Review by VillaNZ

Reviewed: 12/15/03

Great fun... for a while.

At time of writing, this game is over a decade old and up until last month I had all but forgotten it, but on a recent flight to Malaysia I noticed that several classic SNES games were available as part of the 'in-seat' entertainment. When I saw that Super Soccer was one of these games, the memories came flooding back and I spent the best part of six hours trying to lead my beloved England to victory, shunning classic games like F-Zero and Super Mario World in favour of this little-known sporting gem. So now I've decided to dig out my Super NES, fire up Super Soccer and review it for any retro-gamers out there.

When you first switch on the game you are treated to a brief intro consisting of some wonderfully cheesy music and very basic animations - nothing too impressive, even considering the age of the game, but good enough to set the scene.
The main menu screen is hardly brimming with options as it offers a simple choice between 'Exhibition' and 'Tournament' modes. In Exhibition mode, you can play a single match against either a CPU controlled team or against a friend or you can play a penalty shoot-out, which is good fun for some quick-fix multiplayer action.

The real heart of this game though is the tournament mode where you choose your team from the 16 countries available and your aim is to beat the other 15 teams to become world champion.
Once you've chosen your team, you then have a variety of formations to choose from and you can chop and change your starting line-up (this is as close as Super Soccer gets to having 'options') and after watching a brief but funny animation of the two teams running onto the pitch, its on to the match itself.
The first thing you'll notice is the camera angle. Nintendo, obviously keen to take full advantage of the then-new Mode7 technology opted for a pseudo-3D view of the game with the camera sitting behind the ball and looking at the far end of the pitch - in a similar style to the John Madden football games but a little closer to the action. At times this view works nicely but it can be extremely tricky when your team is shooting towards the camera as you can't actually see the goal until you're almost standing in it.

The controls are simple but effective with 4 different passes and 2 types of tackle to choose from and even the ability to play a curved pass or shoot by moving the correct way on the D-pad after kicking the ball. Passing is difficult as most of the time the ball seems to be motorised - if your pass doesn't go directly to someone's feet the ball will just roll and roll and roll. But this does mean that if you can string together a Brazilian style passing move it well feel much more rewarding.

The easy option however is to run with the ball. Most teams have one or two quick runners and you will be able to beat all of the weaker teams by zig-zagging through the defence with some ease.
On the subject of defence, the 2 tackles available to you are a conventional sliding tackle and pretty rough looking shoulder barge which would be much more at home on a hockey rink. The shoulder barge is a more effective way of tackling and much harder to avoid but you also run a greater risk of giving away a penalty or free kick and picking up a yellow or red card. The slide tackle is weak and often jumped by players in the better teams but almost never gets your player in trouble or give away a penalty.

The first five or so matches give you the chance to learn the controls and even start to get flashy with a few 80-yard runs or long range strikes against the weak CPU goalies. As the learning curve moves up you'll come across much stronger defences and more deadly strike forces. By the time you reach the final team, Germany, you should have learned all the necessary tactics and skills to test the take on the toughest defence in the world - and have fun doing it.

One of the nicer touches in the game is that most of the teams have their own style or certain outstanding players, loosely based on the real life team. For instance the Ireland team on Super Soccer has an almost unbeatable goalie, based on Irish goalkeeping legend Pat Bonner and the Uruguay team is very rough in its tackling, constantly giving away free-kicks.

Another nice touch, and something that sets Super Soccer apart from any other soccer game that I know of, is the in-game music. Instead of the boring shouts and cheers of the crowd and monotonous commentary that we have come to expect in modern sports games, this game has a musical sound track which despite being basic and infectious adds a certain amount of drama to the action. What makes it even better is that each team has its own tune which vaguely represents its style of play - for instance the German tune sounds mean and dramatic whereas the Colombian tune has a happy, samba-style beat.

However, despite the quirky music and bright, cartoony visuals the game is marred by a major lack of depth, mainly due to the non-existent options and poor multiplayer potential. Even the inclusion of a range of difficulty levels may have helped this game last longer but as it is there just isn't really enough to pull you back for ''just one more go'' once you've beaten the game.

SUMMARY

Graphics
The games graphics are certainly not its strong point. Mode 7 technology is under-used but does enable the game to have a different look and feel to any other soccer game of its time. The short animations when players score or get injured are extremely basic but nevertheless mildly amusing - especially when some scores an own-goal. All in all, solid but never breathtaking.

7/10

Sound
There are very few sound effects in this game, just the basic kick noises and appalling crowd noise effects. But the idea of using music while the action is going on really adds something different to the game. The tunes are basic and repetitive but amazingly catchy and you'll be humming along in no time - for me this is a good thing in a game but I imagine for a lot of gamers it could intensely annoying as there is no option to switch it off.

6/10 (or 3 if you don't like catchy Nintendo tunes)

Playability
The controls are a bit shaky and hard to get used to but after a few matches you should have mastered them. Apart from that the game is very enjoyable and certain goes for an arcade style of play with the emphasis firmly on fun rather than realism. But what else would you expect from Nintendo?

6/10

Lifespan
This is where the game really falls short. The lack of options and difficulty settings will see the cartridge gathering dust pretty quickly once you've beaten it for the first time. The very limited multiplayer options also ensure that Super Soccer doesn't remain super for very long. But, that said, there is a certain charm about the game which may well bring it out of the cupboard every couple of years for a quick 2 hour run-around.

4/10

OVERALL
Technically Super Soccer is very basic and doesn't really play like any other soccer game around. The controls aren't great and the variety of moves is poor but it does have a certain something that just makes it fun to play and quite challenging. There is definitely some fun to be had, just not for very long.

6/10

Rating:   3.0 - Fair

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