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Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Summer Games II (Epyx/US Gold, 1985) - Part 2


Oh my lord, they actually went with an upgrade of the hilariously horrid advertisment used for the first Summer Games... Well anyway, in what has become a familiar formula for my writing comparisons of Epyx's multi-event sports games, Part 1 left us with a bunch of scores given for the game's playability, and now we have to deal with the game's graphics, sounds, and the overall scores. You might already know how this is going to end, but the real question here is, are there any properly good options for the original? Sure enough, that is a question that could easily stand as the conceptually central one for the whole blog, and a fine question to pose at the beginning of the second half of the last comparison article of this season.

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GRAPHICS


When a team of top coders and graphicians get to work on one of the most unexpected, yet awaited sequels of the C64's relatively short time of existence, the resulting product will naturally be expected to be more impressive in every way. The events certainly are more interesting, so what about the graphics? Since we skipped the loading section this time, as has become the default form since the previous Epyx game comparison, we shall have to begin with the title screens.


THE STARTING BITS

Loading/title screens. Top row, left to right: Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum.
Bottom row, left to right: DOS, Apple ][, Commodore Amiga/Atari ST.


I confess to having never been a big fan of Epyx's title screens. Sure, they're big and shouty, and tend to get the game title shown as largely as possible, but at least the earlier games were also very much lacking in thematic content. But the title logo for Summer Games II points out a rather interesting cruciality in design: the use of decorations, however minimal, should be considered the most important thing on the screen. At least in my eyes, the Epyx logo overlaid on top of the roman numeral is the only thing that makes the title logo somehow interesting to look at. The AMIGA and ST versions only feature the US Gold logo below the credits, so the title logo looks very bulky, rectangular and boring. The Epyx logo is also a good way to take your focus away from the slightly too long right end of the roman numeral in the AMSTRAD and SPECTRUM versions. I don't know which is worse: a lack of symmetry or too much of it.

Comparison of the opening ceremonies between Summer Games 1 and 2 on all versions.

Some versions start with the opening ceremonies, and some versions with the main menu. I decided to start with the former. The opening ceremony looks very much like it does in the original Summer Games, although the C64 and APPLE versions have been almost completely redrawn, and the fire has been re-animated. Not in the horror movie sense of the word, but, you know. All the other versions have the exact same opening ceremonies, although, of course, the DOS version, for which SG1 wasn't even converted. This section works well to demonstrate the similarities between the AMIGA and ST versions, which are numerous, so there will only be one of the two machines featured in the screenshot collages from now on, unless something unexpected shows up, like a vast difference in screen size. Staying in topic, the ceremony segments used on the AMIGA and ST are recycled from the first Summer Games, which shouldn't be news to anyone, because I mentioned this two years ago. To be honest, I think the C64 and APPLE versions should be given a little bonus for the effort, which no other version shows in this instance.

Main menu screens. Top row, left to right: Commodore 64, Apple ][, ZX Spectrum.
Bottom row, left to right: Commodore Amiga/Atari ST, DOS, Amstrad CPC.


For the most part, the main menus look much like you would expect them to. In SG1, the SPECTRUM and AMSTRAD menus were more stylised with a blue rounded frame around the menu, but in SG2, they've gone full blue background with white menu items, which looks perhaps less busy, but is graphically more boring than any other version. The APPLE version of SG1 had the menu overlaid on top of the last event you were playing, but SG2 features a more traditional looking menu.

Enter your name and pick your country. Top row, left to right: Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum.
Bottom row, left to right: Commodore Amiga/Atari ST, DOS, Apple ][.


Similarly to what they did with the main menu, the SPECTRUM and AMSTRAD versions have the enter-your-name and select-your-country section de-graphicized, if that's a real or proper word to use here. Instead of a regular name type-in area, you get a joystick-controlled alphabet scroller, and instead of a scrolling line of flags, all the countries are shown in their names only, in a set of three columns, with six countries in each column. All the other versions have a traditional Epyx Games series' name-and-country screen, as they appeared in the original Summer Games. Or in the case of the DOS version, how it would have likely appeared in it.

Before we head into the events, let's have a little score checkpoint here, like there was in my earlier comparisons of Summer Games and Winter Games. In addition to overall looks, I feel like I need to give some consideration for the effort put into making new ceremony graphics for the C64 and APPLE versions, but I don't know if I can honestly give a good judging for the title screens due to their blandness, so I shall skip that and concentrate on everything else.

1. COMMODORE 64
2. COMMODORE AMIGA / ATARI ST
3. APPLE ][
4. IBM-PC COMPATIBLES
5. ZX SPECTRUM / AMSTRAD CPC


TRIPLE JUMP

Now we get to the real meat of the game. Too bad I had to snatch the APPLE screenshots from Highretrogamelord's YouTube video of the game, because I couldn't get the game to load this particular event, so thanks to HRGL for that one.

