Review by xanxus

Reviewed: 08/31/05

Run with the Wind

Tecmo was wonderfully inspired when it created the Captain Tsubasa games, based on the long-lasting series by Yoichi Takahashi. The task was a wild bet; making a game that would be about football (soccer) while still revolving around the trademarks of the anime, which more importantly include special techniques, was a daunting one, and one that could very easily have turned into a mess. However, Tecmo brightly proceeded by coming up with a sublime game engine, which consisted of a unique blend of regular soccer and role playing features. The first game, Captain Tsubasa for the NES, thus marked the beginning of one of the greatest video game series, and it was soon followed by other titles on Nintendo’s 8-bit and 16-bit consoles.

In spite of the success of a few of those games (Captain Tsubasa 3 in particular), Tecmo nevertheless never translated and released them outside Japan. This is pretty weird, as the anime had always been insanely popular in certain European countries, and those who had imported the NES and SNES titles actually requested home releases. But the fact that a Captain Tsubasa game would get a domestic release remained a mere dream.

Flash forward to 1992, and Tecmo announces the release of a CT-like title for the Genesis. Fans anticipated, and Tecmo rushed through the project. And Tecmo Cup Football Game, the sole game to benefit from an Engrish script, thus came out. However, while the brilliant game engine, which didn’t suffer from any changes, still makes this Genesis release a must-buy for fans of the series, it’s downright obvious Tecmo rushed the game and never cared to make it as good as the real Captain Tsubasa releases. But who cares, as long as the game play mechanics are kept?

Meet Robert, the new Tsubasa!

While the game mechanics never changed, the story line however got a major haul-over with new characters, different albeit copied techniques (but with different names), and an uninteresting plot. However, although the game does have new characters, most of the key ones bear a strange similitude to the stars from Captain Tsubasa.

This game’s main protagonist is thus Robert, a young boy driven by his love for soccer and his desire to win every cup in the world. Robert plays for the Dreams F.C. alongside his older brother, David, who will provide the an interesting part in the plot with his queer behavior. Unfortunately, that’s the sole good part in the game as far as story is concerned.

You see, Tecmo tried to keep the rivalry among players featured in Captain Tsubasa in TCFG. Unfortunately, the game doesn’t have a long enough life span to cater for all the so-called stars that run in, challenge Robert, and run out again. You never really know why they feel the need to argue, and are not given time to understand their motives, if any. Again, the only true exception concerns David – his vehement attitude towards the Hams F.C. and the whimsical Alfred is a good way of unveiling the single interesting portion of the plot, and actually makes way for a few surprises. Plus you can’t help but compare Alfred to Karl Heinz Schneider, who is possible the best player in CT.

Otherwise, it’s mainly about the trip to the World Cup, and how Robert and his pals fare during the tournament. Additionally, a lot of fuss is made about Robert’s effort to match David in terms of skill and will, but the outcome of this duel can be seen coming after barely one hour into a game. Of questionable quality is also the fact that you never actually know what country you represent, as your national squad is subtly called the Ours. I understand that Tecmo tried to give the gamer the impression of conducting his own country to the finals, but the idea doesn’t really succeed in conveying that emotion.

Fortunately, the lame-ass story is made up by the stunning game engine, which, as I’ve already stated earlier, is merely taken from the regular Captain Tsubasa games. Tecmo Cup Football Game is thus a blend between typical soccer titles and the insanely popular RPG’s. The mixture is a daunting one, but successfully carried out, which is also why the entire game is so enthralling and rewarding at the same time.

Controlling your players, whether you have possession or not, is done the normal way, by pressing the directional buttons. However, except for the soccer regulations and set-ups, this is the only regular part since the actual actions themselves are performed by browsing menus and making your choices. Each time you want to perform an action –such as passing the ball to a mate or shooting if you have the ball, and tackling or intercepting a pass if you are chasing the opponent around–, you thus have to bring up a menu first. This is done by pressing the given button once you feel the need to score goals. In the case that you are instead defending, the menu automatically shows up once you are close enough to that player that has the ball and in certain other situations.

Needless to say, this scheme may be a bit complex at first, but you’ll soon realize it is in fact a very simple one, and will love it. And rest assured that the fact that you need to stop play each time does not break the flow of the game. Matches are frantic, and this is made obvious by the sheer superiority of most teams you are asked to defeat. The variety of actions also makes it sound like real soccer, and just as in a typical FIFA title, you do have the options of changing your formation, strategy and marking players to render them less threatening.

But that’s not all. Captain Tsubasa titles had the nice feature of implementing all those techniques found in the anime, and Tecmo Cup Football Game, while not a real CT release, is no exception. As a matter of fact, performing these is even done in a similar way, which is that of choosing them in the menus when it’s time for some hardcore action. Some players are blessed with all kinds of techniques, which range from extremely powerful shots that will hurt whoever is in their path to zany combinations with their mates, without forgetting the more regular passes that are harder to block. Goalkeepers even join in the fun with punches and catches that would make Oliver Kahn cringe with jealousy.

