Captain Tsubasa: Rise of New Champions is the anime FIFA I never knew I wanted but now can’t live without.
I’m not familiar with the show or the manga, but leading up to the release, something kept drawing me to it. I like sports titles enough, but generally lean towards FIFA or PES, mostly the latter. The thing that’s so great about Captain Tsubasa though is that while it sometimes appears to take itself too seriously as a sports game, it never really does.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not a game without faults. Spotty passes and a frustratingly shallow tutorial that doesn’t set players up for success is a mess, but I’ll be damned if I didn’t have some of the most fun I’ve ever had with a sports title during my playtime.
Captain Tsubasa: Rise of New Champions has a rather large single-player campaign for a sports title. Players step into the shoes of Tsubasa, a young Japanese football player as he tries to lead his team to greatness. Not only is the single-player campaign long, but there are actually two full campaigns for players to jump into. There’s the base Tsubasa one, plus another where you create your own player and lead your team to the top of the ranks.
It’s not without flaws
I was complaining about the tutorial before, so let’s dig into that. The tutorial in Captain Tsubasa: Rise of New Champions introduces you to the core gameplay components and controls but doesn’t explain a lot of the intricacies of passing and tackling. These are the two things that affect gameplay here the most, so it was pretty frustrating having to figure everything out for myself. Mechanics will get gradually explained during brief how-to’s between matches, but it isn’t enough for some of the matches, especially when certain enemy moves guarantee goals.
It’s frustrating for sure but not enough to take away from the sheer joy I feel while playing the game. Captain Tsubasa: Rise of New Champions is incredibly fluid and fast, even on tackle streaks when battling for control of the ball. Some matches can easily devolve into a test of endurance as you move the ball around the pitch looking for an opening. Once you catch a spot and execute a well-planned power shot though, things are incredibly satisfying.
One thing Captain Tsubasa does do really well is incorporate cutscenes into the gameplay. Admittedly, it can sometimes cut into a good run but often doesn’t feel too jarring. Despite being executed well, it might be a bit heavy-handed. There are a lot of cutscenes, and most of them are pretty uninteresting. The ones during matches are fun and flashy, but the narrative ones in between matches are pretty dull, just serving to move players from one match to the next.
The game generally runs well, but I did run into some weird issues while playing on PC. First, every time I switch my monitor to full screen, all of the menu options appear out of place. You know how on a selection screen there is always a frame around the highlighted option? Yeah, my text appeared outside of the frame and I had a hard time figuring out what I was selecting. However, this only happened while I was in full-screen or windowed full-screen mode. If I switched to windowed mode, it resolved the issue.
The other big issue I had was every time I started a new match, my game would crash. Upon restarting it worked great. As soon as that match was over and the next match started it would crash again, and I would have to restart. Neither of these issues are the end of the world, and the game ran well otherwise, but it was still very irritating.
Visually, Captain Tsubasa: Rise of New Champions looks fantastic, and frame rates are smooth, but it’s standard anime fare from Bandai Namco. It’s not going to blow anyone away, but as long as it runs well I don’t mind. When players are sliding and dashing into each other, the effects add a good amount of flair to an otherwise standard soccer pitch, helping mix up the visuals and create some added excitement to the match.
Once you start to understand how Captain Tsubasa plays (with little help from the tutorials), it’s a joy to play. It will probably end up being one of the only sports titles I’ll keep coming back to for a while. The occasional spike in difficulty stalls progression sometimes, but that just means it’s time to get back out onto the pitch and practice managing different moves on both offense and defense. There’s also a team manager here to tweak team formation, but I’m treating it as an afterthought for the purpose of this review because the game doesn’t make it an important feature.
Game Freaks 365 received a free review copy.