Sunday, September 14, 2014

Shades of Resonance: Fond Reminiscence - Memory Log #13

The Super Challenge Sports Games

Mine was the typical older brother: He had his large group of friends with whom he'd always be hanging out, and he simply had no inclination to spend any time with his younger sibling whose favorite activities included repeatedly flicking light switches on and off and sprinting around the living room table for no apparent reason (pssh--he didn't know what he was missing). Sadly, in those formative years, I never got the chance to play many multiplayer 2600 games with my brother outside of a few rounds of Combat, Armor Ambush, Outlaw, Miniature Golf, and the like.

There were, of course, a few outlier moments. We did manage to squeeze out more than a few of our most memorable co-op experiences in the form of the Super Challenge sports games, which included baseball and football.

Sports games, like shooters, were never among my favorites, but I found Super Challenge Baseball to be a ton of fun, if not for its convincingly replicated baseball action then for how things would tend to go wrong. Baseball was fast-paced and had twitch-based controls, which I liked, but the 2600 controller's limited input, which created challenge separate from the actual baseball. You were, after all, controlling an entire team of fielders using only a single button and four axes (when the ball is in play, you hold the button and tap in a direction to activate the corresponding player). Our problem was that we could never activate the right and left fielders properly or in timely fashion, since doing so required double-tapping left and right in lieu of diagonal input; this meant that it was more convenient to use infielders (and not even the center fielder, whose activation required double-tapping upward twice) to field balls hit to the outfield. 

The controls were sometimes so unreliable that we'd devolve into that spastic mode where we'd rapidly, uncontrollably cycle between the second basemen, center fielder and catcher until the hitter was long since safe and it really didn't matter who was activated. There were times when my brother would become so exasperated that he'd just give up and field an outfield hit using the catcher, making me laugh by yelling "I'm cooooooooomin'!" while he slowly ran toward the ball and watched as I rounded the bases for my usual unearned triple.

Control issues aside, we had a lot of good times with Super Challenge Baseball. Specifically, I remember how my brother used to torment me by wandering all along the base-path, threatening to steal second anytime he got on; he knew it was annoying and distracting, which is why he enjoyed doing it so much. I wouldn't have gotten so mad at him had he not refused to teach me how he was leading off the bases, which I could never figure out on my own no matter how much I experimented with the controls. I still have no clue how he was doing it. 

I guess some mysteries weren't meant to be solved.

We had an easier time of controlling things in Super Challenge Football, which, for the better, had less in the way of interactivity. Initiating your offensive and defensive schemes was merely a matter of addressing each player and inputting a command (push down to assign blocking duty or tap the button to instruct the player to break through the pack) before the ball was snapped. Really, I had no idea how the sport worked, and my brother had no intention of explaining the details, but I was aware of the only aspect that mattered to me: If I could outrun the defense, I'd score the touchdowns needed to defeat my big brother, who was a master of these games (outfielding issues notwithstanding) and usually the winner.

This time, though, we were equally adept at pulling off the game's only "advanced technique." And by that I mean an exploitable glitch that allowed the main defender to run through the screen and appear on the other side, where he could easily tackle the quarterback. We'd eventually come to the agreement that neither of us would resort to using such measures, but then it always became a matter of how long my brother would go before breaking his promise.

He was kind of mean.


  1. I don't remember how we did it, but my younger brother and I used to steal bases all the time too, which led to some hard feelings and completely derailed many a game of virtual baseball. I think we knew about the running through the wrong side of the screen and onto the other side glitch too in the football game. Atari 2600 Boxing was another sports favorite of ours--we used corner trap one another which was virtually impossible to escape.

  2. I assumed the "Difficulty" switches might have had something to do with it, but I didn't experience any change when I switched either of them to B.

    Some people just weren't meant to experience base-stealing in "Super Challenge Baseball."

    That's how life is sometimes.