|The front of the box, concealed inside is responsiveness, maximum directional control and real competitive advantage, seriously.|
You don't really see anything like this anymore on the current video game
market. Whatever happened to crappy, poorly designed, barely functional
accessories? I mean come on, remember R.O.B. or the UForce? What
happened to that mentality and the hilarious attempts at marketing such junk?
Sigh, now you understand why I'm so obsessed with the 8-Bit era, there's just so
much crap lying about that if you need a quick upper or something to laugh at,
look no further. The Master System was not completely exempt from this hilarity
either, and for my next accessory article, I've decided to tackle one of the better
ideas (in terms of suck) to ever be puked onto the public. Here it is, baby, the
Sega Sports Pad. Well, up there I mean.
I like using box pictures to open articles, mainly because I don't have to bother taking one of myself in a ridiculous position trying to be funny, but also because they typically give the clearest view of what you're in for. This thing is a beast. Seriously, it has to be one of the most bulky controllers I've ever laid my hands on and is now in the running for bulkiest in history. Measuring a sickly 19.1 centimeters across (7.5 inches), 11.4 in width (4.5 inches) and a thick, monstrous, manly 5.1 centimeters (2 inches) in girth, this controller was certainly made to please. America started having this sick idea of "bigness" a few decades ago and it only seems to be getting worse, though it doesn't necessarily apply here. It's interesting that Sega decided to release this accessory only in the states considering how hard it would be for the Master System with Nintendo governing a totally rude monopoly. I guess they figured they'd shoot the load. Wow, I hope you caught that one considering the above humor. Anyway, let's get into history a bit before going further.
The back of the pad with all four real edges captured in the picture. strong>
The Sports Pad, to begin, is a trackball controller. For those of you that don't
know, a trackball controller is simply a controller that utilizes a sphere as the
main source of movement. By rotating the sphere in any direction, you can move
your character. It had its heyday in the arcades and is even still
used to some extent, but currently only on sports titles, most of which are usually
golf. The reason
and the problem is that the trackball has limited application. In theory it can
move all over the place, but in practice it really doesn't matter unless the game
you're playing is tailored to fit the usage of the ball, otherwise it's pointless.
Some classic titles were games like Centipede and Marble Madness. If you're
familiar with these, you see why it works. Centipede requires you to only move
back and forth on the bottom for the most part, so a quick roll to the left or right
works well. Marble Madness is perfect for the trackball because along with
smooth movement, you're controlling a marble, so it's almost like the trackball is
the actual marble in the game. Those are good examples, though.
As you may well assume at this point, the poor trackball really only found its usage in games with limited motion for your character or whatever, or where multi-directional movement with the ball was key to the game. Other than this, it's not an advantage over the traditional joystick for any other type of game. Quite simply it could be an extreme disadvantage if not used properly. Most arcade golf titles will use the trackball because of the ability to adjust the speed to hit your ball based on how hard you spin it. It really works well to make the swing aspect of the game more involved. Other than this, the trackball is severely limited and you don't see it anymore at home other than on expensive mice for your computer. Because of its limited application, very few games were made utilizing it. Even in the arcade, from the early 70s up until now, there are probably only around forty or so games that used the trackball, that's it. There were almost no consoles, though the ill-fated Pippin had one on the controller. I don't think it was standard though, just part of the set- up and more of an additional feature. Someone else thought otherwise, however...
Sega appears to be the only company, ever, to attempt to make the trackball a usable controller. Sega of America released the Sports Pad in 1986, right when the SMS was starting to jump into the video game market after the NES. At the time there were only two games made that could be played using it specifically, Great Ice Hockey and Sports Pad Football, though technically you can use it with anything. If you look at the second box picture up there, you'll notice they mention that it can be used "on the track," almost suggested a track and field type game may have been considered at one time. Or maybe they just wanted to lie. I've researched everything, but there is nothing out there to give a clue why they decided to make this. It wasn't even released for the Mark III in Japan until 1988, and even then the Japanese were smart enough to realize it's uselessness and only released a single game for it, Sports Pad Soccer. The most likely issue is that Sega attempted two things. One, it wanted to have a flashy, unique accessory to set itself apart from Nintendo with their ridiculous R.O.B., which itself was only made so that toy stores would readily stock the NES since the robot was made to look like it was simply another toy. It's likely that by throwing something large out there like this, they hoped to catch the attention of buyers. Two, Sega attempted to appeal to a sports fanbase in order to sell their system. This accounts for the fact that they released two sports titles to specifically use the trackball as it was made to be used, nothing else was tailored to fit it. There were a number of arcade titles of different sports that used this specifically because it worked well to the general direction of gameplay. In addition, calling it the Sports Pad pretty much gives away that they had something like this in mind. They also threw a few features into the mix to try to make it more marketable.
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