News Article

Matters Of Import: Welcome To The Bizarre World Of Namco's Numan Athletics

Posted by Kerry Brunskill

'80s popstar Gary Numan sadly not involved

Nintendo’s Virtual Console service has been a constant treasure trove of classic gaming for many years now, covering hundreds of titles across some of the greatest systems to ever exist. It’s thrown up more than a few unexpected surprises along the way too – including this Japan-only port of the previously arcade exclusive Numan Athletics.

The game first graced arcades all the way back in 1993, the same year that also saw arcade goers faced with the terrible situation of choosing whether to put their coins into Super Street Fighter II or Mortal Kombat II. Numan Athletics didn’t set the world on fire but it did gain enough fans to warrant a sequel in 1995 (Mach Breakers, again arcade only) and a couple of downgraded ports to Japanese mobile phones about a decade after that. This Wii Virtual Console release came pretty much out of the blue on the 28th of April 2009, and is sadly the only way to play this madcap sports game at home without tracking down an arcade board.

The game immediately sets itself apart from the endless procession of Track & Field clones with the setting – this is sports turned up to eleven and run through an anime filter. The standard sprint event has players running so fast they casually overtake a drag racer and the plain old triple jump is transformed into something far more interesting when it’s done over the Niagara Falls. There’s more to the game than simply giving familiar sports a lick of paint and a shamelessly '90s techno soundtrack courtesy of Namco composer Nobuoshi Sano (Ridge Racer series), though – before long players are judged on how well they can push back an oncoming bullet train at a Japanese railway station in the “VS Express” event, and how fast they can destroy a variety of oversized monsters living in the Antarctic ocean in “Numan Sniper”.

There are four characters to play as, with each one representing a different country – Sharon (France), Harry (USA), Masaemon (Japan), and lastly the dubiously-named Bongo representing — where else? — Kenya. Each athlete is tied to a particular joystick/player slot, just like old Gauntlet arcade machines. To try and avoid arcade brawls over who gets to play as who, everyone is equally capable in all fields, even if logic would dictate that the muscular Bongo looks like he’d be much better at destroying boulders in “Non Stop Rock Chop” than the demure, pigtailed Sharon. Events are a mix of single and multiplayer competitions and if the players can’t reach the pass requirements first time around each continue used makes it a little easier to get through, so even the most inexperienced button-masher can get see the end with a bit of patience.

Numan Athletics is the distilled essence of what makes arcade games so exciting – it’s over the top, noisy, bold – and fun. As with all the very best multiplayer games it’s easy to grasp and get everyone around the Wii together, but it has enough depth to reward skilled gamers and will encourage lone players back again and again to beat their best scores. At just 800 points for this excellent arcade party game, there’s no question this is an absolute bargain. It's just a shame that it never made it to the western Virtual Console service.

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User Comments (19)



MAB said:

Looks like someone barfed on a massive pile of poop then kicked it at the Wii... What an abomination



Mr_Nose said:

The only other way to play this is on MAME. These are the kinds of big, beefy arcade games that the VC needs, not NES versions of arcade games. Wii virtual arcade was sadly underused. I had such high hopes for it. The VC platform is perfect for this sort of thing. Come on, don't let it end with D&D chronicles.



Damo said:

@MAB If it was Sega and not Namco behind this then I'm guessing your opinion would be different



JJtheTexan said:

Everything's in English! There's no reason for them not to port this to the West... sigh



Technosphile said:

I prefer Mach Breakers.

Also, there's a Namco Gals gashapon figure set with Sharon in it. So if you're a big fan..



luke88 said:

"Nintendo’s Virtual Console service has been a constant treasure trove of classic gaming for many years now" Has it really? Whilst I would admit there have been some highlights, I personally agree with the article on here a few weeks back calling for Nintendo to do better with it's VC



MAB said:

@Damo Nah, I like SNK NEO GEO and they still have better classics to release yet... But this game should be sent to the fires of hell



KingMike said:

More like it's a shame Namco released like 50 VC Arcade games in Japan and only three somewhat obscure games in the west.
(yes, I'm counting Mappy as obscure because Namco hasn't really done much with him since the '80s, so he's not as well known anymore)



KeeperBvK said:

The other article was about WiiU and 3DS VC.
This article talks about Wii VC. And Wii VC has certainly seen tons of great games over the last few years.



Rebel81 said:

Still have thé pcb at home, so no reason to het a Japanese Wii for this game/.



luke88 said:

@KeeperBvK ha, totally rumbled me; didn't even read the whole article . Though I do still think that even the wii vc never turned into the service I expected it would be when it was first announced, wasn't there only twenty or twenty one n64 games? One of those was Cruisin' USA as well wasn't it?



ToniK said:

"Missile toss"... doesn't get more bada*s than that! I used to play lots of Track & Field so I kinda have a thing for these kind of games. Although I would worry about the well-being of my controllers The old NES gamepads got so scratched



Game-Over said:

Is the Wii classic pro controller still available in the shops?, a lot of virtual console games are redundant without it.

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