Fast-paced soccer with nice audience noise, four player co-op and great controls.
From the slums of Sao Paulo to the suburbs of Stuttgart you’ll see groups of children playing soccer – be it with tin cans or a ball of stitched leather or something else. From that universal love and dedication to soccer the new generations of legends like Pelé and Maradona will emerge.
The heroes of soccer will meet and play in the international games administrated by FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) which in this game governs 64 national teams.
This is a soccer game played from an isometric camera view. It takes the best of both worlds and thus has both simulation aspects and arcade action neatly bundled into one title. There is numerous options to adjust and game modes for up to four players simultaneously.
FIFA International Soccer was the game that originally started the EA Sports FIFA craze and it was originally released for Sega Mega Drive and Super Nintendo among other home consoles. FIFA International Soccer Championship Edition though, is a fine tuned version of that same game and features video cutscenes and more than 20 minutes of CD quality audience noise.
The different game modes you can play are; exhibition, tournament, playoffs and league. Tournaments hold 24 teams, leagues hold 8 teams and playoffs hold 16 teams. Up to eight human controlled teams can participate in these modes and the CPU will fill in random teams where needed.
Before and during each game you can set up who controls what team – you could for example let the CPU stand in for a player that’s not attending an ongoing tournament session or you could take control over a team that’s normally controlled by the CPU. Up to four players can be on the same team, so four player co-op against a CPU controlled team is a possibility and perhaps the apex of this entire game.
There is also support for up to five save game slots, so you can save and resume your tournaments, leagues and playoffs.
Each of the 64 playable teams are ranked by attributes such as shooting, running, passing and defense. Playing a top-tier team will of course make the game easier but the differences can be very subtle – two teams with similar stats do virtually play the same. The difference is only really notable when a low-tier team plays against a top-tier team.
The teams do not have licenced player names but each player is ranked with skill points that indicate that individual’s skill level.
The options screen will allow you to adjust some game rules such as how fouls are conducted, whether off-sides will be accounted for or not. Weather conditions can also be adjusted and it influences how the ball rolls and bounces on the field. There’s also the option to have goal keepers manually or automatically controlled. All that this really does is that it allows you to let another player take control over the goal keeper – if you play alone, you’re busy controlling the other players and in that case this option really doesn’t do anything. Playing as the goal keeper is very difficult and is poorly implemented in the game anyway.
FIFA International Soccer can be played on two different game settings; action or simulation. In a simulation game players will tire as the match progresses effectively lowering their abilities. On the action setting however, these effects are ignored. You would wish that these effects were more prominent though because they are very subtle indeed, so the difference is barely notable and there is no way to tell if a player is tired or not.
You can also select the length of the match. You can play 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 20 or 45 minute halves. This option doesn’t adjust the pace of the game however, so playing longer matches will tend to give you insane match results as goals tend to happen frequently – especially when playing against the better teams such as Brazil and Germany. We actually had a 90 minute match end with the scores 19-1, and by just playing normally.
During the match you can act as a coach and set up formations, line-ups, strategies and your team field coverage. While this may sound complex and advanced, it’s actually very easy to manage because its straight forward and stripped down to the basics. It is however a nice addition to the game and it is fun to play around with it. If you spend some time with it you’ll be able to fine tune strategies and counter an opposing team’s tactics and even get the upper hand of a match.
At any time during the game you can pause the game and enter the instant replay mode. Here you’ll be able to watch a replay of the last few seconds of the game and you’re given full control over the camera. You’re also able to rewind and fast forward it, and even watch it on a frame-by-frame basis. This doesn’t give you a more detailed look however, but it’s nice to be able to watch a replay of nasty tackles or surprising goal kicks.
Because the game is in association with Adidas there are Adidas banners here and there, and there’s also some weird Adidas video ads in there. The game is said to have 150 full-motion video clips and these are played as highlights from the current match – never mind that they have nothing to do with what actually happened in the game.
The CPU controlled players can be very relentless and there are moments where it just appears to act robotic, which can break the immersion and the otherwise enjoyable game.
Perhaps the biggest weakness that this game has is its loading times. When you play normally they aren’t a big deal, but if you want to tweak formations and strategies during the game, they can be frustrating as you have to wait one out each time you leave and each time you enter the match screen.
What makes this game so enjoyable is its responsive controls. You can do lob shots, chip shots, passes and long shots with ease. The strength of your shot is dependent on how long you hold the button, which requires you to plan ahead a few extra seconds in order to charge the shot. The game is very fast paced but it isn’t hard to follow the on-screen action. Passing around the ball amongst your team members works really well. Most of the time a CPU controlled team member is there to catch your pass even if you don’t see him at the time you perform the pass.
When playing with multiple players, each player has a colored marker underneath the player that he currently controls. If a human controlled player leaves the screen, a big arrow will point in the direction of that player, allowing them to actively partake in the game even though they aren’t currently on the screen.
The graphics during play are nice and clear. All the players look the same so there isn’t really much eye candy, but more importantly the animation is good and the game runs without any hiccups or frame rate stuttering. There are some nice details to be seen such as audience cheering you on, holding your team’s flag and animations on the display screens when you score a goal.
The full motion video clips look like Sega Mega CD videos tend to look; they’re rather blurry and grainy and have washed out colors. As mentioned above, these video clips function strictly as emotional references in the game and they aren’t exactly in your way.
When it comes to sound this game really sounds like soccer. The audience cheering and getting hyped over goal shots may be simple effects but they’re very effective. There is plenty of different chants and even singing going on from the audience and it lifts the excitement level up a few notches. There are, however occasions when the background noise dies out completely, presumably when the console changes CD tracks, but it is only for a second or so – a very minor issue.
There’s some music in the menus and it’s sporty and fits in the game mood really well.
FIFA International Soccer Championship Edition is a great and now classic Sega Mega CD game. Even though you’ve spent hours with it, it’s still fun to play every now and then. Together with a bunch of friends and the tournament mode you could spend days with it. Needless to say the game is best played in co-op mode and when that novelty wears off, you’ll start wishing that the game had a little more depth. Still, it’s great fun and does give you a quick soccer fix when you need it.