Friday 8 October 2010

Dick Vitale's "Awesome, Baby!" College Hoops

Every generation spawns a certain class of video games that are doomed to never have a future. EA's licensed sports titles are the obvious culprits as I've mentioned before, because regardless of how great the game was back in the day, nobody wants to buy FIFA 98 in 2010. They have a shelf life of about nine months.

But here's something even worse! A basketball game (with commentary by Dick Vitale) based around North American college basketball teams. It's not even the real NBA deal here! How many of these nails does it want in its coffin?

I came across this game accidentally, but it intrigued me for two reasons. Firstly it has a ridiculous name, which I'm sure intrigued you too. Dick Vitale is a North American "sportscaster" and former coach that nobody outside of the North American basketball community knows of. The term "awesome, baby!" is cringeworthy and "college hoops" confirms already that it's not up to the same standard as say, NBA Jam, as it features unknowns playing against other unknowns. And as far as I'm concerned, it's commentated on by an unknown too.

The second reason I thought this was interesting is because this game was released in Australia. Intended for a US audience, the game skipped Europe and Japan, but managed to wind up down under for reasons unknown. The Australian box art is perhaps some of the laziest editing work I have ever seen in video games both past and present. They merely took the North American Sega Genesis box art and applied a bunch of ugly (but I suppose relevant) stickers on it. How on earth do you expect that to fly off the shelves?

Essentially we're talking about a game designed by some lazy thirty-something year-olds who were trying to appeal to the kids (like BBC Three). And of course, just like BBC Three the results are nothing short of embarrassing, and though we can identify one or two good points, it doesn't match the quality of its rivals.

The game is too big for its boots, and is not only unplayable, highlights pretty much everything that was wrong with the Sega Mega Drive in the early 1990s. The difference between Sega of America and Sega of Europe's marketing strategies at this time really do explain why Nintendo had their foot in the doorways of so many North American households. I can only thank Sega of Europe for being able to filter all of this dross out. Sure it left us with fewer games, but it also left us with a more respectable console in the end.

Dick Vitale's "Awesome, Baby!" College Hoops has a very early 90s feel about it, and this generally isn't a good sign. Late 80s and early 90s American culture is horrible, led by folks with reversed baseball caps, skateboards and huge boomboxes blurting out samples of James Brown while attempting to class it as music. It's an unfortunate curse that by digging up games from this era that you're treated to this stuff, but it's also good to know that my fellow Brits weren't scarred by this garbage.

DVABCH also comes from an era where companies were desperately trying to push 3D graphics but didn't have the technology available to do so, and hence all the pre-rendered pseudo-3D stuff from around this time. Surprisingly, DVABCH does class as 3D game... sort of. It attempts to support a camera that rotates and follows the player with the basketball, and though it mostly fails to do so with its choppy graphics and slow framerate, it does still verge on the third dimension and would have looked somewhat impressive for the time. It's certainly more 3D than 2D, anyway.

I can't really play DVABCH without the computer thrashing me. As I found, once the computer gets the ball it'll probably score without you being able to do much about it. The perspective is simply too broken to use properly, as it's often very difficult to see which player you have under your control. As you don't have a top-down view, it's also quite difficult to tell exactly where you are on the court, or judge distances between you and other players.

The graphics, as said, are choppy and aren't terribly pretty, and though I can confidently say the music is better than EA's selection, it's still not great. Had this game been running on say, the Sega 32X, we might not have had these problems, and who knows, this might have then been remembered for being a decent game.

There's probably a lot of customisation options, but since I can't seem to get my head around the basic controls, I couldn't really care less about the stats of individual players. Perhaps the basketball enthusiasts will like this game, but I don't see much appeal and I might as well be honest, it was only the terrible title that attracted me.

1 comment:

  1. You think US culture now is better? I mean really, I pine for those days compared to now.

    By the way, Dick Vitale sounds like a "natural male enhancement" aid brand name.