Football games and RPG’s. You couldn’t get two genre of games any more different. Well you could, but that’s beside the point! The point is that fans of role-playing games and fans of football games are stereotypically polar opposites. One fan base loves gripping, story driven adventures, grinding and levelling. The other are simply content with simulating the joy of football in a game; the highs, the lows and those all important bragging rights over your friends.
But unbeknown to both sets of fans the lines of distinction between the two genres have slowly been blurring. Don’t believe me? How about Inazuma Eleven on the Nintendo DS, which combines football, an Anime art style and story driven, RPG elements into one package. Or how about the ‘Be a Pro’ mode that has consistently evolved year on year in each FIFA iteration? Surely the ability to play as only one created footballer and level up their skills is the very definition of a role-playing experience.
Taking the RPG, football crossover to even further extremes is New Star Soccer, a game which is free to play on PC and Mac, and for those with an insatiable appetite for the game (and believe me, that’s EVERYONE who has played it) 69p on the App store and Android marketplace so you can play on the go.
New Star Soccer smashes the boundaries of a free to play (or ludicrously cheap depending on what format you’re playing it on) game in terms of depth and presentation, boasting deep simulation gameplay with a football feel and a slick, refined interface. Merging elements from games like Football Manager and the previously mentioned ‘Be a Pro’ mode from FIFA with RPG elements, New Star Soccer is almost certainly one of the most gleaming hidden gems currently being unearthed.
Starting out as a 16 year old youth player, New Star Soccer’s main mode, ‘Career Mode’, gives players the chance to live out their own footballer careers both on and off the pitch. Primarily done through scenario based gameplay, it charts the rise (or indeed fall) of your player as he starts his career off at the bottom tier of football, onwards and upwards as a professional footballer. Along with the pressure of actually performing in your matches (which, unlike other football sims, you can actually play…sort of. I’ll get onto that in a moment) comes the pressures of appeasing virtual managers, team mates, fans, sponsors, the media and girlfriends. Of course, the relationships impact on one another, after all skipping training to go shopping with your girlfriend is a sure fire way to put a dent in the relationship you have your manager and team mates, meaning they are less likely to pass to you, if you even get picked for the squad at all. So, the choices you make in between matches is just as import as the ones on the pitch, adding a sense of tactical awareness off the field as well as on it but more importantly providing some truly memorable moments and stories to share with fellow players of the game.
The game’s real magic is that even with all the training mini games that allow you to level up your characters skills at a price of your match day energy, all the store systems players can use to buy power-ups and items to improve their skills and credibility further, the scenario based gameplay with in game relationships AND the simulation of actual football matches, the game is incredibly intuitive and easy to navigate. And make no bones about it, there’s a lot of navigation.
That’s solely down to the fact that the majority of the game is menu based but don’t let that put you off. Its menus are clean, clearly laid out and quick to use, meaning you’re not spending 20 minutes making your pre-match choices before thrust back into the action. Which is actually a perfect combination when coupled with the games interactive match engine which also displays intuitive and scenario based characteristics of the games UI.
Bringing back a charming sense of nostalgia through its retro-esque, Sensible Soccer inspired graphics and deliberately dated sound effects, New Star Soccer may not display all the trimmings when it comes to the presentation aspects that we now expect from an iOS/Android, however what it makes up for in presentation it overachieves in terms of depth. Aside from the off the field menu system (which also features fully fledged transfer and contract systems, as well as teams and leagues from 40+ countries) in match controls are the very answer to the criticism football sims garner for not being able to actually play in the football matches.
As previously mentioned its scenario based, but without taking away the influence you have on the game. Players are given an energy bar which degrades over time until it reaches rock bottom and you are subbed (unless your energy pre-match was low, in which case you’ll be coming ON as a substitute) and work rate buttons which allow the player to tactically choose when to play harder or take it easy throughout the game, which of course affects the energy bar by making it deplete quicker or slower depending on which option you pick. However, a players work rate will also increase or limit the amount of time they have on the ball and thus, how many scenarios they will be given to stamp their mark on the game.
Scenarios are your obvious choices (whether to pass, shoot, intercept the ball etc) however they do have a genuine impact on your teams performance and you often find that if you make the right decisions you team as a result will play better and more chances & scenarios will fall your way. Controls are all touched based and highly responsive, continuing the games simple but effective mantra. They may take some getting used to at first but this is quickly remedied by the games other mode, ‘Arcade Mode’, which is comprised of all in game scenarios, progressively getting harder by adding wind elements and altering player positions, providing a brilliant way for those new to the game to learn the basic controls and allow seasoned veterans to hone their skills.
Simple yet magical, New Star Soccer is a hard one to put down (so much so that I had trouble writing about the game when all I was doing was playing it). Its blend of unforeseeable depth yet facile gameplay is an extremely potent combination. Whether you’re a football fan, an RPG fan or just your average gamer, go and get it, just don’t blame us if it quickly consumes your life. We warned you.
Review Round Up
Graphics: 4/5 – Nostalgic and basic. New Star Soccer may not have all that we have come to expect from mobile games but then again, it doesn’t need to.
Sound: 3/5 – Much like the games graphics, the game’s use of sound is also nostalgic and primitive. An actual single piece of music we’ve been nice though.
Gameplay: 4.5/5 – Incredibly in depth for such a simple looking game, yet never feels overwhelming because of the games simple and intuitive nature. The game’s biggest redeeming feature.
Longevity: 5/5 – Difficult to put down due to the game’s fantastic gameplay. A time sink but worth every hour you plow into the game.
Overall: 4.5 NRG, stat boosting drinks out of 5.
Don’t let the game’s football theme put you off, New Star Soccer as something for everybody. It may not be the prettiest but it’s simple with hidden depths and most importantly of all..it’s magical and utterly compelling.
- Kieran Roycroft