VGJ Review: New International Track and Field (DS)

Someone at Sega should be busy drawing up a lawsuit right about now. Ok, maybe not. But a lot of DS owners out there should notice that New International Track and Field does have a lot of similarities with Sega developed Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games. Despite those similarities, New International Track and Field is certainly a different game from the Sega offering from last year.

Just like Mario and Sonic, this game is an Olympic themed mini-game collection, featuring events from across the athletic spectrum, not just those traditionally found in track and field, like running, swimming, gymnastics and weightlifting. The game, much like it’s button mashing predecessor, uses the DS controls to quickly rub and tap your character to a gold medal. The game also features a Career Mode, which allows for players to partake in groups of four events at a time. This mode is used to unlock everything from new outfits and events to new characters, like Castlevania’s Simon Belmont and Metal Gear Solid’s Solid Snake. The events you unlock along the way can be played as single events for gold medals and points, which are the currency for unlocking items in the game.

The key difference between New International Track and Field and Mario and Sonic comes into play when trying to defeat the AI in the events of the game. Each events starts with a short tutorial that often does a poor job of giving you exactly the information you’ll need to complete the event successfully. Sure, there are events that are self evident as to how they will be controlled, be it the 100 Meter Dash, in which rubbing the stylus back and forth as quickly as possible, or Skeet Shooting, which requires you to tap the touch screen in time with the skeet  passing a crosshair., but there are others, like a Steeplechase or High Jump, which would be better served having a more detailed explanation. This can lead to the game becoming about having to fail an event just to figure out how to do it properly, rather than always having fun.

Once an event has started, especially on easier levels, you’ll find that the AI is set to a predetermined level of competency. If you happen to be good at an event, the AI will not adjust to challenge you. It will simply run it’s race and lose miserably. On the other hand, if you are not so great at a particular event, which will inevitably happen, you will be summarily disposed of and have to start your event, or circuit of events, over again. This can become frustrating, especially if there is an event at which you are particularly bad.

While no one at Sega is going to be filing suit with Konami for New International Track and Field for its similarity to their title, it does suffer from the fact that it has a direct competitor that does a lot of the same things well and more. If you are DS owner who is looking for a stiff challenge or simply want to play the sequel to an arcade classic, this may be the game for you. If you want the best Olympic themed game for the DS, then you’d probably be better served looking to two of the biggest names in gaming and the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

Score: 8.0