CAPTAIN TSUBASA II / Tecmo / NES
 
 
It's .... Ninja Gaiden 2 Soccer? "Red card, little ninja."

In all seriousness, Tsubasa II comes from Tecmo in the same general period they were doing Ninja Gaiden and Tecmo Super Bowl, so it shares a similar cinematic style ... not to mention the compositional work of Mayuko Okamura, who scored Ninja Gaiden II.

It actually seems to be running on pretty much the same engine as the first Tsubasa game, but there's quite a bit of minor tweaking, all for the better. The biggest addition is that you can now see all the players moving about the playfield in real-time, which makes the game immensely more playable. This also means you now get to control defenders, and can cycle through players on the fly.

There's also a more detailed story, this time playing out in elaborate Ninja Gaiden-style cutscenes in between matches. Our man Tsubasa goes to Brazil to play for the Sao Paolo club, and you spend the first half of the game guiding them to the national championship. Then, Tsubasa gets an invite to the Japanese national team to compete in the World Cup. The Brazilian players mostly look like wild purple-skinned barbarians for some reason, but we'll chalk that up to the 16-color confines of the NES color palette rather than some bizarre racism. I guess. Other improvements are a somewhat shorter and simpler password system, as well as the ability to strategize a bit now - you can change formations before games and at the intermission, and move your players around to different positions.
 


However, the core engine isn't THAT different, so what you're looking at is a divisive experience that might actually appeal to RPG fans more than sports fans. You still have to grind up characters in early matches so that they can survive the later challenges, and the mechanics of that are still opaque and persnickety. Offense gets you experience much much faster than defense, so you have to counterintuitively rotate out your defensive and offensive players in the early creampuff matches so that they all get the EXP they need. The other issue of the first game that makes a return is simply that there's nothing to do but the linear "story mode" - no 2-player, no playing as other teams, etc.

I found it enjoyable due to the unexpected Tecmo Super Bowl / Ninja Gaiden flavor of it, combined with the idea simply being interesting and unique. And the game certainly has made enough improvements over the prequel to merit at least one more point. But I still think it's a total crapshoot as to whether YOU, the unknown reader, will actually enjoy it; I have no idea how to predict that, save maybe whether or not you liked Blitzball in FFX. If you didn't play FFX then I'm totally in the dark here, sorry buds.
 
 
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