Screenshots from the Triple Jump event. Top left: Commodore 64. Top right: Amstrad CPC. 2nd row: DOS.
3rd row: Apple ][. Bottom left: ZX Spectrum. Bottom right: Commodore Amiga/Atari ST.

Triple Jump sets an example of what's to be expected of Summer Games II: most of the events are side-scrollers, only one of them being restricted to a single screen (Fencing), and one being a vertical scroller (Kayaking). This is an interesting development, considering the least impressive and interesting events in the first Summer Games used any sort of scrolling, namely the running and swimming events. Already in the first event, we can instantly see that plenty of progress in graphics has been made within a year, at least in the original version. Colour has been used more effectively, the animations are more... well, animated, and lots of more attention has been put into perhaps unnecessary, but nevertheless cool details.

Perhaps the most effective effect used in these short distance scrolling events is that the athlete is being pushed towards the right edge of the screen as you run and make the screen scroll to the left. This effect is featured in all other versions, except for the SPECTRUM, AMSTRAD and the 16-bits. The more decorative ones are the audience pixels shuffling around when they're applauding your successful efforts, which is missing from the APPLE, DOS, SPECTRUM and AMSTRAD versions; and the big screen at the back showing instant replays of your successful jumps, which is also only shown in the C64, AMIGA and ATARI ST versions. The SPECTRUM and AMSTRAD versions have the screen featured in the back, but it shows no replays, which begs the question: why did they include it for those two versions, if it was dropped from the DOS and APPLE versions?

1. COMMODORE 64
2. COMMODORE AMIGA / ATARI ST
3. AMSTRAD CPC
4. ZX SPECTRUM
5. IBM-PC COMPATIBLES / APPLE ][


ROWING

In the second event, the main differences can be found in the screen size and the colours. The C64 original gave both "teams" their own specifically coloured canoe, which I assume shouldn't be considered anything particularly obscure in an international canoe... race... thing. Easier to focus on specific teams, I'd think. Well, the only way you can tell, which player is which on the AMIGA and ST versions, is the players' names under each half of the screen - both rowers are wearing red, and their canoes are wood-coloured. Happily, all the other conversions follow the original in this. Of course, the colours of water and the dividing line are what they can be in each version, mostly some shade of blue and white, with either red or black used as the second colour for the dividing lines wherever possible.

Screenshots from the Rowing event, left to right: Commodore 64, Commodore Amiga, Atari ST, Apple ][.


The other thing I mentioned is the screen size. On C64, the whole default screen area is in use, with minimal space wasted on the info bits. For the SPECTRUM, AMSTRAD and ATARI ST versions, less than maximum possible amount of space has been used for each player's action screens, very likely for the sake of hiding the weird bits used for getting the scrolling actually happening. Even still, the APPLE and ST versions scroll slower than you would perhaps expect. All the other versions use all of the screen.

More screenshots from the Rowing event, left to right: ZX Spectrum, DOS, Amstrad CPC.
There is no denying that the AMIGA and ST versions are still technically better than the C64 version, and they use more colours for shading and other things, but they could have put more thought into colouring the canoes. And since there is so little to focus on here, I have to put more value on the colours and scrolling.

1. COMMODORE 64 / COMMODORE AMIGA
2. IBM-PC COMPATIBLES
3. ATARI ST
4. AMSTRAD CPC
5. ZX SPECTRUM
6. APPLE ][


JAVELIN

We're back to the stadium for the Javelin throwing event, and unsurprisingly, it looks like the stadium we visited during the Triple Jump event, although this one has no big screen for instant replays. Nevermind that - it would probably be too difficult for the 8-bit cameramen to keep up with the javelin anyhow. Since we covered the audience animation earlier, the most interesting things to compare here are the athlete's way of grabbing the javelin and throwing animations in each version, and the javelin's path of flight.

Screenshots from the Javelin event, left to right: Commodore 64, Atari ST (top)/Commodore Amiga (bottom), Apple ][.


The athlete's running and throwing animations are greatly dependent on the way each version's sprites have to be drawn, but in some cases, the way the athlete holds the javelin before he throws it is just too way off. In the 16-bits, he has the javelin held almost from the front tip, which should certainly make it unbalanced and impossible to throw properly. Also, the javelin is thrown from a standstill, which feels very unnatural compared to the original. Clearly, someone didn't do the required homework.

