Captain Tsubasa: Rise of New Champions
So far in the year 2020, Bandai Namco has published a few good video games adapting anime series. Games like Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot, My Hero One’s Justice 2, and One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4. The next anime series to get the video game treatment is the sports drama revolving all around the beautiful game of soccer, Captain Tsubasa. This is our review of Captain Tsubasa: Rise of New Champions.
A Technically-flawed and Confusing Arcade Soccer Game
When Captain Tsubasa: Rise of New Champions, I was floored and positively giddy with anticipation. Finally, a soccer game where you used actual abilities on the pitch. Even if I wasn’t too familiar with the anime, it was a really intriguing concept for myself and sports fans to get behind. However, upon actually playing this suped-up experience, I found that there was a lot left to be desired.
Captain Tsubasa: Rise of New Champions features an arcade-style soccer game in that it’s vastly unrealistic compared to simulation soccer games, like FIFA. As it is an anime where you use over-the-top maneuvers to make ridiculous shots, that’s to be expected. Because of this arcade-style, though, the game completely throws out a lot of what people know about soccer in favor of trying to deliver the most bombastic soccer games ever. While there’s nothing wrong with trying to make soccer even more exciting, it leads to incredibly confusing, flawed gameplay experiences.
When jumping into a match in Captain Tsubasa, you’ll notice that players have a stamina gauge, a special team-based meter, and a meter to charge kicks. Pretty standard stuff. Then, as it is with the core of soccer, the game becomes about outrunning and outpassing your opponents to score the most goals. That’s about where the similarities with soccer games ends.
As you’re sprinting to the opposing goal, opposing players will charge you to get the ball away from you. You can either charge them back head-on to hope that you have enough stamina to get by them or trick them with a secondary dribble button. However, both are kind of a mixed bag, as sprinting drains stamina and dodging players drains stamina so much that players often steal the ball before you can charge your kick fully, sending players flying, or you’re just too gassed by the time you ever even get to the keeper to do anything meaningful with the ball.
Furthermore, when you begin charging a kick toward the goal, you stop sprinting, leaving you open to a tackle. Speaking of goal strikes, it takes several goal strikes at the keeper to drain their spirit gauge and make them susceptible to scores. Unlike in other soccer simulation games where you can pinpoint exactly where you want to strike as you’re sprinting, Captain Tsubasa: Rise of New Champions is all about hammering the ball at the keeper until he folds. In fact, in several games it took six full-powered shots on goal before the keeper ever let the ball go through. That’s the kind of onslaught you need to prepare for when you begin a game. When it does go in, it’s so satisfying, but it’s a grind to get there.
The most confusing, infuriating part of the game is when it comes to stealing the ball. There are no Yellow Cards or Red Cards, which means that every game is a no holds barred tackle fest to take the ball away from your opponent. Except, oftentimes tackling does not work. On several occasions, I would have possession of the ball, get blasted by my opponent and sent flying, most of the time on a play that would’ve drawn a Red Card in real life. Then, as I’m trying to switch to a different player, the game automatically switches players to whoever is closest, but most of the time they’re off-screen and I was forced to try to maneuver off-screen to make myself on-screen to make the tackle. Of course, just because my player is back on screen doesn’t mean I am suddenly able to get the ball back. On the contrary, I had instances where the CPU dodged four, F-O-U-R tackle attempts with ONE player to get a clear shot at the goal.
Between the no calls on blatant red card violations, random switching, and unclear, flawed tackling mechanics, soccer games in Captain Tsubasa: Rise of New Champions can be quite infuriating.
Another issue I had with Captain Tsubasa gameplay has to do with the overall smoothness of the game. Nowadays, soccer fans have come to expect a certain amount of smoothness, fluidity, ball handling, and finesse when playing a soccer game. This type of fluidity isn’t found in Captain Tsubasa. Rather, the game felt choppy with each pass and players would stop to catch a pass rather than dribble in stride. There’s even a through pass option, but I found similar results with that. Furthermore, it’s not easy to pass the ball to the specific players you want to dribble to the goal. For instance, Captain Tsubasa is obviously the greatest soccer player to ever live. He’s a midfielder, but has the best stats to score and evade opposing players. However, every time I tried to pass to him, I could never find him. When I did, he was too far away to do anything truly meaningful with the ball. Thus, it was very few and far between that the Captain ever actually made a goal.
