Jonah Lomu’s legacy as a rugby union great wasn’t with cemented with the bulldozer of a try he scored against England at the 1995 Rugby World Cup but by Jonah Lomu Rugby on the PlayStation.
The first rugby title to arrive on Sony’s debut console back in 1997, the game ranks among the best ever sports sims to grace the console and provides a lasting memory of just why Lomu was and still is regarded as the first superstar of the modern game.
With PlayStation gamers forced to sit through any number of “loading” screens before getting to the actual game, cut scenes were often regarded as a luxury.
Jonah Lomu was different with the game boasting as memorable an intro video as you are likely to find. New Zealand flag? Check. Lomu smashing the shit out of people? Of course. Scary Maori dude pulling strange faces at you? Yeah, that too.
Jonah Lomu Rugby is not simply a celebration of the life and times of the All Blacks legend either – it’s also the perfect showcase for the late, great Bill McClaren’s commentary skills.
Teamed up with fellow icon Bill Beaumont, the commentary is everything you would expect from a PlayStation title in that it is, for the most part, pretty random. “He’s digging like a demented mole there,” McClaren declares at one point. We miss you, Bill.
As well as boasting the standard World Cup and friendly modes, the game also offered players the chance to challenge themselves in a series of scenarios that came as part of the “Classic Matches” mode.
An innovative feature that would be copied on FIFA World Cup 98 just a year later, this was your chance to change history, starting with that bloody final back in 1995 when South Africa beat New Zealand. Jonah was robbed.
A Golden Age
It wasn’t all about Lomu either with the game boasting a veritable feast of familiar faces from what was a great time to watch international rugby union.
Familiar names included Mike Catt, Joost van der Westhuizen, Michael Lynagh, Os du Randt, Rory Underwood, Brian Lima…we could do this all night.
Then there is the man himself. Not only were the All Blacks basically unplayable on this game but Lomu himself was actually the ultimate player. By pressing down L2 and R2 to fend off opposition players, those in control of the big man could score try, after try, after try.
Then there was the secret unlockable team that allowed you to play with an entire team of Jonah Lomus. Incredible.