Beyond the pitch, things don't get that much more traditional. For starters, the sprites in Nintendo World Cup don't appear to have been designed with football games in mind. Players walk around with their fists raised - with good reason, obviously, since they could quite easily die during a penalty - as if they'd rather be harassing some uber-mulleted pork chop in one of the primitively-rendered back alleys of River City Ransom or Double Dragon. (St. Wikipedia tells me that some of the sprites were actually used in River City Ransom incidentally, as it was another game in the company's infamously loveable kunio-kun series from which Nintendo World Cup was born. I think the Super Shot effect, meanwhile, makes it into at least two of the possible endings in Heavy Rain.)
Another thing that's a little odd is that you're cast in a specific role on the pitch, and then you stay in that role for the entire duration of the match. None of this Quantum Leap-style hopping from one body to the next as the game follows the ball across the grass (or ice, obv). No concessions to playability at all, in fact. Instead, the developers wanted to explore the loneliness, perhaps, of the defender who gets left behind - even if that meant that he ended up off-screen for much of the game. They wanted players to experience what it felt like to power through a condensed 90 minutes of football action with the football itself making only the most fleeting of cameo appearances, like Marlon Brando turning up for the start of Superman.
Okay, it was probably more like Steven Seagal popping in for the first 15 minutes of Executive Decision. Nintendo World Cup wasn't an A-team effort, I'm guessing. That said, its thuggish quirks lend it a lot of violent character that I've tended to miss in other, better football games. It was the sole reason for me to dust off the NES's four-player adapter, so I could catch occasional glimpses of a ball singing past my head in the company of three friends, and it was included on a combo cartridge my console came with, wedged in alongside Tetris and Super Mario Bros, so I had to wring as much fun from it as I could.
Even back then, my sister and I were able to detect that Technos' game didn't entirely belong in such rarefied company, but we played it all the same. We played it because that's what you do when your combined pocket money will probably allow you to purchase another videogame somewhere around the year 2056, and when you know you still won't be able to agree on what to buy when that day comes anyway. We played Nintendo World Cup because it was one of three options we had, and because we very occasionally got tired of the other two.
I'm grown up now, of course, and I can buy all the games I want, but it's still nice to bust out Technos' bizarre sporting effort on occasion. Joseph Heller once said - I'm paraphrasing - that it's a tragedy that literature students tend to go through three years of university reading nothing but classics, because it means they never get to put those great works in context by ploughing through a few choice duds as well. All its other charming oddities aside, then, Nintendo World Cup is a delight because it's exactly that: it's a choice dud that makes the genuine masterpieces of the 8-bit era seem even more astonishing.
And it lets you kill the other players.
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