TECMO CUP SOCCER GAME / Tecmo / NES
 
 
This is a localization of a game called Captain Tsubasa in Japan, which was based on a very popular 80s manga of the same name. The manga was about a high school soccer team determined to Go All The Way with Burning Desire and whatever. Main character Tsubasa was a son of a soccer legend who wanted to be The Guy, had a special Super Shot, etc. You know the drill.

When Tecmo decided to port it to the West, however, I guess they decided the manga references wouldn't fly since it was all but totally unknown outside Japan. So, as Japanese companies were wont to do in the 90s, they clumsily "Westernized" it. It's the same game engine, but the names and art have all been changed to stereotypical Stepford blonde-hair blue-eyed characters. It's actually pretty comical how EVERYONE on your team is blonde and looks like they just stepped off a yacht. Also gave it the very imaginative new name.
 


Anyway, newly inserted main character Robin burns with the same Desire to beat the best teams of the globe, so off we go. This game is basically the first step in what would eventually become Blitzball in Final Fantasy X; the game is much more about menus, statistics and strategy than direct action. The only real "action" is in steering the player who currently has the ball around the pitch; when you don't have the ball, you have to sit and wait until your teammate AI chases down the opponent who does, or intercepts a pass for you. You can stop the player with the ball at any time to issue a command - pass, shoot, etc. - and you'll be forced to stop and choose a command when an opposing player makes contact with your ball carrier. The success of your chosen command depends on the statistics of your character vs those of whatever opponents are in the area. You have as much time as you like to choose a command once a menu pops up.
 


If you're looking for Blitzball on your NES, however, you'll likely be disappointed by how primitive this iteration of it is. As you move about, you can't see the other players dynamically moving with you around the field; you can only see everyone's current position on a menu screen when you stop the action to issue a command. The game is also an entirely linear series of matches where you can only control Robin and his team the Razors. There's no two-player, playing as other teams, season modes, round robin, etc. Just the story mode.
 


It's an interesting concept, but this very early version of it ends up suffering too much from two other major problems. The first is that an action-lacking game like this really needs good customization and management/strategy options to put it over the top, and there's really none of that here at all. The other is simply that the later rounds features opposing defenses and goalies with ridiculous stats, and beating them requires that you've really ground up your offense in the earlier matches ... but the grinding mechanics are a bit opaque and reliant on dumb luck, so it's easy to wind up too weak to continue in the later rounds. Despite being released in 1992 in the U.S., the game also does not have battery backup, but requires a fairly lengthy password to continue.
 


If you're interested in the idea of a story- and menu-driven sports game, it's better to skip this one and move on to the later, much more refined entries in the Tsubasa series ... unfortunately, I think this one was the only one that ever actually made it out of Japan, so you'll have to use fan translations for the others.
 
 
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