19 August 2005

Greatest Sports Video Game of All Time, "Broken Flowers," Meeting the King...

The Boston Globe posted a poll recently- well, a "bracket"- pitting the various greats of sports video games against one another in an effort to determine the greatest of all time. A noble quest to be sure.

Before I dive in, a couple points:

  • This list is good, but not great- it's missing a few great games:

    NBA Jam (Boomshakalaka!)
    Pole Position (arcade style- not the Grand Theft Auto strip club)
    T&C Surf Design (great old Nintendo game)
    Tony Hawk Underground (a really odd omission- tremendous game)
    Baseball Stars (another old Nintendo game)
    Tecmo Super Bowl (probably better than the original)
    Ken Griffey All Star Baseball (I had 7 fucking HRs with Griffey in the 4th goddamn inning, and my fucking MOM comes along and TURNS OFF THE SNES! Still really, really bothers me)

  • Atari Bowling, Excite-bike, Double Dribble, and NBA Live 2006 are all odd choices. I was pretty sure no one even liked the more modern basketball games. I can't frigging stand them. You have to put NBA Jam on over that. Really odd pick.

  • So for me, the ultimate sports video game comes down to these:

  • MVP 2005

  • RBI Baseball

  • Tecmo Bowl

  • Mike Tyson's Punch Out!

  • NHL '94

  • Blades of Steel was a decent game, and I'm a big fan of the Tiger Woods golf games, as well as enjoying Fight Night and, of course, the immortal Duck Hunt. Karate Champ was OK, but I always got bored with that game SUPER quick. Anyways, if karate is a "sports" game, you may as well just allow Mortal Kombat and arcade Street Fighter, which would open up a whole new argument.

    The Madden series, if I was even attempting to do this objectively, would probably win. It is the revolutionary sports game- it's an institution. That said, it's not in my top 5. More on that later.

    But anyway, while I like those mentioned here, they don't compare to the top 5. With the exception of maybe NHL '94, I think the entire list I'm deciding among could probably list in my all-time top ten video games as well. But that's another post.

    So let me attempt to break this down.

    MVP 2005: While it has it's flaws, this is the great baseball game for detail, realism, and franchise/ owner mode. I've never played a game that got the hitting and pitching dynamics just right, until MVP 2003 did. Of course, that and 2004 had some pretty shitty glitches (throwing to fielders covering on the run, the lefty power sap), which were promptly fixed, making this one really very solid game-play wise.

    The best part, of course, of MVP 2005 is it's usage of the minor league system, an idea they put in the '04 version, and perfected here. Now, you have an "owner" mode, as well as a number of actual prospects (in codename, of course) to bring along as you build you stadium, set ticket prices, make trades, etc.

    This is a tough game to beat.

    RBI Baseball: The game I played when I was young versus the game I play now. Tough call.

    RBI was a strong game, and most of what I can contribute to recalling it I'm sure you've read ten million times, so I'm not going to re-hash that for you, but I just recall this being so far and away from anything else I'd played before it. I could wrap my head around Mario, but for the life of me, playing actual baseball yourself on the TV? Just seemed like a miracle to me. This was a tremendously fun game.

    Tecmo Bowl: I loved playing as Philly- they had this absurd defense that simply put you right in the driver's seat from word go (and forgive me if some of my Tecmo Bowl memories run in with my Tecmo Super Bowl memories).

    Of course, anyone that's played this game need hear only a small group of names before having their eyes glaze over- Bo Jackson... Barry Sanders... Randall Cunningham.

    I did a lot of running plays and simply relied on my guile to rack up huge gains. The great thing about Tecmo Bowl was that, for me, a non-football fan, this game really reduced the elements of football to their simplest, most enjoyable points. Tecmo Bowl was more about battlefield moving than it was figuring out what the fuck a nickel defense is. This has always been my problem with Madden. Inevitably I have to choose the option where the Fat Bastard tells me what play to call (and in EAsy Play), because I don't know my ass from a hole in the ground where that's concerned (less on offense than defense). So then I feel like I'm not actually playing, EAsy Play is a little too easy to win with, and the next level up is like playing Trigonometry Video Game to me. No fun.

    That's why I always liked Tecmo Bowl better, though if I'm not mistaken, Madden was the first to come up with franchise/ owner mode, and for that they're owed our solemn thanks.

    Mike Tyson's Punch Out!: The very first video game I ever played was, incidentally, also one of the absolute greatest. Quick sidenote- remember back when you couldn't save a game? And every time you turned the thing on, you'd have to waltz past Glass Joe, Don Flamenco and Piston Honda (I remember figuring out his tell- I felt like Stephen Fucking Hawking) every single time. I remember resetting the game to start over if I didn't dominate Flamenco suitably. I felt like it meant I didn't "have it" or something.

