- Replay Value
- Anime Charm
One thing we can always count on from Level-5 games is a unique experience. The newly released Inazuma Eleven is no exception to this rule. Although this is the first game in the series to come to North America and bring us this unique experience we are the last ones to the party. Overseas the Inazuma Eleven series is already up to 12 video games, a manga, 174 episode long anime and some movies.
Inazuma Eleven is a soccer game, but it doesn’t stop there. RPG elements and ridiculous anime special abilities are added to the mix to make a unique experience unlike anything I’ve played before. Before last week’s Nintendo Direct I had never heard of the series. But following Inazuma Eleven’s announcement and instant release I knew I had to try it out. Let’s get into it.
Fun, Deep and Unique Gameplay
I haven’t played a soccer game since Super Soccer years and years ago. I was just a kid playing every game I could get my hands on at that time, and no soccer game has appealed to me since then. No soccer game until I saw how this one played. The soccer matches themselves take place entirely on the 3DS’ touchscreen. With stylus in hand it is almost too easy to control your team. Just draw where you want your players to go, and quickly touch the screen where you want to kick the ball. This gives you the ability to make complex plays once you get the hang of it. When I started playing I largely let the AI control the players and only occasionally altered what the players did. But by the time I got to the final game I found myself often drawing out elaborate plans involving five or more players.
That basic soccer gameplay would be enough to entertain me for a while no doubt, but the duals when two opposing players meet take it to the next level. Whenever two players meet the gameplay stops a duel of sorts takes place. For example if one of my players is running with the ball and comes in contact with an opposing player the gameplay stops and I’m given a few options. There will always be two basic options that look like something you’d see in real soccer. Options like charging with the ball hoping to get past, or choosing to try to get around the opponent. On top of these options many players have super anime inspired special moves. For example creating a whirlwind to stop the defender and continue on, or creating clones of yourself to pass the ball around the defender.
The defender also has the option to use special moves to stop the player on offence. So just using a special move doesn’t guarantee safe passage. Defensive moves include powers like using superspeed to essentially teleport past your opponent to steal the ball, or creating an earthquake stopping them from proceeding with the ball. Every single shot on the net has a similar style dual. The shots are really cool and anime inspired. Things like flying through the air surrounding yourself with fire, then upon kicking the ball you kick a fast, fiery ball towards the goalie. Then the goalie will often do a special move involving a force field or some super powered punch to stop the ball. These moves will then collide and you have to hold your breath waiting to see if the shot pierces the defenses or not.
The more I got into the game the more intense these games got. Ultimately the final match in the game went into double overtime, almost every player was almost out of TP (the thing that lets you do special moves) and I made an elaborate plan involving all players to get a goal that I largely feel I got on dumb luck alone. But that game was one of the most intense experiences I’ve had in games in recent memory and really left me feeling like I’d accomplished something.
Lots To Do
I feel like I could talk forever about how fun the soccer matches themselves are, but there is also so much to do off the field. You can recruit around 1000 different players to your team as you try to make the strongest squad possible. These start out as other kids in your school, but eventually you also get the ability to recruit players from teams you have defeated as well.
Once you have recruited the team you want, you have to train them up; there are a variety of ways to do this. You can go back to play teams you’ve already defeated to level up your team to learn new special moves and improve your stats. There is also a training facility you can go to that allows you to pick and choose what stats you want to increase on top of the experience you gain. There are also random encounters, just like any other RPG. I found this super charming. Instead of being traditional battles the random encounters are little 4 on 4 soccer games. Most of these just go until the first goal, but sometimes there will be a different objective. Things like just not letting your opponents score for the time of the game, or just getting the ball from your opponent. You can also just explore the world to look for manuals for different special moves, or different equipment. There are also little training spots spread through the world. Things like running around pylons to increase a characters ball control.
Almost Too Much Story
I started out really liking the story. You are the captain of Raimon Junior High’s soccer team and you want to be the best. In an anime way you beat opponent after opponent that you really shouldn’t be able to beat until your team does become the best. This started off charming and I was okay with the cliché story. Near the end though, it just seemed to drag on. In the later chapters I just wanted to skip it all so I could just play soccer. The gameplay is so goddamn fun; the story just seemed to get in the way of it in the later chapters.
Can’t Skip Replays
After every goal in a match a little replay plays. These replays can’t be skipped. Watching a super ridiculous powerful shot collide with a equally ridiculous goalie defense is exciting to watch the first time. But once the ball goes in the net I don’t need to watch it again. I just want to get back to playing. Some of these replays with two special moves ended up being almost a minute long. This is too long to take me out of the gameplay.
Going in I had no idea what to expect on Inazuma Eleven. It is really unlike anything I’ve played before. Now I just want more of this; or something like it. There are a gang more Inazuma games that could be brought over to North America, and I really hope to see more from this franchise in the future. Even if you don’t know anything about soccer (like me) I recommend this. All the RPG elements make it a unique experience that makes it much more than just a soccer game.