Rings of Saturn. Issue #10. “Olympic Soccer” in WHY DID WE NEED TO SPEND MONEY ON THE OLYMPIC LICENSE AGAIN?

I do wonder what people see in certain games sometimes. Some people swear by certain games and regularly got out to bat for them long after they were first released. Olympic Soccer is very much one of those games.

Picture Courtesy of www.consolepassion.co.uk

As those of you who have been with me since all the way back to Issue #1 will know, I didn’t get my PlayStation till late 1998. For that reason, there are a lot of games from that period that I didn’t play but knew of. Olympic Soccer was a game I knew existed and whenever I would look in the back of Official PlayStation Magazine’s review archives, the game would have a decent score attached to it. Indeed, I googled the game and found the following website http://officialukplaystationmagazine.blogspot.co.uk/ which had the score for the game way back in 1996 when OPM reviewed it. It came in at a 7 out of 10 and was described thusly, “Never a license to die for, but an intelligent learning curve, accessible controls and realistic gameplay make this surprisingly habit-forming.”

Sadly I couldn’t find the rating in the equivalent SEGA Saturn magazine of the timeframe. However, when I was originally asking around on forums to get ideas for games to play on the console, Olympic Soccer came up more than once as something I should take a look at. Now, I don’t know if it’s rose tinted glasses that make people say this, or rather Olympic Soccer is bringing something to the table that I just can’t appreciate, but I really do not like this game at all.

I’m shocked that even back in 1996 this was given 7 out of 10. I’d maybe give it a 3, and that’s being generous. Even during the time period there were much better games than this on the market that struggled to get a higher rating. ISS Deluxe, an almost perfect port from the SNES, only came in at a mere 8 out of 10. The difference between the two games is simply staggering and even at the time it was clear that ISS Deluxe was vastly superior. Despite that, people of the time insisted it was only 1 point better than Olympic Soccer and I’m just baffled by that. I’m even more baffled that some people today still seem to actually really like this game and I just can’t my head around it.

Is that a triangle jaw you have there sir or are you in urgent need of medical assistance?

Picture Courtesy of www.gametronik.com

I’m fully aware that pulling up a game from 1996 for bad graphics is pretty much on par with pulling a milk float over for driving too slowly, but even for 1996 this game is freaking ugly. I think SEGA Worldwide Soccer overall is better to look at and it came out during the same period. The frame rate is choppy and some teams with green kits like Saudi Arabia are camouflaged against the grass making it hard to see what you’re doing. The game is such an ugly mess that every time I booted it up I got the distinct impression that somewhere, out there in the world, a Care Bear was crying.

The lack of certain teams is also head scratching. For instance, the game doesn’t include a single, solitary team from the African continent. Those of you who have even a fleeting knowledge of the soccer tournament at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics will no doubt be aware that Nigeria were the eventual winners of said tournament. So yes, a video game specifically made to showcase the license of the 1996 Olympic Soccer Tournament doesn’t even include the team who won the gold medal! The game however does include England, who have never competed at an Olympic Games due to the fact that England as a nation doesn’t enter ANY of the events at the games. They of course enter the games as part of “Great Britain” instead. However, rather than cobbling together a Great Britain team especially for the game, US Gold decided “to heck with that shizzle” and instead put England, Scotland and Wales into the game instead. Now I suppose it ultimately doesn’t matter as the game doesn’t even use real players to begin with, with only the stadiums and tournament itself officially licensed, but Jebus Crepes at least TRY and make the bloody game somewhat authentic!

