Retro gaming and football – a good mix?
The funny thing about nostalgia is you have no sense of retroactive quality control.
Having grown up watching what I thought at the time was a Golden Age of Wrestling in the WWF between Summerslam ’94 and Wrestlemania XII, I was very disappointed to revisit this period through cursory glances of YouTube videos and current wrestling podcasts which decry the entire era. Knowing what I do now – that all the good wrestlers were over in WCW during the mid-90s and Duke ‘The Dumpster’ Droese was not in fact ‘over’ at the time – my faith in what I used to love is still unshakeable.
And that’s how I felt about Sensible World Of Soccer 96/97 – until I played the damn thing this weekend having purchased it from gog.com.
I’m fairly sure I never owned this particular version because I don’t seem to remember many things about it, like the very, very basic commentary by Jonathan Pearce doing me no favours on account of his irritating me even back then, when Leeds United were on Channel 5 a lot in the UEFA Cup.
The same things which I first found charmingly nostalgic when playing as a kid – the wobbly ball control and the fact that I could never, ever score a goal when shooting downwards – are now suddenly the most horrible things that ever happened to computer gaming. However, now that it’s become retro gaming and the current iterations of PES and FIFA could easily be mistaken for real life (if not for the erratic playing styles of human controllers) I do still love the little badly-painted blobs that I control on the pitch.
But there’s one thing which struck me more than anything else during this last few days of frustrating play-throughs – Sensible World Of Soccer 96/97 is really fucking difficult.
If you’re a competent enough player at current football games then you shouldn’t have too much trouble playing as a moderately-skilled team in overcoming what is, on paper, a better set of players. (You can definitely do it against the computer with the offsides off at least.) However, unless you’re a SWOS master you’ll need to play as Germany or Brazil in whatever tournament you choose – and even then it’s going to be very difficult. The game isn’t advanced enough to grasp the concept of difficulty levels, and so basically the better the opposition, the faster they can pass and move, the faster the game moves around your slug-like runs and tackles back, and the sooner you’ll be 3-0 down in a three-minute game – another frustrating feature which you can’t change in tournament mode when all you need is an equaliser from a tricky corner kick.
With all this in mind, I still had a hell of a time playing a version of this once again. For about 90 seconds at a time at least; shooting downwards is still bloody impossible so I can only really enjoy one half per match.