On your marks . . . Get set . . . Stop!
God, I loved that joke when I was seven. The other thing I liked was Track & Field for the old Nintendo. Ever since then, track games have failed to catch my interest. Now along comes Decathlete for the Saturn. Sega has reincarnated the track and field genre for the home systems. Even though this is the only co-ed decathlon in existence, Sega did an excellent job. With amazing graphics and a wide variety of events, Decathlete sure surprised this seasoned veteran.
Hachie Machie! The graphics are amazing. Some of the best 3D polygonal humans seen on any home system are in Decathlete. These characters are so smooth and humanlike it's scary. Each character has their own mannerisms and movement. I remember someone, somewhere, said that the Saturn could not handle polygons. Well, my friend, look at this game and apologize. The box, however, does not do the game justice. Where most game boxes make the game look better than it actually is, Decathlete's box makes it look like a piece of crap! I was dreading the fact that I would have to review this game. Packaging is supposed to make the consumer buy the product, not laugh at it. Whoever at Sega designed that box should be sacked. Look at these screenshots and trust me, the graphics are amazing.
With seven characters, each with their different special skills, Decathlete has a lot of depth. There are ten events (duh, it is called Decathlete) that you can participate in: 100 meter dash, long jump, shot put, high jump, 400 meter dash, discus, 110 meter hurdles, pole vault, javelin, and the 1500 meter run. Each event has its own strategy to it. Remember, in order to win a decathlon, you don't need to be first in every event. You are awarded points for your accomplishment in each event; he who has the most points, wins.
The running events are the same in Decathlete as they are in any track and field game. The quicker you pound on the buttons, the faster you go. In the longer events, such as the 400 and 1500, you also have an endurance meter that you have to watch. If you let the endurance meter run out, you slow down to a crawl and will lose the race. Pace yourself wisely. In the hurdles, you have to get the rhythm down in order to jump at the right time. The shot put, javelin, and discus operate in much the same fashion. You have a power meter, a specific point at which you have to release, and an angle of release. Timing is everything in these three events, so the more you practice, the better you do.
The long jump has an interesting twist to it. You still run and jump (that is the purpose of the event), but you also have a couple of quickly timed actions that can increase your distance. You not only have to set the angle at which you set your jump, but also have to extend your legs at the tail end of your jump in order to get those precious extra centimeters that separate the men from the boys (or women from the girls, it's a very p.c. game). The last two events are the hardest: the high jump and the pole vault. Normally, the high jump is the hardest event in any track and field game. In Decathlete, the pole vault is by far the hardest on to master. You have to build up speed, plant the pole, build up power, extend on the upswing, release the pole, arch you body over the top, and land safely on the other side. Simple, eh?
With beautiful graphics and good events, Decathlete is the best track game to hit the market in a long time. So, if you're an armchair Michael Johnson, or a mild-mannered Flojo, you will totally enjoy Decathlete. If, on the other hand, you hate the 'how fast can you push the A button' events, maybe you should look somewhere else.