And the less said about the game play the better. This game is about as fun to play as trying to hop on one leg over mounds of Yak excrement while balancing a piping hot bowl of chowder on your head. The learning curve is incredibly steep, with only the one difficulty level to choose from. I know hardened gamers scoff at the idea of an “easy mode” but to me it serves a very important purpose. Playing on an easier difficulty allows the player to ease themselves in and get to grips with a game. Even most games without a clearly definable difficulty choice will still weight themselves accordingly to ease a player. For example, why do you think Super Punch Out starts with you fighting Gabby Jay before moving you onto Bear Hugger and Piston Hurricane? It’s because Gabby Jay is rubbish and even a novice can get to grips with the game by walloping him, thus preparing them for the more difficult fighters the game has to offer. This is also the reason why you almost always fight Akira last on Virtua Fighter as well. Olympic Soccer doesn’t give you this chance however. The CPU controlled players tackle you within seconds and score from unbelievable angles at will. You’re given literally no time to bed in and get to grips with the buttons. It’s a very stressful and unpleasant way to play.

Picture Courtesy of www.oldgamesnews.com

The stringent difficulty level wouldn’t be so much of an issue if the controls were in anyway responsive or intuitive. Sadly, this is very much not the case. You are given buttons for shoot, pass and chip for when you attack and a slide tackle button when it’s time to defend. Yes, that really is all you are given. There is no option to change which player you control, no sprint button and no other tackle buttons. Thusly, the only option open to you when defending is to hope the game ordains to let you take control of the player you actually want to be in control of and that your slide tackle is accurate enough to win the ball. The computer controlled players are of course expert tacklers and can win the ball from you with absolute ease, just making the overall experience aggravating.

No Alan, I DON’T think Steven Gerrard is eligible to travel back in time and play for Nigeria just so he can win an Olympic Medal. Sorry about that

If all this wasn’t enough to make you break into an unfettered rage, the game then adds the spunk cherry on top of this incredible crap sundae with special “expert” commentary from everyone’s favourite Kopite shill, Alan Green. For those unfamiliar with the work of Mr. Green, he is a radio commentator for the BBC over here in the UK. He is most well known for his sycophantic cheer-leading of Liverpool FC and the fact he has a voice that sounds like he’s been gargling gasoline. He spends most of the match complaining about how awful everything is and demands cups of tea once the half time whistle blows. I was already hating life while playing this and having to listen to the witticisms of Green pretty much pushed me over the edge.

I guess I just don’t understand why US Gold felt it was so ESSENTIAL to pay all the money for the Olympic License, while also spending a sizeable amount for Green’s rum cabinet, when they don’t actually make any real use of it. I mean, were they expecting people to snatch this off the shelves just because it had the word “Olympic” on the cover? Soccer isn’t a major sport at the Olympics, a fact the game manual pretty much laments when describing past winners. The level of importance at the Olympics in the eyes of your bog standard casual punter goes thus
1 – Track and Field Events
2 – Swimming
3 – Everything else

The actual interesting and somewhat quirky events like Handball and Water Polo are shoved into the background. Unfortunately, soccer is just one of those things that gets downplayed in favour of the “main” events. I don’t like that, but I’ve grown to accept it over the years. Thus, spending a wedge on getting the Olympic Soccer license is almost up there with shelling out 500 million big ones for the rights to a hot dog eating contest for all the Olympiad loving snobs could care. Soccer is for foreigners and poor people, not for the finer sort of clientèle who like to pour money out of their arse to watch people running really fast.

Picture Courtesy of www.gameclassification.com

But, if you ARE going to spend the money for the license, at least have the common decency to do it justice. At least include the actual nations who took part in the competition and at least take some time to actually have a stab at making a decent game. All US Gold did was take a rubbish footie game and slap the Olympic rings on the box in the hope that Joe Punter would drop some pennies on it. Well screw you Olympic soccer, you’re not just rough you’re dog rough.

There are at least quite a few game options at hand to choose from, including the full Olympic soccer tournament itself, but the controls are so awful that you’ll likely not have the stomach to spend the necessary time to taste those delicious gold medals. Instead, you’ll probably put your fist through the nearest reflective surface and then spend 5 hours in A&E getting your wounds tended to while Alan Green scolds you for only breaking 3 knuckles out of a possible 5.

As always, I’ll post some game footage below.

Hopefully I finally play a good Saturn game soon, if only for my own sanity.

Thanks for reading.

Peace Out

Footage of the game, courtesy of TeamAndromeda can be found HERE

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