I have a confession to make: I have never understood the appeal of 8-bit era games. It’s largely because I am simply a bit too young to have experienced them properly first hand. I was a child of the 16-bit era, where the Super Nintendo was God and everything else couldn’t help looking terribly inferior. Sure, I am not completely immune to the charm of earlier games; my addiction to Super Mario Brothers 2 is such that my preferred method of imbibing it these days is to simply inject the game directly into my veins. But when it comes to rather rougher classics, such as International Cricket on the NES, I am somewhat at a loss as to its appeal over its bigger brother, Super International Cricket.
The two games are, once you look past the understandably weaker graphics of the NES title, pretty similar. Which is not all that surprising considering both were the product of Australian developers, Beam Software. Beam’s other notable NES title (for Australian audiences at least), was Aussie Rules Footy, a simulation of a sport that one quarter of the Australian population, like with me and Mario 2, would inject if they could. Meanwhile everyone else would rather kill their own mother than be forced to watch it. I happen to sit firmly in the latter camp. Sorry mum. But both International Cricket and Aussie Rules Footy share the same presentation, which includes awful (sorry, it really is) menu music, and grass so green it makes us feel violently ill after looking at it for too long.
International Cricket contains many of the features of the SNES version. You have a normal hit button and a slog button. Sadly though you can’t walk all around the pitch in this version, which cuts down on the potential for trolling the bowler a bit. Interestingly when batting you cannot see a ball cursor on the pitch, which means you have to, heaven forbid, actually watch the ball in order to hit it. Which means David Warner must be really shit at this game. This is actually one of the ‘innovations’ we wanted to introduce in our ‘Steve Smith International Cricket’ (not Warner being shit – that can be taken for granted – but the lack of a cursor), having completely forgotten that this game had already done it years ago. Just goes to show how much research we put into our articles.
Bowling is, of course, rubbish, being only slightly redeemed by the fact that the fielding is even worse. The AI is really awful, and runs itself out quicker than Shane Watson. It also misses every second straight ball. Again, much like Shane Watson. Which means that playing on your own is a complete waste of time because if you aren’t bowling the computer out for totals less than 20, you should just admit that video games aren’t for you and move onto something else, like knitting. But the AI being rubbish is a failing common with most cricket games, so you can’t really criticise it too much for that, especially considering the technology they were working with. In two player mode the game is much better, of course. That is if you can actually convince anyone to sit down and play it with you.
Whilst the graphics are admittedly pretty bad, and the frame rate when the ball is in the outfield is particularly choppy, the game does feature some fairly decent animations at the fall of a wicket. If you happen to take a hat-trick you even get a happy smiling cricket ball bounce past by way of reward. Or when dismissed for a duck, the batsmen literally turns into a duck. Not even the IPL can claim to be able to do that. The sound effects however barely deserve mentioning, so we won’t bother.
But those animations aside, there is precious little that is actually ‘fun’ about International Cricket. That it delivers a fundamentally flawed simulation of the sport can be forgiven on account of the archaic technology (but at least you didn’t have to be online to play the NES, take that Microsoft fanboys). What is less forgivable though is just how drab everything is. The nausea inducing green of the outfield sets the stage for what is a thoroughly underwhelming experience. It’s just not very exciting. Ever. Mario Tennis managed to be interesting whilst still looking like shit, whereas this fails on both accounts.
The game today retains a certain value (not monetary sadly, we tried to swap our copy for a bottle of Gordon’s Gin with no success) owing to the important role it played in the growth of the genre as a whole, and the fact that it presumably did well enough for its publishers to warrant the development of its far more credentialed sequel on the Super Nintendo. So we would advise, therefore, appreciating the game today as a historical milestone for cricket games only, and doing everything possible to avoid actually having to play it.