Released: September 1992
US Cartridge ID: NES-TP-USA
Supported Peripherals: Controller
ROM Size: 2 megabit
Mapper: MMC1 (128k PRG, 128k CHR)
Tecmo’s penultimate American NES release, Tecmo Cup Soccer Game, follows largely in the footsteps of the company’s games that came before it. Drawing from Ninja Gaiden’s revolutionary use of cinematic cut scenes, Tecmo World Wrestling’s textual play-by-play commentary, and the technical and artistic talents of the developers that shaped and defined the Tecmo brand name across all of the publisher’s products, Tecmo Cup Soccer Game’s inventive employment of such seemingly disparate elements belies its implicatively generic name, resulting in the most unique rendering of a sport that NES gamers were ever made privy to.
Players step into the cleats of Robin Field, high school student and all-star striker for the Razors youth soccer league team. His father, the world-famous soccer superstar Terry Field, tells his son that he must leave for training, and that they’ll see one another again at the World Cup. Blissfully unaware that he has just been abandoned, Robin is quickly consumed by his dedication to prove himself, determined to reunite with his father on the world stage.
Tecmo Cup Soccer Game’s personal narrative appropriately separates it from the majority of sports titles, as Tecmo Cup is not an attempt to accurately simulate the sport in the traditional manner followed by Soccer and Goal! Rather, this heavily Americanized version of the 1988 Japanese “simulation” Captain Tsubasa reorients genre conventions in order to highlight the struggles and successes of one person’s rise to the top. In essence, it is a highly cinematic, stat based, menu-driven RPG.
After kickoff, team members are controlled via an overhead representation of the field on the lower half of the screen. Only the controlled player is visible at any given time, and interactions with players of the opposing team are treated as “random encounters,” typical of RPGs such as Final Fantasy. During these encounters, the player will have the option to perform a sliding tackle, to mark a player, or to cut the ball. The potential success of any of these maneuvers relies on the performing player’s skill, indicated in the stat window appearing at the bottom right of the screen.
If the player is not otherwise occupied with an encounter with the opposing team, a menu can be opened that will allow for more offensive maneuvers to be performed. Through this menu, each player has the option to pass the ball, to take a shot, or to continue dribbling. Many players have special shots that can be taken advantage of under the right conditions. If someone approaching the goal is passed the ball, they will usually be given the opportunity to perform a volley shot or a header. In addition, some of the better players (Robin, for instance) will have a flashy super move that rarely misses its mark, while some have moves that can only be performed with specific teammates nearby.
All of these options are governed by a stat labelled “guts.” The guts rating indicates how much stamina a player has remaining, and it will steadily drain over the course of a match. Dribbling up and down the field will slowly whittle away at a player’s guts, and while passing and other common maneuvers require only slightly more, the higher-end special moves can easily consume 1/2-1/3 of a player’s total reserve in a single use. This analogue to the traditional HP and MP systems of standard RPGs helps to keep the challenge balanced, as a player with no guts remaining will be hamstrung by fatigue and a severely limited move set. This stat, along with all others, can be improved over the course of multiple games by gaining experience. Each action taken will contribute to a player’s growth, and enough plays will allow him to gain a “level,” resulting in an overall higher level of performance on the field.
While the bottom half of the screen is dominated by menus, stats, and fully detailed (albeit awkwardly translated) running commentary, the top half of the screen provides a continually running graphic representation of the action. Each action will dynamically switch the angle that the action is shown from, and though lacking the necessary number of frames needed to provide fluid animation, the anime styled player illustrations are both impressive and engaging in their dramatic close-ups. Given the strict limitations of the host system’s hardware, Tecmo Cup Soccer Game’s in-game graphics impressively resemble a playable version of Ninja Gaiden 2’s cutscenes and tend to look more like a 16-bit game than an 8-bit one.
The graphics are incredible on a technical level, though some of the player designs suffered in Tecmo’s conversion from the original Captain Tsubasa title. In an attempt to make the game more western, many of the characters now sport bright yellow hair with blue eyes; while this in itself isn’t problematic, Robin and his girlfriend Anne both now look extremely generic (and creepy) compared to their Japanese counterparts. The story driving the action on the pitch also has been simplified significantly, most likely resulting from the choice to not license the rights to the manga’s characters and story for the US release. Much of the music has been changed as well, but the new tracks are far superior in comparison to the originals, easily matching the quality and “hummability” of Tecmo’s best musical efforts elsewhere.
It is puzzling that Tecmo saw fit to release Tecmo Cup Soccer Game as late in the NES’ life-cycle as it did. Though Captain Tsubasa was extremely successful in Japan when it was first released in 1988, it was an utter commercial failure in the United States. Many American gamers had moved to 16-bit platforms by late 1992, and the lack of media promotion or magazine coverage meant that most would-be fans never even knew of the game’s existence. Furthermore, Tecmo published Captain Tsubasa 3: Koutei no Chousen (The Emperor’s Challenge) on the Japanese Super Famicom two months prior to the release of Tecmo Cup Soccer Game on the NES.
Tecmo Cup Soccer Game is a wholly unique experience that melds two completely separate game styles with flair, style, and panache. Even though it’s brought down slightly by its neutered characters, simplified story, and horrendous password-save system, the game does everything else so well as to almost entirely obfuscate these qualms in the eyes of the involved player. Sports fans, RPG fans, or anybody looking for one of the best games that they have never heard of would all do themselves a great service in giving Tecmo Cup Soccer Game a go.
|Tecmo Cup Soccer Game
|キャプテン翼 (Kyaputen Tsubasa)
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