On The End Of A Quill

On The End Of A Quill

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Nintendo World Cup

These days if you want to buy a football game you have two choices, Pro Evo or FIFA? Both good games, both improving every year, both sell bucket loads, and both, well, at this stage a little soulless and similar to each other. It wasn’t always like this. Many moons ago there were more types of football games than teams in the football league. You could even argue that there was ‘choice’ up to the days of the Dreamcast and PS2. But for now I want to talk about one of my favourite football games on the NES, one that doesn’t stick too closely to the rules of football at all! Nintendo World Cup.
Released in the year of Italia 90 but Nintendo decided to have only 13 countries enter their world cup, they also included some teams who didn’t quite make it to Italy that year, Mexico, France and Japan. When you picked your team you would usually choose W. Germany or Argentina as they played out the final that year. While the cool kids would play with the speedy Brazilians because they always played the best football, right? They got dumped out at the second round stage in Italy but would have the last laugh four years later.
13 Teams, that’s a bit odd? Indeed it is. The reason behind this lies in its Japanese roots. Technos Japan Corp, the developers, originally made the game starring Kunio, their main mascot; he starred in lots of games for them, some of which made it out of Japan, River City Ransom, Super Dodge Ball etc. Nintendo World Cup was set in Kunios’ high school and there were 13 high schools in the game and a story mode but that was all altered on a western release. These games used a similar style of character throughout and are very distinctive and popular. But enough of the boring history lesson, how does it play?
Looking at the box you would expect a normal football game but on playing a match that picture was as close as you were going to get! Only six players per team and no fouls whatsoever to speak of. It really was like no other football game before, most football games at the time took the tried and tested overhead view, where you only saw the players’ heads and occasionally feet. Games that took this side on view tended to have blocky players and run very slowly. Nintendo World Cup had bright colourful and distinctly different players on each team. It also moved at a quick pace, well some teams did.
When you popped the cartridge in you get your usual choice of tournament mode, 1 or 2 players or vs. match with up to four players, I wasn’t lucky enough to have a four score adaptor in those days unfortunately. But 2 player games kept us happy enough; this is a great two player game. There are no changing players during play so your player would have to be watched on the field map at the bottom of the screen and you had to ask your teammates to pass you the ball. If your friend in player two was a ball hog then it could be a long game, but without teamwork there was no chance of your team lifting that World Cup trophy. In Versus mode you get the choice of surface to play on, the normal grass pitch is there but you could also play on sand, hard concrete or even on a pitch made of ice! The music also deserves special mention as the pregame tunes are top notch stuff and you never feel like lowering the sound down like in other games I could mention.
So you have your friend helping you in player two, a team has been diplomatically decided upon, it’s time to win that cup. But before you set one foot out on the pitch you need to make some last minute tactical decisions. These decisions affect the way the other players on your team go about their business, you can only control one player remember. You need to answer four questions about them. Will they pass or try to dribble with the ball? Should the goalkeeper join in? Yes or No? Always a 'Hell No' from me. Will your teammates shoot? Yes, No or sometimes. Let’s just set that to 'No'. Finally set your defensive strategy, will they tackle or mark the opponent? With no free kicks, let’s set that to 'tackle' shall we. Right. First up, Cameroon.
The first few matches are relatively simple and you could with a bit of skill win by double figure scores. It does get harder though and to reach W. Germany and win the final will take some doing. You spend most of the game asking your teammates to give you the ball before they lose it. You can hammer the pass button only for them to call out ‘I Can’t’ repeatedly back at you as they run down the wing, just like football with your friends in the park, brilliantly infuriating. No other game at the time had this, or any since really. If you run a certain number of paces with the ball you could unleash a super shot with some players, different teams had slightly different powerful shots. If a defender got hit with one of these shots or got tackled repeatedly he would fall in a heap on the ground and not get up until the ball had gone out of play. What we tried while playing was to set up a cross from one player to the other, a quick tap of the A and B buttons, and an overhead volley or wicked banana shot would, hopefully, fly into the net. Against the better teams it was harder to score as their goalkeeper could save these types of shots. Plus don’t try and play football near his penalty box as he will just barge you off the ball, like today, goalkeepers get away with murder!
Today it’s still a fun multiplayer game to fire up and play. It seems to have more screen flicker than I remember as a kid, but it’s never so bad as to effect to game. As I’ve mentioned there has been nothing like it since, so it’s a weird one to judge really. While not the best or most accurate football game around it is still so much fun to play I rank it up there as one of my favourite multiplayer games. It also game out on the Gameboy. But without the fun of having all your friends with you playing and all the action trying to fit on the small black and white screen, it’s the poorer version by far, I never found myself playing it for too long.
Lastly I want to mention one of my biggest memories of this game. While at my cousins house one summer we played this game constantly. Taking turns to try and get as far as we could. I and my eldest cousin would take a go then my younger cousin and uncle would try the same. We were all of pretty equal standard playing the game so it was all fair. Until this one time my cousin and uncle somehow managed to lose 2-1 to Cameroon, it was almost unbelievable, we usually aim to try and score the most goals against them. The sight of their teams’ players trundling across the screen in defeat below the final score line was priceless. This led to constant reminders and weeks of verbal abuse. Cameroon for crying out loud! Brilliant.

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