Genre: Sports Developer: Renegade Publisher: Sony Imagesoft Players: 1-2 Released: 1993
Growing up in Europe, there is no way of escaping soccer. Boys have to play it at school; I hated soccer and looked with envy to the U.S. where they had sports like basketball, football, hockey, and baseball. There is a reason why soccer is so popular: it is the level of entertainment. The 90-minute gameplay is interrupted only by a single break and there are no time outs, which means the action is much more continuous than in other sports. Tennis, for example, has a lot of breaks, even though the video game form offers the option to ignore them. Still, it’s not very action-packed. Have you ever watched a two-hour Wimbledon match where both players had a strong serve? You see what I’m getting at; there is simply not enough action.
If there is a soccer video game that converts the potential that soccer has, into an arcade style sports game then it is Sensible Soccer. The Genesis version was released in 1992, and there were ports for the SNES and the Amiga 500. In 1993 a special edition was released on the Genesis which featured the world cup teams of 1994. One will find great names among the team members, for instance: the team of Argentina has Diego Maradona, the Dutch team has Marc Overmars and Denis Bergkamp. Many of the players only retired recently, some are still playing others have become coaches.
The 2006 soccer World Championship also seems to have triggered the revival of Sensible Soccer. Just in time (a few weeks before the beginning of the world championship) there will be a release of a 3D version for Xbox, PlayStation 2 and PC. The new version will try to capture the flair of the original: fast paced action, simple gameplay and soccer players with big heads (so that they can be spotted easily by the gamer). Nowadays publishers of sports games have to be very careful if they intend to include detailed models of famous players, names or logos in their games. The good old Sensible Soccer series kept it simple and didn’t suffer from such a problem – the players look all the same. For instance if you select Argentina as your team and Maradona scores a goal, then it is only the textual indication that you tells you that it was Maradona who made the goal. The players look the same but have different properties. For instance a forward from a strong team like Argentina runs faster than a defender of a rather weak team like let’s say Switzerland.
The World Championship mode is not the only way to play, there are the following modes: EUFA Cup, Euro Superleague, Booby League and Turkey Tournament. Once a tournament has started there is an option to save the tables after each game. Of course you don’t have to play a tournament at all and can instead just play a friendly exhibition game. The default game length is three minutes (90 seconds for each half), which is about right and leads to reasonable results (ie.: 3:1). The gameplay is easy and intuitive, there are three kinds of shots: the A-button triggers a strong kick, the B-button is for passing the ball on to another player, the C-button is also for passing but for a short distance. The player who is currently controlling is marked up with his number. As soon as one of your players gets control over the ball one gets control over the player. From a strategic point of view there is not much to do, but before the beginning of the match one can select a specific starting formation.
The multi-player is great too, and it is fun to participate in a tournament with a view friends. Basically there is almost no limit in the number of human players, it is just that the ratio playing/waiting time deteriorates exponentially as the number of human participants grows.
The music in Sensible Soccer is not that great, but after listening to it for hours it simply becomes annoying and one develops the urge to turn it off, in the options menu there is a button for just that. Once the music is switched off, you are left with the noise of a soccer stadium; the sound is not great but does the job. There is not too much anyway, just the bare minimum: a cheering crowd when the teams enter the stadium, the sound of a ball being kicked, the famous “soccer stadium awe” which is an awe performed by thousands of fans when the goal keeper has to dive for a ball. There is also the whistle of the referee, which will sound to start and end a game, as well as many times during a game when there is a foul or when the ball is kicked off the field. The referee has a good eye and fouls will lead to either a free kick, a yellow card, a red card, or a penalty depending on the circumstances of the foul. The rather complicated concept of an off-site play can’t be found in International Sensible Soccer, which is good because it keeps the ball in motion.
This is definitely soccer at its best on the Genesis. You don’t have to be a soccer fan to enjoy this installment of Sensible Soccer, as its arcade style and easy handling make it a joy to play.
SCORE: 8 out of 10