Soccer
  • Genre:
    • Sports
  • Developer:
    • Intelligent Systems
  • Publisher:
    • Nintendo
  • Released:
    NES
    • JP 04/09/1985
    • US 10/18/1985
    • UK 01/15/1987
    Arcade
    • US 1986
    FDS
    • JP 02/21/1986
Score: 55%

This review was published on 12/02/2016.

Soccer is a sports video game developed by Intelligent Systems and published by Nintendo for the Nintendo Entertainment System, Famicom Disk System, and arcades. The NES version was originally released in Japan on April 9, 1985, North America on October 18, 1985, and Europe on January 15, 1987. There was also an arcade version titled Vs. Soccer that came out at some point in 1986. As for the Famicom Disk System version, it was exclusively released in Japan on February 21, 1986. Back in the mid 1980s, Nintendo released various 8-bit sports games on the NES that were collectively referred to as the "Sports Series." The Sport Series includes games like Golf, Tennis, Baseball, Volleyball, and Ice Hockey. Golf, Tennis, and Ice Hockey were the best of the bunch, and some of these games eventually went on to inspire the creation of Mario Golf and Mario Tennis in the 1990s. Sadly, Soccer isn't one of the better games in Nintendo's Sports Series.

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For those of you that have no idea how soccer works, let me explain. Firstly, it should be noted that soccer is known outside North America as football, because players primarily use their feet to hit the ball, though they can occasionally use their head or torso. Whatever you choose to call it, the sport revolves around two teams trying to kick a ball into each other's nets, which are located at each end of the field and are referred to as "goals." Each team is comprised of six players in this game, though real soccer has more, and one of those players is called a "goalkeeper" or "goalie." Goalkeepers are the only players allowed to touch the ball with their hands or arms, and their job is to defend their team's goal from the opposing players. Matches are divided into two periods, each one lasting a specific amount of time, and the team that scored the most goals by the end wins. When you get right down to it, soccer really isn't that complicated.

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Action is viewed from an overhead perspective, and you use the big cross thing on the controller, otherwise known as the d-pad, to move the currently controlled player around. Usually, your control will automatically shift to the player on your team that's closest to the ball. The other players within your team that you aren't controlling will be handled by the computer AI. Pressing the A button kicks the ball, and the B button is to pass it to nearby fellow teammates. The B button also switches your control to nearby teammates when not in possession of the ball. You can tell who you're controlling via the number over their head. When near your own goalie, you control him at the same time as whatever other player you're currently controlling, which is quite hard to manage. If you're near the opposing team's goal, there'll be an arrow pointing at it that you can move vertically. This arrow lets you aim your shot into the opposing goal, but as with controlling your goalie, it's hard to do because you're controlling a player at the same time.

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Controlling the game is fairly simple, for the most part. There are, however, a couple of problems, the biggest of which is that player movement feels very sluggish. This is especially true when you have the ball, as the controlled player has to constantly kick the ball a short distance away each time he moves, and this momentarily stalls his movement. It's like watching an old man slowly push a walker around. The screen also scrolls around rather lazily, further adding to that authentic molasses feel. Additionally, unlike many future soccer video games, you can't tackle opposing players to steal the ball. Instead, you simply walk into them. While this is certainly more realistic, it makes things less exciting. If there's anything this game doesn't need, it's to be less exciting.

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There are a couple of settings to play around with before starting a game. The first thing you can do is pick your team, which is represented by a different nation, such as the United States, Great Britain, France, West Germany, Brazil, Japan, and Spain. Outside of the color of their uniforms, there's no real difference between the teams. After that, you can set the skill level of the computer AI, from one to five. Lastly, you can set how long each period lasts. Your options are 15, 30, and 45 minutes. In real life soccer, periods are usually 45 minutes, but it's nice of the game developers to give you the option to have shorter matches. On top of that, each minute in the game's time is roughly ten seconds in real time, so matches go by even quicker than advertised. In between periods, a couple of cheerleaders will come out to dance for you, which is a nice touch. Also, like with many titles in Nintendo's Sports Series, it's possible to play this game with another human being, and doing so is obviously more entertaining than going up against the computer.

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Most games within the NES Sports Series later got ports or remakes on the Game Boy, but Soccer wasn't one of them. That's probably because it's not that great. Time has not been a kind mistress to this game. The extremely slow movement of the players is a major mood killer. Even if you manage to convince a friend to play this with you, the slowness is sure to put a damper on any possible fun there is to be had. Both you and your pal run the risk of falling asleep before the first period is over. It's a shame, really, because everything else about the game is pretty okay. The simplicity is kind of refreshing for a game like this, considering it allows people not familiar with the sport to learn the rules rather quickly. If you want something similar to this game that's way better, try Ice Hockey. Hockey is just soccer on ice, anyway, right?

Word Count: 1,008

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