Arcade Heroes: TRACK & FIELD - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

Home Top Ad

Post Top Ad

Arcade Heroes: TRACK & FIELD

Bash those buttons!
With the delayed 2020 Olympic Games now underway, let's rewind the clock back nine Olympiads to the Summer of 1984. The international multi-sport event was held from July 28th to August 12th that year, mainly in Los Angeles, California, USA. Despite a boycott by a total of fourteen Eastern Bloc countries, including the Soviet Union and East Germany, competition was fierce. Especially among the Track & field events, with Carl Lewis of the United States, making his first of four appearances at the Olympics, equaling the 1936 performance of Jesse Owens by winning four gold medals (in the 100 m, 200 m, 4 × 100 m relay and long jump), and Daley Thompson of Great Britain eventually being awarded a new world record through winning his second consecutive gold medal in the decathlon.

Track & Field events were also proving a hit elsewhere - in the arcades across the globe. Thanks to Konami's addictive 1983 sporting release.
Originally known as Hyper Olympic in Japan, and sporting an official license for the 1984 Summer Olympics (Japanese territories only), the game was introduced at Tokyo's Amusement Machine Show in September 1983 and ended up being the most well-received game at the show. Arcade game manufacturer Centuri secured the license for North American distribution. However, Atari had been chosen as the official Olympics video game sponsor, so Centuri were unable to keep the title Hyper Olympic. It was subsequently introduced in North America as Track & Field (a name it kept in several other territories, including the UK) at the Amusement & Music Operators Association show in October 1983, and once again was the biggest hit of the event.

Gameplay was simple; using a side-scrolling format, the player uses two "run" buttons and one "action" button to control an athlete competing in six events, most involving alternately pressing two buttons as quickly as possible to make the onscreen character run faster. Some players resorted to various tricks such as rapidly swiping a coin or ping-pong ball over the "run" buttons, or using a metal ruler which was repeated struck such that it would vibrate and press the buttons. As a result, arcade operators reported high rates of damage to the buttons and later cabinet's replaced them with a trackball.
Whatever method of control you used, it was the sheer fun of Track & Field that had everyone coming back for more. From the brightly coloured stadium, the packed audience cheering the athletes on to glory, and the large scoreboard depicting both the world records and current attempt at whatever sport was being attempted. The events on offer were...
  1. 100 meter dash – running by quickly alternating button presses;
  2. Long jump – running by alternating button press and correct timing for jump — hold jump button to set angle (42 degrees is optimal);
  3. Javelin throw – running by alternating button presses and then using action button correct timing for angle (43 degrees is optimal);
  4. 110 meter hurdles – running by alternating button presses and using action button to time jumps;
  5. Hammer throw – spinning initiated by pressing a run button once and then correctly timed press of action button to choose angle (45 degrees is optimal);
  6. High jump – running (speed set by computer) and then action button must be held down to determine angle of jump — once in the air, the run button can be rapidly pressed for additional height.
In each event, there is a qualifying time or level that the player must achieve to advance to the next event; failing to qualify (in one heat for running events or three tries in the other events) will reduce the player's number of lives by one, but if none are present in his/her disposal, the game will end. Players earn extra lives per 100,000 points scored. And a select few might just make the high score 'world records' leaderboard, with their initials accompanied by the Chariots of Fire theme tune.
Track & Field was a worldwide commercial success in arcades. In Japan, Game Machine listed Hyper Olympic in their December 1983 issues as being the most successful new table arcade unit of the month (selling 38,000 units before the year end), continuing to top Japan's table arcade cabinet charts in January 1984. It was also a huge hit in North America, topping the US RePlay upright arcade cabinet charts between February and May 1984, and went on to become one of the top five highest-grossing arcade games of 1984 in the United States. Doing even better in Europe, Track & Field was the highest-grossing arcade game of 1984 in the United Kingdom.
Although it wasn't the first Olympic track-and-field game (it was preceded by Olympic Decathlon in 1980 and Activision Decathlon in August 1983), Hyper Olympic/Track & Field's success led to a resurgence of arcade sports games, and of course the inevitable sequels from Konami, including Hyper Sports and Track & Field II. The game was also ported to a variety of home computers and consoles, including the Atari 2600, Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum and the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). Although just about every home version was reported as being a "joystick buster!".
But sometimes, when the gameplay is just that much fun, it's worth busting the odd joystick or two!

Did you used to play Track & Field? Tell us your memories of this Arcade Hero in the comments below.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Post Top Ad