Reviewed on PS4 Pro
Introduction | Background
Captain Tsubasa returns to console gaming 10 years after it’s last adventure on the mobile platform. Before diving into the Captain Tsubasa Review, I have to address the impact Captain Majid (as Tsubasa was known in the Middle East) since the 80s & 90s, has had on the eclectic mix of 100+ nationalities that grew up in the United Arab Emirates, thanks to the excellently dubbed Captain Tsubasa Japanese anime into Arabic.
It only took me forever (as a kid) to realize that ‘Captain Majid’ the seemingly Arab football champion, I cheered and inspired to be, was actually a Japanese cartoon dubbed in Arabic.
The Captain Tsubasa Anime not only thrust the most acrobatic form of football one had seen but also inspired football elite players such as Lionel Messi, Zinedine Zidane & Alessandro Del Piero towards the beautiful game of football or soccer, as called elsewhere.
Captain Tsubasa’s Anime & Manga legacy rank it as one of the best and top-selling of all time. This propelled the series to have been conceptualized into videogames since the early NES days and run throughout the earlier PS1 & PS2 era as well. Mobile being the platform since 2010, Developers Tamsoft and well-known publishers Bandai Namco bring the latest version of Tsubasa to current-gen consoles.
Ever heard of a great, fantastic, or riveting story mode within a football game?! most probably you haven’t, but I can gladly say the story modes (two available in CT) are fun, engaging, and kept me wanting to progress through the ups and downs. CT Rise of New Champions offers two options for the player upon selecting the campaign mode.
The first mode is Called Episode Tsubasa which acts as a tutorial and introduces the player to Tsubasa Oozora’s story, while the second New Hero, is a follow up once you’ve finished the first mode and play as a newcomer looking to ‘make’ it, by choosing one of three schools. In comparison, Episode New Hero can be considered similar to Fifa’s Career mode or PES‘s Become A Legend mode.
Episode Tsubasa – Much More Than A Tutorial
Episode Tsubasa is a wholesome and likable story, exploring CT’s life where he juggles his career as football captain of Nankatsu Middle School through the national middle school tournament. The story does a good job of explaining the basics of the game while also introducing super moves. The strength of this mode lies in introducing players to the game and characters with just the right pace thereby now feeling rushed or overwhelmed.
Although I’ve watched the anime over 25 years ago, I have not followed the anime or CT games since then. I felt almost like a newcomer with some distant fading memories, but this episode made me feel right at home. It does an excellent job of making me fall in love with Tsubasa as the team-oriented captain, yet at times, pushing himself too hard, working diligently as a team captain who at the end of the day, just wants to play football to the best of his ability and help his team achieve top success.
The story progresses naturally through this mode and after around 8-10 hours of game time, through ups and downs and familiar faces, which made me more invested in the game and characters around, the conclusion is quite befitting.
This perfect duration which acts much more than just introducing gameplay and basic characters, but also the way the story is told through comic panes, the rivalry, honor, legacy, and sacrifice add quite a lot of substance that you will definitely not find in many video games, let alone a sports game,
Episode New Hero – Become The Hero
Entering New Hero Mode I was super-charged with the great storytelling of the previous mode and understanding more than the basic gameplay. The game now really opens up and from some of the best looking and most amazing customization to actually feeling like you were an important part of the story, this mode is quite exciting, with so many possibilities.
Team management is an important facet that opens up in this mode. The story pushes our character who has the choice to represent one of three schools Musashi, Furano, or Toho. Introducing voice cast for each school. Other important additions are how the story unfolds depending on which school you defeated in Episode Tsubasa or if you tied with them, so it feels like the progression keeps relevant your result from the earlier mode and there is consistency and continuation.
Without giving away the plot, this mode starts off as being part of the U16’s, but ambitions and focus change due to certain events, making the stakes higher. This was a welcome addition, as I expected a more subtle story direction, the urgency with which the story unfolds, and the onus is on us the player, who is chosen to support one of the three teams’ captains being a junior, is quite exhilarating and a step up on the pedestal.
This mode can easily take between 14-20 hours depending on how much team management you do. Before every match you can tinker with the roles of each team member, swapping them and even introducing items that can be used as training items through the in-game shop called Captain Coins.
This currency is naturally unlocked in the game through unlocking various movies and artwork and also completing different scenarios like scoring goals within the first half against a certain team or scoring combo goals with a duo.
New Hero is quite a fulfilling game mode and one that instantly made me feel how lacking other football games the modes are and yes, I am looking at Fifa & PES. Both the modes are also infused with dialogue choices that the custom character can make, allowing to unlock more points at training events and also show how cocky, subtle or neutral you can be.
