Ending out our tour of 1972 home videogames we have Handball for Magnavox Odyssey. It is another Tennis variant. You hit the Ball Spot and then try to wiggle it past your opponent's Player Spot by controlling the ENGLISH. The difference here is that the Center Line Spot becomes a WALL Spot and is adjusted to exist on the left side of the screen. The players then alternate hitting the Ball Spot against the Wall.
This game uses cartridge #8 and an overlay (above). This game isn't worse than the other Tennis variants. In fact, it's SLIGHTLY better. Having a wall to hit the ball against is novel considering the only things we've EVER seen it deflect from has been the Player Spots.
The instructions list some gameplay variants involving the positioning of the SERVER and the RECEIVER but they don't change the game play significantly enough to go over here.
A few words about the term "Crap Game from Hell".
Fast-forward to the present day (2010, to those of you reading this in some 25th century museum/blog-vault), videogame volleyball will evolve/has evolved/evolved into poly-polygonal, progressively scanned-tily clad women bouncing around on exotic beaches and buying each other cute gifts. Back here in 1972/73, where I am, Volleyball for Odyssey is the primordial soup of videogame volleyball. Don't forget, those little figures on the overlay are static; frozen eternally in those positions. The only movement on the screen occurs with the PlayerSpots and the BallSpot, just like in the previous 20-or-so Odyssey games.
What is exciting is that this game utilizes a new numbered cartridge! Seeing a shiny new number "7" on the cart used to play the game does add a little excitement to its initial playing. To recap, for anyone who may not know, cards for Odyssey don't have programs on them. They act as switches to simply toggle the display of, and modify the behaviors of, the "spots" which Odyssey broadcasts to your TV. The hardware variation used by this lucky number "7" cartridge creates a half-height version of the CenterLineSpot (only seen previously in Table Tennis) and stations it at the bottom of the screen as a volleyball "net".
Does Baseball count as America’s favorite pastime anymore? I’ve never been into the sport personally, but I feel like it was much more popular 30 years ago than it is now. That’s just my dim perception of something from which I am too far removed to make a valid observation.
Like Odyssey's Football, Odyssey’s Baseball is asking you to sort of pretend that you are playing a simulation of the game of baseball. This game is actually cooler than Odyssey's attempt at a football sim in that Baseball introduces Player Stats! -- persistent and alterable statistics for each player on your team. Ooooo! It's the first example of persistent player stats in a home videogame. However, technically, the overall design could be better said to push Baseball closer to being the first sports board game with persistent player stats to employ a videogame element.
Okay, so right, um “off the bat”, that sounds pretty cool, doesn't it? I mean, that’s what some sports geeks are into, inn'it? Statistics? Well, meet me at the corner of Nitty and Gritty and let’s get into some of the details...
Hockey is another "sport port" from the real-world to your television through the magic of . . . The Odyssey!!! I'm not sure I "get" this game of Hockey. I do get it in the real-world, all right, but not this variation.
The game starts with a face-off, which is refreshingly different from the first three games we played. (Table Tennis, Tennis and Football) Set the two paddles across from each other and maneuver the PUCK between them so that it is whizzin' back and forth at an amazin' speed.
IGN has a surprisingly balanced look at the challenges, risks and promise of Wii sports titles, here. While I know it's an unpopular view, particularly with Nintendo's relatively recent goodwill as the supposed underdog and champion of innovation (and good business practices, and peace and harmony, blah, blah, blah), I think the article is worth reading because it illustrates my basic point about the control scheme itself. If you even look at the videos, whether it's Shigeru Miyamoto at E3 demonstrating Wii tennis or the promo video showing the enthusiastic Japanese three-some playing baseball, while having an alternative control scheme is great and fun and all that, you also lose a certain "crispness", a certain level of control that you don't get with direct intervention like you have with a typical, non-virtual, control scheme. In other words, pushing left on a little stick is instant reaction, while moving left in a virtual space achieves the same thing, but in a very different, approximate, manner.
Just picked up the latest issue of Famitsu Weekly and I am pleased to see they are still doing some retro coverage in their 20th Anniversary sections. The supplementary booklet this time around focuses on games from 1998-2005 with less detail than in the previous issue, but it's still interesting for a glance at what games were popular in Japan.
The Games History section focuses on a variety of sports genres in video games, giving several examples of each. It makes me want to buy a better Japanese dictionary when I get home so I can try some translating, although my Japanese grammar skills aren't great! Among the more curious types of sports games mentioned are Fishing Games and Winter Sports Games.