It’s undoubtable that football (or soccer, if you like) is one of the biggest sports in the world, and in spite of various recent revelations involving a bunch of old geezers accepting ‘favours’ (in my head this would be crazy stuff like moving the goal further up the pitch when nobody is looking, but in reality it’s probably something along the lines of “here, have these Swiss watches, on me”, and then a few months later we find out the World Cup is being held in Atlantis), many football-loving Brits are likely excited for/have already watched this year’s FA Cup Final (honestly the last thing I thought I’d be linking to on this website), a celebration of British football that has historically always been a big deal over here, even having an entire day of TV dedicated to it.
However, if reading about that got you excited, I’m afraid I’m not here to talk about anything historical, or real, for that matter. Today I come here to shed light on a different aspect of football; the football where Gundam and Godzilla take to the field in a match of the ages, the football where 12 year old kids create supernovas to score goals, and where you can witness an anime Roberto Baggio… that should enough to entice you, right?
So, in no particular order, here are some of the strangest football games that you should give a go to get you in the mood for a game, or if you just want to read about some sheer craziness.
Battle Soccer: Field no Hasha – Super Famicom (1992)
What you are seeing above is a football match between a team of Gundam and a team of Kaiju. Yep. You heard me right. Ultraman is also in this game. So is Kamen Rider. There is a team in this game called ‘Shadow Crushers’. Clearly this is exactly what the medieval Englishmen who first conceived the idea of football had in mind when they played in the muddy fields of northern England.
Battle Soccer is actually the first of two football games released on the Super Famicom under the Compati Hero series, a crossover created by Banpresto in the 90s between Gundam, Ultraman and Kamen Rider. Along with this, various fighting, racing, RPG and even four dodgeball games were released during the height of the SD Gundam craze in Japan that was immensely popular with children.
In terms of being an actual football game… I’ll admit, it was difficult to navigate the game in Japanese, and the controls seemed strange compared to the more familiar football games of the era such as International Superstar Soccer; it’s just the sheer insanity of this crossover as a concept that makes it noteworthy, and definitely worth a look if you’re a fan of Godzilla kicking a ball.
Shijō Saikyō League Serie A: Ace Striker – Super Famicom (1995)
Now compared to the offerings of Battle Soccer, Ace Striker takes a much more grounded, realistic approach to football… sort of. The game is officially licensed by the Italian Serie A and features 18 teams from the Italian first division, which is strange considering the game was never released outside of Japan.
It’s relatively understandable why this is the case though, as despite featuring real teams, kits and players, the game takes an anime-like aesthetic which massively contrasts from the face-scanned, ultra realistic players seen in sports games today. Even the team select screen looks like it came right out of a fighting game! However, there is something incredibly satisfying about the highly stylised shots of the ball crashing into the net, the keeper left in the dirt as he struggles to stop it, every time you score a goal.
The gameplay itself is fast-paced, easy to grasp, but admittedly quite challenging. The modes are limited but fairly comprehensive, offering quick matches against the computer or another player, a penalty shoot-out mode, and even the ability to play though the league with a save/load function. I genuinely rate this as a potentially fun multiplayer title, but I have to say it does lack any true realism of the Italian league, as it fails to include match-fixing and a dedicated diving button.
Dolucky’s A-League Soccer – Super Famicom (1994)
Don’t be fooled by this game’s cutesy appearance, it’s disguising a dark secret; the fact that this game features full-on assault. Here’s a brief rundown of a few of the ‘fouls’ that I saw in one half of a match in Dolucky’s A-League Soccer; I saw the referee, a tiny little mouse, trampled and pushed around by both teams without a care in the world. I saw a player for a team called the ‘Pochi Funky Dogs’ deliberately step away from the ball, before spinning into one of my players and sending them flying. I saw cartoon cats leaping about 10 feet into the air, yet somehow still keeping control of the ball. The only incident that actually got called a foul by the referee… was a sliding tackle?!
