A late kick-off
Itís quite disappointing to think that it took over three years for Inazuma Eleven to reach European shores after its original Japanese release date. Itís so late to the centre circle (yes, expect a heavy amount of footballing puns) in-fact that the series has already had 2 sequels and a spin-off title in Japan. But this Nintendo DS gem is a breath of fresh air into a genre filled with stale similar titles that have left gamers thinking seriously about the future of the genre. But I tip my hat to developers Level-5, the prominent Japanese developer who has recently become a global name within the industry for its take on the J-RPG genre and for the depth and detail it brings to each of its titles. Inazuma Eleven is no different.
A true footballing story
In the medium of film and TV, there hasnít been too many footballing films or stories, with good reason. Itís hard to take such a sport, and the realism of a passion loved by millions globally, and transfer it to entertainment medium while making it interesting at the same time. Popular football films have always been about the violence that has featured in the past or some other hot topic that has always surrounded the sport. But video-games, manga and anime are a different ball game (ha!). There is no pressure to create a game or show that sticks to the realistic boundaries, and directors can create stories that involve enhanced realism. Games such as Mario Strikers Charged Football, a title that creates zany football, with power shots and gameplay that involves crushing the opponent in impossible ways is a perfect example of the freedom available.
Inazuma Eleven takes this opportunity to allow for enhanced realism while still allowing for the passion of the sport to be shown. The craziness of producing out-of-this-world shots and moves are key to creating an exciting and involving title in both gameplay and story. This is the perfect blend that Inazuma Eleven achieves so it can appeal to so many different players, whether they be fans of the sport or not.
The story of Inazuma Eleven is not something that will blow minds or even interest some. It has that distinct anime touch, with a typical anime story that, although not particularly engaging or well-written, is one that many will still want to know how it ends.
Players take the role of Mark Evans, the captain of the dysfunctional and near extinct football team of Raimon High School. The teams members are an unenthusiastic bunch of rag-tag school members who have nothing better to do than sit in the club house lazing around. Evans, the only member with an actual interest in football, is determined to get the team going but to no avail. Until the arrival of a transfer student named Axel Blaze, an ex-star football player, who has given up on playing. From here on out, the story follows the journey of the re-building of the Raimon High School as they enter the national league and the legend of a 40-year old football team known as the ĎInazuma Elevení, a team who at the time where the best team in Japan until they mysteriously disappeared.
Told though a mixture of text, in-game animations and beautiful anime cut-scenes, the story is enough to keep you entertained throughout the game. Unfortunately the voice acting isnít one that is particularly easy to listen to, with some heavily used British voice-actors being used. Personally being British myself, I hated it. But with the voices being rarely used, appearing only for the anime cut-scenes and small bit parts, it is bearable.
Battle and train
Firstly, to be clear- You wonít ever have played anything like Inazuma Eleven before, unless in fact you have actually played Inazuma Eleven. The players, recruiting, training and the typical RPG tasks, are all parts of Inazuma Eleven you may have seen before stylized in other titles. It takes ideas from other popular J-RPG titles and blends them seamlessly within each other, creating a game which makes players want to battle and train. However, it does all of this without heavily borrowing or relying on copying a trait from other games. The battle system, for one, is something brand new, and for a game such as this, is perfect.
Fantastic battle system, challenging and rewarding and hours of entertainment.
Some mundane RPG tasks that canít be avoided. Small environments and world.