Man of the match: Enzo Scifo. Hat-Trick beast: Luc Nilis. Unlucky goals conceded by Pinto. There. Now that this is settled, let’s try and focus on the quarter finals against Italy, shall we?
Oh wait, this isn’t the World Cup of 1998? EURO 2020, you say? Actually happening in 2021, to make Panini sticker buyers even more confusing? Whoops.
I have fond memories of FIFA Road To World Cup ‘98, or RTWC98. And I’m not alone: read 14 reasons why RTWC98 was the best game ever according to balls.ie (nice domain name!) or muse along with Rock Paper Shotgun who bring up so many golden moments while playing this classic game, released in 1997. So, in light of the European Championship football craze this month, I snagged a big box PC copy of RTWC98 from eBay. “Don’t worry babe, it’s for research purposes, statistical predictions for the upcoming matches, you know?", I said. I’m note sure if she swallowed that excuse, but the game arrived a week later nonetheless, allowing me to very accurately predict tonight’s game1:
The game allowed you to drag your favorite country all the way from the qualifying rounds into the finals of the World Cup ‘98 in France. Not only that, it also had an in-door mode, and more importantly, it allowed you to customize a team and pit them against the dreaded Brazilians. I used to put my grandfather in the goal, but on the amateur difficulty level, he usually bored himself to death. Even on harder difficulties, the game is still relatively easy, but that doesn’t make it less fun!
The back of the PC box boasts the 3DFx logo. What a wonderful time for PC gaming, the year 1997. Those with money to burn installed three video cards: two PCI Voodoo cards connected with SLI and another one that occupied the AGP slot for 2D rendering. A year later, the Voodoo2 would be released, dramatically increasing the texturing abilities. My much overpowered GeForce 3 doesn’t even flinch, while rendering the laughably bad face textures of seemingly cloned football players. Back in the day, it looked incredible.
While the graphics might not have aged that well, even the first few seconds of the game still know how to Instant Goosebump me. “E.A. Sports. It’s in the game!" followed by Blur rocking out on clips of acrobatic goals: one of the best intros in any video game, even by today’s standards. Don’t believe me? Watch this:
For us Belgians, the joy this game brought in 1997 almost made up for the sadness caused by the actual results of the World Cup a year later. Hint: Belgium did not make it through the group stages (Group E). Thanks, Netherlands and Mexico! Mexico got kicked in the nuts by Germany soon after, but Netherlands even overpowered Argentina in the quarter finals. They eventually had to bow out against Brazil—which not so gracefully lost against France, the country that organized the Cup, in the finals with a clear statement: 0 - 3.
So yeah. Belgium - Portugal tonight at 21:00PM CEST in Spain? No problem. Watch out for Pinto’s head in that last corner, though!
Edit 28 June 2021: Well, that was a close call! 1 - 0. See, RTWC98 did a pretty accurate prediction, right?
Fraps refused to recognize the game in Windows 98 and I have no means to record an analog VGA signal. Any tips, besides a convoluted MiSTer and HDMI USB capture card setup? ↩︎