More screenshots from the Javelin event, left to right: ZX Spectrum, DOS, Amstrad CPC.
The SPECTRUM and AMSTRAD versions have the athlete holding the javelin from the middle, but the athlete himself has a strangely bad posture, much like you would expect to see from a person working behind a desk, and he runs like he was pushing something heavy while he goes. The throwing animation looks relatively good, but since it happens from a standstill, almost-kneeling posture, it still feels unnatural. The javelin's path of flight looks fairly unnatural, as it first goes tens of meters in a low descend in an unrelatedly steep angle, then starts falling down before it has even reached its peek, and as a final insult, drops quickly from its peak position about five pixels down, and goes with a slower descent again. But again, the AMSTRAD version has more colours, and they have been well used. At least the APPLE and DOS teams had their priorities in the right places.

1. COMMODORE 64
2. IBM-PC COMPATIBLES
3. COMMODORE AMIGA / ATARI ST
4. APPLE ][
5. AMSTRAD CPC
6. ZX SPECTRUM


EQUESTRIAN

It is difficult to draw a human, let alone animate one in such a way as to make it look natural. So, imagine how difficult it must have been for the graphician of team Epyx to animate the horse for this event, along with the rider on top of it, in all their different actions. Added to that, the event has plenty of different kinds of obstacles and background graphics to make it all look more life-like.

Screenshots from the Equestrian event, top to bottom: Commodore 64, Commodore Amiga/Atari ST, Apple ][.


Horses gaits are typically categorized into four different types: walk, trot, canter and gallop - all of which are used in this event. Perhaps taking the easy way out, or perhaps due to a lack of memory, the latter three gaits use the same animation in different speeds. The horse can jump over obstacles from basically any gait, but most of the time, the animation speed switches to the most natural speed of the occurring jump. If you jump and make a fall, the horse will fall flat on the ground, and throw you off the seat. Push the button and you will see the horse rise and the jockey walk and rise up back on the saddle. If the horse refuses to jump, though, you will see the only bit in the event, where the artists haven't bothered to animate. In the event of a refusal to jump, you have to back up, and once again, they have diligently animated the turning back and forth bits. Graphically, I find this event to be the most impressive of the lot, and I still haven't mentioned the background graphics, which are very pretty (at least in the original) and use some sort of basic parallax scrolling.

More screenshots from the Equestrian event, top to bottom: ZX Spectrum, DOS, Amstrad CPC.


Strangely, the AMIGA and ST versions feature no parallax scrolling - everything around you moves the same speed onwards. Too bad, because otherwise the graphics are pretty enough, and feature all the things from the C64 original. The lack of depth in the scrolling makes it look lazier and less capable than possible. The SPECTRUM and AMSTRAD versions have less details, as expected, and due to the relatively low capabilities in producing smooth and fast scrolling, the background graphics have been left to remain still. In the APPLE version, there is one background layer that scrolls slower than the foremost layer, but the background graphics are very minimalistic - even more so than on either SPECTRUM or AMSTRAD. Similarly to the APPLE version, the DOS version only has one slowly scrolling background layer, and the rest of it standing still, but at least there are more to see in the scrolling background graphics. I think the still-standing backgrounds for the SPECTRUM and AMSTRAD versions work better here than the scrolling ones in either of the DOS and APPLE versions, because they're actually nicer to look at, no matter how much more technically impressive the latter two are. And again, AMSTRAD has more and better colours.

1. COMMODORE 64
2. COMMODORE AMIGA / ATARI ST
3. AMSTRAD CPC
4. ZX SPECTRUM
5. IBM-PC COMPATIBLES
6. APPLE ][


HIGH JUMP

For once, the obsession to make a better-looking version of an old, overused event has backfired on Epyx. When you need to move your athlete in a pixel-perfect manner both during the speed-up and the jumping process, the graphics make the game practically unplayable. But since we are only giving consideration on graphics now, the playability poses only a small problem, because there are different animations for failing and having a successful jump. Which is why I didn't bother to use either screen for most versions.

Screenshots from the High Jump event, left to right: Commodore 64, Commodore Amiga, Apple ][.


So, we're back at the stadium again. What's different about the stadium itself this time, is that there is a new large structure above the audience, which I'm guessing is the commentators' box (or whatever they call it). However, only the C64 and DOS versions have included this detail, which should give some sort of an idea, that all the events take place at a different area within the stadium.

More screenshots from the High Jump event, left to right: ZX Spectrum, DOS, Amstrad CPC.


As for the High Jump spot and its immediate surroundings, it seems like the AMIGA and ST graphicians were either high or drunk, when drawing the big brown mattress. Not that there's anything wrong with the mattress itself, it's just that it seems bigger than it should compared to the oval running track, drawn much too close to the High Jump mattress. In fact, the shadow cast by the mattress devours and extends well over the oval track... just look at how it should be on the C64 and others. It's too bad, because otherwise, the 16-bits still look much better than most other versions - this dimensional problem just irritates me to no end. The APPLE version doesn't feature an enlarged asphalt area underneath the High Jump mattress, but otherwise, it works well enough, but the background details give the AMSTRAD and SPECTRUM the upper hand here.

