Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Worthsmith vs. The Sports Games #1: "David Robinson’s Supreme Court"

From soccer to hockey and even the national pastime, professional wrestling, I know next to nothing about sports. I had video games when I was growing up, so why do unimportant things like play baseball or interact with other kids or go to school? But the other day while I was walking my dog, a disheveled man with a Red Sox cap and a jug of moonshine stumbled over to me and asked, “Whose yer fav-rite team, nerd!?” When I replied that I don’t watch football, he had a very compelling argument for me to get into sports: 57 stitches in my left eye socket.

The best way for me to appreciate anything is with video games, so I dug through my collection looking for sports titles and started tearing up the basketgolf field! This is the first article of a monthly column that chronicles my clueless foray into the world of sports via video entertainment, aptly titled “Wordsmith vs. The Sports Games.” I hope you’re ready for some football, because I sure am excited! Let’s go Yankmets! Win the Super Brawl!

Game Title: David Robinson’s Supreme Court

Console: Sega Genesis (Mega Drive)

Year: 1990

Genre: Beat ‘em up, possibly basketball

What I Would Have Called It: Net-Crazed Tank Top Men Ram a Large Orange into a Very Tall Hole

David Robinson’s Supreme Court is the worst fighting game ever. Someone once told me it might be basketball game, but you’d never know that by reading the back of the box: “Twenty-four different shots from jumpers to slams, unbelievable speed and rim rattling sound effects… Robinson proves his case with two handed monster slams and awesome net attacks.” These “attacks,” according to the box, include “Monster Slam,” “Reverse Slam,” “Sky Hook Slam,” and “Pile Driver,” which is a move Zangief uses in Street Fighter II to dole out the pain to unsuspecting fireball spammers.

I clearly remember standing in a Toys ‘R Us store one summer day about 18 years ago trying to pick out a new Genesis game. After reading the box, I though David Robinson’s Supreme Court was some sort of justice-system based Double Dragon clone, and Robinson was a dog catching lawyer\street brawler, what with his “net attacks” and all. Now before you tell me that a karate lawyer is too stupid even for a ‘90s video game, need I point out Final Fight’s “mayor and former street fighter,” Mike Haggar? And last time I checked, Arnold Schwarzenegger was still the governor of California, so score one more for incongruent career choices.

Like any dedicated gamer, I tore off the plastic and began reading the David Robinson’s Supreme Court manual on the way home from the store, and it only reinforced the idea that the title character is a street fighter: “Monster slams and awesome net attacks are only part of David Robinson’s ‘TIP’ – Total Individual Performance. Now it’s your turn to get on the court and face ‘The Admiral.’”

“The Admiral must be the final boss of the game,” I thought. I kept reading. “You’ll Dazzle ‘em with 24 incredible moves, including fast breaks and tomahawk slams.”

Compare this with the description on the box of Sega’s classic beat ‘em up, Streets of Rage: “This is the ultimate in street combat. These city fighters are martial arts maniacs with 40 individually controllable attacks – including jabs, head butts, overhead kicks and awesome net attacks.”

Okay, so I added the net attacks thing, but otherwise these passages are strikingly – and violently – similar.

As soon as we got home, my young self slammed the cartridge into my Genesis system much like I thought I would soon be slamming bad guys on my way to taking down The Admiral. Soon however, joy turned to horror, but I tried to give David Robinson’s Supreme Court a chance. For hours at a time I attempted to catch a glimpse of The Admiral, suspecting the gameplay might switch to a Mortal Kombat-like, one-on-one perspective when I met him and actually be fun, but to no avail. With the torment that is only felt by a child who spent all his money on a putrid video game, I put David Robinson’s Supreme Court back in the box and left it to gather dust on my Sega shelf.

Cut to a few weeks ago, as an older and negligiblely wiser Matt was looking to educate himself about all this sports stuff everyone’s been talking about. “Hey, didn’t some kid once try to tell me that David Robinson’s Supreme Court is a basketball game?” I thought. Obviously I laughed at him before punching him in the crotch and stealing his insulin, but what if he had been telling the truth? I whipped out the game and, after I stopped sneezing from all the dust and cobwebs I disturbed in the process, court was in session once more!

David Robinson’s Supreme Court offers a whopping four teams to choose from, including favorites like New York, L.A. and Chicago. And Detroit is there too. They’re really good at stealing for some reason. Also setting cars on fire.

Once you pick a team and start the combat, there’re enough guys on screen to make for a good fighting game. But every time someone throws an elbow smash, the action stops and everyone crowds around one of the two netted holes on big sticks. The guy who got punched is allowed to throw a big bouncy orange at the hole before the fighting starts again. Since the hits in this game are so infrequent, I’ve never been able to score a single knockout.

When you’re jockeying for possession of the orange, the action shifts from a 45 degree angle to a 135 degree angle at the half supreme court line, which makes for a jarring transition. I like to have the big orange stolen from me in a place where I can see it happen, as opposed to awkwardly switching views and suddenly getting my fruit pilfered during the confusion. To be honest, I’m not sure what the significance of the big orange is, but I’m assuming it’s some sort of power-up that The Admiral would love to get his despicable hands on. In fact, I get the feeling that the fate of the supreme court and maybe even the entire American legal system depends on that big orange. Maybe it’s like the Matrix of Leadership from the 1986 Transformers movie and David Robinson is trying to take over for Optimus Prime before The Admiral does.

Even after almost two decades, I still hate David Robinson’s Supreme Court. Worse yet, I didn’t learn anything about sports. I don’t know how, but this must be the work of that sinister Admiral. One day I’ll defeat you, The Admiral, and then the secrets of the basketball will be conferred upon me.

Until then, it’s back to the drawing board for my sports quest.

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