In the Land of the Giants

When people talk about the rarest games on the Dreamcast, the same names tend to be bandied around. Friend of the Junkyard Racket Boy published a rather nice article focusing on the Dreamcast's rarest and most valuable titles a while back (click here to reveal it's delights), and we looked at a few of the more expensive PAL games right here at the 'Yard a few weeks ago...but here's the thing - a clear distinction needs to be made right now: 'expensive' and 'rare' are not the same thing.

One game that is forever being listed on eBay as 'rare' and commanding some ridiculous prices is Conker's Bad Fur Day for the Nintendo 64. It is a fantastic title and an example of Rareware of old at their finest, but as any well-read N64 collector will attest, Conker is not a rare game - it is merely desirable. Quite where the horrific price tag came from is anybody's guess (maybe someone saw the Rareware sticker and got a little confused), but the snowball became an avalanche and now Bad Fur Day has become the fodder of the more affluent collectors out there. Unless you own an Everdrive...but we won't go down that particularly grey alley.

Back to the original point - rare Dreamcast games. Games like Rival Schools 2, Bangai-O and Cannon Spike regularly get a mention; as do titles like SegaGaGa and Mars Matrix. Whether it was down to low print runs or low sales figures, all of these are uncommon titles. There is one game however, that never gets mentioned in these 'rare games' lists. A game that I believe is so rare, it transcends the very lists it should proudly sit atop. This game is Giant Killers - a UK exclusive football (soccer) management sim released by Smoking Gun Productions in May 2001.
Before we go any further, I want to address the rather odd name of this particular title. In British football terminology, 'giant killer' is a name afforded to a team from a lower league who manage to create an upset and defeat a team from a much higher division. This generally only happens in either the FA Cup or League Cup and is the cause for much celebration/egg on face when say, a non-league outfit sees off Championship or Premier League opposition. There is a long history of bigger teams slipping up against sides they should easily have beaten (for further info see Manchester United vs Anyone during the current season), and giant killing is an oft-used expression on these shores. So that's the science bit done - anyone from overseas seeing the name Giant Killers would be forgiven for thinking UK Dreamcast owners were privy to some hitherto unknown David vs Goliath simulator...alas, the truth is a little less exciting.

What of the game itself then? Well, I have a little confession to make: I hate football management sims. I've never seen the point of looking at screens of stats and never actually getting to play the beautiful game for real. I love stuff like FIFA and all the behind the scenes tinkering that the career mode in said EA Sports flagship title offers...but if you take away the ability to actually play the game, my interest levels wane. By 'wane,' I mean 'vanishes altogether.'
That said, I had an open mind when I approached Giant Killers. I powered the PAL-exclusive title up and settled down into the manager's chair, ready to get stuck in to the day-to-day running of a full blown professional football club. The first thing I noticed when I started the game was that all of the teams are from the English leagues and the conference - there are no international leagues at all, and this has the rather odd knock-on effect that players cannot be purchased from foreign teams. As previously hinted at, I'm a bit of a novice when it comes to management sims, but Giant Killers has a pretty basic and beginner-friendly menu system. You switch between the different management screens via the icons at the bottom of the screen and follow the button prompts in each sub-area in order to set your starting 11, your substitutes, the rather limited gameplan and tactics, and also read emails from your chairman and board of directors. Compared to something like Championship Manager, this is management lite...which I must admit, is quite commendable on the part of the developer when you consider the rest of the Dreamcast's library and the target market for the system. I picked to play as Manchester City and it quickly dawned on me that this game is also very much a snapshot of the English game in 2001. Names like Shaun Goater and Danny Tiatto loomed out of the mists of time like miss-kicking leviathans...and the Dreamcast sponsoring on the Arsenal shirts in the backgrounds got me all dewy-eyed.

Once you've picked your starting lineup and tinkered with the slightly threadbare team tactics, you are encouraged to start your first game from the dug-out, and I must say that it's about as exciting as you would imagine: text-based commentary scrolls up the screen while crowd sound effects play in the background. There's no Premier Manager 64-style 3D representation of the game here - just text. It's quite detailed to be fair, but you'd have to be a hardened statto to get excited about this aspect of the game...and this is where the action happens.
There's not much more I can say about Giant Killers. It's a competent management sim from what I can tell with my n00b eyes, but it really isn't my cup of tea. The menus look uncluttered and the button prompts are helpful...but the lack of any real excitement or 'game' left me wanting to put King Of Fighters '99 back in my Dreamcast after about 10 minutes. This wasn't helped by the fact that I lost all but one of my first 8 games as the new manager of Manchester City - and that was a draw against Sunderland on the opening day of the new season. The shame.

So Giant Killers then. It stands alone as the only football management game on the Dreamcast (unless you count the Japan-only Let's Make A Soccer Team! as a proper management sim, and not an RPG), and also the only UK-exclusive title. That fact alone makes it pretty special in my eyes...it's just a shame I'm not really into this genre.

Price-wise, I've seen copies of Giant Killers fetch a few hundred pounds on eBay...but I paid £8 for this boxed and complete copy at a recent gaming expo so there's proof that you don't have to pay through the nose for genuinely rare Dreamcast titles.

6 comments:

Garry Irwin said...

This is a strange one. I've seen prices for this one vary enormously. I picked it up for about €10 and a sealed copy for just a little more, I think.
It is a terrible management game though. It tries to be a little bit Champ Manager circa 94-95, but just reminds me of terrible football management games that came out for the GBC or DS.

Tomleecee said...

Yeah, it is odd - some auctions have been ridiculous for this title...on the other hand, I sold my recently redundant unboxed copy on ebay for the grand sum of £1.40 last week! As I said in the main article, my knowledge of management sims is limited, but even I could tell that the gameplay was somewhat diluted when compared to Championship, Premier or even FIFA's management sections.

Robert Jones said...

I wonder why the price fluctuates so much? I imagine though that if you are a 100 per cent collector, someone who wants every single game released for a console no matter the quality origin, then you'd pay through the nose for titles like this. Cool and interesting piece Tom.

Tomleecee said...

Thanks Rob :)

Kev Mason said...

Only just checked this out, never played the game but am a bit of a manager game fan (okay I have wasted my life playing manager games! you happy now!?)

don't recall ever knowing about this.

Love that you have seem to have gone the now defunct Leigh RMI! the missus is from there, a lot of people have no idea where it is, although football fans of a certain age seem to be familiar with it because of Leigh having had an usual name.

big mean bunny/@moneyballmase

Tomleecee said...

Haha! My dad lives in Leigh so I know the RMI well! Sadly they no longer exist, but they'll live forever in Giant Killers!