Inazuma Eleven

Discussion in 'GBAtemp Reviews & Guides' started by machomuu, Aug 22, 2012.

  1. machomuu

    machomuu Drops by occasionally

    Sep 4, 2009
    United States
    The Courtroom

    There aren't really many Sports games that I like, mainly because I'm not fan of Sports and I've never actually liked the idea of Sports games regardless (even if I did like sports, the idea of Sports games, for the most part, doesn’t gel with me), so it's no surprise that originally I stayed away from Inazuma Eleven. I didn’t know much about Inazuma Eleven other than the fact that it was a sports game and it had anime-styled characters in it, and that certainly wasn’t enticing enough for me to want to give it a shot. I'm an American living in America, so I really shouldn't have known about the game to begin with, due to its never having hit the stateside (though for the sake of the review I will be referring to the sport as "Football" rather than "Soccer"), but when I found out about the RPG elements, I decided to give it a try, and in doing so I was introduced to what I believe is one of the most unexpected and well-handled DS game ideas on the system. Since release Inazuma Eleven has spawned several sequels, an anime series, and a Wii series, Inazuma Eleven Strikers, to appease those who want a "more traditional" Sports Game feel out of Inazuma Eleven while still retaining the various elements from the games (the first title in this series will hit Europe in September). Inazuma Eleven was released on the DS on August 26, 2011, and was developed by Level-5.

    In Inazuma Eleven you play as a boy named Mark Evans, a football loving youngster part of the Raimon Football Club. Sadly, the other members aren't quite sold on being serious about the club, and they'd rather laze around. However, after being saved by the mysterious Axel Blaze, Mark decides to make a successful Football club no matter what. Mark gathers up more members so that they can compete with other schools, but when Mark's team is crushed by Zeus Junior High, Mark decides to enter into the Football Frontier to face them again.

    Upon starting up the game you will immediately be able to tell that this game has kids in minds, both by its dialog and the story that it initially presents. Mark is the stereotypical strong-willed protagonist that believes that anything can be overcome through effort and friendship, Axel is the quiet and cool character with a dark past, Silvia is the supportive female love interest, and Nelly is the snooty rich girl that hides her feelings behind insults. Early in the game these characters are simple archetypes that we've seen before, but as the game progresses it takes these characters, as well as the player's view of the story, and twists them. These characters were given these personalities on purpose, as it uses the naïveté of Mark Evans' youth and stretches it until its near breaking points. The story involves quite a bit of death, scandal, dark relationships, and rather morose murder plots, but at the same time it doesn't get to the point where a child would be scared or feel uncomfortable when playing it (in most cases, but I did find the "Racy Comic" found at one point to be questionable), but it's pretty mature for its being rated Pegi 7; so if you're interested in a lighthearted story with dark undertones, or just a dark story that doesn't go too far into the dark territory, this game does it well.

    The game is pretty formulaic; it goes by chapters, and in each chapter it's pretty much a Small Battle, followed by a Team Battle sometime later, then finally an Official Match. That's not to say that those are the only three battles that you will be doing in each chapter, and there are some exceptions, but if that were the case then the game would be quite short (What all of these are will be touched on later). In between these battles there’s quite a bit of storytelling, and while the game isn’t overflowing with text, there is a large amount of it. Still, cutscenes and events generally aren’t that long, so it won’t try the restless player’s patience. Various chapters seem like filler or are there for the purpose of making characters come to various revelations or learn moves, and while they’re not necessarily boring, they can be blatantly unimportant or bland in some cases.

    Inazuma Eleven’s gameplay is somewhat reminiscent of that of Captain Tsubasa back on the NES (known as Tecmo Cup Soccer/Football Game elsewhere). Players use the stylus to create the path for where a player on the field will go (any player on the team they’re controlling, rather than just the person with the ball). Tapping on the screen will make the person with the ball kick the ball to where the stylus was tapped, assuming that the player’s team is in ownership of the ball. When one with a ball and a member of the other team meet, a duel occurs between them. The attacker (the one who has the ball) can feint or dodge and the defender can choose either to do a sliding tackle or a regular tackle. The former in both cases is more likely to succeed, while the latter is less likely to succeed but more likely to keep the ball (there is a chance that, even if they win the duel, they can accidentally lose the ball; it won’t go to the other team unless they get to it first). This is also where the Element System comes in. Each player on a team is given one of four elements: Air, Wood, Fire, or Earth (Air beats Earth, Earth beats Fire, Fire beats Wood and Wood beats Air). Those with an elemental advantage also have a moderate advantage in duels. When shooting the ball, a duel also happens between the Goal Keeper and the Shooter (though there are some exceptions). In this scenario, the Goal Keeper has the choice to punch or catch the ball and the Shooter has the choice of Shooting or doing a Chip Shot.

