Review by Siegfried
"Portrait of an unknown gem"
Even before the incredibly popular Dragon Ball Z, Saint Seiya or Pokemon were even imagined, the anime industry was slowly gaining more recognition through various lesser-known books. True, at the time, most of them didn't last long and couldn't cope with the highly intransigent demands of spectators. However, one anime managed to prove itself worthwhile and quickly became the best-selling anime in Japan before being translated into various other languages and brilliantly achieving the same milestones in other countries such as Mexico, France and even Spain.
This anime was called Captain Tsubasa and was respected for the blatant fact that it didn't belong to the stereotyped plethora of violent comics which were sprouting everywhere back then and which always inevitably contained a good dose of hentai. Instead, it featured football players who, while as normal as anybody, nevertheless had the ability of using various "special techniques" they had learned during their training. Other features included the fact that the same techniques were extremely powerful and would send other players soaring away, the ability to jump higher than Superman, and a stamina that never faltered.
However, its main strength remained its storyline. Captain Tsubasa's plot may not be as complex as that of Saint Seiya (which is considered as having the most intricate story), but is still very interesting. Yoichi Takahashi brilliantly combined football and the usual fantasy elements to create a true gem. Consequently, according to commercial logic, games had to be made. The first game, which was on the NES, created another milestone by using a unique engine which totally baffled and enthralled players. However, it was only released in Japan and thus failed to get worldwide (or at least European) recognition.
The sequel, Captain Tsubasa II : Super Striker, improved on the original in every possible aspect and remains thus far one of the best (if not the best) NES titles I have played. It takes a lot to create a game that is never translated and yet still pleases fans and non-fans from the other side of the globe. CTII brilliantly achieves this and apparently pushes the console to its limits with stunning graphics and a soundtrack that remains a classic even after so many years.
Most people may automatically assume that, this being an anime product, the story is weak and not worth mentioning. Captain Tsubasa however manages to entertain with a deep storyline which obviously revolves around Ohzora Tsubasa, the finest midfielder to have ever graced football. Tsubasa, Japanese by birth, first has to win the Brazilian Championship with his club, the Sao Paulo Football Club. Once this is done, the game briefly incorporates more realistic football elements and thus, Tsubasa goes to play for the Japanese national team after taking advice from his coach.
While Tsubasa is indeed the lead character, the story doesn't revolve around him though. As important as he is in every possible aspect, various other characters have their fair share of spotlight. The best thing yet is that every single one of those characters is interesting in his own way and is perfectly capable of stealing Tsubasa's spot should he suddenly decide to go away.
Genzo Wakabayashi is hence a fine goalkeeper whose training in Germany helped him make the best of his aptitudes. Kojro Hyuga is Tsubasa's arch-nemesis. The stupendous thing is that, because of Hyuga's arrogance and utterly obnoxious personality, chances that you will like him more than Tsubasa himself are quite high. This actually happened while the anime was still being shown and it may very well happen here too.
One would like to think that the Japanese players hoard the spotlight, but, in fact, each team has its own star(s). Goalkeepers like Lino will have Tsubasa strive to become better and other players like Napoleon, the whimsical French "artist", or Schneider, the German bomber, are as interesting as their Japanese counterparts. In any case, they are frightfully more skilled when you first meet them.
While the first matches mainly serve the purpose of introducing characters, things get heated afterwards and you'll be literally hooked to the edge of your seat. 10/10
Other than a visual accomplishment that was never matched on the NES and a stunning soundtrack, Captain Tsubasa II is above all revered for its intricate gameplay. Games like Super Mario Bros, Contra, and the highly influential Metal Gear are known to have literally created genres. Captain Tsubasa should be known for successfully combining two distinct genres, namely RPG's and sport games. As unbelievable as it may seem, CTII withholds an engine that integrates elements from both genres. Even better, the end product is marvelous.
Obviously, your objective in the game remains to win several fixtures until you beat the final team and win the tournament. The game actually spans over three separate tournaments and even has its fair share of friendly matches. You get to control three teams. The first team, Sao Paulo, is where Tsubasa plays, and sees you winning the cup in Brazil. Once this is finally achieved, you will move over to Nankatsu, a Japanese club which includes a lot of talented players from all over the world. Finally, the second half of the game sees you with the unrealistically strong Japanese team.
Controlling the players themselves is a combination of a RPG system and the usual football engine. Pressing the directional buttons will make the player with the ball move around. CTII is also extremely different in that you can see only one player on-screen at a time. If you have possession, that'll be one of your players. If you are instead busy chasing the ball, the opponent who has the ball will be seen running forward to represent a threat to your defense. In any case, the animation is always of excellent quality.
The RPG elements drop in when you need to do any action. CTII thus shows what makes it so unique and so interesting. Choosing any action shows itself to be RPG-ish. Press the B button to bring up a menu and decide whether you will pass the ball to a teammate or shoot. Decisions are made by pressing the appropriate directional button and confirming with the A button. Once you have selected your action, the screen changes to highlight it. Everything is done through a menu and via the same system whether it is a penalty kick, a foul or a corner.
