Review by Shirow

"Splendid!"

~ Tecmo Cup Football Game ~

Tecmo Cup Football Game, while being a mere Captain Tsubasa rip-off, is mainly known (although such a statement is an exaggeration) for being the sole title of the genre that was duly translated. However, to consider TCFG as another title in the CT legacy is somewhat ludicrous in that this game, while taking the same concept and following a very similar plot, is centered around new characters. Of course, that may not be such a big change but since there is no Tsubasa, Wakabayashi or Hyuga in it, Captain Tsubasa fans may very likely try the title for a few minutes and miss seeing Tsubasa's or any other's pics. However, those who came here with no prior knowledge of the Captain Tsubasa series will enjoy the game and find it refreshing amidst the legacy of overrated releases.

Tecmo Cup Football Game is unique in its genre. On the Genesis, it is certainly the only game to use this awkward concept although it is true that there are six or so titles that span over the NES, SNES and PSX. The game is in fact a blend between a football game and a ''traditional'' RPG. The premise is simple. Robert, a young football star playing as a midfielder, wants to be one of the most famous players and must participate in a tournament along with his team, the Dreams. The tournament begins as a national one with Robert and his teammates clashing feet and heads against other players until they win the cup (although it truthfully never shows up in the game). Finally, Robert will meet up with all the best players of his country (one of whom is his brother, David) and they will go on to claim the World Cup title.

The game itself is a football one but the scheme is nowhere close to what you would expect from a normal sports game. This is exactly where the infamous term ''RPG'' comes into play. Instead of passing the ball around just by shamelessly mashing a particular button, Tecmo Cup brandishes a totally unique and interesting RPG-ish system. Controlling your players is done as normally as you would expect. In order to do so, just press the appropriate directions and the player will seem to run forward. In addition, there is a map with all the player locations to avoid you from running straight into four defenders.

When you feel the need to pass the ball around or maybe shoot from the half-way line, you then have to press a button to bring up a menu. Pressing distinct directions on the pad will highlight different choices (pass, shoot, one-two, dribble, etc) and once you are satisfied, tap another button to confirm your choice. Everything, from passing the ball to a teammate to tackling an overly aggressive center-forward to claim back the ball, is done via this same menu. In order to take the ball away from a certain opponent, you need to move a given player of your team such that he is on the player's path or relatively close to the latter. The menu will hence automatically appear and it's Let's-Choose-An-Action time again. Basically, it's exactly as if you are witnessing one of the countless battles in any Final Fantasy, Chrono Cross and countless other RPG's.

This isn't the only traditional RPG element in the game though. Oh no, Tecmo Cup Football Game yields various other aspects, some very blatant while a few may be minor but they obviously still affect the gameplay. For one, your players gain in experience as they move on. Each player starts with a given amount of GUTS (of which Robert and David have the most in your first line-up) and any action will take of some of those GUTS. As you win matches and face stronger oppositions, all your players' GUTS increase and their stats are also affected. In a RPG, you would call this leveling up. In Tecmo Cup, it's called the same thing and serves the same purpose too. Consequently, while the game really is tough, you just need to lose a couple of matches and gain some levels until you can beat that given team.

In addition to the normal shots, passes and tackles, key players also have special techniques. These wacky shots or dribbles open in new menus after you selected the appropriate option and, very obviously indeed, cost a lot of GUTS (a particular unstoppable bicycle kick will cut off 400 GUTS once you are in the world championship). This is also the feature that made Captain Tsubasa so popular as an anime. Well, these still exist in the game and if anything else, benefit from better animations in the vast majority of cases as this is the Genesis. Most special techniques come with the player while a couple or so are unlocked via the storyline, one of which is simply superb and will leave you drooling at the screen. Add to this various other gameplay elements and you will understand why Tecmo Cup Football Game is a Football/RPG game.

This being the Genesis, I must admit I expected a lot from the graphics when I first inserted the game in my system. I was to be utterly disappointed though. Putting all special effects and flashy techniques aside, the visuals are disappointing. Even Captain Tsubasa 2, which is on the NES, is miles ahead of Tecmo Cup. This doesn't mean things look bad but they do look rushed. First, you should be aware that you can see only one player in general. Most of the time, you see the player who has the ball. However, as someone else attempts an action, that player briefly appears and performs whatever he was assigned to do. Similarly, a goalkeeper suddenly emerges to catch or deflect the ball away whenever goal opportunities arise.

