• Jikkyo World Soccer 2002 Review - Nintendo Gamecube

    Konami came from nowhere in 1994 to steal a march in a genre once dominated by unforgettable names such as Kick Off, Sensible Soccer, and more recently FIFA, as well as numerous other gaming interpretations of the beautiful game. International Superstar Soccer (ISS) first appeared on the Super Famicom. Its success made Konami one of the most influential companies in the industry, and the franchise itself became a pioneering force in one of the most lucrative and technically challenging genres.

    Almost 10 years later, ISS reappears on Nintendo's latest console in the form of Jikkyo World Soccer (JWS) 2002. As knowledgeable readers, many of you will already be familiar with the two branches of ISS - the traditional Osaka version (which appeared on the Super Famicom and N64), and the slightly more refined and intricate Evolution version (which can be found on Playstation). JWS is a leaf from the Evolution series, so this should give you a hint of what to expect.

    Core fans of the series will discover that initial impressions of JWS do little to flatten its Playstation equivalents. Offerings include International Cup, International League, Friendly, and Practice, which are almost anaemic in comparison to its siblings (even against technically weaker titles such as Virtua Striker 3). Absent are club teams, challenge modes (such as scenarios), and any sort of team-development mode (such as those available on ISS Pro Evolution). To compensate, however, the familiar ISS selection of team options, strategy configuration, player-status menus, etc are available in abundance, but it should be noted that none of these features come as a surprise as these have become more or less standard for this category of game.

    Once kick-off gets underway, the shortfalls are overcome by the reliable and convincing technical stature of the game. JWS (like others in the series) plays in a fashion which is arguably more indicative of real-life football than any of its rivals. Computer-controlled players generally move around in a relatively intelligent manner, and do a convincing job of trying to win the game.

    However, as much as this is superior to the majority in the genre, A.I. limitations will become increasingly apparent the more you play. Consequently, after just a few days, or even hours of play, the level of challenge will subside to more paltry levels. Nevertheless, the satisfaction of stringing together numerous passes and finishing off with an unstoppable shot rarely dwindles significantly in ISS, which ultimately pays homage to the game's ability to invoke a sense of competition. The only criticism one could give on gameplay terms (at least for the short-term) is becoming accustomed to the ISS system of control on the Gamecube pad.

    Graphically, this is easily one of the most obvious disappointments of the game, and struggles to rise above the PS2 equivalent. As far as textures and smoothness are concerned, JWS gains a slight advantage with slightly less ragged appearance, and player movements have also been subtly improved. The extensive choice of camera angles and replay options are also impressive features. But, in terms of detail, the game easily falls short of the mark. Close-up camera angles, general pitch detail, and player reactions to game incidents are generally poor (such as flamboyant celebrations by a losing team with two minutes to go!), and fail to create the desirable atmosphere. In comparison, to say, Virtua Striker 3, a number of aesthetic shortfalls make JWS feel almost like it's on a lesser platform.

    As far as sound is concerned, JWS remains strictly Japanese, but it does give the distinct deja-vu feeling of poorly concatenated speech.

    In terms of raw technical ability, JWS is far from being a disappointing rendition of the ISS school of football. However, despite the strong pedigree, it gives the feeling of being a diluted version of ISS Pro Evolution on the PS2. With the absence of items such as club teams, player acquisition modes, and a greater variety of tournaments, JWS fails to deliver numerous features which one would expect to be out-of-the-box.

    Furthermore, the game plays in much the same way as its predecessors, and feels almost lethargic in terms of trying anything new or groundbreaking (even for simple things such as how players react on the pitch). Fortunately, however, being an early Japanese version, KCE Europe might have the sense to fire it up just a touch for the European release.

    Review by Barry Ip