Titular character Dolucky, created by Zoom (who are better known for developing PS2 title Mister Mosquito) has also appeared in baseball and puzzle titles on the Super Famicom, and whether they contain such levels of gratuitous violence is unknown to me. The CPU certainly provides a tough opponent, but the fairly simple gameplay and cartoon-styled chaos makes this a very appealing multiplayer title. I’m going to leave it to you to settle who gets the play as the ‘Devid Rabbit Rockers’; that’s where the real violence is going to come from…
Inazuma Eleven – Nintendo DS (2008)
“Stand up, stand up, if you love football!” bellows the quite frankly awful English dub of Inazuma Eleven’s opening song (linked video taken from the dub of the anime, although it gets the message across). However, the football you know and love is not like the football in Inazuma Eleven. The football you know doesn’t feature shots powered by evil penguins, alien schools aspiring for world domination through football, or a world cup where Japan is in the final. But dammit, I wish football did have all those things!
Enter Endou Mamoru (or Mark Evans, if you prefer/are playing in English), captain and goalkeeper of Raimon, a high school football club; start with a dusty pitch and a looming threat of the club’s closure, and work your way up to world football domination… and battling aliens… and battling demons… Yeah, if you play through the original trilogy of Inazuma Eleven games, you’ll soon realise that in this universe, almost all world affairs are settled through football (in the sequel series, Inazuma Eleven GO, even school league tables are settled through football; this is the stuff that keeps Michael Gove up at night). Endou/Mark is armed with a cheery, never-give-up shonen protagonist attitude, and a bunch of special moves passed down from his Grandad that mostly revolve around giant, angry yellow punching men. He’s not the only one armed with these powers, however, with the strange anime children of the Inazuma universe all wielding their own unique football skills such as creating fire and mountains from seemingly nowhere.
The series is unfortunately plagued by two things; firstly, the English dub is awful. I mean awful. It’s cheesy and can be fun for a little while, but if you’re a fan of the original or have seen the anime, some of the name changes are incredibly painful (as well as the fact that every character in the game is given an incredibly stereotypical accent from various parts of Britain, despite the game being set in Japan). Secondly, the series has never properly taken off in the states. In Japan, three original games have been released for the DS, with a further three hitting the 3DS as part of the sequel GO series – all of these titles are slowly making their way over to Europe. However, right now only the first game is available in the US, as a downloadable title on the 3DS eShop; I hope for the sake of US players that the currently Japan-only 3DS compilation of the first three titles makes it over there, but knowing that Level-5 now only care about Yo-Kai Watch, chances don’t look great.
Captain Tsubasa/Tecmo Cup Soccer Game – Famicom/NES (1988/1992)
This one’s another anime joint, and certainly not the kind of game that would go down with today’s FIFA players; Captain Tsubasa can be considered an RPG, and is the innovator that led to the scarce genre of ‘Cinematic Football’ games. Instead of moving players around the pitch like you’d expect, decisions happen turn by turn, with players presented with various potential movements, each with their own cost in points, just like casting spells in an RPG. However, instead of casting cure or harm, you’ll get to pick between a regular or a bicycle kick.
The game is based on what was then a massively popular football manga/anime, Captain Tsubasa, but the western version saw many, many changes, including a change of protagonist from the titular Tsubasa to the ‘dashing’ Robin Field, changes of entire countries (last time I checked, Argentina wasn’t interchangeable with ‘Arabia’, as the game puts it), as well as a cranked up difficulty level though the use of harder to beat keepers. However, the basic gameplay is retained, so despite being an RPG it’s not totally unplayable for non-Japanese speakers.
Personally, I’m very partial to sports games with overdramatic storylines (If you too are into that stuff, check out Suda51’s Super Fire Pro Wrestling Special, the ending is certainly not what you’d expect from a sports game), so I was slightly disheartened to find out that the western version of the game has cut out a few side quests and the like, but you’ll be happy to know that translation patches for the original and its many sequels are out there (I won’t link to them for obvious reasons, just Google it), so if you like your football with a Final Fantasy flourish, then go check it out!
I’m sure there are many more weird football games out there that I’ve missed so if you can think of any that you’re a fan of and want to share, then leave a comment below!