As you only have the option to switch who you’re playing, or do a vicious slide tackle when you don’t have the ball- you’re going to get very used to just straight up taking out enemy legs like some sort of sentient weed whacker for humans while the refs ignore you, before finally getting called when you run by someone and they flop over as if the breeze of your passing knocked them ov- OK so I guess this one DOES capture soccer pretty accurately after all.
Tennis is a test of precision- stand in the wrong spot and the ball will smack you or sail under or over your racket. When you consider the challenge of NES controls and graphics this sport ends up being rather frustrating. Once again, if you want to feel as good in a game about a sport as you do in real life, this is the game for you.
You can sort of aim based on what edge of the racket you hit the ball with, but if you aren’t super precise you’ll miss, the ball will hit you, or you’ll smack it into the net or out of bounds. Pausing also can freeze the game at times, so that’s a thing.
Then there’s BMX racing… I remember this one the most because, even as a child when this was one of my two games and I played it a lot, I could never figure out how to do this one well. Now that I’m a much smarter adult though, I discovered a trick to this game.
Don’t play it.
I think this one was just added in at the end, because while a nifty ditty plays for baseball, and at least soccer and tennis have regular sound effects- BMX racing has nothing. No engine noises, no music- you get a slight bit of sound like an ocean wave when you hit an obstacle and get thrown over the bars of your bike, but that’s it. At least you’ll get to hear that sound a lot, as the controls are frustratingly bad and unlike the other games, it doesn’t feel like the CPU is suffering as much as you do with them. At least they wear helmets, so it sends a good message to the kids, or something. The backdrop feels pretty pointless, the only thing that really matters is all the debris- and when merely nicking the side of a can sends you flying, you really feel ‘hey, I can do this in real life!’.
If you’re looking to play something really old school, looking for a good bit of 8-bit sports, I’d highly recommend this game for hour of mediocre almost fun. If that very specific niche isn’t what you’re looking for- you can perhaps use this game to threaten your kids. ‘Before you go play outside, you gotta do half an hour of Quattro Sports.’