1. COMMODORE 64
2. IBM-PC COMPATIBLES
3. COMMODORE AMIGA / ATARI ST
4. AMSTRAD CPC
5. ZX SPECTRUM
6. APPLE ][


FENCING

The only single-screen event in the game is, of course, the most complex of them all. Because fencing is by nature a very three-dimensional sport, how would you think it might translate into a two-dimensional, side-viewed pixelfest?

Screenshots from the Fencing event, left to right: Commodore 64, Commodore Amiga/Atari ST, Apple ][.


Not too bad, actually. The animations are very nice in all versions, although some are slower than others. The only problem with the animations is, that the hit detection can be a bit wonky on occasion, but that's beside the topic here. The way the screen is constructed, is that about a half, or in some cases, almost two thirds of the lower half of the screen is taken by the computer screen, which shows us the current status of the bout and other necessary stuff. Next to it stands the single-footed countdown timer. The top half is taken by the fencing piste, behind which the audience is standing around and watching in dead silence. At each end of the fencing piste are two lights for acknowledging a hit on either side, or if both players' hits nullify each other, the outer (white) light will blink. Nothing else on the screen is animated but the timer, the lights and the two fencers.

More screenshots from the Fencing event, left to right: ZX Spectrum, DOS, Amstrad CPC.


While the fencers have been nicely animated in every version, most of the versions have them drawn with wider pixels because of one important thing: the foils have a different colour for both fencers, and they need to be shown as clearly as possible, if possible. Also, the colour of the foil changes, when it is the farthest away from the camera, so you can see what you're doing more clearly. Aside from that, I would say the fencers in the AMSTRAD and SPECTRUM versions have the best overall look on the 8-bits, and the framed foils do help a bit, but otherwise, the colours used for the room are much too high-contrasted. The best colours for this sort of setting are more neutral ones, even if you are from the 80's. Unfortunately, the APPLE version has both foils coloured the same as each player's shirt, so it's difficult to see, where you're shoving your foil. But for once, I have nothing too bad to say about the AMIGA and ST versions, although I cannot agree with all the colour choices there.

1. COMMODORE AMIGA / ATARI ST
2. COMMODORE 64
3. ZX SPECTRUM / AMSTRAD CPC
4. IBM-PC COMPATIBLES
5. APPLE ][


KAYAKING

The final event is a vertically scrolling one, in which the scrolling is triggered by your location on the screen. Naturally, whitewater kayaking takes place on a clearly defined segment of a river, the definition of which can be seen at Wikipedia. Needless to elaborate further, this sport is meant to be very demanding and extrenuous. Well, the level of toughness was already dealt with in Part 1, but now it needs to be decided, whether the event actually looks its part.

Screenshots from the Kayaking event, left to right:
Commodore 64, Commodore Amiga/Atari ST, Apple ][, ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, DOS.


OFF-TOPIC: Sorry for the large picture, but since the event scrolls vertically, I couldn't have separated the screens in a similar manner as with the other events, now could I? Also, as you have seen from some of the other screenshots, I haven't come up with a way to take screenshots in all emulators that wouldn't go bad when upscaling or downscaling however necessary, so the DOS screens look mutated in the above picture. Therefore, I have prepared another picture, for which everything else is upscaled to 125% and the DOS screens are downscaled to 50%, so you can see the problem I'm dealing with here. Perhaps some kind graphician out there might be willing to help me get over this problem? OFF-TOPIC OVER.

Where was I? Oh yeah, the stretch of rapids should have plenty of visible currents flowing in some direction or another, and the C64 original certainly has them. There are only two conversions that have this properly covered up: AMIGA and APPLE ][, and I'm not very fond of the sugar-coated blob-like version of the currents shown in the AMIGA version. Still, it's not nearly as bad as the ST version, which looks otherwise exactly the same as the AMIGA version, but the currents are not animated, so it's just strange white blobs scattered around the river. The DOS version follow the ST version in having the currents shown, but not animated; at least, they're more similar to the ones on C64 and APPLE, so they don't look quite as questionable there. Only the SPECTRUM and AMSTRAD have no visible currents at all, just blue for all the water. As with most other events, the SPECTRUM version has less colours used here than the AMSTRAD version. As if that weren't enough, the action screen has been reduced to stamp-size, and its surroundings are mostly useless decorations. Insert obvious Mr. Horse quote here.

