Genre: Sports Developer: Sega of Japan Publisher: Sega of America Players: 1-2 Released: 1989
After the first Sonic the Hedgehog, World Championship Soccer must be one of the easiest game to acquire for your Genesis, especially in Europe, where it was released under the title of World Cup Italia ’90. Copies of the game are overfloading the second-hand market, and it has also been included in almost every collection cartridge Sega released, so it shouldn’t be too hard to get your hands on the first soccer game to hit the Genesis. Though a lot of people must have played it, it is rarely talked about. The question is, why are there so many copies of World Cup Italia ’90 on the market of used games yet most people are ignorant of its existance? Would it have anything to do with the infamous quality of early Genesis games?
Straight from the start, it is clear that World Championship Soccer has aged very, very badly. The colors of the first (and only) “option screen” are so bland that they gave me the impression that my television was malfunctioning. There are only three available options – world cup, test match single-player, and test match two-player. Once the player has selected an option, he can pick his team on a world map. Only European and South American teams are mainly represented (Africa only has two selectable countries, as does Asia), and Australia isn’t even selectable as a team. Though the shortage of teams is a letdown, the game can’t be really blamed for it. In all, World Championship Soccer offers just the twenty-four countries which participated in the 1990 World Championship Tournament (sans the licensed players, and they made a few errors regarding the participating countries as well).
After selecting a team, the player has to pick the members he’s playing with, which doesn’t take long, but is just too boring and annoying to repeat it every game you play. After selecting all this (this is probably the soccer game with fewest options of all time), it’s up to the field and suprise, suprise, World Championship Soccer must be one of the worst-looking Genesis games around. The pitch and the action are viewed from the above. For some reason all the players have black hair. They all look like huge black dots with colored shoulders sticking out. The sprites are pretty big but are very short on animation. Players can do short and long passes and shoot, but only the long pass will have the ball fly up towards you – a pretty crappy animation; however the pitch is too small to see any nearby team members, which makes decent passing and keeping control of the ball nearly impossible. The developers probably experienced the same problem, so they added a radar at the right side of the screen which shows the position of the players. Unfortunately, the thing is big enough to fill almost a quarter of the screen, making the view of the pitch even smaller. Despite its size, the information shown on the radar is so microscopic that it’s totally useless, and it can’t even be switched off.
Besides being low on options and having crappy graphics and crappy controls, World Championship Soccer also lacks customary soccer rules like offsides and penalty flags. Actually, there isn’t even a real referee, since fouls cannot be committed and yellow or red cards are never shown. Worse, there is only one type of sliding, which makes the players look like they have been hit by a flyswatter. The only time you’ll hear a whistle is when a the ball goes out of bounds or when a goal is scored. For some reason, throw-ins and goal kicks are sometimes shown as bland “close-ups.” The player has only to press a button and the animation will automatically start. These close-ups become annoying pretty fast, and again, it isn’t possible to turn them off. The music is a cheesy ever-repeating tune and the sound effects will make one think the players play the entire game with a leaky ball. Actually, I can’t think of one positive aspect I could mention about this first generation Genesis title, except that it was the first soccer game.
As a European, I like soccer and I enjoy playing video games about the sport, which is highly popular all over the world, except for the United States. Sadly, World Championship Soccer is a horribly aged game that wasn’t even that good to begin with. There are plenty of good soccer games available for the Genesis – Sensible Soccer, FIFA Soccer ’95, and Konami’s International Superstar Soccer especially spring to mind, so there is absolutely no reason anyone should bother to play this piece of garbage.