Genre: Sports Developer: Electronic Arts UK Publisher: Electronic Arts Players: 1-4 Released: 1994
I’m heading into this game not knowing much about rugby outside of a few mentions of it regarding comedian Chris Farley and a few very small scenes in the movie Puddle Cruiser. Even with that in mind, Rugby World Cup ‘95 is a game that could have been better if it didn’t have that high of a difficulty. This late 1994 release looks like an engine used in NBA Live and FIFA. How does one mess up in playability?
Controls in a sports game are fluid when done right. Rugby ’95 tries to be complex considering what they were trying to imitate. It follows the rules offensively. You can kick, speed burst, hand off or throw the ball; however, throwing has to be a backwards lateral. There is also the ability to create a maul, which forces several players to get together and get in a skirmish to move or get the ball. Even though this was developed when the six-button controller was on shelves, the kicks, hand offs and mauls require combos with either buttons, or buttons and the D-pad. On defense, you can switch between players, tackle opponents, and use a speed burst. Everything works fine, though an indicator would have been nice to know where teammates are when you have no choice but to get rid of the ball.
At its core, there are 32 teams. 30 are ones that have teams all over the world, from European nations to a few African provinces. The other two are EA picked teams, which was only seen in a few other games around that time. (NBA Live ’95) There are a few features. Outside of the exhibition, which they call “friendly,” is the league mode. It’s essentially a season mode. Of course, there is the World Cup mode. Pick your team, or like from Madden ’94 on, pick all the teams you want to play as and you head onto the field. This is a one to four-player game, so it will require a multi-tap. There is also an option for just watching the game.
Graphically, it looks nice. The crowd and fields are decent. Even though the player sprites are small compared to other sports games, they have some smooth animation when they are running. There are also a few jumbotron animations, including very pixelated live-action video. The audio, on the other hand is okay. The music sounds like a Genesis game from 1991 and not the good kind, either. The sound effects are minimal, with a few grunts heard in other games like Doom to accompany the ball bouncing and whistles. The crowds sound a bit more real compared to most other sports games.
When you do play, you are given the coin toss to determine which team kicks first. The scoring is a little weird but is like American football for the main points. With the ball, you must make your way with a 15-player team to the opponent’s goal line. Once inside the goal line, you can dive and earn five points (like touchdowns) called a try. Then, a point attempt is made for two additional points by kicking the ball above the crossbar, similar to field goals and extra points. That same method can be used on non-try attempts, though I haven’t seen it.
I’m unfamiliar with the rules, but I think I get the general idea. Whoever has the ball and it goes out of bounds, the opponents can either kick or throw it, just like in soccer. A team that has the ball near a goal line forces a scrum, where you move the pile to ensure your opponent doesn’t score or you try to get into their goal line. There are fouls, though I haven’t seen any occur. Like soccer, two halves are played and once the first half is over, the second half starts with whoever initially received the ball now kicking it off. There aren’t too many options. You can change to a couple different languages, toy with field conditions and time per half just to name a few of the features. In game options are looking at the stats and instant replay.
The difficulty in RWC ‘95 is my biggest complaint. While you can score, unlike NHL All-Star Hockey ’95, getting towards the opponents’ goal line is easier said than done. You are going to be losing the ball often, and most of the time the opponent will get it. There is no breathing room to set up anything. You just have to pray you get to score and use the speed burst without committing any mistakes. Without a difficulty selection, there is a lot of nonsense that must be dealt with. I could never get comfortable. I get what they are going after, but in video game form, it doesn’t work like most sports put into 16-bit cartridges.
A game will take five, ten minutes to possibly over an hour depending on time per half. Unless you really want your rugby fix or are a huge fan of the sport, Rugby World Cup ’95 is one to skip, though I wouldn’t avoid it at all costs. Good luck finding the game if it’s at any used game store. It’s not horrible by any means, but not great either. If the difficulty was a little more refined, maybe it would have been more enjoyable. Even playing with friends might be difficult or not fun. Simply put, there are other EA Sports titles worth your time more.