I have mentioned before that when it comes to football games back in the SNES days there was a wide selection as opposed to today’s simple choice of FIFA or PES.
So I thought that it was about time I looked at another one, J.League Super Soccer, which was made by Hudson Soft. You’ll most likely have heard of Hudson due to its most popular series of games Bomberman or due to the fact that they made the first eight Mario Party games for Nintendo. (On a side note Hudson Soft ceased to exist as a company in March 2012 and was merged with Konami Digital Entertainment, although Konami intend to carry on using the Hudson name.)
The first thing I am going to say about J.League Super Soccer is it has a wonderful intro. But the truth is you cant describe what this game does when left to its own devices as an intro there is no story. What we really have here is an arcade attract mode. Basically some lively football music with a nice chant running through it is played while the game goes from showing you a bit of in game footage, to pictures of clapping fans, to the game’s name and then back to small what can best be described as football comic strip pictures. It almost reminds me of one of those brilliant Amiga software demonstration discs you used to get, the type which would show you pictures graphics and music just for the purposes of entertainment. If you can’t tell, this is something I love about this game.
Originally I didn’t realise what I had been playing was a common game, which came out in the UK with some minor alterations. In fact you might have heard of it, it was called Virtual Soccer. Basically all they did was put in the English language and change the teams from Japanese first division teams to national teams. In the process of buying games for this series of reviews I very nearly went and bought Virtual Soccer which would have meant I had wasted my money buying the same game twice. Something I did notice was that the game has a speed option and you can play it at normal speed or fast speed, but even normal speed is quite fast and this is something I like. You can choose two views to play from. I chose the overhead view which made it look like a game I am sure most of you will have heard of – Kick Off.
I found it hard to shoot but then I am usually bad at these kinds of games. Passing didn’t seem to go quite where I wanted it to go, but unlike the last football game I played the ref at least seemed fair calling for yellow cards when I was fouled as well as when I fouled the computer. When you score there is the satisfying “Goallll!” I wanted to hear in the last game, but still I don’t think enough fuss is made for my taste. You can see the little man is celebrating but I still want to see it closer up. I want to see players punching the air or hugging each other in a cartoon panel or something.
I am glad this game exists because I love having a wide variety of choice and there are things I really like about this game, the presentation, the speed the “Goallll!” soundbite after you score. I guess I would give this game a five out of 10, despite it giving me some of the things I said I wanted to see in a football game during my last football game review it was a step forward in some areas and two steps backwards in others.
Fortunately for anyone who would like to try this game the English PAL cart can be got from eBay for about £3 including postage. I paid £2.25 for the Japanese version including postage. This does raise an interesting point about importing though, the fact that games can change from region to region so sometimes some research is useful to make sure your not buying an altered version of something you already own. But I guess I am still searching for my perfect 16-bit football game.
So you have a game which is basically a vehicle for a real life star, but you find out that he is only a star in your country, and no one else knows who he is, so what do you do?
You could just remove the connection to the star and hope the game sells on its own strengths. You could try and find another person or people famous to the other markets you want to release it in. Or you could just add robots – yeah , that’s what you could do, you could just add robots.
This is what happened to Serizawa Nobuo no Birdie Try, a Japanese Super Famicom game staring Japanese professional golfer Nobuo Serizawa. He was replaced with Eagle the robot and the game got the name Mecarobot Golf because well robot plus anything equals better, doesn’t it?
The whole robot thing is a gimmick. And not a good gimmick, not one layered with reasoning but a rubbish palate swap of an idea. Buying this game I had another game in mind which was the Neo Geo game Super Baseball 2020, a game in which you have whole teams of robots playing baseball together with excellent presentation and gameplay.
Nothing is actually wrong with Mecarobot Golf it controls in a similar way to most golf games with pressing buttons at the right time in accordance to a meter. There are a decent number of holes but the robot thing serves no purpose at all. You don’t even play as a robot – you’re a human trying to beat the robot. I have read notes that there is some story to this game that in the world in which this game exists humanoid robots are considered to be second-class citizens, their rights are limited and one of the things they are not allowed to do is participate in golfing tournaments. So a rich benefactor purchases Eagle and builds all of the golf courses for him to play against the robot on. This story must have just been manual fodder though, as I never got any of that from playing it. All I got was I am playing as a boring generic man against a poor transformer sprite for no real reason at all.
Other than the weirdness of its birth there is nothing to much I can say about the game. The music’s fine, the graphics are decent if not amazing and the game plays fine. It’s just another average five out of 10 game – don’t get drawn in by the robots.
I spent £3 on getting my cart and that includes postage. It doesn’t come up for sale that much over here as its a US import that never saw release here, and in Japan it came out but with the title I have given above. If you do go for it on the rare occasions it surfaces it never seems to go above £10. Heck after buying mine I saw a boxed copy that was a bit beaten and battered for £8.
Championship Pool came out in 1993 and, as you can obviously tell from the title, it is a pool simulation. It was released for the NES, SNES, Game Boy and the Mega Drive. It was developed by Bitmasters and released by Mindscape.
The game is straightforward, it is a virtual version of pool, in which you can play either a one-off game, tournaments, multiplayer or even just practice. I like the presentation on this game, it offers you what looks like a wealth of choice and options but it also has a layer of style. Your opponents are represented by little pictures, you get to see the coin toss for who goes first, etc but once you actually start playing looks wise there is nothing to separate this from any budget pool game you could pick up on the live markets of various device stores.
In the past I don’t remember there being a whole lot of games based on either pool or snooker, at least not on consoles. The truth is I hadn’t even played this one when I was a kid. I brought this game for £3.50 with free postage from eBay purely for this series. I did own a pool game when I was a Mega Drive/SNES owner but it was Side Pocket on the Mega Drive and I never looked for another one as that always filled my pocketing needs. When I try to compare this in my mind to Side Pocket then that wins, but I cant really be sure if it’s a fair competition having not played Side Pocket in 10 years, and maybe I am remembering it through the eyes of a child.
The main thing that annoys me about Championship Pool is it seems to be very unforgiving even on your first opponents – you break, pocket a ball. take a shot pocket another ball. and then you miss. You would think that you would watch your opponent take their shots and then when they screw up you would be put back in control, but that’s not quite how it works. Someone decided that watching the computer play would be boring or something, so instead they’ve made it so you when you screw up, it says it’s the computers go, you get a screen saying that the computer has had its go and now it’s your turn again. You have a look and the computer has pocketed four balls – four balls which you have no idea how many shots it took it to pocket, four balls you don’t feel you could have got given six shots due to where they laid on the table the last time you saw them. So the computer’s fortune seems to almost border on an unholy pact with the Devil and you have no way of seeing how they achieved this Herculean pool feat and you just have to shrug and go OK. Problem is you then pot another ball and then miss then you get a message saying the computer took its shots and won the game, you don’t even get to see the winning shot. This just makes me feel very disconnected from it all. I know that in a lot of games everything is decided by random dice throws or some form of statistical probability matrix but when you can see it happening you kind of forget this and get drawn in to the magic of it all.
I would rate this game four out of 10. It might have got better out of me back in the day but nowadays there are so many pool or snooker-based games you could try. Looking online it seems like the going rate for the cart only PAL is about £8. It can go for more and sometimes you see it for less, I even managed to get my cart for £3.50 with free postage. So if you have a SNES and don’t have many games it wont break the bank. I am not saying my four out of 10 is a concrete score, read the good and the bad sides and see what you think about them, it might not annoy you like it does me.