Don’t get me wrong, I had fun playing the game at certain times. I’m a person who loves competition and being challenged. Otherwise, I feel like I’m spinning my wheels and not getting much out of a game. It’s just that when I’m being challenged or I’m in a competition, I want all the necessary tools to be competitive. I never felt as if Captain Tsubasa: Rise of New Champions afforded me the opportunity to be truly competitive.
Long-winded Story Missing that Anime Series Charm
Each and every year, publishers like Bandai Namco release several video game adaptations of anime series. This year, I’ve happened to play more of them than in any other year. My findings from playing those games is they are extremely fun, but very difficult to truly get right. That’s because unlike video games that adapt movies, just one anime arc has tons of intricate, contextual details and events that sometimes don’t make the video game’s final release.
While they did skip over a few parts of the overall story, I felt as if other Bandai Namco published anime games like Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot, My Hero One’s Justice 2, and One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4 captured the essence of what makes those animes truly enjoyable. Captain Tsubasa: Rise of New Champions was a lot harder to get into. It felt repetitive and extremely long-winded.
In playing Journey mode, you experience what Tsubasa Ozora went through to get from Nankatsu MS all the way to the pros. During your time, you meet a cavalcade of characters that all seem a bit one-note in this very limited space. In every cutscene, teammates of Tsubasa are always saying, “Tsubasa is amazing!” “Let’s train hard.” “Soccer is literally all we have.” That last one I added but you get the idea. Meanwhile, rivals and opponents are always, “Tsubasa isn’t so tough.” “We won’t rest until we beat Tsubasa.” “TSUBASA!!!”.
Then, there are scouts and coaches who are just so obsessed with Tsubasa it gets kind of weird. As they’re just going up to opposing players and saying, “The competition you bring will be good for Tsubasa.”. Like, if I were a player and a scout or a coach told me that I’d be so offended. I get it, Tsubasa Ozora is a prodigy. The Ronaldo or Messi or Pele of anime soccer, but guys chill.
Cutscenes like this were riddled between games and even during games. Mind you, during games it did lead to some very cool sequences. In some instances, dialogue would even change based on how you were doing during the game, which I can appreciate. However, outside of games, it just always went on for far too long.
Admittedly, this was my first exposure to the Captain Tsubasa anime series. I loved the eccentric characters and how they were unique in which they approached the game of soccer. I just wish I got to know them a bit more instead of just skipping by any meaningful character development. Perhaps, the anime series is a lot better and dives deeper into other players. It just doesn’t do that here and instead adapts the story ineffectively to a point that I didn’t feel like I ever truly understood what makes Captain Tsubasa an enjoyable anime series to watch.
Performing Suped-Up Shots and Abilities Are Oh-So Satisfying
The absolute best parts of Captain Tsubasa: Rise of New Champions are the over-the-top Powered shots and situations within the game. As you play the game, you’ll interact with players who have special abilities to steal the ball, pass the ball, and even shoot the ball. These are abilities you can use later on in your time in Journey and more frequently in versus gameplay.
What makes them so great are the outrageous auras and power behind each ability. For instance, there is a Falcon shot and dodge where a purple Falcon appears out of nowhere and guides the ball, there is a razor shot that emits blue razor blades from the ball, there are even moments where players will propel themselves off of goal posts to block or kick a ball. It’s just so outlandish and amazing, you can’t help but enjoy yourself.
What’s even better is when you actually make these shots in the goal. These specialty shots will quickly drain the opposing keeper’s spirit gauge. Until then, he’ll block and catch every shot. However, when his spirit gauge is depleted, these incredible shots will blast the keeper right into the net. When that happens, Captain Tsubasa is an absolute blast to play.
Should You Play It?
If you’re a fan of the Captain Tsubasa series you may find enjoyment in Rise of New Champions. However, if you’re like me and you were looking forward to an awesome anime soccer hybrid game, it just didn’t do it for me. I’m never one to tell someone not to play a game, but there are just so many flaws with Captain Tsubasa: Ride of New Champions that I can’t honestly say it’s worth it.
That said, there are some incredibly cool cutscenes and powered shots are something I never knew I needed in a soccer game. However, in terms of story, technical gameplay, and the overall soccer experience, Captain Tsubasa: Rise of New Champions sadly misses the mark.