Tag Archives: soccer

National Game Registry 1984: Ballblazer

original platforms
Atari 800
Atari 5200
Lucasfilm Games/Atari
key personnel
David Levine

The most striking aspect of Ballblazer is the proto-3D visuals, displayed on a split-screen field.  The gameplay is more or less like air hockey; two opponents square off, attempting to place a ball in each other’s goal.  The field is viewed from a first-person perspective and the player is always facing either the ball or the opponent’s goal, avoiding disorienting situations.  The players can fight for a loose ball, steal a ball from the opponent, or fire a shot at the ever-moving goals.

Ballblazer was inducted on April 22nd, 2009.

Return to the National Game Registry to view more inductees.

Scotland, Ireland and Wales football / soccer scared of Olympics, loss of independence

England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales make up the sovereign nation known officially as the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. However, in several sports, especially the ones most popular in that territory, these countries compete as independent entities, and Northern Ireland often combines with the indepdendent republic Ireland for the official Ireland team in most of these sports.

rugby union: England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland (includes Northern Ireland)
rugby league: England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland (includes Northern Ireland)
cricket: England (includes Wales), Scotland, Ireland (includes Northern Ireland)
soccer: England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Northern Ireland

Rugby union, rugby league and cricket have relatively few competitive national teams that it’s crucial for the British Isles regions to form separate teams to make up the numbers. However, football/soccer has an absolute wealth of competitive national teams. Although the regions have always been independent in soccer there is a growing notion that the idea might be outdated. One of the biggest complaints against the setup is this: if Wales, which is simply a region of the UK that actually has LESS autonomy from the UK than Iowa does from the USA or as Sardinia has from Italy, get its own national team? Based on this precedent there are many other regions within nations that would love to have their own national team. Perhaps the most famous is the rich Catalonia/Catalunya region of Spain, home to famous clubs FC Barcelona and Espanyol. This region, which has special semi-autonomy within Spain, organizes an annual national team game against top opposition.

This brings us to the Olympics, which only allows sovereign nations to enter teams (with exceptions for unincorporated territories like Puerto Rico or semi-disputed areas like Northern Ireland, whose athletes may choose to compete for either the UK or Ireland). Based on a desire to retain completely autonomous, the British regions haven’t sent a soccer team to the Olympics in decades. However, the next Olympics is being held in London, and there is massive pressure to enter a British team in the tournament. Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales are vehemently against the idea, claiming it will set a precedent. FIFA has admitted that the independent nature of the British ‘nations’ may be in jeopardy either way.

My objective opinion is that it’s simply unfair for these regions to have their own national teams when other world regions cannot. It’s impractical to move in that direction – imagine the chaos if all of the world’s disputed regions announced they were independent in football matters. On the other hand, regions like Scotland and Wales have real national pride, separate from all-encompassing British side. I think a good compromise would be to create a Great Britain team to compete in the Olympics, World Cup and European Championship but to also revive the Home Nations tournament contested between England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. I would hold the tournament in the summer in odd years. Surely many England stars would choose to sit out but the Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish teams would be chomping at the bit. It would be cool to see a similar series in Spain between Castilia, Catalunya, Galicia and the Basques, as well. I can only dream.

Silly soccer fans

Fans of Napoli, a team in Serie A (Italy’s top soccer league) rioted on a train ride to Rome for a big match.  Now the government has banned Napoli fans from going to any away games.  Huh!?  How does that work?  I mean, how do they look into your soul and know for sure that you’re a Napoli fan?  Couldn’t the Napoli fans just wear clothes without Napoli logos or colors and just go to away games, regardless?  How the fuck does this work?!




Soccer at the Olympix

It was 1994 when I really started paying attention to national team soccer, thanks to the ’94 World Cup, so the first Olympic soccer tournament I paid attention to was the 1996 Atlanta Gamez. The US won the women’s gold but I wasn’t really paying attention to ladiez soccer yet. The big highlight for me was Nigeria winning the men’s gold. Wow! An African nation won the tournament! Take that, Europe and South America! And then I checked the FIFA World Rankings to see how high Nigeria was now ranked and it was something like: #50. WTF?

