Aussie Rules Footy review
A good 8-bit translation of a great sport
Much like RPGs, sports games on older consoles may have been fantastic for the time, but between advances in technology and tighter gameplay engines due to the former, they're... just not as good as they used to be, and anybody coming from, say, Madden 12 would find Tecmo Bowl to be too simple and too slow unless they've played it back when they were younger and didn't know any better. Granted that sports games aged a lot better than RPGs did, it's just that with better gameplay engines out there in the newer sports games, there's almost no point to playing the older, dustier ones... perhaps outside of curiosity, which is why I've decided to give Aussie Rules Footy for the NES a try. Maybe it's brand recognition (both the sport and the developer - these guys developed some story heavy adventure games like Nightshade and Shadowrun), maybe it's just the need to play an NES game I've surprisingly never have before... who knows, but what I do know is that it's certainly good by NES standards, and not a bad game to try out nowadays.
Gameplay: Aussie Rules Footy is as you would expect... but since I doubt most of you know how the sport works, let me explain. The idea is to get the ball and kick it between the goal posts. Kicking it between the two middle posts will reward you with six points (called a goal), and kicking between a short post and tall post will result in just one point (called a behind). If you get a behind, somebody from the opposing team will start from right in front of your goals, but if you get a goal, you'll be back at the center, ready to start again with the bounce, hoping to smack the ball towards one of your players. Like American football, you hold the ball with your hands, but unlike American football, you can't simply throw it; you have to either kick it or "cup" it (also known as handballing). You can only do the latter to pass to a team mate; otherwise, you'd get a behind. No touchdowns; you kick the ball through the posts. No exceptions.
But if that was all it was, it'd be no fun, plus you'd hardly ever get the ball from your opponents. So that's why, like American football, you can tackle your opponents, provided that they have the ball. In this game, you simply press B and, more often than not, you'll take them down and get the ball. However, if it starts looking like an orgy, then the umpire will take the ball and it'll be time for the bounce again - but at least it'll be where the orgy took place instead the center.
When you get close to the goal square, an accuracy bar will appear below, and you basically have to kick when the bar stops where you want it to be. For instance, if you're straight in front of the goals, you'd want to kick it when it hits the middle, and if the goal is on an angle, you'd want the bar to stop somewhere close to that angle. Ideally, you'd want to be in front of the goals because angled shots are a little tricky and can result in either a behind or getting it out of bounds - when it's out of bounds, you'll either kick it from there, or the umpire will throw it back in.
Replay Value: Like most sports games, Aussie Rules Football doesn't work as a single player game, well, not nearly as well as it does as a multiplayer game. You can play with a buddy... or even a few with the NES Satellite. Beyond that, once you get the hang of the game, there's not much to come back to. Each of the teams are interchangeable and none offer any differing difficulty... This is part of why sports games on older systems haven't really aged too well.
Controls: I'll be honest - this is kind of a tricky game to get the hang of. At first, the bounce will be confusing as you don't seem to be getting the ball, tackling will be strange as no tackling actually takes place, and finally, getting the goal kicking right is just tricky, period. I guess it's a good thing we only have two buttons. Anyway, on offense, you can either pass the ball or kick it, although passing is a little strange. Before the ball reaches the next player's hands, control switches over to them, meaning you'll run away from the ball. Typically, control should switch when they get the ball, not before. Anyway, on defense, you can either jump to catch the ball, or "tackle"... I say this because it ends up looking like you're nudging them, rather than tackling. Strange. As for the bounce, A jumps up and then smacks the ball to a player, and B, after jumping, slams it far with no aim. So while the controls take time to get the hang of... they're actually fairly good. Each command responds when you press the buttons (except the tackling sometimes), and after a little while, the control scheme will make a lot of sense to you.
Graphics: The game looks pretty mediocre. You can at least tell the teams apart and there's a marker of sorts to show you who you're controlling, but beyond that, it just looks bland. For the most part, you're just looking at the color green. Sure, it shouldn't be a bad thing as grass is green, but... man, these did not age well. Oh, there are some lines here and there, which manage to save my eyes from turning green! Amazingly, this is not something other older sports games *bleep*ed up - there's always a lot to look at when playing, say, Tecmo Bowl or Blades Of Steel. This is a case of the camera being a little too far zoomed in...
Audio: There's some music at the title screen, and then some more music during the menus. That's about it - on the field, aside from some sound effects like the crowd and the occasional whistle blow, it's silent. The music that is there doesn't sound bad, and it certainly serves its purpose as menu material, but that's about it. The lack of music on the field... is actually not bad. It lets you concentrate on just the football and nothing else, but if you want music that badly, well, you know what to do. But the best part is the crowd - they aren't there most of the time, but whether you're scoring or doing the bounce, oh boy, they're there, and when you score a goal, they just make it the best feeling out there.
Overall: Aussie Rules Footy is a good enough simulator for the NES. The big issue is its lack of lasting appeal - after a couple of weeks, you'll probably end up playing something else and forget that this game existed in your collection. It's a shame, because it's really not a bad game. It's fun for a while and all your friends can share in it too, and that's what it's all about - fun. It just doesn't last too long, that's all. Add in the mediocre production quality, and you got a game that's shy of greatness.
Replay Value: 3/10