We have fond memories of the 16-bit era of console gaming here at 51allout. In fact our bunker is still pretty much evenly split between the two camps, with one side claiming the Mega Drive was the superior console because its version of Mortal Kombat had blood in it, whilst the other side points at Mode 7, the Super FX chip and other such technological marvels of the modern age as the reason for the Super Nintendo’s superiority. The two consoles similarly split opinions when it came to cricket games. The Mega Drive had Brian Lara Cricket, which we’ll cover at some point in this series (if only because it was bloody brilliant), whilst the Super Nintendo had…
It comes as something of a surprise to learn that the developers of Super International Cricket (SIC) were a now defunct Australian outfit called Beam Software. Surprising because the game gives the impression of being made by someone whose cricketing knowledge was based on watching 30 seconds of highlights on a grainy television screen somewhere in Eastern Europe, followed up with a quick flip through an old law book which was missing half of its pages. The fare offered up in SIC is as broad an approximation of the game of cricket as you could probably imagine. Much like how Jesse Ryder is a very broad approximation of your typical athlete.
SIC has all the standard options, allowing both limited overs games and, for the masochists out there, Test matches. Whatever the format though, most games are fast, brutal affairs, and are over quicker than your typical Jesse Ryder boxing bout. The game doesn’t feature any real players unfortunately, but over the years we’ve developed a strange affection for the likes of the moustached Australian fast bowler S. Scott, or the versatile English middle order batsman A. Thewlis. Every game takes place in the same stadium, which looks like a dystopian vision of the SCG, had it been built by socialist architects, all jutting concrete and tightly packed masses. Matches are also accompanied by a swinging Caribbean style sound track, that takes all of 30 seconds to become insanely irritating.
The game itself plays much like you might expect if you’ve ever played any sort of cricket game before. Thankfully though there’s no button mashing, or ‘waggling of joysticks’, involved in bowling. You just move the cursor, choose a type of delivery and bowl. In a rare and touching nod to the real thing, you need to press the button again to actually deliver the ball. Presumably the closer to the popping crease you release the ball the more effective the delivery, but lobbing the thing from ten yards behind the umpire seems to also work fairly well. Batting is similarly straightforward. There’s a button for front foot shots, back foot shots, defensive shots and the old hoick to cow corner that, reminiscent of Jesse Ryder’s batting with Pune this season, invariably leads to a spooned catch to cover.
Off the square though is when things get really weird. If there is one major flaw to SIC (and there is), it’s the fielding. It is rubbish. Players seemingly can’t pick the ball up until it’s stopped unless they dive on it, meaning you’re often reduced to running alongside the ball, repeatedly throwing yourself to the ground in a desperate effort to pick the damn thing up. This isn’t helped by the fact the outfield is tiny and the ball flies along at a rapid pace whilst your fielder crawls Ryder-like after it. It’s not much easier for the batsmen though. Each player has a ‘speed’ rating, meaning if you have a fast runner batting with a slower one, you can often nearly lap each other when attempting anything more than a single.
Running between wickets has been the bane of many a cricket game, but it can actually be quite fun at times here. If you have two speedsters at the wicket you could have a great time. Even better in two-player mode was to try and tempt the opposition to shy at the stumps by constantly ducking in and out of the crease. Since most fielders are about as lazy as Jesse Ryder, backing up the stumps rarely happens, meaning overthrows are a common occurrence. In fact they’re so common it’s often better to just run in and take out stumps by hand rather than risk throwing the ball.
One of the more unique additions offered by the game is the inclusion of an ‘appeal’ button, which must rank up there with the short lived ‘dive’ button in FIFA as an idea that must have sounded good on paper but is horrible in practice. Much like Pune’s decision to sign Jesse Ryder last season. As the bowling side if you want an LBW decision you have to do the old fashioned thing and appeal for it. Which in practice meant that every delivery ended with the sort of mass insistent appealing that Harbhajan Singh would be proud of, before someone ran in and smashed the stumps to buggery to finish things off.
As mentioned in the opening, as a package SIC is a strange affair, with only a passing resemblance to the real thing. Any sort of tactical manoeuvring is thrown out of the window and games inevitably descend into trying to smash the ball at every opportunity. While there is a block button, you’re best advised avoiding it altogether and instead emulating the Jesse Ryder approach to constructing an innings. In single player mode the game quickly gets dull, and, quite frankly, there’s nothing like bowling at a computer controlled batsman to make you seriously consider what you’re doing with your life. In multi-player mode though the game shines, and in this format it still holds up reasonably well today.
While you’d be hard pressed to describe the action in SIC as ‘cricket’, as the batsman dances over the pitch chasing the cursor and the fielding team tries to conjure up every underhand gambit possible to remove him (packing the offside is always a favourite), it is undeniably fun. In fact SIC is so fun we’re baffled as to why Beam Software’s approach has not been emulated (of course if there has been a release in this vein that we have missed, please let us know). With countless examples out there of games that attempted to create a sober simulation of the sport yet inevitably fell flat on their arse, like Ryder attempting a diving save in the covers, a more free-spirited approach here has worked wonders.
As bizarre a game as it may be (we haven’t even mentioned the little clip of a seagull being brained when you hit a boundary), SIC is well worth the effort of dusting off the SNES (if you’re living in the past) or firing up the Wii Virtual Console system (if you’re living slightly less in the past). And if you lack access to either of the above options, the spare change required to get a hold of a copy is a far better investment of your resources than the millions that Pune wasted on Jesse Ryder last season.