Inazuma Eleven GO Strikers 2013
Release Date: December 20th 2012 (Japan exclusive)
If you’re not a football (the non-American, soccer kind) fan then you probably look at the wide range of available football games and think ‘how are these games any different from one another?’. The likes of FIFA and Pro Evolution Soccer aim for the upmost realism, accurately recreating everything from the on-pitch collisions to the stewards on the sidelines, not to mention the sport itself – it’s just like a miniature World Cup inside your TV! However, there’s one console football title in particular that is considerably more liberal about many an element of the beautiful game – the players, the techniques, and even the laws of physics. This game is Inazuma Eleven GO Strikers 2013. Yep, it’s quite a mouthful.
Now is the time to throw out all of your prior conceptions about football. Those nasty challenges you see on the TV that almost always lead to a red card? Sure, there are fouls in this game, but you won’t find any of Inazuma Eleven‘s colourful cast of players sitting on the bench after booting their opponent into the air, attacking them with energy projectiles or even sending them to hell. Don’t expect the referee to so much as bat an eyelid at the sight of the Great Wall of China bursting from the ground to block a shot on goal, or even when penguins catapult through the air towards the back of the net at full speed. Funnily enough, break the offside rule and THEN you’re in trouble. To think that this is all about a school football league.
Strikers, being a spin-off title of the mainline Inazuma Eleven games, differs in many ways from its DS counterparts. The RPG elements of building a team and levelling up your players so that they can perform new special moves (labelled ‘Hissatsu-waza’ in the original Japanese version, which roughly translates as ‘killing moves’; should kids really be doing this stuff in the playground?!) and perform better on the pitch has been retained to some degree, but the base football gameplay is now akin to a more conventional, albeit arcade-style football game, as opposed to the tactical line-drawing navigation that the DS’s touch screen enabled. Strikers expands upon the RPG game by introducing a new ‘relationship’ mechanic which allows you foster a friendship between two or more players, thus enabling them to perform combination techniques with up to three players at once. Techniques are divided into four different categories, shoot, dribble, blocking and catch, which allow you to score, retain possession, steal the ball and save goals respectively. It’s possible to use normal tackles and take regular shots on goal, but when you’ve got an arsenal of super-powered football attacks at your disposal, their presence seems almost trivial.
Various elements return from the Inazuma Eleven GO sequel series, such as the ‘keshin’ (‘fighting spirit’ in the western versions) ability, which allows you to summon what I can only describe as a ‘giant guy’ – something vaguely reminiscent of JoJo’s Bizzare Adventure‘s stand powers – to give you access to unique special moves of all types. Certain characters can even transform said ‘guy’ into a suit of neon-toned armour to enhance their base moveset, something that can be customised as you level up. Finally, Inazuma Eleven GO 2‘s ‘Mixi Max’ power, which sees your players combine with the spirits of various historical figures such as Joan of Arc and Oda Nobunaga to perform even more special moves. The best thing about all of this is that I didn’t make any of it up.
The game’s story mode, a new addition to the 2013 version (the third and final Strikers game), sees you progress around a map playing against teams in an order roughly reminiscent of the plot of both the original and GO games. Whilst many staple teams from the series appear, a variety of ‘compilation’ teams, featuring the more notable players from various parts of the story, ensure that all of the fan favourite characters make their appearance, complete with looks and voices authentic to the TV anime and its related movies, which is more what this spin-off series seeks to replicate. Some of the later teams pose an incredible challenge and will require a carefully selected array of players from previous teams you have beaten for any chance of success. Luckily, your team’s club room offers a variety of training mini-games to develop both player stats and relationships, alongside a fairly robust selection of customisation options for your dream team’s kits, logos and formations that let you make it your own. One of said mini-games takes the form of a curry eating contest. How this makes you better at performing athletic feats I couldn’t possibly say, but this is a game in which an alien high school attempts world domination through football, so I hope you can join me in letting it slide.
The actual football gameplay itself is easy to pick up and has an arcade-like feel. Special shots are activated by holding down the kick button and charging up through three ‘levels’ of varying power, each with a different stamina cost. Beyond these three levels, certain characters can fill an additional move slot with either a combination shot or one of the aforementioned ‘keshin’ move, which require either being near certain players on the pitch or further charging respectively. When using defensive or offensive moves, activated either with a button press or by shaking the Wii remote, if your control scheme allows for it (this game has a satisfyingly wide range of control options, ideal for four-player action), a ring will form around your player, activating the move on contact with another player; if two rings collide, players will clash, with stats deciding who comes out on top. It’s a quick, easy-to-use method of integrating Inazuma Eleven‘s wacky antics into a simple but fun arcade football game.
If you’re looking for your Rooney and Messi fix, Inazuma Eleven GO Strikers 2013 isn’t the game for you; the realism here is limited mostly to the fact that this game is based around a real sport (and that it uses regulation pitches, even in the stadium set in hell). However, if you’re in the market for an over-the-top, unpredictable and ridiculously fun arcade-style football game, or perhaps you simply find the simple concept of school kids with unfathomable anime haircuts performing supernatural – and in some cases, weirdly violent – footballing feats even vaguely amusing, then this is a game worth paying attention to. The story mode provides a rewarding challenge and team customisation offers plenty of depth, but this one’s worth the import for the two on two multiplayer alone.