Football. To many of you, the sport is closely tied to things such as the Premier League, overpaid men worth millions of pounds, the World Cup and possibly FIFA. But when I think about football I think about getting up early every Sunday morning and standing in a field, in all weathers, managing my under 11’s kids team to victory.
Youth football may not seem as entertaining as the professional leagues, but once you start working with a group of kids, coaching them, watching them improve and pushing them in the right direction it quickly becomes one of the most rewarding activities in the world, and it’s this feeling and satisfaction that Inazuma Eleven 3: Bomb Blast tries to recreate.
The game tasks you with taking charge of Inazuma National, a Japanese team for players under the age of 15, who have been chosen to represent their nation at the upcoming Football Federation International (FFI) Tournament, a competition where the top youth teams from all counties battle it out on the pitch to be crowned the best in the world.
As well as having the FFI to worry about, a number of other challenges are presented to the team, most of which revolve around or heavily feature team captain Mark Evans, who should be a well-known character to anyone who has watched the anime or played a previous game in the series. It’s these sub plots that make up the majority of the game’s narrative; some feel shoehorned in and are over and forgotten about within an hour, while others span the entirety of the game and require a previous knowledge of the series and its many characters. They are, however, always cleverly tied in with the FFI tournament itself.
The main story isn’t going to win any awards, as it fails to hold interest and is quite poorly written, which unfortunately seems to be the result of a poor translation and the need to make the game accessible to a younger audience. Despite the target audience being quite young, most of the game’s story is conveyed via text, with only major story moments warranting an anime style cut scene, which, admittedly, are beautifully done.
Throughout the game you have the ability to add new, “scouted” players to your squad. These players can either be acquired by beating their team in a match or by using what is effectively a vending machine of players. Scouted players have very little use: they can be added into multiplayer squads, but for the single player portion of the game there is no reason to acquire them, as the prebuilt Inazuma squad will almost always be of a higher level and be a more complete team.
From your first team of 11 players you can select a group of 3 to accompany Mark around the many different areas of the world as he attempts to complete all the tasks given to him. While travelling you will be randomly challenged by other teams of 4 players, and these encounters will either task you to score the first goal, not lose possession, to keep possession or stop the other team scoring, all within a set time limit. The encounters are by no means difficult, and really only serve as a way of further leveling your team. They can become very annoying when they pop up while you’re trying to advance through the story as fast as possible.
No football game would be complete without the ability to play a full football match and Inazuma Eleven 3 does not disappoint in this respect. Using the bottom touch screen of the 3DS you can draw runs for the players to make, with or without the ball, as well as passing and shooting. This control method works extremely well and it’s easy to pick up and understand, but mastering the system will take quite a few hours. It is possible to play matches via multiplayer, however this feature was not available to test for review.
All players are capable of performing special moves on the pitch, which can be initiated by tapping the touch screen and picking the move you wish to execute. There are special moves that can be used for shooting, tackling, blocking shots, saving shots and skipping past opponents, but they have limited availability and opponents can also use them to counter yours, so selecting the right time to use them is key. Get it right and you’ll be laughing, get it wrong and you could be staring defeat in the face because of that one mistake.
It’s these special moves that take advantage of the top screen on the 3DS. Thanks to 3D effect, at times the ball appears to fly towards you, which works relatively well considering the game is a port from the Japanese DS version. Apart from the special moves the top screen is barely used, and the majority of the game is played using the bottom screen, and the top screen is only used for area maps, which seems like a missed opportunity.
Despite not being in 3D the character sprites of the team when running around in the world are beautifully created and work brilliantly, and the same goes for the environments, which vary dramatically throughout the game. However, the isometric camera angle can lead to times where doorways or people become difficult to find due to being obscured by other objects or buildings.
The voice acting is not particularly great. Many of the characters are clearly voiced by the same actor, and thus sound the same, while many others have little or no voice acting what so ever. The only parts that redeem the voice work are the short, anime-style cut scenes that pop up every hour or so, which, unsurprisingly, are exactly like the anime based on the game.
VERDICT: Despite the relatively poor story and voice acting, Inazuma Eleven 3: Bomb Blast is a very fun game when you actually get to play football. The time in between matches is not un-enjoyable but definitely starts to be come repetitive after a while, and there’s only so many times you can watch your team training – or running to the other side of the map to find someone you were just talking to – without wanting to rip your 3DS in half.
Fans of the previous games or the anime will not be disappointed, whereas newcomers to the series may find the game a little confusing and slow-paced for the first few hours. However, persevere, and the pace quickly picks up and becomes much more enjoyable.
GOOD. A game that scores 7/10 is worthy of note, but unworthy of fanfare. It does many things well, but only a few of them incredibly well and, despite a handful of good qualities, fresh ideas and solid mechanics, it fails to overwhelm.