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Retro Revolution: Olympics Edition!

Posted on Friday, August 3 @ 15:03:21 PST by KevinS

The Olympics have finally arrived. The mere thought inspires the refreshment (and occasional YouTube-ing) of popular moments in sport, from Mary Lou Retton's perfect 10 and Kerri Strug's one-legged stick of the landing, to Michael Phelps and Jason Lezak barely edging out the French freestyle relay team in Beijing, to the announcer of the 1980 USA men's hockey team defeating the Russian juggernaut shouting "DO YOU BELIEVE IN MIRACLES? YES!"

Ah, those Olympic games. True to form, the most popular sporting spectacular the world over has crossed over into the video game realm since the first Olympics in 1896 (maybe not, but it feels like it). Nowadays, Sonic and Mario have headed to London and Beijing for competition, and have continued on a tradition as one of the most stunted gaming genres. For a sporting event that prides itself on consistently breaking world records and pushing the limits of human ability, most companies aren't keen on advancing the playability of some of these games.

And yet, like clockwork over the past 30-plus years, we've been hit with both official and inspired works of the Greek invention on our consoles. Two years ago I broached the topic, playing Vancouver 2010 and giving it a C-/1.5 out of 5 score and citing that all of the games within were derivative and boring. I can fire up my N64 and play Nagano Winter Olympics '98… everybody needs a little speed-skating, right? Or downhill skiing, which can be done in the Genesis in Winter Olympics: Lillehammer 94 in similar fashion as anything on current-gen systems. Seriously, why bother anymore?

The biggest problem is, I don't know exactly what can be done to breathe new life into this genre that started with unofficial titles emulating the Olympic experience in Track & Field (yay, the secret is to stay in school… and steal a ruler for fasting tap speed), but it's just gotten more and more disappointing the longer things go on.  Sure, maybe there are a very small number of outliers that even try something different—anybody up for flailing uncomfortably with Michael Phelps: Push The Limit?—but all that's really been done has been a mascot change to the official titles. Sorry Mario, YOU CAN'T WIN A FOOTRACE WITH SONIC… unless maybe you went mafia and added some concrete to his sneakers.

So to pose the question: What do YOU think the developers of Olympics-themed games should be doing to keep the experience fresh? Maybe a new control scheme is in order, maybe more obscure events need to take some disc space? Or are you happy with them as they are?

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