I have owned this game for about 14 years and I never played it. My parents house was burgled in around 2001, and they stole my Dreamcast, and all the games. When we got the stuff back on the insurance, the insurance company decided to send me 8 random games (rather than the 8 that were stolen) and no Dreamcast. So, I never actually played this until recently (to my knowledge).
Anyway, Button-Bashers suck right? They are unfair, uncompromising, and you need a rapid fire control pad to be good at them!
Well, on the whole you’re correct, but with Virtua Athlete you’d be wrong.
Virtua Athlete 2k (2000 to the the Americans) is vaguely fair, and requires some skill, patience and strategy, it is also surprisingly fun!
The gameplay is basic, you get 7 events;100m sprint,long jump, shot put, high jump,110m hurdles, javelin, and the 1500m race, but this doesn’t make it a Heptathlon, for 2 reasons. One, men don’t take part in a heptathlon, and two, the events are wrong. In an actual heptathalon you get; 100m hurdles, high jump, shot put, 200m sprint, long jump, javelin, and 800m race. But this is kinda irrelevant, so back to the game.
Each event has its own button config, this usually involves mashing the “A” and “X” button to build up speed, and then using the “B” button to perform a specific action (throw/jump/lunge), while some events such as the high jump and long jump require a well timed “Down Arrow” to position your feet correctly.
It requires a few tries of the events to get competent at the event, but the game is only as hard as you are good. Button mashing isn’t always the best tactic, in 110m hurdles or 1500m and you’ll run out of stamina if you just mash away, so you need to pace yourself, and not just blindly hammer away. This levels the playing field and means you can play against friends without that one person who can press at 400bpm storming away with it.
The whole game form start to finish is 10 minutes long.
The main reason to replay the game is to learn the events and possibly go for records. After about 2 hours game time I was able to set World Records in Shot Put and High Jump, Course Records in 1500m Race, and Long Jump. While I can win the 100m race and 110m hurdles I am still some way off the records.
But the challenge is there, if you want it.
You can create your own athlete too, but I’ll be honest, there is no point. You get about 5 options per feature, head, body, clothing, and then pretty much every country to choose from, and that is it. They won’t look like you, they will barely resemble a humanoid, so in all likelyhood you’ll skip over this feature.
You also get to choose (and unlock) “interests”, but these are bizarre things like music preferences… Why would I spend all that time unlocking “Metal” musical preference? You wouldn’t, so in reality, this feature is utterly pointless.
While there are difficulty levels, the most difficulty comes from yourself. If you save your progress after an event, it will save the times of you and your competitors, so if you just smashed the 1500m race record with the American athlete, if you choose the British bloke next time, you better bring your A-game, as the American dude will now be performing to that sort of level you just saved.
If you choose to not save/load this data it will always be easy, but the feeling that you’re playing against your own ghosts spurs you on winning, with an 80m throw when the rest got a 60m means it is pointless, but suddenly, your 80m is only good enough for 3rd place. You start to spend time learning the events, you realise the importance of timing, the angles of throws.
Pre-event, the game teaches you the buttons, and the angles, and you’ll bluff it, why get 45degrees, when you can go 40 or 50, not much difference? Well, that will be the difference of 1-5 meters, which at 80m (javelin) is the difference between the course record, and 4th place. It really does get tight at the top.
The course record in 1500, was around 4 minutes, the world record was 3:36. I got 3:38, but the next time, one the of the competitors got 3:29, so the records are always shifting, and it isn’t always you. It really feels like progress.
Two major game issues are:
“Rubber Banding” occurs in the 1500m race, players will obviously speed up/slow down to match you. This means you’ll have an insanely close 3:38 sprint, or a 5 minute dawdle.
Collision physics, again this is in the 1500m race, if you collide with an athlete you’ll Ridge Racer off them. If you don’t know what that means, basically, you bounce back to the middle of the track as though nothing happened. It was shit in a 1994 game, it is shit in a 2000 game.
The game is surprisingly fun. Multiplayer is a barrel of laughs and it rarely turns into one person dominating as long as other people have a vague idea what they are doing.
Ultimately though, the game is shallow, you’ll have fun, but in very small doses. It is worth a play, and you’ll enjoy it, but the score has to reflect the lack of length and depth.
Pros: Feels fair, nice learning curve
Cons: VERY short, NO DEPTH, character creator is terrible
80% if I don’t deduct points for the lack of content.