The Game Gear Directory: (Fi-Fr)

Oh for god's sake, they're all sports games.

FIFA International Soccer (1994)

Dazzling from the off, there's clearly a lot of time and effort gone into this game, not to mention money. It feels polished to a fault, and presents what I'd deem one of the more overtly premium Game Gear titles I've covered to date. Tons of modes right from the off, with Exhibition games, Tournament play, Playoffs and a League for you to get stuck into, complete with the ability to restore progress with a password system. There's even the option to turn on different weather effects for the field. Of course, football games are generally not my thing, so I can only be so unbiased in my coverage thereof; I enjoyed playing the match that I did, in the sense that I felt it struck a decent balance in terms of actually being fun to play while adhering to the rules of football itself; Fouls, incidentally, are turned off by default, because I can only assume developer Tiertex knew that would be more fun. I can't speak to whether this plays a cracker of a game of football - I simply don't know - but I liked it, despite the game's seeming tendency to not let me switch to the player I necessarily wanted to. Still, I don't have the manual so maybe I missed something. Nonetheless, this is a stonker of a cartridge, and to give it less than five stars on the basis that I don't really care about footy would be fairly egregious. *****

FIFA Soccer 96 (1995)

Oh, no, what's happened here? Going from Tiertex to Black Pearl/Probe seems to have buggered things up a bit. While the visuals are slightly more complex, with a deeper use of colour, the gameplay has gone to pot - it's slow, awkward and lacks challenge. I shouldn't be scoring a goal within the first seconds of the game, the opposing team running around like headless chickens. All the modes seem to be present and correct, though there no longer seems to be a way to restore league progress, which seems like an absurd thing to excise. Overall it's quite simply a markedly worse product than the previous year's effort, so I don't see any reason to bother with this whatsoever. *

Foreman For Real (1995)

Not gonna lie, I enjoy the man's grills, but this boxing sim plays like I've suffered a head injury. While the muscular torsos of the athletes are rendered impressively well, it all goes to pot when you see the dreadful animations, boxer's arms contorting bizarrely in service of a fighting system so simplistic and yet confusing that it beggars belief. It's ugly as sin, too, with flat black backgrounds, not to mention the complete lack of any music during matches. Nice, crunchy punch sound effects would make up for this, but again I found myself let down. Two modes (exhibition and tourney), no link-up play, no chance. Avoid. *

Frank Thomas' Big Hurt Baseball (1995)

I know next to nothing about baseball. Now, BASEketball, yes. I enjoyed Namco's Batter Up for its joyful simplicity, but Big Hurt Baseball seems to offer something of an opposite experience. Pages of stats and names and things that mean absolutely nothing to me. Not the game's fault, of course, but it does undermine my enjoyment. Still, it is crisp and clean, with lovely menus and pretty strong visuals. There are a ton of modes to enjoy, and it all seems like it's probably good if you're into the sport. I'm not, so I need an arcadey and breezy take. This isn't that, but I find it difficult to fault otherwise. ***

Fred Couples Golf (1994)

Part of the reasonably long-running Sega Sports brand, Fred Couples Golf doesn't really put its best foot forward, funnelling you through tedious menus with a frustrating, repeating music loop every time the screen changes. It goes on like this for so long it's almost comical, before throwing you into a very mechanics-focused game of golf, with none of the sense of freedom the game usually instils. It's all business, and there's actually something quite refreshing about that. Like most golf games it's quite a lot of fun, as it's a sport that translates well to video games. There are a good number of modes and it's only the repetitive music and innumerable steps to get into an actual game that bring it down for me. When it lets you play the game, it's pretty good fun! ***

Next: (G-Ge)