The lights are on
Electronic Arts and Konami may duke it out each year with their respective franchises for the crown of best soccer sim, but there’s a plethora of soccer titles I’d like to see back in my starting 11. In this age of downloadable titles, the time is right for these games to make a comeback. In some cases, it’s just a matter of the developer revisiting the property.
Sega Soccer Slam – GameCube, Xbox, PlayStation 2
Sega’s three-on-three soccer sim includes arcade and light role-playing game elements wrapped into a package of irrepressible fun. Standing out from the crowd with a cartoony (and a somewhat stereotypical) art direction, Sega Soccer Slam provides a few key elements to separate itself from the rest of the pack: stat-increasing equipment for characters, and a brawling aspect that is more street than EA’s FIFA Street series would ever want to be.
Dishing out punches to players is as important to winning as scoring goals. Sign up two friends and you have two enforcers to stop defenders with a flurry of punches as you score goals. Sega Soccer Slam provides a unique approach to soccer that hasn't been seen since its heyday. Throw in the obsessive stat tracking, and you have a fun way to compete with your teammates on your way to glory.
As Sega has shifted much of its focus to downloadable games, it makes sense that a $15 sequel to its footy title could be in the cards.
Lego Soccer Mania – PlayStation 2, PC, Game Boy Advance
This PlayStation 2 and PC title places possibly the greatest toy on earth onto the soccer field to mixed results. Though a quite basic version of footy better suited for younger children, Lego Soccer keeps interest by introducing new characters and stadiums based on different Lego toy sets. Players get to pick and choose who to bring along in a story mode that ends up in space. Power-ups and minigames keep it from becoming monotonous.
With the Lego world having greatly expanded this year, it’d be cool to see what a game featuring the toymaker’s Legends of Chima property could become. Combine the new set's focus on magical abilities with Speedorz (think awesome motorbikes) and the original game's power-ups like the Rocket Ball, and we may have a winner. Maybe Traveller’s Tales can craft a Lego soccer game of its own between its traditional releases.
Mario Strikers – GameCube, Wii
Mario and company have played just about every sport: basketball, golf, baseball…the list goes on. The soccer titles have been among the strongest of the bunch, and though the last two home consoles have featured Luigi in cleats, there’s no announcement of a Wii U version.
The sooner Nintendo announces more soccer exploits for Mario on the Wii U, the better. Imagine it: Your opponent charges past your defenders, so you swipe the Wii U’s gamepad to throw a red Koopa shell to trip him up before he pulls the trigger. When in possession of the ball, you draw a path for your Chain Chomp to wreak havoc upon as you dance around defenders and the ensuing chaos.
The games feature Mario sports game staples: opposition-crippling items like the Giant Bob-ombs, and character-specific Super Abilities such as Mario’s ability to grow in size and become invincible for a brief time. As soon as Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon is off developer Next Level Games’ plate, it needs to revisit this series.
Mega Man Soccer – Super Nintendo
Let’s be honest – Mega Man Soccer is not a good game. Let’s also ignore the act of terrorism during the game’s intro where Dr. Wily causes an explosion on a soccer pitch and replaces the now-missing players with his robots.
That’s the most interesting aspect of the game – one that wasn’t quite finished – but players never find out what happens after the explosive intro because there is no ending.
It’s time the Blue Bomber got his redemption. With an entire backlog of robot masters to choose from for a small-sided game of soccer, there are a lot of special abilities that could be used strategically in the goal to, well, score more goals in a sequel.
Special shots made Mega Man Soccer somewhat entertaining, and that aspect could make way for a wider variety of abilities. Here's a scenario: Flame Man from Mega Man 6 litters the field with fire to stop the opposition’s defense. He then passes to Freeze Man, who covers the goalie in dive-impairing ice. Then he chips a ball in the air for Mega Man to fire into the net with a charged-up Mega Buster bicycle kick. A wider depth of abilities such as these could open up the game to more strategic planning and overall fun.
Mega Man Soccer 25th Anniversary is something Capcom should have released for download to truly celebrate the Blue Bomber’s birthday last year. Perhaps, much like former Chelsea striker Didier Drogba, Mega Man will find his best form well into his 20s with a new soccer title to call his own.
[Next up: cartoon characters from the '90s play some soccer, and role-playing game mechanics and soccer collide]