That’s when I learned that the Olympix soccer tournament is not, and never has been, a truly premier soccer tournament because of IOC and FIFA rules that have ALWAYS prevented the world from sending it’s true men’s national teams. There were 3 phases in these rules:

Phase 1- Amateurism (inception to 1970s) For the first 80 years or so of the Olympics, only amateur footballers could participate in the competition, a rule that that was fully exploited by the Soviet Union, whose athletes, even though they were really pros, could qualify as amateurs under communism.

Phase 2 – Leveling the playing field (1980s) Finally, professionals were allowed to compete but FIFA was afraid the Olympics soccer tournament would compete with the World Cup for prestige so they came up with a solution: nations from North America, Africa, Asia and Oceania could send their full-strength national teams but nations from soccer-powerful Europe and South America could only send teams made up of players that had never played for the national teams before. This ensured that the big stars didn’t appear.

Phase 3 – Under-23 (1990s-present) The current policy is somewhat goofy – nations send their best players that are 23 or under, plus 3 “overage” players. This means that a few big stars can compete but the real national teams are nowhere to be seen. This explains why Nigeria didn’t move up in the rankings after the 96 Olympics, the Olympix tournament has no bearing whatsoever on the actual national team.

The future: A few weeks ago, the Court for Arbritation in Sport ruled that, due to the strange, half-assed nature of the Olympic soccer teams, professional clubs have no obligation to release their players for the tournament. This means that in the future, teams will be made up strictly of players whose clubs voluntarily release their players, which will result in a diluted playing level, OR perhaps FIFA will finally upgrade the tournament to a full national team tournament.


Another Olympix complaint

The medal count is really stupid. First off, it’s mostly about big powers like China, USA and Russia showing off. But what’s really dumb is how every medal has the same weight. What I mean is, why is the Gold Medal that Mr. Swimmer gets for making it through a few heats and then winning the final worth the same in the medal count as the Gold Medal that Mrs. Softball Team will get for winning the whole fucking softball tournament? It’s dumb!

At the last Olympics, Argentina got Gold in both men’s soccer AND basketball. That should have been worth a LOT in the medal count. Instead, just worth 2 medals. Dumb. ANd then USA and China won a bunch of individual medals in diving and track and the like and showed off big-time.


Team Ball Sports at the Summer Olympix

When it comes to sports I primarily like team ball sports and the Olympics is jam packed full of them. Some of them are very familiar to US sports fans, some are moderately familiar and others have very little presence here. I’ll mention them in order of familiarity to US audiences.

USA basketball
Basketball (men and women)
Duh, it’s basketball. You know, like in the NBA, WNBA and NCAA? GAWD.

USA softball
Baseball (men)/Softball (women)
Duh, it’s baseball and softball.

USA soccer
Soccer (men and women)
Duh, it’s soccer. You kick it.

Silly volleyball!
Volleyball (men and women)
Although most Americans are familiar with the sport, the full, indoor version of volleyball is primarily seen as a women’s sport – a view that isn’t shared worldwide. Italy and Brazil have pro leagues.

feel me hockey
Field Hockey (men and women)
Another sport that is primarily played by women in the US and, again, that’s not the case worldwide. It’s actually a rather popular sport for both sexes in Germany, Netherlands, India, Pakistan, and my mom. The sticks are quite short compared to ice hockey so the players are all hunched over and dying all the time.

Awter Olpo
Water Polo (men and women)
This is one of those sports that really isn’t super popular in any particular country or region but is just kinda popular in a whole bunch of them. Basically, everyone swims from end to end and tries to get a ball in a net. There’s really very little strategy.

hand's ballz
Handball (men and women)
Actually, it’s kinda like handball on a court. Or maybe it’s like basketball with soccer elements. Yeah, I’ll go with that one. The players go end to end and dribble the ball (every 3 steps) like in basketball but when they get to the end there’s a soccer-style goal, complete with goalie. It removes the height element that annoys me in basketball but I still think basketball is more interesting due to a higher degree of strategy.


ERRRRRRRRRRRRVIEWS (Electronic Arts edition?!)

Final Fantasy VI Advance
Square Enix
2007 (original version 1994)
Game Boy Advance

This is a GBA port of the game that was originally released in the United States as Final Fantasy III for Super NES. As far as I know, the GBA version is pretty much the same game but with a few glitch fixes and changes in the text translation. Anyway, the game . . .

