Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Trackballs And Dribble Buttons: Konami Almost Got It Right

One day, while browsing through the website of an arcade distributor, I came across an interesting listing. Basically, two of the games the guy had up for sale were Blades of Steel and Double Dribble. Being a kid who was primarily exposed to video games early on from the home console standpoint, I was kinda surprised. After actually getting to spend time with them, I'm glad things were switched up for the NES versions.

Blades of Steel was the first I'll look at, since it was, for a long time, the best hockey game on any video game console.The controls were crisp and the action was fast. The arcade version wasn't quite the same experience. Instead of using a standard joystick for control, Konami opted to use a trackball for player movement. the result tended to feel kinda clumsy, but it added a slight feeling of realism to the game. The trackball gave the illusion of sliding across the ice. It was an interesting control mechanic that didn't quite work out.

As for Double Dribble, the game called by many the best basketball game ever released on a home console, the arcade version was a slow, plodding mess. This is contributed many to one major bonehead idea. The Arcade iteration of Double Dribble has a dribble button to a player must constantly tap on offense to avoid being called for ...er...double dribble. So, amateur trivia buffs, that's where the name came from, a penalty for not constantly mashing a button. Without the dribble button, Double Dribble is easily on of the most complete basketball video games ever. it has a real time game clock, full in game stat tracking, multiple full color animations for the variety of dunks a player can perform in game.

Fact is, Double Dribble and Blades of Steel were the two best sports games released for home consoles. Too bad their arcade counterparts had one huge, unavoidable flaw that kept them from being great also.

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