FDS Video Games Tourney: Speed Racer Division


Welcome back, after an exciting NFL Sunday, to our FDS Best Sports Game tournament! Today I’m posting the results of the Speed Racer Division which is comprised of the 3rd ranked games in each category. Fight Night Round 4 narrowly beatout NFL Blitz to win the Thundercats division, and I suspect each division’s final will be similarly close. Tonight I bring to you the results of the Speed Racer Division, and the second member of our Best Sports Game tournament’s Final Four.

But first, an overview of the competition.

How it works: Through feedback from friends and family and hopefully some of you, games will advance through their brackets until I have reached a single game that will be crowned the Fourth Down Stand Sports Game Champion. I will create a post about one division every day, reviewing key ‘games’, announcing the winners of each round and finally crowning a divisional champion. Thursday November 10 I will write about the Final Four, and will crown the Fourth Down Stand Sports Game Champion on my birthday—Friday, November 11.

The following are the divisions, named after a few of my favorite childhood cartoons.

The Speed Racer Division:

NFL 2K5, Playstation 2, 2004 (3)                           vs.
MLB High Heat 2003, Xbox, 2003 (3)


The majority of my MLB High Heat experience was with Andrew on a Playstation 2 at his mom’s house. Gameplay and graphics are leaps and bounds better than it’s predecessor, High Heat 2002, but developer 3DO added features such as player creation, fantasy drafts, a home run derby, and even the ability to adjust any player’s abilities to really raise the bar. This makes playing the game much more enjoyable, and allowed gamers who don’t buy a title annually to adjust for player’s skill gains to make it feel more realistic. While High Heat brought a lot to the table, nothing compared to NFL 2K5’s impact on the gaming community. 2K5 brought features that football games had never before seen, some of the more notable being a Virtual Identify Profile allowing players to keep track of human opponent’s behaviors, and an early version of what is now known as the ‘hit stick’ for crushing tackles. ESPN sponsored the game, headlined by Chris Berman and Suzy Kolber, and even contained a ‘show’ hosted by Mel Kiper Jr. and Trey Wingo. 2K Sports’ return to the market couldn’t have been much better, and I believe their success is what brought EA Sports to purchase NFL exclusivity rights for their Madden.

Winner: NFL 2K5
Edge: Player Experience, ESPN Sponsorship, Never before seen features

Top Spin, Xbox, 2003, (3)                                        vs.
Paper Boy, NES, 1984 (3)

Top Spin was another title, similar to Virtua Tennis, that was included when you purchased an Xbox console. Although most people didn’t give the game a chance at first, after you popped it in once you just couldn’t stop playing it. Similar to Virtua Tennis, it brought tennis video games to a completely new level. I loved this game, and even picked up Top Spin 2 after it was released. Unfortunately for Top Spin though, is that Paper Boy is up there with not only the best NES video games, but is easily one of the best video games regardless of console. The gameplay was easy—simply steer and time your throws, avoid dogs and puddles, and make it through the neighborhood—but I can’t remember many other games I spent as much time playing. I remember distinctly loving it when my parents hired a babysitter, not because I would sneak out of the house or raise hell, but because my parents had limits on my NES time, whereas our babysitter did not. I was free to play the game for hours, then sneak some time watching MTV or South Park before I went to bed.

Winner: Paper Boy
Edge: Hours of gameplay, Classic style

NBA Street 2, Playstation 2, 2003 (3)                    vs.
NHL ’99, Nintendo 64, 1998 (3)

NBA Street was obviously the basketball equivalent to NFL Blitz, bringing hard its, bone-breaking jukes, and absurd dunks to a basketball court that looks like its located in Queens. On one hand, we had Street that brought a taste of NBA Jam, NFL Blitz, and an arcade game to your household TV.  On the other hand you have NHL ’99 for N64. This was the first hockey game that actually felt right with the introduction of the joystick on the unique N64 controller. I was always the unstoppable team—The Detroit Red Wings—made up of stars like Steve Yzerman, Chris Osgood, Chris Chelios, Nicklas Lidstrom, Brendan Shanahan, and the speedster Sergei Fedorov who almost guaranteed me a win in every game. It was an inspiration that evolved into the hockey games we have now, and therefore somewhat of a service to the National Hockey League for creating more fans. I may be one of those fans, who doesn’t know much about the teams, stats or players, but I am a fan in the first place because of video games.

Winner: NHL ’99
Edge: Influence on fans, Inspirational and natural feeling controls

Mortal Kombat 4, Arcade and N64, 1998 (3)       vs.
Kick Off 2, Various 1990 (3)

Our final first round game in the Speed Racer division comes down to Mortal Kombat 4 and Kick Off 2. The Mortal Kombat franchise had been wildly successful prior to the release of MK4, the trend certainly didn’t change in ’98. Classic characters, brutal finishing moves, and the theatrical success of Mortal Kombat: Annihilation in 1997 all attributed to ensuring the game’s success. ‘Finish Him!’ became an everyday phrase in the vocabulary of Andrew, me, and thousands of other teenagers across the country. For NES, Kick Off 2 was one of the first decent soccer games, but the controls were frustrating enough to prevent it from becoming a true phenomenon. There’s no doubt that Kick Off 2 brought a few fans to soccer, but it just can’t compete with Mortal Kombat and therefore fails to advance to the second round.

Winner: Mortal Kombat 4
Edge: Addictive gameplay, Joystick controls, Improved graphics.

Round 2:

NFL 2K5, Playstation 2, 2004 (3)                           vs.
Paper Boy, NES, 1984 (3)

Winner: NFL 2K5

Mortal Kombat 4, Arcade and N64, 1998 (3)       vs.
NHL ’99, Nintendo 64, 1998 (3)

Winner: Mortal Kombat 4

Round 3:

NFL 2K5, Playstation 2, 2004 (3)                           vs.
Mortal Kombat 4, Arcade and N64, 1998 (3)

Winner: NFL 2K5

NFL 2K5 takes its division, but not without a fight. Mortal Kombat 4 was a classic in both arcades and living rooms, but the role 2K5 played in inspiring future football games was too much for it to overcome. 2K5 will surely make for an interesting matchup with the winner of the Darkwing Duck division.

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