As I already said, Tecmo Cup's graphics are pretty bland. They are not downright horrible, but I was dumbfounded for a minute when I first set my eyes on Robert being tackled by a defender. The colors seem faded, whatever color that may be because you can't even make out which one it's supposed to represent. Worse yet, the players' faces are merely lifeless forms during normal play and it is only during special techniques, when the guy talks for a brief instant, that you distinctly make out his traits. Moreover, the designs themselves are disappointing. The players are too small and even the closer pictures, which pop up during dialogues, are of dubious quality in certain cases although Tecmo did manage to make these look realistic. As realistic as in an anime, of course.

The pitch however is well-done and the scrolling effects as the ball swiftly slides along it are extremely realistic. All the flashy effects that accompany any special technique look superb too although the lighting which occurs before certain actions look terribly goofy. You'd think someone just spilled some red and yellow ink over it and allowed them to mix, but never gave them enough time. The crowd is as devoid of details as in any football game but since chances you'll be able to stare at it are low, it's no big deal. I think Tecmo must have been working on two games at the same when they did the designs.

However rushed the graphics may look, the music more than make up for these. As a matter of fact, Tecmo Cup simply shares the soundtrack of Captain Tsubasa II : Super Striker but that shouldn't take anything from it. Simply put, this game's music is among the best I have ever heard. Even Final Fantasy VI and Guilty Gear (my favorite soundtrack prior to this game) never conveyed as much emotion as Tecmo Cup. The game relies almost exclusively on fast tracks with a few slow melodies thrown in and to say these are good would be an understatement. I love all the themes in this game. Every single one. Passionately (just imagine this along with the stunning graphics of the almighty CTII).

The game begins with a small prologue while a melancholic track plays in the background. You'll find it great but just realize that this one-minute melody is probably the least good of them all and you'll easily guess how good Tecmo Cup's soundtrack is. The music is basically broken down into two distinct parts here ; the first one plays while you have the ball and this changes to the second whenever the opponent claims possession and intends to keep it. In addition, an upbeat track takes up when very little time is left to urge you to find that last goal. As the setting and tournament change, both themes change, but the last one is always the same. Every tournament's theme is simply brilliant ! In particular cases, a whole new music will be played and this is most often observed during the special matches which exist solely for the story (such as the second match, but this one doesn't have a different music though).

My favorite track is without doubt the special one which plays on when poor Robert and his teammates meet over-powerful opponents near the end of the national tournament. And the more I listen to it, the more I reckon this was achieved for a reason. You see, this match is insanely hard and you will need to play through it at most three times before you finally defeat these frustrating opponents. Well, you'll be glad to play against them just to listen to the music during the match and you will never get fed up with it. Same as you will never get fed up with any of the other themes. Splendid !

Sound effects consist mainly of grinding noises that see the ball dangerously approach your net. Each special animation benefits from its own extraordinary little effects such as a phoenix appearing in the background or even lightning to put more emphasis on it. These do their job just fine and there is very little to complain about. Of course, it would have helped to maybe include more sound effects as they do seem sparse once one realizes how long the game is but this is just a minor flaw. In any case, the music itself will make you forget about this detail very soon.

As far as gameplay, lifespan and replay value are concerned, this is where Tecmo Cup Football Game woefully shines. This game can be exceedingly long at times but you'll perpetually want to move on as long as you liked the concept. It is also an extremely tough game and the later stages can turn into a complete nightmare for the inexperienced. Some matches (actually, all the last ones) will have you trip endlessly and you will be asked to lose the same fixture over and over again until your players are at a good level. Moreover, this is never enough ! It is always primordial to use good strategies and to deal with the opposite players brilliantly if you want to pass through unscratched.

Yes, this game is challenging but not to a bad extent like most titles eventually turn out to be. It's pretty hard to explain how, in spite of its difficulty, Tecmo Cup Football Game remains so exciting. It actually feels as if you just have to beat the game and see the long ending. It drags you and won't release you until everything is finally over. Even then, you will very likely start from scratch again simply because you wish to return the favor to that team which gave you such a thrashing previously. Anyway, the game uses a password system after each match such that you can just keep every single one of them and jump straight to whatever fixture you want to experience again.

Packed with replay value, Tecmo Cup Football Game is a must for any honka-Tsubasa fan and its innovations alone are worth checking out. My main gripes about this game are the poor visuals and the fact that the roster lists have all been changed but putting these trivial matters (okay, maybe not so trivial in the first case…) aside, everything is almost perfect. The soundtrack is the best I have come across so far and the devilish aspects kept me hooked until I finally beat it after much cussing and leveling up. I'll go even as far as saying that this is possibly the most underrated title on the Genesis. Consequently, good luck obtaining it.

~ Score : 8 ~
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Back then, Tecmo fully delivered ! Nowadays…


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 06/25/02, Updated 11/09/02


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