Depending on the dialogue choice, the AI will either respond back dismissively or praising you. For the game, this works but is still used sparingly and I would like more serious implementation in future CT games, nonetheless a great inclusion
I wanted to take this opportunity to explore how I found the overall gameplay. Firstly, the game is very fluid and works well without any hiccups, glitches, or bugs. Importantly, although the game does not have the precision of realism PES for instance can boast, for an Action Arcade Football Game, it works like a charm!
Rise of New Champions can be described in many ways, for one, it’s like an Anime but with the knowledge and technical know-how of how football games work. Passing and dribbling work splendidly although as soon as you start playing it, the sense of realism one would expect from a football simulator will diminish.
In Ct’s case, this is not a bad thing, on the contrary, the over the top moves with the ball flying in a stream of smoke while it’s zipping through the football pitch toward the goalie, is a marvelous spectacle not found anywhere! CT makes playing football, the most fun I have in eons!
The game features true to the manga and anime, at times un-realistic but stunning feats football legends would love to pull off. This is one aspect players will instantly become familiar with and MUST know before buying the game. This is not to say the game is all a flurry of obnoxious moves, there actually is depth to it and the game operates on a Spirit system which is like a meter that drains when you sprint, do combo moves with teammates, actually try to stop a blazing shot as a goalkeeper and more.
The gameplay is tweaked to suit the anime style of football. CT pushes the norms of football play and the player must understand to progress in the game, as a striker, for instance, the game rewards you more for successfully dodging two or more players and this is when the zone activates allowing the striker to then fill the shot gauge to the maximum letting of a cannonball Esque super shot which if the keeper is able to stop, the keeper’s spirit gauge is reduced, taking this to zero will definitely award you a goal.
The key to gameplay is understanding the core and then enjoying the game where you are actually benefiting from keeping the shot button pressed before launching it. The game also awards a good style of play, for instance, certain duos are able to pull a combination of moves that are guaranteed to increase your chances of a goal. There are also so many variations to try, the basics of any football game are present, from short to long passes to through balls.
Further adjustments are done when your spirit meter is full and pressing down the long shot buttons fully allows doing a dazzling connecting shot which can produce a wonderful goal! I found the gameplay chock full of variety and the beautiful and explosive gameplay style never left it boring. The gameplay was brought down for me in the super moves which were quite few and combo moves which were only specific to some duo’s.
Unfortunately, Online gameplay is still in its infancy as it takes over 15 minutes to find opponents or the matchmaking fails just before the match starts. I was able to play 2 matches in total but this mode needs to be more populated and hopefully, the future will see it full of an exciting challengers.
Captain Tsubasa presents an anime style of visuals which are woven precisely with beautiful motion blur and smooth textures throughout. From the in-game cinematics to action on the football pitch, the graphics really stand out. I did not once see any screen tearing or texture pop-ins, making my gameplay as seamless as possible.
The standout feature in the game is the electrifying super move & combo shots when in a mere second or less, you can see the ball tearing halfway through the pitch or being connected through two players who combine to smash it through the goalkeeper. The immersion is near perfect, Tamsoft worked expertly in presenting a stunning game that looks and plays effortlessly well.
Anime fans or not, the visuals are one of the strongest features of the game. From character face models evoking nostalgia thanks to being pin-point accurate, to the art style used, it’s charming and gorgeous. Not taking a jab at Football games, but it is apparently quite evident that the anime style is far more superior and exemplary to the last-gen graphics we see in current football games and this is a point I cannot stress more!
As soon as you hit the game menu and the Official Sound Track is pumping you up to start the game, there is this sense of they nailed the soundtrack feeling. this is what CT presents from the beginning! The music in the game is inspirational, uplifting, and pushes the narrative of the game and story which always steer you in the direction of working together as a team and striving towards achieving greatness.
Not only is the music great but the audio when it comes to football dribbling to increasing the shot gauge at full power releasing a devastating fireball! The music in between dialogues though I believe could have been more exciting at times and more dramatic when something sinister happened.
Another improvement I hope they bring in future titles would be the use of music during matches at a very low volume. It did seem at times during matches when it felt a bit too quiet and a little background music might help, but it’s a small want in my opinion.
Captain Tsubasa is a fresh take not only for fans of the Anime or football, but gamers in general. Rise of the new champions presents an engaging two-part campaign, multi-faceted customization, gleaming Toon shading, impressive gameplay which is coupled with arcade-style of bombastic football & heart-pumping music raving you to achieve the best in life and the game of course!
My only gripes with the game, firstly, if Episode Tsubasa was longer and we got to play against more opponents. Lastly, if the implementation of social links aka friendships which are presented in the story element of the game, were more meaningful and impactful on you as a character.