1. COMMODORE 64 / COMMODORE AMIGA
2. APPLE ][ / ATARI ST
3. IBM-PC COMPATIBLES
4. AMSTRAD CPC
5. ZX SPECTRUM


CLOSING CEREMONY

Sure, there are still the less graphics-heavy screens that I haven't used here, like the event loading screens and event/final standings screens, but I thought they wouldn't add anything new, or indeed, anything of value to the graphics comparison, seeing as most of the text-heavy stuff has already been dealt with. So, we shall end with the surprisingly majestic (for 1985) closing ceremony. And of such magnitude is the closing ceremony's majesty, that I have had to separate each version for their own compiled set of pictures.

Detailed proceeding of the closing ceremony from the Commodore 64 version.


As the day starts turning into night (which takes seven changes of the sky's colouring), a jet-packed man flies back and forth the length of the stadium, and on his second time to the right, he waves at us before he disappears. After this, the olympic flame gets gradually put out, and a blimp bearing a yellow-and-green flashing "Epyx" on its sides appears from the right and makes its way across the screen. After the song is finished, we get to see the best - and longest - display of pre-programmed fireworks ever produced for the C64. (If you're into making your own digital fireworks, try Activision's "The Complete Computer Fireworks Celebration Kit", also from 1985.) Frankly, I always thought the fireworks would go on infinitely, but some of the other versions have shorter fireworks, after which the blimp comes back, advertising other Epyx games... it turns out, the same thing happens in the original, only after a lot longer time of showing fireworks. The advertising blimp is the final number in the closing ceremonies. That's a lot of data used for something non-playable in a game, but that's one of the things that makes Summer Games II such a special title - start with a nice, short ceremony; put all the playable bits in a row; end with a long, impressive series of bangs.

Detailed proceeding of the closing ceremony from the Apple ][ version.

The APPLE version has a different order of numbers for the closing ceremony. First, the flame is diminished, then, the sky will turn black in the same number of shades (meanwhile, the stadium lights will turn gradually on), and fireworks follow instantly. The jetpack-suited man is completely missing. After the fireworks have gone on for a while, they stop, and the ending music comes on, and the hot-air balloon starts looping in the sky, first featuring the flashing EPYX text, and then advertising all the then-current Epyx games and those that were only coming up at the time.

Detailed proceeding of the closing ceremony from the DOS version.

Due to the very restrictive CGA mode used by the DOS version, it lacks the day-turning-into-night segment. Instead, the DOS closing ceremony starts with the olympic fire burning, and the man with the jet-pack doing his rounds. The EPYX blimp shows up after him, after which the flame goes out. Next, the fireworks are displayed, which are surprisingly well made for such a restricting set of colours, and as usual, it all ends with the advertising blimp going round and round in an infinite loop.

Detailed proceeding of the closing ceremony from the ZX Spectrum version.


On SPECTRUM, the day turning into night much more instantaneous than in any other version, where such a thing can be expected to happen. First, though, the olympic flame goes out, then the day turns into night in three swift steps. Then, the stadium lights flicker for a while before they turn on properly, after which the jet-packed man flies back and forth in almost his usual manner - the animations have been kept to practically nil. No hand-waves, no turning animation, no jet-pack fire animation. Next, the blimp comes up with no text on it whatsoever - this marks as a loop starting point, which ends after the next item has run through, which is the display of fireworks.

Detailed proceeding of the closing ceremony from the Amstrad CPC version.
The AMSTRAD version looks a bit odd, mostly because the stadium lights are not symmetrically lined up. The first thing you will see is the flame being turned off, after which the jet-packed man flies his usual rounds in the same manner as he does in the SPECTRUM version. Only then, the day turns into night, which takes four shades of blue this time. Curiously, the stadium lights will flash at this point for a brief time, but are ultimately left turned off. Probably a power shortage. Similarly to the SPECTRUM version, we have reached the ending loop, which starts this time with the fireworks (all of which are completely lacking any colour other than white), and ends with the white, unmarked blimp riding across the screen.

Detailed proceeding of the closing ceremony from the Commodore Amiga and Atari ST versions.

Finally, the AMIGA and ST closing ceremonies, which, for a change, look exactly the same. Not that any of the events looked particularly different, apart from them having a differently sized screen. The order of numbers in the closing ceremony program is exactly the same as in the C64 original, but there is no advertising blimp looping endlessly after the fireworks. Indeed, the show ends after a surprisingly brief display of fireworks, which is oddly disappointing. And the fireworks don't even look particularly interesting - there are only about three types of fireworks used in the whole display, with little variation used for the locations and order in which they explode. The only impressive thing about the 16-bit closing ceremony is really the number of shades of blue used when the day turns into night, and that really is a bombshell you can end a section on.