And just like in Captain Tsubasa titles, the level and Guts systems have been added to prevent you from abusing these techniques since it would otherwise be too simple to abuse them. Indeed, each player starts with an amount of Guts, which is what you need to perform actions. Each move costs a given amount of Guts, and even the mere act of running around with the ball will bring a decrease in those. While regular techniques cost a reasonable amount of Guts, special ones require a load of those, and the best shots actually go as far as consuming 200 to 400 of those. Because of this, it becomes absolutely crucial to know when to use these outlandish moves, as tired players won’t serve any purpose. Thankfully, players also level up as they win matches, which in turn cause their stamina to increase…although it’s a bit vicious that the normal techniques’ requirements will also increase at the same time.

Otherwise, Tecmo Cup Football Game follows the basis of a regular soccer title whereby your aim is to beat your opponents in long matches until you reach the finals. Needless to say, the difficulty gets harder as you progress, and some teams are extremely reluctant to move out of the way. Such squads are not to be ignored, as they will require you to play against them more than twice until your level is on par with theirs. And even if your levels are equal, there’s no guarantee you will actually win since the CPU can use any special technique as often as it wants.

While most may regard the infuriating CPU as cheap and thus feel inclined to stop playing after losing to a vastly superior squad, TCFG manages to evade the plethora of ridiculously hard games. Yes, the title seems tough as first with teams that are almost invincible, but as you play on, you’ll realize that each roster can fall prey to a strategy. Like its Japanese siblings, TCFG is a game that places emphasis on good strategies and knowledge of your own squad. Know how to pass the ball around to fool the opposition, know how to bait the keeper, and most of all, take into consideration that you also have your own flaws and try to tackle these…literally! Each team is actually a chapter in itself. One will stun you with an amazing teamwork, and another will rely on a deceitful defensive strategy. Your task is to control your own team and to show that, although you may not have all the advantages the CPU has, you can still kick its ass. Again, I’ll use the word “Literally”!

Unfortunately (and given the greatness of the game, I’ll even say UNFORTUNATELY!), Tecmo Cup Football Game looks like a mess. I’m perhaps exaggerating, but the title really looks rushed with blurred backgrounds, generic players, and dubious palettes. It’s hard to believe this game is an addition to one of the most impressive-looking series on the SNES. Because there’s no need to stick to the real Captain Tsubasa, most players are thus merely generic, with different hair colors and some other details so you can recognize them. Only the star players, such as Robert, David or Adolf, benefit from individual designs, but even these fails to impress. Some players look goofy, and it’s hard to make out their faces on the pitch.

As if this flagrant absence of personality was not enough, there’s also the fact that the player outfits are not quite impeccable, with dubious choices for the color. The crowd itself is a generic dark gray blob. However, the special techniques thankfully somewhat make up for the crappy designs with brilliant animations haunted by effects such as lightning, balls going invisible, and surreal artwork. And while many players from different countries share the same moves, the fact that these are pulled off so wonderfully makes them worth watching over and over again. The intermissions that pop up between (and even during) matches are also well-drawn, although I would have liked to see more of those.

The music for this game is awesome, but that shouldn’t be a surprise given how it’s the same as in other Captain Tsubasa titles. Most themes are upbeat tracks that will get your blood boiling, and it’s hard to not hum them after you’ve played the game a couple of hours. The first teams share the same music, and this changes to a new one as you move from tournament to tournament, and there’s no arguing the tracks always get better. In addition, certain teams have special music that definitely constitute the core of this game’s powerful soundtrack.

Sound effects are somewhat sparse, but what’s in here is still brilliantly performed. While the player never cry or speak, techniques, whether regular or special, enjoy wonderful effects. The ball striking a post will generate a clear BANG noise, and when it deflates, you will actually think a real ball is undergoing the same treatment behind you.

However, due to its nature, Tecmo Cup Football Game is a title that drastically lacks replay value. Although there’s the fact that the last teams are not fixed and change in order and even in apparition (one team that appeared the first time may be replaced by another one the second time), the game’s difficulty will definitely rebut casual gamers from going through the title again. Thankfully, the sheer length of the tournaments mean the game is still exhaustive, but it’s a pity easter eggs, such as more players and moves, were not added.

While far from being as atmospheric and poignant as the Captain Tsubasa titles, Tecmo Cup Football Game is still a title that manages to provide a memorable experience. CT fans will adore it since it’s actually in English (although the lines are hilarious, and there’s a lot of repetition), and probably also dislike it to a certain extent because of the new players who don’t hold a candle to Captain Tsubasa’s original characters. TCFG is also nowhere as hard as CT titles (but it’s still tough!), which makes it a good place to start for non-aficionados who want to mess with the brilliant scheme the series holds and is popular for.

Granted, the lame-ass graphics may seriously detract from the fun at first, and you’ll loathe losing by a seven goal margin as early as the second match, but the game is captivating and thoroughly exciting. It is also extremely long, which means you’ll be spending a lot of time on it. And I’m not even taking into consideration how you will probably need to play all of the later matches at least twice.

Rating:   3.5 - Good

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