Retro Game Of The Week: World Class Rugby (SNES)

World Class Rugby SNES
I’m not a sports guy. So why do I own a copy of World Class Rugby for the SNES?

In Retro Game Of The Week I pull a game from my collection and write about why it’s important or interesting. Or in some cases, badly dated and rubbish.

As anyone who’s ever listened to Vertical Hold: Behind The Tech News for any length of time will know, I’m not all that interested in sports.

Certainly, I’m way, way below the sports frenzy of the average Australian, but they haven’t made that a criminal offence… yet.

But it’s grand final weekend for the two most heavily-promoted-on-TV sports in Australia – the AFL and NRL respectively, although arguments persist around relative player numbers/popularity for other sports like soccer, and if eSports count as sports then…  but that’s a whole different argument and I’m digressing only a few paragraphs into this week’s piece.

Let me start again.

World Class Rugby SNES
Kick Off! I remember that… no, wait, wrong sport entirely.

What I’m about to write will probably annoy the HELL out of anyone who is passionate about Rugby Union. I’m writing that upfront, just to get it out of the way, but also to make it clear that I’m not trolling, and I’m not trying to enrage. Honestly.

Still, while I’m not particularly keen on sports as a category to watch or do in the real world, sports video games are a different matter.

I can point to three distinct video game categories where I’ve become something of a fan (albeit loosely in two cases) precisely because of their video game implementations. I became a definite fan of pro wrestling thanks largely to the classic WCW/NWO World Tour (I must induct that one of these weeks), I’ll watch Ice Hockey thanks to the NHL games… and then there’s Madden.

Madden ’92 actively taught me how the NFL works, and made me something of a fan of the Miami Dolphins. That’s a complex sport with specific rules, but Madden, even back in ’92 did quite a good job of making it all make sense to even me, a non-sports fan. I could get into the game (at the time, it was even early for it to be “in the game”) and as a result, gain an appreciation for the sport as well.

Which brings me to World Class Rugby, this week’s Retro Game of The Week.

I do not really know how Rugby Union works, beyond that there’s some similarities with Rugby League. Oval ball, get it to the end of the field, kick point after getting it there, and so on.

World Class Rugby SNES
Kicking the ball? That I can do. Kick it for a conversion? That I cannot do.

I randomly grabbed a retro game from the shelf this week — not kidding, this was your literal blind point at the SNES shelf with the idea that I’d land on something playable — and I got World Class Rugby, because it’s part of the collection.

World Class Rugby SNES
The menu selection is kind of neat, actually. Low key but fun.

It all starts out OK, I’ve got to say. The menu presentation with a bouncing rugby ball is downright cute, and it takes little time for me to pick a team — Scotland, because why not? — and get into the game.

This is where it all goes wrong, because I have no idea what I’m doing. I’m sort of barely aware of what I need to be doing, but actually making it happen is just convoluted and odd.

I get tackled, and everyone gets together for a big cuddle — OK, OK, even I know that’s a ruck, I’m just teasing there — and I lose every single one of those first time out.

World Class Rugby SNES
I am rucking bad at rucks.

It takes me a long while to work out that different buttons pass in different directions, not that it makes a big difference because it seems to absolutely HURL the ball way out of grasp of my players.

Players, by the way, that I generally can’t see when I’m trying to pass to them, especially if I’m attacking downfield. I made the point a few weeks back with Super Soccer that it was a much easier game to play when you’re going upfield, and that’s even more true for World Class Rugby.

World Class Rugby SNES
It’s hard enough without having to run blindly downfield.

The ball goes out the side of the field thanks to one of my patented hurls to a teammate who doesn’t exist, and we go into a line out, which visually feels a bit like a Madden play, based on the diagrams.

World Class Rugby SNES
That sure is a diagram you’ve got there, World Class Rugby for the SNES!
Wish I knew what it all meant…

Except again I have no idea what I’m doing, and the opposing computer team takes over.

I get slaughtered, again and again, and I’m not having fun.

World Class Rugby SNES
The bitter tears of defeat. I tasted them a LOT this week.

