Friday, February 25, 2011

Of Import: Human Sports Festival

There are good videogames, there are bad videogames, and there are a lot that fall somewhere in-between.  This week, we're playing one of those mediocre games from 1992 -- a Japanese PC Engine Super CD-ROM disc entitled Human Sports Festival (so called because it was published by Human Creative Group, not because it would otherwise have been Sea Slug Sports Festival.)

I was surprised to find that the three sports contests on this disc -- tennis, golf and soccer -- are all fairly polished.  But a little research establishes that Human had released similar games for the PC Engine, with relatively minor changes and updates to produce these "new" versions.  The Super CD-ROM format allows for some jazzy packaging, with very brief but still impressive black-and-white full-motion video in the opening sequence:

There are also fully-voiced, attractive anime hostesses for each game:

There's also a special Human Information section, which I can't read as I don't speak Japanese, but it appears to offer several screens of information about the company and its products, and encourages fan mail to the various game hostesses:

Though apparently we can't send fan mail to the information section's own mascot, Ms. Gratuitous Swimsuit Bunny Girl:

Human Creative Group also published Formation Soccer in 1990, and Formation Soccer '95 in 1995; this compilation disc includes a game called Formation Soccer '92, which seems very similar to the 1990 edition.  It's a competent little soccer game, with smooth animation and detailed sprites.  My only complaint here is that there's no way to select the player closest to the ball, and the computer seems to pick exactly the wrong player in almost any fielding situation, so that the person I want to use to take back control of the ball never seems to be available; in fact, sometimes the team member under player control is actually offscreen somewhere.  I soon met a humiliating defeat at the hands feet of Argentina:

There's also a half-time television announcer, who never fails to amuse, as he reuses one of the in-game digitized voice effects, exclaiming "Ooh! Ooh! Ooh!" like a demented Arnold Horshack until we press a button to turn off the in-game TV set.

Human Creative Group also published Final Match Tennis on HuCard, so we get a reworked version here entitled Final Match Tennis Ladies, with an all-girl cast aside from the creepy men hunched over at the back of the court.  It's not a bad tennis game, though the sprites are tiny, and the unconvincing sound effects occasionally call the original Pong to mind.

The only game I can't find a direct predecessor for is Fine Shot Golf, a polished golf simulation marred only by the lack of visible directionality on the green.  There's a full club selection, a course featuring eighteen challenging holes, and with a little more graphical flair this game could have been a stand-alone release; one gets the impression that was the original plan, as it's the only game of the three that features CD music.  But as the final product lacks that certain something needed to put it over the top, a compilation augmenting this game with quickie variations of existing HuCard titles was hastily assembled instead.

Human Sports Festival is not a bad compilation, and with multiplayer support it probably provided a lot of good times and value for money back in the day.  But the three sports games included are thoroughly generic, and the state of the art has certainly moved on, so it's ultimately one for the historical shelf.

This inexpensively collectible disc offers quite a bit of decent, if unspectacular, gameplay for the buck.  You may be able to find a copy for purchase here or here:

Human Sports Festival PC-Engine SCD

No comments:

Post a Comment