    Anyway, for people of my generation I guess, this is an absolutely legendary game. Beating Tyson for the first time, with no Game Genie or codes... it was like scoring with Heidi Klum or writing Remembrances of Things Past... I DID something.

    I don't know that this one can be beaten.

    NHL '94: This is no doubt the darkhorse. We had this game on Sega Genesis, and it truly was the apex of hockey video games. There is, of course, a point these yearly update style sports games reach where improvements start becoming either superfluous, obnoxious, or change for change's sake. With the exception of franchise mode, which I believe this one didn't have, NHL '94 had it all- fighting (Vince Vaughn can make Gretzky's head bleed), all the great players, easy to use controls. Hockey is probably the smoothest transition of any of the major sports to video games, so when it's done right, it's an especially fun game.

    1. Mike Tyson's Punch Out

    2. MVP 2005

    3. Tecmo Bowl

    4. NHL '94

    5. RBI Baseball

    Tough, tough, tough call. If I were to include game NOT on the bracket, I'd probably go nuts picking, and be forced to shoehorn Griffey, T&C and NBA Jam in there somewhere. Playing as Shawn Kemp in that game was... sublime.

    Went with Erin and friends John and Margaret to see Jim Jarmusch's latest, Broken Flowers, a movie about a guy trying to track down the (maybe) mother of his (maybe) newly discovered teenage son.

    It was really and truly a tremendous movie. Incredible. I've always really liked Jim Jarmusch- I loved Dead Man, Stranger than Paradise and even Ghost Dog. But this was likely my favorite, and in no small part due to the fact that two of my favorite actors- Bill Murray and Jeffrey Wright- were in the movie.

    Like a lot of Jarmusch's stuff, it moved slow, deliberately, often light on dialogue. Also like much of his work, this movie could easily have been a silent movie- so much is made of Murray's character and his interaction- non-verbal interaction- with people. I'm going to go easy on specifics for anyone that hasn't seen it, but Bill Murray is truly great in the movie because of this. The movie had a tremendous amount of "soul" squeezed into a seemingly small, conventional, non-descript body.

    Two things, quickly- the scene where Wright, who plays Murray's neighbor- gets up from the restaurant table to leave, puts down some money, and Murray swipes it up, hands it back to Wright (who's almost expecting it), gladly accepted all in one fell swoop was absolutely hilarious. The movie is blessed with a really easy, engaging wit about it.

    Also, yea, that girl who gets full-on naked style? She's 18. Actually, she's 21, but she played 15 in the movie pretty well.

    First of all, let me say that when you've got some Corey material and you're looking to post it, with picture... the decision process can be difficult. Almost like choosing your favorite episode of 90210 or something. In a lot of ways, actually.

    Anyway, this happened the other day, and, of ALL my celebrity and quasi-celebrity sightings (for the uninitiated- I have like, a photographic memory and I recognize TONS of actors, reality starts, commercial actors, character actors, baseball players, baseball executives, directors, writers, journalists, etc... all the time), this is my favorite. No doubt. Even better than Ethan Coen or Bob Odenkirk or Robert Smigel, who actually sought out a conversation with me. This is the one they'll remember me by. This is my... Excalibur.

    So I'm walking out of the office I'm working at- 46th and 6th- and I turn onto 46th St. towards 5th Ave. At the corner of 46th and 5th, leaning exhasutedly against a building on his cellphone... was Corey Feldman. Corey Feldman. COREY FELDMAN. He was normally groomed- short black hair, no ridiculous dye job or crazy goatee. He's tiny, too- probably like 5' 7". I looked at him, did a double take, and out from my throat crawled this howl...


    He gave me this look, a combination of horror, recognition, exasperation, bloodlust, begrudging appreciation and a soucon of "if I was high enough on speedballs, I'd let this dude suck my dick... for $50."

    Vulgarities aside, he was telling me, without telling me... "do NOT draw attention to me." He finally says to me, and I quote:

    "Hey man wassuh...(trails off, though no druggy-like)" He then vaguely pointed to his phone. I laughed a bit and nodded, OK. Whatever.

    I kept walking and grabbed at my phone desperately, like I was calling Mike to tell him I'd won the lottery. Instead, I called him to tell him I'd friggin' met COREY FELDMAN! Do you realize the hours Mike and I have spent laughing at, dissecting, watching and revelling in the ridiculousness that IS that guy? I mean, have you SEEN his appearences on the E! Howard Stern Show?

    Simply can't be topped. I can't do it. It's all downhill from here, in life, I'm afraid. If you want to see further Corey ramblings by me... check this out, won't you?

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