Image: Bandai Namco
Earlier this week Bandai Namco dropped the reveal trailer for a brand new soccer game Captain Tsubasa: Rise of New Champions. It was a game that came out of nowhere to me but has me more excited for it than many of the other big budget games coming out this year. Here is why I need this game to be a success.
Legacy, Legacy, Legacy
Captain Tsubasa is based on an old manga and anime released in 1981. It surrounds the exploits of soccer player Tsubasa Oozora and his rise to super stardom. We follow Tsubasa through the Japanese youth soccer system, to playing in Brazil and even playing for fictional versions of the worlds top clubs. The manga is truly a love letter to the sport and remains one of the most lauded sports manga in the world. In true manga/anime fashion, Tsubasa, his teammates and his rivals all have absurd signature shots or defensive moves that summon animals or put ridiculous movement on the ball. Its a formula that virtually all sports mangas have super moves but titles like Slam Dunk, Hajime No Ippo and Tsubasa do it with such flair that its hard to imagine the genre with out those special moves.
The games however have not been as well received. In fact, the one Tsubasa game to reach American shores was way back in the 90’s with all the Japanese characters replaced with white dudes. Its shocking now, but for ’92 not all that surprising. With that said, this is a chance for Bandai Namco to not only right a wrong but also re-introduce an awesome franchise.
Soccer Sim Slowdown
Knowing that Tsubasa is an anime stalwart and being a big soccer fan should have me in at face value. But the biggest draw for me is that its something new or at least under-represented. FIFA and Pro Evolution Soccer (now called eFootball PES 2020 or some mess) have traded shots over domination in the soccer game space for a decade. FIFA without a doubt wins over with its licences leagues and teams, while PES prides itself on gameplay. What’s been missing is the arcade, casual experience.
FIFA Street was first introduced in 2005 and hasn’t seen a release since 2012. In FIFA 2020, EA added in the Volta Football mode. Aiming to recapture the feeling from the Street series Volta Football featured street locales and 3/4/5-a-side games. But ultimately it didn’t move the needle for me on the series. Where was the NBA Jam of Soccer? Way back in 1994, one of my favorite games was Mega Man Soccer. It featured bosses and characters from the 8-bit Mega Man Series each character with their own signature power shot. Its not a great game, but I loved it nonetheless. In hindsight, it was Captain Tsubasa with a MegaMan skin over it. I miss that style of sports game. I miss Looney Toons B-Ball, NFL Blitz, NBA Hangtime and Wayne Gretzky’s 3D Hockey. Games that didn’t take the sports so seriously and just jumped the shark on all of it.
I really want Captain Tsubasa to work. At the very least just to prove that people are still interested in arcade-style sports games again. And its also a way to get folks who would never otherwise play a soccer game to at least try one out. And with Bandai Namco’s mastery of cel-shaded near pen-perfect anime graphics engine, this should be SO good.