Game tracks athlete’s career from middle school to the pros

By Gieson Cacho // The Mercury News (TNS)

Platform: PlayStation 4, PC, Nintendo Switch
Genre: Arcade
Publisher: Bandai Namco Entertainment
Developer: Tamsoft

Not many Americans may know about Captain Tsubasa. That’s understandable because the manga and anime, which ran from 1980s to 1990s, never made it to U.S. shores.

The show followed the title character whose soccer career spans from middle school to the pros. It’s a sports epic and Bandai Namco is translating it to the video game scene. It’s an intriguing prospect in a genre that’s dominated by Electronic Arts’ FIFA and Konami’s PES franchises.

Captain Tsubasa: Rise of New Champions could carve out a niche for itself by creating a story-driven sports game with accessible gameplay. The title lies between a simulation like FIFA and an arcade-like title such as Mario Strikers.

It’s a game that’s fast-paced and easy to learn. Players run up and down the pitch going after the ball. Short passes are done with the X button. Triangle is used for the trick passes while circle is used for long passes. The R1 is the dash button that speeds up characters at the expense of stamina while square lets players shoot. The R2 button is used for a dribble move that avoids a tackle while the L1 is for switching players.

Players can hold a button down to add power or a bit extra for each action. That covers the basics, but Captain Tsubasa has other elements that add depth when needed. Experts can change tactics with the directional pad and several players on the field have a special ability that makes them distinct.

Competitors don’t need a manual to figure how to play. They can pick it up and be successful as long as they know simple concepts of the sport such as passing to the open man. The only issue is that the camera is so focused on the player with the ball that they may not know who they’re passing to ahead or behind them.

One of the biggest factors in soccer success is the stamina meter above each character’s head. Players have to keep an eye on the endurance of each team member as they run up and down the field. It’s the determining factor in keeping possession of the ball during tackles. It will be important for goalies when guarding against shots.

If forwards keep getting clean looks, it weakens the goalkeeper, and if players can pull off a character’s signature shot by holding the square and R1 buttons, it has a high chance of going in. The shots have a short cinematic and give the game an anime feel.

Captain Tsubasa will feature 2-vs-2 multiplayer, but it looks like the meat of the game will lie in the story mode that follows the title character’s career and struggles. If it has as much drama off the field as players find on the field, then it could a different but intriguing take on the sports genre.

Captain Tsubasa: Rise of New Champions is scheduled for release in 2020 on PlayStation 4, PC and Nintendo Switch.