1. COMMODORE 64
2. COMMODORE AMIGA / ATARI ST
3. APPLE ][
4. AMSTRAD CPC
5. ZX SPECTRUM
6. IBM-PC COMPATIBLES


GRAPHICS OVERALL SCORES

...well, not exactly end this section on, because there are still the overall scores to be dealt with. Despite the rather similar look of the scores for each event, the scores put together bring out a slightly unexpected outcome. As you would expect, the original, along with the 16-bits, lead the scoreboard with a vast gap, but the last four conversions had a more interesting battle in the meantime. I feel a bit sad for the SPECTRUM conversion, because the AMSTRAD version looks much better, simply for having more - and better use of colour. It just makes such a difference. The APPLE version has all the necessary animations, and a surprising amount of details even with the blockier-than-usual graphics mode, but it's just too slow for comfort, and the colours are mostly awful. The DOS version looks absolutely wonderful for using CGA mode only, but it's reason enough to give it such a low combined score.

1. COMMODORE 64: 5+5+6+6+6+6+4+5+6 = 49 => 7
2. COMMODORE AMIGA: 4+4+6+4+5+4+5+5+5 = 42 => 6
3. ATARI ST: 4+4+4+4+5+4+5+4+5 = 39 => 5
4. IBM-PC COMPATIBLES: 2+1+5+5+2+5+2+3+1 = 26 => 4
5. AMSTRAD CPC: 1+3+3+2+4+3+3+2+3 = 24 => 3
6. APPLE ][: 3+1+1+3+1+1+1+4+4 = 19 => 2
7. ZX SPECTRUM: 1+2+2+1+3+2+3+1+2 = 17 => 1

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SOUNDS


In the traditional Epyx sports game fashion, the game starts with the same old fanfares played during the opening ceremony: Leo Arnaud's "Bugler's Dream", combined into a small medley with something I still haven't found out after two years, so I'm still guessing it's an original melody. The closing ceremony features in addition to a very short opening fanfare: Richard Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries", Tchaikovsky's 1812 Festival Overture (Op.49) and another tune used at the beginning of the first three events in different variations, which is probably an original tune from Bob Vieira. The other tunes used at the beginning of other events are Franz Schubert's "Marche Militaire No.1, D.733" in Equestrian, another unknown tune used at the beginning of High Jump, another very classical-sounding tune in Fencing, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's "Flight of the Bumblebee" at the beginning of Cycling, and something that sounds like a cross between a deep south banjo tune and perhaps a Renaissance or Baroque harpsichord tune. And of course, there's that excerpt from Mouret's "Rondo" playing in the World Records screen. That's pretty much what I found out from what the C64 version has included, in addition to the obligatory national anthems, and as usual, they are all pretty much designed to be performed by the SID chip in a manner vaguely resembling a trio of horn players. If anyone can help with the missing tunes, it would be very much appreciated.

With the sound effects, team Epyx went for realism. In Triple Jump, you can only hear the athlete taking rather loud steps (the same sound effect is used for when he lands his jump) and the crowd applauding wildly after a successful jump. The Rowing event starts with a countdown - two beeps and a gunshot. Otherwise, it's just you and your opponent's swooshy rowing noises, which sound particularly good on a 6581 chip. In Javelin, the sound effects used are very similar to what we heard in Triple Jump, but the athlete's steps sound a bit sloshier for some reason. The only sound effect you will hear in Equestrian is the horse's gait in different speeds, which is just basic tap noises. High Jump uses the exact same sound effects as Triple Jump - you don't even get to hear the bar drop, which is a bit of a shame. Fencing has more sound effects than usual: you get the foils make a nice quick swishing noise, both fencers make their own walking tap noises, and there are two kinds of alarm noises - a gentler tone that rings five times for each fencer getting a point, and a noisier tone that rings three times when hits nullify each other, and once when a player is too close to the edge of the fencing piste. In Cycling, both contestants on the screen have their own specific sounding pedalling noises, which are just some more swooshing noises from different pitches. Otherwise, it's just the same old - crowd cheerings and a countdown. Kayaking features a very impressive constant, yet alternating rumbling of the heavy-flowing river, but your rowing isn't acknowledged by any sound effect. At least there are thuds for when you bump into things, and a nice chirpy sound effect for successfully going through a gate, and a "nu-uh" type of a sound effect for doing something you're not supposed to. Finally, the closing ceremony features muddled explosion sounds during the fireworks display, very reminiscent of how it actually sounds like in real life... with ear-mufflers on.

