Thursday, 26 April 2018

Sports Jam (Dreamcast)

You'd think, even as late as 2001, something with the mainstream appeal of a sports game would still be guaranteed to get a worldwide release on the Dreamcast, but Sports Jam oddly never made it to european shores. Though if you look at it another way, it makes more sense: like the PS Vita is now, by 2001, the Dreamcast was a niche console, and most people still buying games for it were arcade nerds and anime fans, and with the arcade scene in the K at least being so poor, they would have had no prior knowledge of this game, nor would they be naturally inclined to give a sports game a chance. And from the other side of it, Sports Jam is such an oddity of a sports game, that would have put off a lot of mainstream players anyway.

What it is is a variant on a format as old as time: it's a Track and Field-type game, in which you play various short events, trying to get the fastest time or the highest score. The game's big hook, though, is that rather than the traditional athletic events, you're instead playing various minigames based on isolated aspects of sports that would ordinarily have their own videogames. For example, there's two American football games, one where you're running and bashing down sandbags to score a touchdown, and another that relies on perfect timing to kick a field goal. There's also games representing aspects of tennis, golf, basketball, bicycle racing, soccer, baseball and ice hockey.

There's a few different modes to pick from: DC Original and Arcade are both pretty much the same: you play four events, each picked as you go. The difficulty of the events depends on how late in the game you're playing them, and this is a real bit of strategy you should pay attention to: some games are easy enough whenever you play them, some are near-impossible on later levels, but incredibly simple early on. There's also a mode called Your Original, in which you play all twelve events, choosing their order before you play. It seems like a strange omission to me that there's no mode in which you play a single event, or even a practice mode, but it's no big deal, I guess.

Whether you like this game pretty much lies entirely on how much you like multi-event sports games. If you don't at all, it's probably not going to do anything to change your mind. But if you do, then it's an excellent example of one, with varied and fun events, as well as the kind of lavish presentation and production values you'd expect from a SEGA arcade game of this era. Like I said earlier, though, its not a surprise that it fell through the gaps and got forgotten.

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