I have previously played through Final Fantasy I-V and I would definitely give FFVI the prize for best 2D FF. FFVI is much less linear than the previous games, resulting in a lot more freedom to do what you want when you want, especially in the second half. The down side to this is that it took me a lot longer to beat than the previous FF’s. In fact, it took about 45 hours of playing time. Considering my short attention span, I definitely didn’t blaze through this one. Rather, I took SEVEN MONTHS to slooooooooowly make my way through although you could probably do it in just a few weeks.

Anyway, there is a large cast of characters that you can rotate in and out of your lineup. They do have specialties but they all have the potential to become good fighters, good magicians, whatever. So, if you want to be super safe in the final battles, you can level everyone up and make everyone a badass and a healer. This is where I sank a lot of my playing time, actually. In previous FF’s, I entered the final dungeons/battles underpowered and usually had to try over and over to beat them. This time around I spent way more time than necessary leveling everyone up and just coasted through to the end.

The music is pretty great and has a lot of variety. The designs are nice but typical 2D FF. The story is pretty detailed, deep and only slightly cheesy. Do it to it.

Grade: A
Conclusion: I can’t believe there are RPGs that are 2-3 times as long as this one.

Boom Blox
Electronic Arts

SUPPOSEDLY, this game is the result of a collaboration with Steven Spielberg, credited as ‘creative director’. I don’t believe it. This game doesn’t bear ANY hallmarks of Spielberg’s past works, sensibilities, style, etc. Regardless, this is a pretty enjoyable game. The game consists of dozens of puzzles and scenarios that require to do various things with various items. Sometimes you throw baseballs or bowling balls, sometimes you fire a gun, sometimes you fling things around on a sticky string. You set off explosions, shoot goblins, collapse towers, so and soforth. As you might expect with the Wii, if you’re throwing a ball, then you use the Wiimote in a throwing motion.

Some of the puzzles are pretty clever and will require a lot of thought while other levels consist solely of reflex-based play. There are “worlds” with themes like “escort the Mitten Kittens home on Halloween without being killed by monsters”. These themes are just pretty ways of dressing up the gameplay to add visual variety. After awhile, things start to feel a bit too similar and interest wanes. There’s a party mode that I haven’t tried yet but this does definitely feel like a social type of game but by one’s self it’s better in spurts.

Grade: B
Conclusion: This is EA trying to be Nintendo/Namco/SEGA/etc.

AFL ’99
Electronic Arts
Windows 95

I recently dug this game out of the closet after years and years of neglect. I used to play this game quite a bit and for good reason: it’s a very fun and challenging simulation of Australian rules football. Aussie rules is one of the few sports that’s as simple as soccer. The game basically consists of punching and punting a ball to your teammates attempting to score goals between giant uprights. Hard tackles are allowed. That’s about it. Sometimes the simple things are easiest to fuck up but this game pulls everything off most of the time. The kicking, the catching and running all work fine. Sometimes the punching (aka handballs) is pretty goofy, though, so I wouldn’t rely on it. Everything is fast and furious and the commentary is even decent for a 1998 game. Some aspects don’t work perfectly on Windows XP or Vista but the main game works fine.

Grade: B+
Conclusion: EA should make new AFL games

Electronic Arts
PlayStation 2

This game is very clearly a port of a PC game that came out a couple years earlier and it shows. The players are very blocky for a PS2 game. Actually, the graphics look like PS1 but in higher resolution. The gameplay is decent but pretty jerky as the players move fairly unnaturally and take about 500 years to change directions (no Barry Sanders in this game). The breakdowns (the parts where big guys push each other around) are somewhat luck-based and frustrating. The one area where the game really shines is in the running game. If you can get a good series of passes going you can really do some damage. With all the faults, though, EA proved they could do much worse with the following year’s Rugby 2004, which changed everything and was awful.

For those that care, the modes in this game are 6 Nations, Tri-Nations and World Cup (but not the official licensed version of any of these tournaments).

Grade: C+
Conclusion: Winnie the Pooh, Winnie the Pooh, chubby little cubby all stuffed with fluff.