Just a little SEO there, guys. As you can see, I'm an expert. If you're gonna say Sasuke you might as well say Naruto.
So a few Book-Off trips ago, I picked up this very odd game. What indeed is Sasuke (the guy from Ninja Nonsense? A faux-Asian bar in Midtown?) , and why do I need a road to get there?
You might know the Japanese TV show Sasuke as Ninja Warrior, the only good show on the American cable "gamer channel" and cultural embarassment G4. Aired between Cops reruns, thinly veiled ads for videogames and "look, this girl is gonna put somethin' in her mouth!", Ninja Warrior is a revelation. It is the amazing story of an unreasonable obstacle course, the brave men and women who have put entirely too much time into conquering it, and the many more people who screw up and fall into dirty water for the viewers' amusement. It's the same thing over and over again, but it doesn't need to be much else.
Of course, Sasuke (and Muscle Ranking in general, which ran on G4 briefly but flopped) has been around for much longer in Japan, so here we have a 2000 Playstation 1 game about it. It's by Konami, which makes sense: it's a long-form version of their old arcade classic Track and Field. And nobody'd ever get tired of playing that game for 10-20 hours, right guys?
You can just skip to the "play Ninja Warrior" part if you want: it's a series of minigames that mostly involve hitting both Triangle and Circle as fast as you can. It's meant to be grueling the same way actually running the Sasuke course is, except it'll just be your fingers feeling all jacked up as opposed to your entire body.
The interesting part is the simulation mode that forms the core of the game: in this, you create and raise a professional Sasuke athlete. My guy's on the left: isn't he stylin'? Sorry, no makin' a lady Ninja Warrior. That's a whole different show!
Anyway, the game throws you into the whole Sasuke thing immediately. Of course, your guy's really weak and failure is pretty much assured. Only training can make up for your loss! Only you can build the ultimate Ninja Warrior-man and actually watch his muscles level up! (Seriously, there's a menu for that.) So you manage the fellow's day-to-day life: his budget, his meals, his exercise regimen, his power-up items and his television watching. Exercise is all done in similar button-mash trials to the actual Sasuke course, and that's the main issue of this whole game. If you want to get anywhere in the career mode, then every two minutes you're effectively obligated to mash like you're trying to save Meryl's life in Metal Gear Solid.
I rather loathe rapid-fire button-mashing as a game mechanic (though I own a Shooting Watch) and even though this concept is really cool, I can't think of much that's worse than actually playing Track and Field for hours on end. It's apparent how this genre died, isn't it? My guy looks like a baller, but I think I'll stick to the basic mode, thanks.
Konami did a few other Muscle Ranking games on the PS, with titles like "I'm The Strongest Man!" I figure they play about the same, but Muscle Ranking has much more bizarre tests of prowess (pogo sticks, stilts, RC helicopters) than Sasuke's demanding but straightforward obstacle courses. They might translate a little better as videogames, but when the videogame is Track and Field, I dunno... how enthused can I get, right?