I am an American. I was born in America. I have never been to Great Britain or its former colonial holdings (well…unless you count America). I can probably count the number of British people I’ve met on one hand…if I was missing a couple of fingers. That being said, you would think I have no business reviewing a cricket game, or even thinking of playing one. You’d be wrong. I actually not only understand cricket, but I also rather enjoy watching it (when matches don’t start 10 time zones ahead of me). Now, most Americans, when they think of cricket, probably have a vague idea of that weird game English people play with flat bats and sweaters.
In a lot of ways, it’s the spiritual predecessor to baseball, and if you take the time to learn the rules and get an idea of what’s going on, you’ll find a game that can be a strategic battle, with bowlers trying to outwit batsmen, batsmen trying to pick out the holes in the field, and the occasional feat of athletic excellence, and since we here at JGR are all about breaking down cultural barriers, maybe after reading this, you’ll not only discover a new game, you’ll also discover…a new game. Also, I wrestled for a while with how to actually write this, given how foreign cricket is to a large chunk of our readers, and in the end, I decided to write this assuming anyone reading it actually has an understanding of the rules and terminology of cricket. If you hate it, I apologize.
Super International Cricket seems like a doomed prospect from the start. There’s no national licenses, no actual players, no licensed tournaments, and not even actual cricket grounds. It’s very much cricket in a vacuum. On the upside, though, none of the rosters can every actually be outdated, so there’s that.
You have the option from the title screen of choosing a fast match, which picks teams at random and just dumps you in, one-day matches, with the option for both 20/20 (which I do not care for in reality), and proper 50-over matches, Test matches (as are right and proper), and World Series (not the Kerry Packer one, it’s just tournament mode). You then select from one of 8 of the Test playing nations (sorry, Zimbabwe, it appears you’re locked out of Test cricket here, too). You can fiddle around with your squad, although the computer picks the best eleven automatically, and even stranger, you don’t get to see the field conditions until AFTER you select a squad, so adding an extra spinner or seamer to the side is literally a gamble.
Batting is obviously the high point of this game, as it is in pretty much all cricket games, but sadly, that’s still not saying a lot. Yes, you can still see the spot the ball’s going to pitch, and while it does take a bit of the suspense out of it, you don’t know where it will move after that (I’d also argue that this might have to be done in cricket games given that you’re not constrained to bowling in a strike zone like baseball). Y plays a shot to the left side of the screen, A plays to the right, B attempts a straight drive, and X is your defense, and you can move about the wicket pretty freely. Holding the shoulder buttons will make you attempt a slog, but it always seems like your batsman has no concept of playing shots along the ground anyway.
Maybe I’m just terrible at this game, but I think I holed out to cover point WAY too damn many times for it just to be an issue with bad timing. Assuming you can actually manage to put the ball in play, holding down on the control pad will go for a run, and up will make them go for a second. This brings up the one thing that this game actually got right that damn near no other cricket game seems to realize: BATSMEN DO NOT ALL RUN AT THE SAME SPEED. Some are slower than others, and you have to take that into consideration when attempting a second run…well, to an extent. Batsmen can also dive considerably long distances, so that kinda tilts things a bit. Once you get the timing down, you can begin to piece together some respectable scores, but I dare say that 50s and 100s are pretty much non-existent here, and you’ll be lucky to scratch 40 before the game decides that it’s time for you to gently pop one up to mid-on.
I’m also happy to report that bowling is not the worst aspect of this game. It’s not good, but it’s really no worse than most other cricket games. You plant the cursor, press a button to start your run-up, and press it again to stop it, which is more of a pain in the ass than necessary. You’ll no-ball quite a bit, and you’ll start deliveries a few yards short of the line more than a few times trying to find the right spot. Y and A also dictate seam movement, as well as spin, but it doesn’t seem to make a whole hell of a lot of difference, quite frankly; if you’re getting smacked around, you’ll get smacked around regardless. I know what you’re thinking. The bowling sounds pretty dreadful, how is it not the worst part of the game?
Because there’s FIELDING. Fielding is what’s going to drive you away from this game. Your keeper and slip fielders tend to be pretty good. They don’t tend to botch catches or let balls get through them for cheap fours, but they’re the exception. You have to manually control fielders, and when a ball is put far enough into play, the camera pulls back to a distance that makes the ball look microscopic. So, you have to basically pixel hunt to find the ball, and even with a cursor that shows where the ball will land, it’s still an unplanned challenge because your fielders apparently have ten thumbs and won’t catch shit. You’ll frequently have to dive at balls that have stopped because that’s the best way to actually get the game to register your fielding being where the ball is so he can pick it up. Once you’ve tracked the ball down, X tosses it to the keeper, B to the bowler’s end, and A knocks the bails off. Also, Y is utilized while fielding to appeal. It only really comes into play to appeal for an LBW decision, but that doesn’t stop you from making your whole team shout “Howzat!” to either entertain yourself or aggravate the umpire.
Visually, it’s pretty meh. everything seems to be awash in pastels, animations are a bit clunky, and even the little picture-in-picture features that pop up for boundaries or dismissals looks like they’re missing a few frames. It’s not a good sign when the best looking thing in the entire game is the duck that walks by when you’re out for naught. Sound is slightly better; there’s a little light tune that plays during matches, but it’s barely audible unless everything else is silent, which it will be quite a bit. I understand cricket crowds tend to be a bit more subdued than soccer crowds, but the fans here are dead silent unless someone hit a boundary or got dismissed. The bat-on-ball and ball-on-wicket sounds are passable, given the era, but you’re not going to close your eyes and imagine yourself at Lord’s or Old Trafford playing this game.
Cricket video games rather a rare breed. The general consensus is that good cricket games tend to be even harder to find. That doesn’t mean they can’t be enjoyable, but it does mean you’ll have a hard time finding a cricket game that actually resembles what you see on TV (especially Test matches). The Brian Lara/Shane Warne series on Genesis was decidedly better than this, in my opinion, but seeing as this was the only cricket game out there for Super Nintendo, I imagine Super International Cricket got its share of play…until there was actual cricket on TV and someone decided to watch it instead.
Um…being the only cricket game on Super Nintendo helped a LOT. Also not terribly complex to figure out.
No real players, grounds, or tournaments, batting is basically a random number generator, and your fielders are all cockfingered twats that should be dropped in favor of the Black Knight from Monty Python.