We can't imagine there's a huge overlap on the Venn diagram for football fans and anime and manga and enthusiasts, but here we are. Captain Tsubasa: Rise of New Champions is aiming squarely for the demographic of people that have both a Sky Sports and a Crunchyroll subscription, and good luck to it, we say.
If you're not familiar with the manga or the anime, Captain Tsubasa, then you're in good company. We'd never heard of it either, probably because our anime knowledge is largely based around owning a copy of Akira on VHS and still not having a clue what happened in it thirty years later. Still, no prior introduction is really required here since the game explains it all in cutscenes and unlockable flashbacks.
The TL;DR version is that there's a kid called Tsubasa who was saved by a football as a child when it cushioned the blow as he was hit by a truck and he's had a love for the beautiful game ever since. That might sound like the origin story for the crummiest Marvel superhero ever, but honestly, we laughed so hard that we gave it a pass. Football literally saved this kid's life and now he just wants to give something back. It's heartwarming, okay?
And so Tsubasa – who is a teenager in the present day story of the game – sets about to win at lots of football.
The game features two campaigns. The first tells the story of Tsubasa and his team entering a football tournament and going up against weird and wonderful teams from across Japan. Each team features an amusing rival footballer for Tsubasa to try and best, specialising in different aspects of the sport. Some are attacking powerhouses while others are stalwart defenders, and it's up to you to take them down and then ultimately make friends with them because that's how Tsubasa rolls.
The story is told in poorly animated cut-scenes with glib dialogue, and there's too much talking for a narrative that rarely gets out of first gear. Also, there's something deeply unsettling about the character models. This is probably a stylistic hangover from the manga, but some of the characters barely look human.
Gripes about the ho-hum story aside there's a lot to like here, mainly down to sheer ridiculousness of what transpires on screen. There's a bit where you play against a team who specialise in "aerial soccer" which is particularly memorable.
At one point – and honestly we're not making this up or having an acid flashback – one of the players kicks his twin brother about forty feet into the air so he can head the ball, and Tsubasa uses the goalposts as a springboard to fly up there and also head the ball, and then they both head the ball and it looks like when Ken and Ryu try to Hadouken at the same time. It's things like that that you just don't see on Match of the Day.
The actual football bit of the game is a mixed bag. At times it's so audacious that you'll likely be sat smiling like a child, but at others it's frustrating and confusing. At its heart it's a fairly rudimentary arcade footy game. You've got all the usual passes, lobs, and through balls. Each player has a spirit meter, and they use up spirit by completing certain actions. Sprinting, for example, depletes the spirit bar slowly, while using a special shot technique will use a chunk of the bar all at once.
Passing is fairly unreliable, and even if there's a clear route to the player that you want to pass to you'll often find yourself passing to the opposition. There's the ability to switch control to the nearest player to the ball by tapping L1, but this seems to be more of a guideline than an actual rule, since often it just switches to another player half way down the pitch. The dribbling too is a bit of a lottery.
There's other silly AI glitches like when players will just circle around the ball rather than ever collecting it, and the throughball is essentially useless, but the biggest problem here is the way you score goals. Every time you shoot and the goalkeeper makes a save, the keeper loses a bit of their spirit meter. You have to whittle this down and then once it's low enough a shot will hit the back of the net, and only once you've scored the keeper will get their spirit meter replenished. It's possible to score without depleting the keeper's spirit, but in our entire time with the game it only happened twice.
This system robs the game of a sense of spontaneity, leaving it more like of a battle of attrition than a game of football. You take a shot and you know that you're not going to score – you're just doing it to leave the goalie more vulnerable later. This is a big problem if you go two or three nil down as once it gets to a certain point you'll know that you physically don't have enough time to break down the keeper three times to get back into the game.
But for all of the annoying gripes we have with how the football works in Rise of New Champions, there are times when it's genuinely fun if you can look past the flaws. The outlandish moments of anime silliness really spice things up, and besting a troublesome opponent with a last minute Tiger Shot – a shot in which a magic tiger guides the ball into the net because why not? – is wonderful.
As we previously mentioned, there's also a second campaign in which you make your own hideous anime character to play as and you earn points in matches to level them up and improve various skills. Again, it's a throwaway narrative, but the extra customisation options are welcome. There's also an online versus mode if you want to play with other people for some reason. It's fairly robust, with a levelling up system and a shop to unlock more atrocious haircuts and stuff using an in-game currency.