Of course, all of the above concerns the C64 version, and now it's time to get comparing it to the others. The APPLE version has two options: badly optimized Apple speaker sounds, and output through cassette port, which doesn't work through emulation (at least on the only Windows-based emulator, AppleWin). The bad optimization comes to plain sight when any of the music or sound effects are played with any animation on screen simultaneously - the game gets slightly slower, and the sounds get a bit choppy. Otherwise, the sounds are very bleepy, with two notes played simultaneously at best (during national anthems and the ceremony melodies), but because playing two notes simultaneously requires some high-freqency trickstery, you will constantly hear an annoying high-frequency noise on top of any music. Sure way to get you a quick head-ache and/or tinnitus. Too bad about that, because the sound effects are surprisingly well made, even if not every single little subtlety from the original has been translated here: for example, the river rumbling is completely missing from Kayaking, and the Fencing hit detectors play six beeps for acknowledged hits instead of five.

The SPECTRUM version was made for both 48k and 128k machines, so you can expect there to be vast differences between the two versions. The 48k version features no music whatsoever at any point in the game, and only minimal sound effects. In Triple Jump, Javelin and High Jump, you only hear your feet tapping. In Rowing and Cycling, you only hear the really loud and irritating countdown, with no simulated gunshot. Equestrian only features the horse's very loud gait in various speeds. Fencing is easily the worst: you hear nothing until either of you gets a hit through, and then it's 10 very long ear-offending beeps, no matter what the result is. Cycling has no sound effects whatsoever, which is actually a welcome reprieve, and Kayaking has only one sound effect, which is a nice and simple little tap noise for when you hit something.

Playing the SPECTRUM version with an AY-chip, however, is a completely different matter. Although you still get no music in the ceremonies, nor do you get the national anthems, at least they rearranged all the event-related tunes for the AY-chip well enough. Also, in addition to the sound effects from the 48k beeper version, which are now played in softer tones, you get at least some crowd cheering noises for Javelin and High Jump, some more swishy noises for Rowing and Cycling, and the chirpy sound effect for going successfully through gates in Kayaking. Definitely preferable to the 48k sounds.

The AMSTRAD version is a strange cross between the 48k and 128k SPECTRUM versions. You get nice enough AY-music for the opening ceremony, but none of the in-game tunes or the closing ceremony medley have been kept here. Most of the sound effects are exactly the same as on the 128k SPECTRUM, but someone got wiser here, and only went with four "ding" sounds instead of ten when either player gets a hit acknowledged in Fencing. I'm really not sure whether I should prefer this over the APPLE version, because while this doesn't have much of music at all, at least it doesn't hurt my ears like the APPLE version does. I might have to choose quantity over quality this time.

If you want to know, what potentials the SPECTRUM and AMSTRAD versions would have in sounding like, had they a better team handling the conversion, you might want to have a go on the ATARI ST. Although, forget about the opening fanfare, because it only reminds you of what it's supposed to be, instead of the disco version of it with some drastically altered melodies. The in-game tunes are similar enough to the original, only there are more events using a four-bar two-chord loop in the beginning of levels than on the C64. The events using their proper tunes are Rowing, Equestrian and Fencing. Even Cycling has a stupidly mutated hyper-speed polka version of something resembling "Flight of the Bumblebee", and Kayaking uses the same weird hyper-speed polka from the Rowing event. Finally, the only tune you will hear during the closing ceremony is a strange ballad version of "Ride of the Valkyries" - during the fireworks, you will only hear the fireworks, which aren't very subtle. Actually, on further thought, the 128k SPECTRUM version actually sounds more like the original than the ST version, because the music used in it is closer to the original. The sound effects are pretty nice here on the ST, though, and rival the original, apart from the horrible alarm bells used in the Fencing event.

But the real question is, how does the AMIGA version compare to the original? Well, considering the AMIGA and ST versions were made by the same team, you cannot expect too much. Sure enough, looking through the opening and closing ceremonies, the music is similarly butchered in both versions, but at least the AMIGA version tries to bring out some humour into it with the sampled sounds used, even if it might be a bit unintentional. So in the end, we can only compare it to the ST version, which is really a shame. All the music is the same as you hear on the ST, only they sound funnier and slightly more real here with the goofy sound samples. Due to the use of samples, however, the sound effects are much better for the most part. Even the hit signals in Fencing are pleasingly unharmful to your ears. The only event I found the Amiga sound effects a bit lacking in was Equestrian, in which the horse's hooves only clopped once on each step instead of four times, like they should do.

The only version left to analyse is the one for IBM-PC compatibles, which uses a PC beeper, so you can't really expect much from it. Sure enough, it's just single-channel beeping all the way, so any attempt at producing harmonies has been left aside, and all the tunes only feature the main melody. For the event tunes, they have some attempted to add elements of rhythm, but the result is a horrible mess for most of the time. At least all the tunes are different enough, similarly to the original, and nothing has been recycled from other events. The sound effects are little pips and boops for the most parts, but they are used in such a manner as to get the whole set of sounds as close to the original as possible, so they actually do their job well enough for what they are. On the whole, the DOS version is just slightly more unlistenable than the APPLE version with its ear-offending frequencies, because the APPLE version can at least save some of its face with its well made sound effects.