    Then, there are Special Moves, which are a critically important part of the Inazuma Eleven franchise. A Special Move is a move that can be used when Defending, Saving (when the Goal Keeper tries to block the ball), Offending, or Shooting. Special Moves are elemental actions one can take to defeat the other player, and they are always more efficient than the standard choices noted above (though, with the right stats it is possible to beat a Special Move with a normal one). These Special Attacks are fantastical specters that can range from one spinning in the air, the being engulfed in flames and kicking the ball into the goal, engulfing it in flames, to simply someone tricking the opposing player into thinking that they are in ownership of their ball when in reality the other player took the ball and they had a random round fruit/vegetable in its place. They play out in the form of short cutscenes; that shortness is critical, as a half or battle is only thirty seconds long and the timer goes down as the cutscene plays, so players must take care in watching their time when picking their moves. Now, one would think that matches would be short because of this, but they’re not. Granted, they’re not long, but there are several instances in which the clock stops and the clock doesn’t stop directly on the 30 second mark; because of this, matches often go on for several minutes.
    When two players both use Special Moves against each other, one will cancel the other out based on a few factors (specifically, the strength of the specific moves, the various stats of the players, and the element of both the player and the Special Move). As stated above, Special Moves have elements, and those elements work the same way players do. Similarly to players, the one with the advantageous element will have a moderately higher chance of defeating the other. Special Moves become stronger when used by someone of the same element as them, and they become weaker when used on someone of the opposite element. Generally, the stronger a Special Move is, the more TP (or Technical Points) it will use. Technical Points could be compared to MP or SP in other RPGs, and thus, it adds strategy to what moves the player should use when.

    Inazuma Eleven’s Football aspects are spread between 3 different types of games: Small Battles, Battles, and Matches (all collectively called “Matches” in game). Small Battles are battles that are 4 on 4 with some sort of objective. For instance, you may be asked to keep the ball away from the other team for a set amount of time, or you may be asked to simply shoot a goal. These will be the majority of matches that you play. Battles are simply 30 second long games that take place between entire teams rather than 8 people. The goal is to get more points than the opposing team before the timer ends. Matches are the same, but consist of two halves, or two Battles, instead of one. Matches are usually played against other schools.

    Then, there’s what is called the “RPG Side” of the game. This is basically the Overworld, and it consists of everything that you do when you’re not playing football, which, ironically, is quite a lot. The story takes place in the RPG side; you can explore the various locations such as Raimon and other story locations. When wandering around you can get challenged by other teams, and this is essentially the same as a Random Encounter. Teams challenged in Random Encounters are fought in 4 on 4 Small Battles. Other than battling and doing Story objectives, you can Scout and Recruit players. Scouting is the act of looking for players to join the team and Recruiting is the act of getting someone from another team to join you. The functions are certainly useful and are the key to building a strong team, but one has to wait for results to come back, and they can take a while (in the sequel this is changed to that finding said players is automatic). Other than that, players can rebattle other schools that they’ve already beaten for valuable prizes, which adds quite a bit of replay value (and new schools become available after the game ends, adding some post-game longevity).

    Finally, there’s the Character Development and Customization. There are over 1000 playable characters in Inazuma Eleven, and as such, there has to be some way to customize the players to make them unique and to help you build the strongest team possible. Each player is different (statwise and otherwise), and generally the position that they play for is the one that their stats are optimized for. For instance, Axel Blaze is a Forward, so his stats that make Shooting better are higher than those of a defender (but even still, a player categorized as a Forward can play any position they want, the categorization is simply there to guide the Player as to which position would be best for them). This is where the learning of Special Moves becomes important. There are two ways to learn new Special Moves. The first way is to learn them from Manuals. Manuals can be found in treasure chests, bought in stores, be given to the player, or be won from rematches. A player can learn up to two moves from Manuals, and they can learn any moves they want, regardless of position or element (that said, it would be pointless to teach a Forward a Goal Keeping move). The second way is to learn the moves either through leveling up or story events, and there are 4 moves that can be learned for each character this way. Thus, a player can learn up to six moves, 4 leveling/story moves and 2 manual moves.
    There is more to Character Customization than just the moves, though. Each player has is allowed to carry around three items (Goal Keepers can hold four). These items are Equip Items, and different items have different effects. Some make a player faster, others make him stronger, and some affect how often they get into random encounters. The first of the items is always a set of boots, and the boots can either boost the characters Kick stat (which makes their shooting better and their passing range farther) or their Speed stat, depending on the type of boot. The other two are accessories which have varying effects and could potentially have any number of modifiers or effects. In the case of Goal Keepers, they can equip Gloves that will make saving the ball easier. Stats can also be raised through level ups, training spots that trade stat gain for money, and another method that will be revealed in game.

