of these days, I'm going to have someone sit me down and explain
how Konami names its soccer games. Depending on which region of
the world you live, it's either Winning Eleven or Pro
Evolution Soccer or International Superstar Soccer.
The thing that really confuses me is that these are often different
games. The latest version of Winning Eleven (from Japan)
may be a different game from the latest Pro Evolution Soccer
(from Europe). And, here in the States, Konami released a version
of ISS which was essentially a port of a Super Nintendo
game from a decade ago. Can we have some consistency here? If it
weren't for the Internet, I'd never be able to connect the dots
you call it, Konami's soccer games are widely recognized as the
best soccer games ever made. And as someone who still remembers
Pele Soccer on the Atari 2600, that is a great accomplishment.
The Gameboy Advance, unfortunately, has been left holding the bag
with most sports titles; shovelware, mainly, as software houses
have long since embraced the Polygon Age. By that account alone,
Konami and Major A Productions deserve a round of applause for their
newest addition to the International Superstar Soccer lineup.
is a brand-new title, made to take advantage of the hardware's strengths
and offering a fair amount of surprises in the process. You notice
that immediately with the game's brilliantly impressive menu sequences.
Flush with all the polish and shine of the modern console games,
with pre-rendered video and club music. The quality of the latest
round of Advance titles is obvious - goodness knows I've harped
enough on this already.
favorite feature of this game is also its biggest surprise: color
commentary. The play-by-play action is described in amazing detail
by Jon Champion, who should be familiar to Konami's soccer fans.
Despite the 8 MB size limitations of a cartridge, there is ample
room for numerous quips and comments about every sizable event during
the game, from cheering on the goalies to calling the teams by name;
he even comments if the ball hits the goalpost. This is easily as
impressive as anything heard on the consoles - FIFA
2002 doesn't even utter a peep.
who saw the original SNES port of ISS will be relieved
to see the game on the field has been improved, as well. There are
four different fields, each featuring unique grass patterns. There
are different weather patterns, three different referees, and an
impressive number of teams sporting their own colors. While the
players themselves are rather small (perhaps too small for some
because of the Advance's needlessly tiny screen), the animation
is impressively smooth. Nothing looks jerky or cheap at all; this
is best seen during the penalty kicks, which are so fluid that you
will find yourself opting for the Penalty Shoot-Out mode more than
between players is good, but perhaps this is where Major A hits
against a wall. Gameboy Advance, after all, only has four buttons,
which severely limits what you can do in a sports game. The more
advanced maneuvers from the console games are either difficult to
perform (try pressing the B and Left Shoulder buttons when in the
crutch), or are overlooked altogether. Passing to other players
is easy, but this is where I have a problem: there is a lag when
you hit the buttons. I understand why this was done; ISS Advance
is meant to be more of an accurate sports sim than an arcade game,
so the tempo of the game has to be slowed down a bit. And this does
work as long as you're not being rushed by two or three defenders.
When you need to drop the ball NOW, you have to wait until your
player finishes that next step before letting go. Of course, if
you start hitting buttons right then, it becomes buffered, releasing
in a stream.
is something I can adjust to, but the one thing I still cannot adjust
to is the shooting. After playing numerous games, I still can't
figure out how to steer the ball into the opposing goal or, heck,
just keep it from flying overhead. Every close shot at the net flies
overhead - what's the deal here? This isn't American football. Isn't
there some way to kick a low shot? Granted, knocking a long ball
into the net is always fun (and would be fun if there was an instant
replay), but this is ridiculous. This is one of those features that
are supposed to be near the top of the to-do list.
still hold out hope that there is some method of shooting the ball
the right way, and I just haven't discovered it. If that turns out
to be true, then knock up my score by one star. Until then, well,
ISS Advance would have been the best soccer game on the
Advance by default, anyway. But these problems better be fixed up
for the next version, or better yet, the American release. Why should
the Europeans have all the fun?