1. COMMODORE 64
2. ZX SPECTRUM 128k
3. COMMODORE AMIGA
4. ATARI ST
5. APPLE ][
6. IBM-PC COMPATIBLES
7. AMSTRAD CPC
8. ZX SPECTRUM 48k

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FINAL OVERALL STANDINGS


Since the official Summer Olympics were held the previous year, there is no reason to assume Summer Games II would have been produced to cash-in with anything happening in 1985. It's very likely that this was simply made as a continuation of the previous game, and they tried to get as many events and other features included from the Los Angeles Olympics as possible. Checking from Wikipedia, there certainly were some elements used in the game: the opening ceremony featured the arrival of Bill Suitor by means of the Bell Aerodynamics rocket pack (the jet-pack man in the closing ceremony), the closing ceremony featured fireworks, and the game's included events from the 1984 Olympics are Rowing, Equestrian, Fencing and Cycling, from what I could find out. Perhaps more. All in all, Summer Games the first and the second feature at least twelve events from the 1984  Summer Olympics.

But now, it's time to calculate the final overall scores. It has been a custom of mine to recap the scores for this section from both parts of the comparison, because it might otherwise be too confusing. Well, at least it helps me, and you can see how the scores actually add up. Here we go:

PLAYABILITY:

1. COMMODORE 64:
5 points.
2. IBM-PC COMPATIBLES: 4 points.
3. COMMODORE AMIGA / ATARI ST: 3 points each.
4. ZX SPECTRUM: 2 points.
5. AMSTRAD CPC: 1 point.
6. APPLE ][: 1 point.


GRAPHICS:

1. COMMODORE 64: 7 points.
2. COMMODORE AMIGA: 6 points.
3. ATARI ST: 5 points.
4. IBM-PC COMPATIBLES: 4 points.
5. AMSTRAD CPC: 3 points.
6. APPLE ][: 2 points.
7. ZX SPECTRUM: 1 point.

SOUNDS:

1. COMMODORE 64: 8 points.
2. ZX SPECTRUM 128k: 7 points.
3. COMMODORE AMIGA: 6 points.
4. ATARI ST: 5 points.
5. APPLE ][: 4 points.
6. IBM-PC COMPATIBLES: 3 points.
7. AMSTRAD CPC: 2 points.
8. ZX SPECTRUM 48k: 1 point.

OVERALL:

1. COMMODORE 64: 20 points.
2. COMMODORE AMIGA: 15 points.
3. ATARI ST: 13 points.
4. IBM-PC COMPATIBLES: 11 points.
5. ZX SPECTRUM 128k: 10 points.
6. APPLE ][: 7 points.
7. AMSTRAD CPC: 6 points.
8. ZX SPECTRUM 48k: 4 points.


As I said in Part 1, Summer Games II is one of those games that C64 evangelists will - and should - brag on about for any other retro machine enthusiast. It combines good controls and hard, yet fair difficulty with beautiful, varied and colourful graphics with a completely fitting, if a bit technically unimpressive soundtrack. That is where the 16-bits should step in and show what it's supposed to sound like, but no - instead, the 16-bit versions have been turned into a circus of sound, where nothing really fits and everything's hyper-active one way or another. The DOS and APPLE versions suffer from their own lack of hardware capabilities, but otherwise they have a lot of potential. And finally, the SPECTRUM and AMSTRAD versions are bad, not because their respective hardwares couldn't have produced or run anything better, but because the "team" responsible for both conversions had to focus on all aspects of the game. This is where you can see the results of proper teamwork put to good use in early game developing.

Easter egg from the C64 version.
Thanks for reading, and for keeping up with the blog for however long you have kept up with it! I'm off for a prolonged holiday, because I shall be focusing on my music more while I'm taking my time off here. If you're still looking for more comparisons to read, you can treat yourselves with the recently published comparison of Hewson's Anarchy in the 9th issue of RESET magazine on their website. The Finnish Retro Game Comparison Blog will continue when the time is right, but until then, cheers everybody, and have a great (and retro) holiday!

3 comments:

  1. Hey, what about the Epyx theme? The only version I know that uses it is the C64 one - here it is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TBrEtB-StNQ

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    Replies
    1. I didn't really feel like wasting any energy on comparing all the national anthems, including the Epyx theme, because I was running out of time and the matter was already dealt with to some extent in the earlier Summer Games comparison. But to answer your question, the DOS and Apple versions have the Epyx theme included, and the 16-bits have a different, shorter tune that I can't recognize for choosing US Gold as your country.

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  2. Good comparison. A lot of lousy conversions of this one.

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