Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Top 5. Volume 21.

My Top 5 Most Unstoppable Video Game Athletes.

A little preamble:

After years and years and years with a healthy obsession of the Madden video games, I haven't been a gigantic fan of Madden for PS3 compared to PS2, so I haven't bought the game in a few years now.  However, during those last few years, I've watched Lane play countless games of Madden, sitting alongside him on the couch, drinking beers and helping him run the offense (Finn runs the Special Teams.)  So if you're scoring at home, the dude who used to run through 6-7 full seasons every year for roughly fifteen years, now gets his kicks by playing Offensive Coordinator for his buddy while he shit-talks teenagers on an online headset.  I'm like the pothead who quits smoking weed, but still sits in the car with his buddies every time they decide to hotbox their 1991 Honda Civic with 38 bumper stickers on it.

A few months back we've got Madden fired up; Lane is the Giants, and he's playing the Redskins. And Robert Griffin III is just putting on a show.  Scrambling around in the pocket for 10 seconds, then either launching a 40-yard completion, or taking off and running for 15 yards.  Even when Lane had three defenders ready to wrap him up for a sack or miniscule gain, zip!  See ya.  20 yard gain.  Lane usually plays a grind-it-out, ball-control, you-better-score-every-time-you-touch-the-ball-because-you're-only-getting-four-possessions-bro-type of style.  And somehow this online kid hung 42 points on him.  There wasn't much that could be done.  RGIII was basically unstoppable.  And it got me to thinking about the biggest video game studs of my lifetime.

(Note:  this is a personal list.  These are the video game characters that have brought me the most success.  I outlawed players who the game was named after.  Playing as the Seattle Mariners isn't even fair or realistic in Ken Griffey Jr. Baseball; ditto for Charles Barkley, Frank Thomas, the list goes on and on.  Also outlawed from this list:  Bo Jackson.  It's not even an argument that Bo is the most unstoppable video game character of all-time; somebody should write a book about it, if they haven't already.  Starting with Tecmo Bowl for Nintendo, and continuing through every video game we ever played, we outlawed every team that Bo played for.  Even as elementary schoolers, we tried to keep it a Gentleman's Game.)

5.  Charlie Ward/Kordell Stewart, Bill Walsh College Football '93

College football has mostly fallen off the map for me now, and I've sorta become a KU fan only because I live here and I might as well be since the tailgates are fun.  However, when I was a kid, I was actually a diehard fan, and followed the sport as much as any other.  Florida St. was my team, and Charlie Ward my favorite college player of all time (even more than Deion Sanders, which is saying something.)  However, in the fall of '94 I went to Boulder with my Pops while he gave a presentation at the University of Colorado, and while we were walking on campus, I bumped into Kordell Stewart and got to talk to him, a couple weeks after this happened.  I was 11 years old, starstruck, already a sucker for black scrambling quarterbacks with accuracy issues, and boom:  I had a favorite player dilemma on my hands.  One that quickly carried over into Bill Walsh College Football on my Sega.

I was equally capable of putting up a 400 yard throwing/150 yard running/8 TD type of game with either one of them.  I probably had a little more success with Kordell, but that can be explained by the fact that he was throwing to Michael Westbrook and Charles Johnson, rather than Kez McCorvery and Tamarick Vanover.  I could never choose between them.  If this was a Beverly Hills 90210 ultimatum, and tiny digital Charlie Ward had asked me to marry him, and tiny digital Kordell Stewart asked me to go on a trip around the world with him (Kordell would definitely be the Dylan) I would have to pull a Kelly Taylor and say "I've made my choice, and I choose me."

4.  Reggie Miller, NBA Live '95

This list HAS to have a three-point shooting representative from NBA Live '95, and Reggie got the nod over Nick Van Exel, Dan Majerle, Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, and others.  Few video game scoring binges were more fun than a good old fashioned NBA Live '95 three-point binge.  Also, there was this game.  Reggie Miller lookin' good.

3.  Koopa Troopa, Super Mario Kart

EVERYONE (or to be more specific, everyone that I'm interesting in being friends with) knows that Koopa and Toad were the two best Mario Kart characters for the Super Nintendo version.  Mario and Luigi's steering was too loose, and it took way too long for Bowser and Donkey Kong to get up to top speed.  I suppose Princess and Yoshi are decent in a pinch, but really they're just back-of-the-rotation starting pitchers: they'll eat up some innings, but you don't want them involved in Game 7 of the World Series if you can help it.  But Koopa and Toad: Cy Young winners.  Good acceleration, precision handling.  Their top speed left a little to be desired-- but you don't need to worry about anyone catching you from behind when you're hugging the inside lane perfectly on every turn and running through the track exactly how it's designed to be run.

2. Michael Vick, Madden '04

In my Madden heyday, I never liked to play seasons with amazing teams. Anybody can go 14-2 and win the Super Bowl with the Patriots in 2005-- you're not proving anything, bro. I would always take mediocre teams, or young teams who barely made the playoffs and were on the cusp of breaking out. Teams with sweet jerseys were always a plus. For all these reasons I was excited to start a season with the Falcons in 2003 (as well as the fact that Vick was a BLACKSCRAMBLINGQUARTERBACK.  With  ACCURACY ISSUES.)

Then I started the first game and realized that for some reason the game programmers made Michael Vick a god. In old school video games, you're supposed to rack up unbelievable stats; those games are only supposed to be difficult when you're a little kid. As you get older, you're supposed to dominate. But this is Madden we're talking about. There are higher difficulty settings, and it's supposed to be more realistic-- you're not supposed to be able to throw for 400 yards and run for 200, with 7 TDs. And yet, that's exactly what I did with Vick, virtually every game, all season long. Of course, in real life, Vick broke his leg and missed most the season, and the programmers brought his attributes back down to Earth the next year. But every Madden gamer will always remember Michael Vick in 2004.

1.  Steve Yzerman, NHL '94

Stevie Y was the pinnacle of my video game powers.  There was nothing I couldn't do with him.  You know those real-life stories of players like Jordan or Bird, who would get bored with their competition and start screwing around during games to make it more fun for themselves, like shooting left-handed, or telling their defender what play they were going to run and the exact spot on the floor where the game-winning shot was going to come from?  That was the kind of stuff I would do with Yzerman:  I'm not going to attempt a shot with him this game, but he is going to have 17 assists.  He's going to hold the puck for the entire second period without losing it, then he's going to give it to Dino Cicarelli, who will go down the right boards into the corner, then sling it back to Yzerman coming down the middle, and bury a one-timer.  I'm going to win this opening face-off, go right down the ice, and Yzerman is going to score, and exactly seven seconds will have run off the clock.  You just didn't fuck with me and Yzerman. 

I often used to play with my buddy Marcus and his older brother Chad, who was your typical older brother antagonist.  He'd mercilessly roll Marcus, wiping out his players with vicious checks, while chanting "GOON IT UP!  GOON IT UP!" and scoring 10 goals with Steve Larmer and yelling "SOUND THE ALARM-ER!!!!" after each one.  But when it was time for Chad to play me, he quickly quieted down and took the game seriously, since he knew he was about to run into Yzerman and me.  A player good enough to shut up a cocky older brother?  In the video game world, that might be the ultimate sign of respect.