Inazuma Eleven Review for Nintendo 3DS

Inazuma Eleven Review for Nintendo 3DS

Don’t Call It Football

American football may be the reigning sport in the USA, but most of the rest of the world is cuckoo for soccer instead. Sure, we’ve got Madden and a few other realistic football games, but gamers will have to learn to love the black-and-white hexagons if they want to play an over-the-top shōnen (boys’) anime sports RPG.

Inazuma Eleven is neither a typical sports game nor a typical RPG. It’s set at the junior high school in Inazuma town, where a boy named Mark Evens loves soccer more than life itself. Sadly for Mark, the rest of the school’s soccer club would rather sit inside their ratty clubhouse playing video games. If Mark wants to keep the club from being disbanded, not to mention have a chance at the Football Frontier tournament championship, he’s got his work cut out for him.

Inazuma Eleven Screenshot

Mark’s story unfolds RPG-style, involving a lot of running around his school and town, recruiting players, and facing soccer “battles” against other school clubs that allow his team to gain experience and hone their skills. Every chapter of the game culminates in a big match against another soccer team, one that can only be beat by harnessing (what else?) the power of friendship and teamwork, which of course results in crazy special moves that can obliterate enemy teams.

Outside of battle, Inazuma Eleven is lighthearted, charming, and often silly. Mark has to work his butt off to solve the personal problems facing his players in order to motivate them to be the best they can be. He also has to deal with a bunch of other teams that have less-than-ethical views of how to win a soccer tournament, and there’s even a shadowy soccer mafia that has its claws in the very leadership of Mark’s school.

Inazuma Eleven Screenshot

The game’s main characters are colorful and memorable, which is why you’ll probably end up keeping most of them on your squad despite the huge number of possible recruits to track down for the team. Having over a thousand characters to recruit seems a bit much considering that only eleven of them can play at a time, but recruitment is a fun side activity for RPG aficionados. Even these bit players generally have funny quirks, and it’s entertaining to fill out the game’s social connection chart in order to meet new recruits.

When it comes time to play ball, you’ll either be participating in small soccer scuffles or full-blown matches. Random soccer battles require your current main party of four to meet a single objective—scoring a single goal or stealing the ball off opponents, for example—within a strict time limit. Full matches are eleven versus eleven games, won in the traditional manner by scoring the most goals. At the start of the game, there won’t be many opportunities for full games, but more will open up as the story progresses and the crew can rematch teams they’ve played before.

Inazuma Eleven Screenshot

The actual mechanics of playing soccer involve using the touch screen to direct players and the ball. Your team members will move around on their own based on their team position and your general AI settings, but you’ll need to instruct them to pass to each other and shoot for the goal. The match operates in real time, but can be paused so you can issue more complex instructions to the team. A strong knowledge of the rules of soccer isn’t necessary, as the worst you can do is accidentally direct a player offsides. Fouls are called sometimes, but are generally out of the player’s direct control.

It’s not long before basic soccer ability is far overshadowed by the special moves employed by the players. Inazuma’s game is even crazier than Shaolin Soccer . Creepy voodoo moves that keep your team nailed to the ground are legal, and fighting back with mystic dragon kicks, invisible dribbles, and the ultimate God Hand goalie move is not only recommended, but necessary. Players and moves have elemental strengths and weaknesses, and winning matches is mostly a matter of making the correct strategic decision between safe, risky, and special soccer moves. The game is always paused while these decisions are being made, allowing plenty of time to stare at statistics.

Because of the focus on special moves and the need to build up team members from zeroes to heroes, Inazuma Eleven becomes more fun to play as the game progresses. The basic soccer battle mechanics are a bit cumbersome to use because the game moves quickly and the enemy AI is good. I found it was more effective to allow my players to intercept the ball on their own than to attempt to draw lines all over the screen, only to have the opposition find the hole in my defense every time. It’s most effective to save player input for passing, scoring, and making strategic choices about blocks and steals when the game prompts the player to do so. Once you’re used to this style of play, it’s not difficult to win most matches, although bad luck can make some of the “score the first goal” scuffles annoying.

Inazuma Eleven Screenshot

I found that the game is best played in short spurts rather than marathon sessions, since playing too many matches (particularly the short practice scuffles) in a row tends to become tiresome, and there’s a bit too much RPG character development required between the exciting games. Shorter gameplay sessions keep the game feeling fresh and fun, assisted by the over-the-top silliness of the story.

Originally a DS game, this version of Inazuma Eleven has been upgraded for the 3DS. Its sound and visuals won’t win any awards, but they’re competently done. The entire thing was redubbed for North America, so every instance of the word “football” has been replaced with “soccer,” and alas, there’s not a British accent to be found. Anime cutscenes appear occasionally, looking and sounding quite nice.

As a full package, Inazuma Eleven is highly entertaining, if unsuitable for marathon gaming sessions. It’s a refreshingly unique little game that is appropriate for players of all ages, especially those who enjoy lighthearted anime stories. At only $20 on the 3DS eShop, it’s not painful to try out, so give it a shot!

Map and battle graphics are utilitarian, but the anime cutscenes and special move animations are nice. 3.4 Control
More is less when it comes to controlling soccer battles, but they’re fun once you get used to them. 3.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Peppy music and surprisingly competent voice acting assist the game. 3.5 Play Value
It’s a full-fledged RPG at a bargain price, with plenty of footie fun for casual and hardcore RPG fans alike. 3.5 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.

Review Rating Legend
0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid 2.5 – 2.9 = Average 3.5 – 3.9 = Good 4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
2.0 – 2.4 = Poor 3.0 – 3.4 = Fair 4.0 – 4.4 = Great 5.0 = The Best

Game Features:

  • Choose from over 1,000 different players and create the ultimate soccer squad.
  • Learn awesome special moves and take your team to the top of the league.
  • Discover the secrets of the legendary Inazuma Eleven football team.

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