But maybe this is me, and maybe World Class Rugby has hidden depths that aren’t evident if you dive in without reading the manual.

World Class Rugby SNES
I can’t be this bad at a video game… can I?

So I pull out the manual, but my copy is in Japanese, and even a cursory bit of attempted translation suggests that it’s highly complex stuff.

So I went that extra small mile, and went and “found” a copy online of an English manual scan, because maybe my shaky Japanese is making this harder than it should be. Sorry, Misawa Entertainment Japan (who don’t seem to exist any more) about that.

World Class Rugby SNES
My player gets injured in a scrum… and so runs off the field at the same speed he plays at.
I get this feeling he’s faking it.

The English manual only makes it worse. You know how a good manual should make gameplay apparent and easy to grasp?

Nobody told the writers of World Class Rugby that, because it reads like an old school programming language manual, the kind you used to get in the software box in their own ring-bound cardboard folders. No, really, that was also a thing at the time. Anyway, here’s an example of its light, breezy, easy to read tone:

“6 . 5
6.5.1 RULE: When a player is tackled and releases the ball, a ruck is formed. The
forwards of both teams engage automatically. 6.5.2 CONTROL: As for Scrum.
6.6 KICK:
6.6.1 RULE: You can only kick the ball in the direction of the opponents goal.
6.6.2 CONTROL: The longer you hold down the button, the stronger is the kick. The ball travels in the direction the player, who
kicked the ball, is facing. The direction plus length of the kick can be changed by using
the joypad.
Joypad Left/Right: Ball moves Left/Right Up/Down: Ball Rises/Drops…”

It just goes on an on like this in absolutely turgid prose that actively works to make it harder simply to discern controls and rules.

I mean, they’re in there, but you’ve got to dig for them, which is how I worked out that I was losing all the scrums because you’ve got to button mash the L/R and B buttons to try to win a scrum.

World Class Rugby SNES
I did… a wrong thing.
I don’t know what the wrong thing was, but World Class Rugby
for the SNES is quite certain I did it, and I’m disicnlined to check the manual to find out what it was.

That brings to mind the terrible old LJN WWF games — Super Wrestlemania, Royal Rumble and their ilk — that used the same button mashing mechanic for grappling.

It wasn’t fun then trying to get Bret Hart to win a simple suplex, and it’s even less compelling here, even though it did mean I started to win scrums and score a few points here and there — and even, eventually a match.

World Class Rugby SNES
Victory is… a thing. Took me a long while to get there, though.

But I’m sorry, World Class Rugby. I can’t get on with you, and it’s not just because I’m not that keen on your particular sport.

Why do you own World Class Rugby for the SNES if you don’t like Rugby Union?

World Class Rugby SNES

Good question!

The answer’s pretty simple, though. As already noted, my copy of World Class Rugby for the SNES is Japanese, and I own it because it was sitting, quite complete in a junk bin in — I think — a Book-Off for the princely sum of… 50 yen.

World Class Rugby SNES
The ancient half-time ritual of… pouring a kettle of boiling water on your team mates…
I may not know much about Rugby Union, but that doesn’t feel wise.

That’s about 52c AUD at current exchange rates, for a full, complete, basically mint SNES game. I figured I could probably get a half buck’s worth of entertainment out of it. I got this article, so I guess that counts?

I clearly love Rugby Union more than you do, Alex. What’s World Class Rugby worth?

As noted, I can’t find much about Misawa Entertainment Japan that suggests they’re still around any more, so good luck with this particular game getting any kind of re-release or refresh.

Actually, looking around, apart from discovering that World Class Rugby had a sequel(!), it appears that if you are a Rugby Union fan, you’re not exactly awash with choices when it comes to games to play.

But what does that do to the value of a physical copy? They can’t all be worth 50c, can they?

Loose copies on eBay go for around $17, while boxed copies sell for around $30-$60, though they do seem to be thin on the ground. Japanese copies like mine do appear cheaper, and also carry different box art if you care about that kind of thing. The Japanese art is far more cartoony where the local release has a more grimy real-world sports presentation.

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