A playthrough of Konami’s 1999 sports game for the Game Boy Color, International Track & Field.
This video shows a full run of the story mode. Then, at 5:45:28, I play through the “hyper” (traditional T&F-style) mode with my character from the story mode.
What a weird game this is!
When I think of Track & Field, I tend to think of the classic arcade game. Of its short bursts of thumb-punishing button mashing. Of spearing UFOs with javelins. Of Tom Selleck’s full-bodied ‘stache.
The last thing I expected to find the first time I started up International Track & Field was an anime-styled visual novel with character-building sim elements.
And as unlikely a fit as those things all are, the game somehow pulls it off. It’s not particularly deep, but their is enough substance here to make for a fun playthrough. If you aren’t averse to the idea of a text-heavy sports game, that is.
You play as a college kid who dreams of being an olympic-level track star, and the game takes you through his college years as he rises through the competitive ranks and gets his shot at the Olympics – the Hyper Olympics – which is what the Track & Field series has always been known in Japan. If he succeeds, you can then play through the Hyper mode (the game’s equivalent of arcade mode) with your character, allowing you to taking him through the culminating moments of his athletic career. It’s a neat way to tie the sim elements in with the action-heavy main events, and it’s an awesome payoff for the effort you put in.
Every week you set yourself a schedule, training yourself for speed, jumping, throwing, and stamina, and each of these stats directly impacts your performance in the sporting events. You have to balance your training with recreational stuff like hanging out with a friend, going on a date (if you can find a girlfriend), or chillin at home playing video games, because if you become too stressed or tired, you’ll end up injuring yourself and losing training time.
It all feels *a lot* like a simplified take on a Princess Maker game ( )
Every so often you’ll have an opportunity to power-build stats and learn techniques by training with your bros, doing DDR-style mini-games, and even getting “massages” from the mysterious Dr. Albert U. Card. He insists that we call him Al.
I see what you did there, Konami. *nods conspiratorially*
The story and the dialogue are hilariously dumb, but as long as you aren’t expecting Slam Dunk or Hajime no Ippo from the writing, the goofy melodrama is entertaining enough. (If you can excuse its need to provide instructions *every single time* you try to schedule training… argh!)
The actual Track & Field part of International Track & Field is pretty good, too. The button layout on a Game Boy isn’t ideal for wild button mashing, but the boosts from the story mode help sidestep that issue quite a bit.
The events themselves play like they do in any other T&F game – build up a speed gauge by hitting the A and B buttons, and if you need to aim something, always go to a 45 degree angle. That’s pretty much it, though some of it has been nicely streamlined.
The graphics are a really nice improvement over the original game ( ), though not as nice as the ones in T&F2 for the NES ( ), and the music is pleasant enough. Overall, it puts on a nice show for a Game Boy Color game.
International Track & Field is a cool experiment in gameplay mechanics, and I thoroughly enjoyed my time with it. I don’t think everyone will dig it, but if any of what I described sounds like something you could get into, I’d recommend giving it a shot.
*Recorded using a Retroarch shader to mimic the look of the original hardware
No cheats were used during the recording of this video.
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