Nintendo's Track & Field II: Are you sure that hang gliding and arm wrestling are Olympic sports?
August 21, 2015
On the eve of the 1988 Summer Olympic Games held in Seoul, South Korea, video game giant Konami released Track & Field II for the Nintendo Entertainment System. A sequel to the hugely popular arcade game of the same name, Track & Field II boasted many improvements to its predecessor such as offering a choice of countries that the player could represent, as well as a much expanded series of athletic events, from six in the original to 15. This is where things get interesting…
The original Track & Field featured events that would predictably occur in a game called “Track & Field,” including the 100 meter dash, long jump, high jump, javelin throw, hurdles and hammer throw. Evidently, Komami sought to push the envelope with Track & Field II and, because the game was timed around the summer Olympics, it made perfect sense to expand into other Olympic events. So, the content of the game was trending toward something that might appropriately be titled “Summer Olympic Games,” but instead called "Track & Field II" to no doubt leverage the success and name recognition of the original. So far, so good. The expanded events included everything from traditional track events to swimming, diving, taekwondo and skeet shooting. Oh, and there are a couple more “bonus” events: hang gliding, arm wrestling and “gun shooting.” Hmmm…I’m no Olympicologist (although we did have the “ Olympic Triplecast” box for the 1992 Barcelona games so my family and I could watch obscure weight lifting events any time during the day or night), but I’m pretty sure hang gliding, arm wrestling and gun shooting are neither Olympic sports nor track and field events.
Now Komami had already proven resourceful and opportunistic with their titling and timing, but I think they may have pushed a little hard on this one. In regards to the arm wrestling event, I have a sneaking suspicion that they were trying to ride the coat tails of Sylvester Stallone’s 1987 film Over the Top – quite possibly the best movie ever made about a guy that enters an arm wrestling contest to win a truck. As for where they got the idea for hang gliding and gun shooting, all I can say is, “hey, it’s the ‘80s.”
So, Track & Field II was an ambitious game, and not a bad one by the way. I guess my only complaint would be the title was a bit misleading. Perhaps a more appropriate title would have been: “Unrelated Sport Events and Other Popular Activities.” What do you think?