Genre: Sports Developer: Konami Publisher: Konami Players: 1-8 Released: 1996
After the excellent FIFA Soccer ’94 and ’95 the FIFA series on the Genesis started going downhill. The ’96, ’97, and ’98 editions were all fairly disappointing and didn’t live up to the high expectations set by the first two games. So, after FIFA ’95 there was room for another player on the Genesis soccer game scene, because the only true alternative was the outstanding Sensible Soccer. To the surprise of some people, one of the best 16-bit producers of shooters and platform games, Konami, provided that change.
In 1994 International Superstar Soccer (also known as Perfect Eleven in Japan) appeared on the Super Nintendo, and the sequel with the overly long title International Superstar Soccer Deluxe (ISS Deluxe) appeared in 1996 on the Super Nintendo and finally, the Mega Drive. If the critics had paid more attention they wouldn’t have been surprised, since ISS is actually a sort of unofficial sequel to Konami’s relatively successful NES-game Konami Hyper Soccer. Rightfully so, Konami didn’t expect much of the American market for a soccer game, so this port of ISS Deluxe was released exclusively in Europe and Japan, without a translation for the American Genesis.
ISS Deluxe has plenty of options to chose from – it’s possible to play international, World Cup, penalty kick, and open game. The game isn’t officially licensed and only national teams are available, but there are two cool additional features, specifically the training and scenario modes. In the training mode the player is able to master the controls on a higher level. In the scenario mode you get different assignments like scoring in the last minute of a game, which is a nice diversion to playing matches;
Option-wise there is one major drawback of ISS Deluxe, and that’s the lack of the ability to save on the cartridge. All you get are passwords that are way too long (they also contain symbols, making it even harder to write down). For a platform game I would have found this surmountable, but writing an elaborate password down for every single possible competition in a sports game is way too annoying. The lack of saving possibilities is particularly unforgivable when you consider this game was released in 1996, two years after games like its competitor FIFA Soccer ’95 and Sonic 3, which proved that it was perfectly possible to provide a working saving system on a Genesis cartridge.
However, despite its lack of a memory back up, ISS Deluxe still belongs with the best soccer games on the Mega Drive. The graphics don’t look as sharp and polished as in FIFA ’95, but the sprites are much bigger and better animated. Also, it is probably the only soccer game on the Genesis that features true voice-over commentary. In the long run it becomes a bit annoying, but overall it’s quite impressive that they managed to implement it in the game considering the weak Genesis sound chip. Even more, the game is a lot more accessible than FIFA ’95. The controls are easier to pick (you don’t really need to do the training mode), though it will take a time to figure out how to score a goal due to some insanely good goalkeepers. If you played ISS Deluxe, you do not want to return to FIFA ’95 – this game plays so much more fluidly. Keep in mind that it works best with a six-button joypad though.
Finally, ISS Deluxe combines the arcade feeling of Sensible Soccer with the more realistic sprites of FIFA Soccer, and still manage to have its own unique touch. It is the typical Konami-touch, meaning you’ll at some point in the game feel like a happy and innocent kid again. What’s also nice about ISS Deluxe is that you can make it as deep as you like. There are different difficulty levels, and it’s possible to alter all kind of tactics. If you don’t like that, it’s also possible to just pick up a quick match.
International Superstar Soccer has gradually evolved into the successful Pro Evolution Soccer series, nowadays the only serious competitor of the FIFA franchise that, despite some flawed editions, is still going strong. Pro Evolution Soccer still remains, just like its 16-bit predecessor, the more arcade-like game as opposed to the more simulation-minded fare that is FIFA. Despite this, the game is not as widely known outside the gaming community as FIFA is, mainly due to the fact it is only partially official licensed, while FIFA always had almost full license of all clubs and countries around the world.
ISS Deluxe isn’t as polished as FIFA Soccer ’95 and not as instantly accessible as Sensible Soccer. Nevertheless, it is one the best soccer games on the Mega Drive, with great arcade actions and a lot of fun. I would have definitely rated it with an “8” if it wasn’t for the lack of a save feature, which makes me knock the score one point down; however, in my opinion it’s still the second-best soccer game on the Mega Drive, after Sensible Soccer.
SCORE: 7 out of 10