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NCAA Final Four 99 (PS1) & Metal Gear Solid....?

Posted: April 1st, 2019, 5:27 pm
by Retro STrife
March Madness - This time of year always brings me back to one of my favorite gaming memories.

I don't play many NCAA basketball games (more of an NBA guy myself), but I'll always have a soft spot for NCAA Final Four 99 on the PS1. Final Four 99 is the main reason Metal Gear Solid is my favorite game series. Weird statement, right?

Quick story.... In 1999, my local Wal-mart had a tournament for Final Four 99 during March Madness. It was pretty casual -- just 2 TVs set-up in the electronics section, and a small crowd gathered to watch. They gave out demo discs to practice with the weekend before, and I spent the whole weekend getting ready for the tournament. With practice, I learned how to spam 3-pointers, making them almost every time. With that, I killed it and won the tournament easily, beating out a lot of adults along the way. Grand prize: a Sony Playstation system. However, I already owned one that I just got a few months earlier, during Christmas 98. So the friendly folks at Wal-mart let me exchange the PS1 (worth $130) for the equivalent value in games. This was HUGE for me -- I was a pretty broke kid and only got new games at Christmas, so winning $130 for games was like 2 Christmases worth of games, all in one day. :D I had to make some quick decisions, and had heard great things about Metal Gear Solid and Gran Turismo, so I got those two games (my third game, with the rest of the money, was Rugrats: Search for Reptar... but let's pretend that didn't happen :lol: ). Anyway, MGS and GT were smart choices, and became two of my favorite franchises.. By the time I played MGS2 and MGS3, I realized MGS was my favorite series. But I can honestly say, if not for NCAA Final Four 99, I probably would never have played the MGS series at all!

Oddly enough, the real March Madness tournament that year was also the most memorable for me, because my local college team - the UConn Huskies - won their first national championship over a heavily-favored Duke team in a classic game. (I also used UConn in my win at the gaming tournament.)

Funny thing is: I've never played Final Four 99 again since that day at Wal-mart in 1999!

I still have the demo disc at home though, so it's time to change that this year. I'll make sure to play it this week, and post my thoughts here. Anyone else played this game or have a March Madness story?

Re: NCAA Final Four 99 (PS1) & Metal Gear Solid....?

Posted: April 1st, 2019, 11:03 pm
by VideoGameCritic
Thanks for sharing that story about how a kid hit the jackpot! 20 years ago!
I remember showing off MGS to my friends who were amazed by the realism. Final Four 99 isn't bad either!
You should play it again to see if you still "got it" after all these years.

Re: NCAA Final Four 99 (PS1) & Metal Gear Solid....?

Posted: April 2nd, 2019, 12:46 pm
by Retro STrife
VideoGameCritic wrote:Thanks for sharing that story about how a kid hit the jackpot! 20 years ago!

That's a good way of putting it! It certainly felt that way at the time. And I didn't realize it, but you're right, it's now been exactly 20 years. Time flies!

VideoGameCritic wrote:Final Four 99 isn't bad either! You should play it again to see if you still "got it" after all these years.

Yeah, I finally played it again last night, using the same old demo disc from 20 years ago. Funny thing that's always confused me - the "demo disc" actually contains the full game on it. I've never understood how we were handed out full versions of the game as a "demo"! It was a $40 game at the time! And it looked just like a regular demo disc package, like this:

NCAA-Final-Four-99-And-2000-Demo-Disc.jpg (41.72 KiB) Viewed 516 times

Anyway, I booted it up to the familiar 989 Studios logo and sound.. been awhile since I've heard that in a game! I always felt the presentation in this game was really solid. Menus are simple and easy to navigate. College band music plays in the menus and the game, which really helps enhance the atmosphere. There are tons of college teams included, from big names to little local schools. I've always loved Quinn Buckner's commentary, even though it's mostly repetitive one-liners. As for the gameplay, it still hangs on to a lot of 16-bit sensibilities. You have the isometric view, and the simplistic defense and offense. I never felt like I was employing much strategy.. instead, I was just trading jump shots with the other team, or driving in for a dunk.. not really setting up any real plays. On-ball defense is tough too, as you really can't play your man as well as you'd like.

I played as UConn again, and sure enough, they have a real sharpshooter with a 99 shot rating in Richard Hamilton (although he is just #32 in the game). On the lowest difficulty, I could easily make near 100% of my shots once I got used to the shot meter. It gets harder as you increase the difficulty, but even then I was still hitting 60 or 70% from the 3-point line. It allows you to keep the game close at that higher difficulty, but also doesn't motivate you to run an intricate offense.

Final Four 99 is a pretty solid game, straddling a fine line between 16 bit and 32 bit gameplay. I think the VGC score of B is right in the general area. It's crazy to think that, just one year later, NBA 2K would come along and completely revolutionize basketball video games.