Since most of my childhood was based around movies and video games, take a wild guess about my feelings towards sports. If you gave me the option between playing a pickup game of basketball or dying on the sun, I’d already be in my bathing suit and covered in SPF 90 before you finished your sentence. I always got bored, tired, and never fully understood the rules to any of the games. In high school I got so fed up with sports that rather than learn the rules to badminton, the lazy version of tennis, I opted to hit the weight room in order to get my gym credit. For the record, I’m not a fan of lifting weights either, but at least I didn’t have to try to figure out what everyone was doing and looking like an asshole when I failed.
Sports video games on the other hand…still not a fan. Yet video games have a way of changing its source material to make it entertaining for a larger audience. No one’s joining the Marines because they want to get shot and die in a ditch, yet we’ll play the nuke level from ‘Call of Duty: Modern Warfare’ over and over again. Video game developers know this, and alongside the need to adapt an active experience to a sedentary one, they opted to focus on the exciting part of each game rather than be strictly limited to the rule sets.
Within the pile of shady games I had as a kid was ‘Blades of Steel’, a hockey game by Konami, the same people who thought having knock back damage in a game full of death pits WOULDN’T be frustrating (‘Castlevania’). I didn’t know who Konami was at the time, all I knew was that it was a sports game and that sports were dumb. I ignored it for a while, but just like every kid, I ran out of games to play (read: got bored with everything we owned) and threw it in to check it out.
Here’s what I remember:
I was surprised that the game was actually fun. I had no idea what the difference were between the teams, so I just picked the color I liked best and started hitting buttons. In the end, it worked out. The controls responded the way I thought they should, I always knew by the blinking character which one I was, and no game was overly long. Each game was easy enough to win but tense enough to be enjoyable. If I did lose, then who cared? I was more pissed off when I lost the mini games you could play during half time. That should tell you how invested I was with the “sports” part of this sports game.
Because I wasn’t a fan of the physical game, I sucked when I played against other people. They knew how to maneuver around me, trick me into a certain position in order to set up a pass, and psyche out my goalie. Lucky for me, ‘Blades of Steel’ included the best part of any hockey game: the fights.
I may have been easily tricked with a puck, but it was a different story when it came to my fists.
When I couldn’t score goals directly, I would just beat the shit out of their players until the game was easier. You could either attack high or low and the same went for guarding. I was always on the offense, throwing quick combinations at my opponent, occasionally blocking my face because, let’s face it, everyone tries to hit an asshole like me in the face. Looking back, I probably should have asked a boxing game.
How does it hold up?
I’m surprised at how much of what I remembered was accurate. After writing five of these articles and finding out that ALL my memories were fucked up and wrong, I was expecting ‘Blades of Steel’ to be as awful as shitting your pants in public, or worse…shitting someone else’s pants. Yet everything was exactly as I remembered it. Most importantly, I still had fun playing it.
My match was between Toronto Canada and Minnesota, which is further north than Toronto, so I guess it’s America’s Canada. Each period lasted a couple of minutes and the action moved quickly. No moment could be wasted. It was tense. The opponent AI wasn’t ruthless, but goddamn was it challenging. Each second, every shot, had to count. Every time I screwed up, I knew it was MY mistake, the game wasn’t cheating me.
By the end, I lost by two points. I was okay with this. Just like when I was younger, I had my fun and I was done. At some point in the future, I’m going to get bored, and when I do I know I have something to pop in that’ll kill 10-15 minutes. I’ll never play through the tournament mode because I don’t care that much, but it’s nice to be able to have a competitive game that doesn’t focus too much on the accuracy of the rule set.
I’m surprised and happy that ‘Blades of Steel’ held up as well as it did. I’d even recommend it to sports fans and non-sports fans alike. Throughout my school years, from grade school through college, Tecmo was the name that always popped up. Until the Bruins stopped sucking in the mid 2000s, no one gave a shit about hockey around my area. The fact that no one knew what I was talking about when I brought it up made me feel like I was one of the only people in the world who owned it, and in a way, a little bit special. The came the internet and all that changed because one city doesn’t define the world. Even the story about how the internet made me realize I wasn’t special isn’t special.
Despite the fact that lots of people enjoyed this game and that I’m not special (squared), the people around me missed out on something great. I had fun with ‘Blades of Steel’ then, I’m having fun with it now, and I think you will too. Check it out.