Captain Tsubasa has been around for almost 40 years, making his manga debut in 1981 and staring in various anime since 1983. It follows the simple story of a boy wanting to fulfil his childhood dream of playing for Japan in the World Cup, and its impact on the world of professional football is more surprising than you think. Not only do footballers like Hidetoshi Nakata, Lionel Messi, and Andrés Iniesta site it as an inspiration, but 2001’s Shaolin Soccer was influenced by it, as well as a line of Adidas running shoes. It’s a wholesome story about dreaming big, friendship, and competition, and Captain Tsubasa: Rise of New Champions does a fantastic job of encapsulating it. It may be weird to say, but this isn’t so much of a football game as it is an action adventure.
There’re two campaigns to get stuck into in Captain Tsubasa: Rise of New Champions. The first one is based around Tsubasa Ozora and his ascension from school to the World Cup. Tsubasa is a loveable character that you really want to succeed. The cutscenes are told through copious lines of dialogue in a visual novel style, and these are perhaps the biggest downside to the game. They go on for a fair amount of time, and when you just want to dive into a match to help Tsubasa realise his dreams, these drag things out for too long. Thankfully, the action is excellent, even if it can be challenging at times.
The second story sees you create a hero of your own, picking from one of three schools to start out at, building friendships and learning the skills of other players within the game. I played through this mode once I’d experienced the story of Tsubasa, and I’m glad I did. It gave me a chance to see which players I wanted to emulate, and it helped me to realise that Shingo Takasugi is a God amongst men. Whilst I chose to play in attack, the sheer strength and power of Takasugi was something I wanted to have. Dialogue options in the cutscenes helps to build relationships that help you to become the player you want, as well as enjoying a fun story at the same time.
The gameplay takes place on a football field, but there’s much more to it than passing, scoring, and getting a victory. Of course, you need to pass the ball into open spaces and can do so with ground, long, and through passes, but the opposition’s AI is smart enough to make this a challenge. Goalkeepers are almost like video game bosses. You can’t shoot and score straight away, instead when the keeper saves a shot, a gauge above his head (Spirit Meter) starts to deteriorate. Once it’s low or non-existent, you’ll likely score a goal. There’re ways to hit powerful shots through animated cutscenes, such as when you dodge a couple of players in a row, or activate a special power like the Falcon or Tiger Shot.
Through certain actions, these animated cutscenes present themselves, and whilst they can be jarring, they add to the overall story. Certain players can block the ball en route to the goal, initiating another animation, and two players can also get locked into a battle of attrition where both must pound the buttons to gain the upper hand. After linking passes and making progress on the attack, you can activate a power that gives you a limited amount of time where your entire team loses stamina slower and makes them much more efficient in every area. Captain Tsuabasa: Rise of New Champions features tons of hidden strategical elements that you’d never find in FIFA or PES, and it’s all the better for it.
Tamsoft has made the visuals look more like the manga, with a colourful and crisp anime style. It’s a beautiful blend, and the action on the pitch maintains this charm throughout. When playing exhibition matches, the visuals are equally as grand during the opening moments where players walk down the tunnel and line up at the centre circle. There’s an assumption that people playing Captain Tsuabas: Rise of New Champions for the first time know very little about the rules of football, so there are many tips and plenty of advice to help newcomers learn the ropes. The commentary is amazing in the fact it feels like a joke. I’m paraphrasing greatly, but hearing them say, “oh that was some great kicking,” and “nice running there” only adds to the enjoyment.
I have to say that Captain Tsubasa: Rise of New Champions quickly became compelling and enjoyable. It offers so much more than simply playing a game of football. The Episode: New Hero is much more challenging due to the fact you start off with next to no skills, but the satisfaction of improving your created footballer is well worth sticking with.There’re plenty of online modes, but with it being less of a simulation, it can lead to some awful outcomes if you prefer genuine competition. The outlandish action won’t appeal to sim football players, but it’s over-the-top gameplay is still lots of fun to play.
Captain Tsubasa: Rise of New Champions offers a great mix of competition, action, and story. Matches can flip in the blink of an eye, and making the most of your dodging and passing is important if you want to score that vital goal. I adore the visuals both on the pitch and off as the character models resemble the manga more, and the animations during the matches help to stand on its own. The difficulty during Episode: New Hero can be tough to find a balance with, but once you make your way past the first few matches, you’ll start to find a satisfying flow.
Plenty of modes
Too much dialogue
Episode: New Hero can be tough