Captain Tsubasa: Rise of New Champions is a bit like when you fancy watching a game of footy but there's only the Scottish league on the telly. Sure, it looks like football to the untrained eye, and yes, occasionally it's entertaining just like real football, but you're mainly there hoping that someone is going to get chinned.
Nobody has a decent haircut? Thank god you told me. This is now a hard pass for me.
There actually is a big overlap between anime and football, especially in South America. That’s why Agüero goes by Kun Agüero, it’s a childhood nickname because of an anime they watched growing up. Messi is also known to be a fan of Captain Tsubasa. Eden Hazard even got snapped on a plane watching Naruto.
@nessisonett well slap my thighs.
Eden Hazard even got snapped on a plane watching Naruto.
That's the real reason why Chelsea sold him.
This review is pure gold.
New Champions is a bit like when you fancy watching a game of footy but there's only the Scottish league on the telly )))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))
had to chuckle
@Anguspuss I was all ready to be outraged and then remembered that Celtic literally went out of the Champions League qualifying to a Hungarian team. Yep, PS have gravely wounded me.
Akira ..........now that takes me back. could do with a few more decent footy games to shake up Electronic Arts and Konami I hear Tokyo Olympics 2020/2021 has a good footy mode.
I Think Push Squre have missed a trick here yes this aint no FIFA but thats a good thing the story mode aptly entitled "The Journey" makes the Alex Hunter story look like a Sunday down at Hackney Marshes.
Good review. I couldn't agree more on the scoring system. Having to make 3-4 fully charged special shots before you even have a chance at scoring is too much. Also that "aerial soccer" match was kind of bull**** for me because the cutscene where the opposition scored came when they didn't even have possession of the ball. Its a fun game, especially when things are going your way, but there are some systems that are too much like rolling a dice and they can ruin it a little imo.
I grew up as a fan of the anime it was the biggest thing in Latin America when I was a child.... From what I saw in trailers the story does not only cover the HS arc but goes all the way to the world youth cup... Also I wonder how exactly do you execute the special shots... Do you have to fill a metter or something?
Captain tsubasa was huge for me during my childhood. Too bad, the best games of the franchise were released during the NES era. Mixing RPG and football was super fun and original (playing it in Japanese was also fun
I still feel like giving this new game a shot no matter the reviews. Probably after a price drop though.
This was a huge successful Shonen Jump title back in the 80’s along Fist of the North Star and Kinnikuman. Sadly, I don’t think it got much attention outside of Japan, at least here in the US. That Manga Plus app has this series on there, but it’s Spanish only and not in English. I would love read or watch this series since I like old school manga. Can’t say I had much interest in this game though. Mostly because I am so sick of these anime/manga games being developed by Namco.
I am loving this game so far, I hate FIFA, so this is much more fun and exciting than boring old actual football. I also love the Story mode and the special shots, saves etc look great, fantastic soundtrack also. More of a 7/8 from me.
@shonenjump86 You know these are only published by Namco Bandai right? This was developed by Tamsoft.
@DualWielding You have a Spirit Guage that refills throughout the match and you hold down Square and fill a meter to get a special shot. (When you are in specific range of the net).
@Gatatog The Story Mode follows the anime, so the cutscenes trigger regardless.
@stocko Oh I understand that. After all they have to tell the story somehow, but for it to trigger when I had the ball in their half of the pitch?
@Gatatog Haha I can agree with that!
@nessisonett i was outraged as well my wifes Romanian and she was like they lost to bloody hungarians.
@stocko does it have usual money grab in a sports game
@Anguspuss There are 'Card Packs' all earned just by playing the modes, so no 'Preminum' currency.
@stocko cool thanks
If its like Scottish football then 5 is far too generous!
It was a very entertaining review and the opening paragraph was very funny.
The second paragraph was editorial genius. 10/10 for that akira quip.
What does it mean to 'get chinned' ?I've never heard that one.
This guy clearly doesn't know beyond his country boarder, as football-Anime fans are quite numerous (specially in all countries starting from Mexico and down).
Not a great game at all, but honestly a worse review by far.
@Powerpellet it’s to get knocked down or out from a blow or punch to the chin 😀
@Dahn_ It's a way to get a reaction out of people and it clearly worked.
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