Things are not limited to this surprising control scheme though. Just as in the anime, players are greatly skilled and come in with their popular special techniques. For example, Wakashimazu, your second goalkeeper, has the crazy Rolling Sobat which is capable of pushing even the most powerful shot away. Needless to say, Tsubasa remains unbeatable in this department with a remarkable number of shots and passes. Each move costs a certain amount of GUTS. GUTS vary with your character level and subsequently increase with each match. Special moves cost a handful of GUTS and thus cannot be pulled whenever you want. If a character's GUTS drop below 100, he becomes utterly useless and must hence be substituted.
The other blatant RPG element present in Captain Tsubasa II is that your players level up in the typical way. As I previously mentioned, your players get stronger as you play more matches. This system is very reminiscent of any RPG and actually holds the same concept. If you cannot beat a team, face it again (you have unlimited tries) and with each ensuing match, your level and GUTS increase. Everybody in the team gets higher stats and thus becomes more effective. And believe me, you will need to lose many matches because this game can be insanely difficult. Of course, you also gain levels when you win so you retain good chances of beating the stronger opponents.
Captain Tsubasa II remains a very long game that remains enthralling from beginning to end thanks to its innovative features. 10/10
What amazed me beyond the gameplay itself is the visual representation Captain Tsubasa II beholds. This is truly a remarkable achievement for a NES title. Characters look shockingly just like in the anime and the animation is the most beautiful I have seen on Nintendo's 8-bit console. It frankly borders on the SNES era as even the SNES Captain Tsubasa titles were never graphically as good as CTII. Tsubasa is striking with his wide eyes and funky hairstyle and you can even guess where Hyuga is simply by looking at his arms as his sleeves are rolled up just as in the anime.
The other important players also look as original as can be with their facial expressions being well highlighted. Ishizaki's hatred of anything pertaining to Germany is beautifully brought forward. Character models are simply superb. The pitch also looks insane with the green patches rolling by as the ball moves forward at a grinding speed. It isn't very realistic, but is instead very colorful and has that typical anime feel.
As good as the player designs may be, they are however shattered by the amazing mini-movies of the special techniques. Whenever a player performs a special move, a specific animation is brought up. Each move, regardless of its origin, has its particular animation and all of them are dazzling. After the perfectly "illustrated" motion, the ball itself will swing, spin and swerve in all directions. The way Tecmo injected life into these animations never ceases to amaze me.
More importantly, these special shots never get too boring to watch since they are still quite short. Even if you are on the receiving end, you will happily sit back and take in all the subtle effects which accompany Misaki's Jumping Volley Shot. Utterly breath-taking ! 10/10
Because the game is so long, it seems almost necessary to have equally excellent music in it. Rest assured that you will never be disappointed. The music in Captain Tsubasa II easily transcends any recent game's soundtrack. The right combination of slow and fast-paced tracks makes for a truly memorable experience. Music in Captain Tsubasa II can be broken down into two sections : Yourself and Opponent. Different themes play depending on who has the ball and while the same tracks are kept in almost all the matches of the same tournament, they never get redundant.
Instead, every one of them is superbly orchestrated and as I already said, the intermingling of different genres conveys a unique experience to the gamer. Whole new tracks are played in particular matches (the prime example being when you face the Japanese team as Nankatsu) and I do feel it is very easy to guess that these themes readily destroy anything you've heard before. The additional themes too are equally good and disconcertingly add to the already perfect soundtrack of this game.
While sound effects are sparse, any which have miraculously been included are exaggerated, wacky and yet, they perfectly fit in. Each motion has its own funny effects with special shots again enjoying the best onomatopoeia in the whole game. 10/10
Unfortunately, Captain Tsubasa II's RPG elements cause it to have a radically low replay value, as is normally observed in typical RPG's. Of course, the game itself is fairly long and thus fully provides entertainment on its own. However, nothing remains to be done after you have beaten the game once such that most people will play it, complete it and forget about it. Moreover, the very high difficulty level is detrimental as most will be hesitant to tackle the powerhouses that the last teams always represent however good you may be at the game.
Of course, some may be tempted to play it again and see if they fare better than during their first game. It all depends on the gamer himself. If you are genuinely interested in it and are of one those who don't feel happy until they have mutilated every opponent in the game, you will gladly play it over and over again. Otherwise, Tecmo's gem is enjoyable only the first time, at most, twice.
Hardcore fans won't have anything to complain about though. 5/10
Captain Tsubasa II remains one of those very few titles that must be played and it never aged. When such innovation is brought forward and accompanied by such marvelous graphics and truly memorable music, the title must certainly be worth all your money. Very few games are so enticing the first time you play them and while CTII lacks replay value, its undeniable charm makes up for any flaws that may exist.
But when, aside from the replay, there are no other major flaws that harm the game, you just need to play it and to know what makes it so unique. Although the game is in Japanese and was never duly translated, everything is quite easy to comprehend and anybody will grasp the concepts fairly quickly. Of course, you will still miss out the story but scripts can be found almost everywhere and anime fans probably already know it by heart.
Captain Tsubasa II is without doubt a masterpiece. 10/10
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 06/16/06
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