    Inazuma Eleven is a game with a plethora of 2D art and sprites and 3D models and textures. The character designs often reflect their eccentricies, and they are incredibly varied. The sprites are crisp and detailed, but at the same time most of the designs are simply heads over varied body sizes shared by other characters (this pretty much makes up how the majority of characters are done). This makes the characters look varied but at the same time repetitive. The 3D models aren’t the greatest looking, but for a DS title they are pretty well done for models that don’t shake the framerate (other than some infrequent slowdowns, they usually occur in the flashier move cutscenes). The art style is also varied and does add to the uniqueness of the characters. For the most part it could be considered simple, but it does a good job of giving a representation of the characters’ personalities, even if, in reality, those characters aren’t/can’t be fleshed out. The locales are in 3D while the only times the characters are in 3D are Special Move cutscenes. The environments are quite detailed, often painted with a lot of uninteractable scenery and buildings simply for the beautification of the game.

    The Special Moves are very flashy and certainly leave an impression. You can feel how painful the attacks must feel on the receiving players, even if the moves themselves are outlandish. The techniques ooze with power and flair; very Gurren Lagann. The moves are also varies, and it's unlikely that one will see them be reused (except for some cases where moves have different elemental versions or stronger versions, but even then they have their differences, and they're more than just effect changes, too). Often the moves will contain explosions, fire, water, penguins (yes, penguins), and not only the sound effects, but the reactions of the players and their movements not only make them look smooth but also very surrealistic.

    In the dub, the beginning plays the first theme song to the anime in English, and its…well, it’s not abysmal. This reviewer would liken it to Rock the Dragon, the Ocean Dub theme song of Dragon Ball Z. It’s memorable, but it gives an impression that wasn’t meant to be given off. In DBZ’s case, it represented the show as an “All fighting, no substance” sort of show. Granted, in that case it not only was the driving force in popularizing Dragon Ball Z in the West, but it also wasn’t completely denying it of its substance, either. Inazuma Eleven’s opening, on the other hand, represents the game as a kid’s game and overindulges in friendship and Football metaphors far too much. Granted, it’s not actually that bad, and it does fit Inazuma Eleven, but at the same time it seems as if it were created for an audience younger than the rating implies. Granted, the original song isn't the most mature either, but it certainly knows the age group and crowd it's trying to appeal to.
    [yt]iXIm6hg9zCk[/yt] [yt]7dLTqF3J7oU[/yt]
    The English and Japanese openings respectively

    The in-game on the music is composed by the illustrious Yasunori Mitsuda (who also composed for games like Chrono Trigger, Xenoblade Chronicles, and Xenosaga episode 1). The music is often cheery when in grounds such as districts and the Raimon School, it’s ferocious in songs such as the battle theme, and it really gives personality to those that get unique themes. In dark scenes or situations you can feel the grim nature of the situation more than you can see it. However, the songs aren’t all the most memorable, and this isn’t what I would consider Mitsuda’s best work. Still, the songs you hear the most are certainly pleasing, and the composition does a good job in its strife.

    The voice actors are English, which is quite the surprise (or it would have been years ago. Why? Because games that don't come to the States often simply leave the Japanese voice acting in, and the performances in Inazuma Eleven are not bad at all. The voices fit the characters well and the lines are written rather well. Sinister characters have dark menacing voices, "Cool" characters are quiet and deep voiced, and Mark is Mark. The accents are also quite varied, making the characters feel even more unique without their accents feeling completely out of place.
    Final Comments

    Inazuma Eleven is a unique and rather bold take on a large genre, trying things that Level-5 had no way of knowing if they would succeed. The game is pretty long, and its gameplay isn’t repetitive enough that one would want to give up halfway through because of it. The storytelling is gripping, but can come off as too kiddy or preachy at times and then abruptly change into a plot about murder, which could be quite jarring for a kid and possibly attractive for someone who’s older. The strategic elements are intuitive and really require the player to think rather than to simply run the ball to the goal and shoot. The characters vary in likability, they’re interesting takes on archetypes we’ve seen before, but some are simply archetypes and can be just plain annoying. The graphics are good and varies, but at the same time repetitive, this is understandable, however, seeing as the game boasts 1000+ characters, and even with the repetitive body designs, the designs given create a detailed painting of that character’s personality. The music is pleasing and does a good job of painting the atmosphere and making the game feel more alive, as do the colorful and detailed environments. Inazuma Eleven will last you a while, but once you beat it it’s recommended that you rush over to get Inazuma Eleven 2, it takes what people didn’t like about the first game and for the most part improves on them, as well as adding a few critical and insightful features as well. Still, Inazuma Eleven, despite its flaws, it a fun adventure that one can sink hours upon hours into, and it is a great game for those that want to try a unique twist on a tried and true concept.
    1 person likes this.
  2. Skixy

    Skixy Fight me.

    Dec 14, 2011
    United States
    Away from you.
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