|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Sumo Digital||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Konami||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: July 22, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Nathan Meunier
The original Track & Field in the arcades had major wrist-cramping potential, and Track & Field for the NES was among a handful of button mashing games that prematurely caused the death of many controllers - at least until people smartened up and plugged in the auto-fire capable NES Advantage.
Repeatedly hammering on buttons as fast as humanly possible wasn't particularly fun in sports titles - or any games on the NES, for that matter - back then, and similar, painfully repetitive forms of control input in games these days isn't much better. Konami's release of New International Track & Field on the DS coincides with the series' 25th anniversary, and it's incredibly nostalgic to see some of the old school 8-bit sports challenges revived and updated. However, this is one instance where some things are best left in the past, and bringing back the original's uncomfortable control scheme in new and insidious forms wasn't a great move. Instead of button mashing alone, this DS update features high-speed stylus raking. It's bound to be a source of pain and consternation in more than once sense, though the game as a whole is actually rather entertaining.
There's no denying the fact this collection of sporting events brings out the competitive spirit and gets the blood pumping. Developer Sumo Digital has done an excellent job here of breathing fresh life back into the classic events in the series as well as packing in lots of extra content that references Konami's history. The six main events from the original game - 100 meter dash, javelin throw, hammer throw, long jump, 110m hurdles, and high jump - have been brought back in their full glory with new visual and gameplay updates. Additionally, 18 other events featured in other versions of the franchise are also back, including breaststroke, pole vault, cycling, rowing, discus, archery, and many more.
Each event tests your stamina and precision, and some may even test your patience. You'll frequently have to build up speed with rapid button presses or stylus movements, while managing well-timed moves and trajectory angles. Given the broad range of sporting activities included in the collection, you'll likely come across a few fast favorites and a handful of events that make your blood boil. Each tier of mini-games is played in groupings of four events. Achieving a bronze, silver, or gold medal in a group will unlock the next set of events. Fortunately, you don't have to excel at every event in a series to win, but you will have to at least qualify in each. Doing extremely well in a few activities will help boost your overall score and let you move onward.
The giant, bubble-head characters are more than a little goofy. There are a few hulking brutes (including a behemoth man-woman named Helga), a couple of cocky-looking jocks, a few punk rock girlies, a bad-ass Mr. Miyagi-like fellah, and the token guy-with-an-afro. Gaining points through scoring well on the events will unlock different outfits for each character. Elements from popular past Konami titles are worked sneakily into various areas of the game. They're frequently subtle but exciting to discover. Also, six Konami characters (including Solid Snake from Metal Gear Solid and Pyramid Head from Silent Hill, among others) can be unlocked for play in Challenge Mode. Otherwise, the presentation is very close to the original sporting events - only with improved graphics. The stands full of cheering fans and a new take on the Chariots of Fire theme definitely help put you in the mood to go for the gold.