Archives by Day

October 2021

Captain Tsubasa: Rise of New Champions

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4
Genre: Adventure
Publisher: Bandai Namco Games
Developer: Tamsoft
Release Date: Aug. 28, 2020


As an Amazon Associate, we earn commission from qualifying purchases.

PC Review - 'Captain Tsubasa: Rise of New Champions'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Sept. 16, 2020 @ 12:30 a.m. PDT

Based on the works of series creator, Yoichi Takahashi, the game chronicles the athletic exploits of Tsubasa Ozora and the glory and success his teammates experience under his leadership.

The Captain Tsubasa franchise has been running for ages but never took off in North America, likely owing to the continent's general apathy toward soccer. The franchise has been running in some form or another since the 1980s, including a long line of video games. Captain Tsubasa: Rise of New Champions is the first title to get an official English release, even though Tsubasa isn't really localized. It's an unusual but interesting choice.

Captain Tsubasa follows a group of Japanese teenagers who play soccer. The titular Tsubasa is the main character and is an ace player. The story follows his trials and tribulations as he goes from elementary school big shot to famous unbeatable soccer player. Along the way, he meets a wild cast of characters, friends and rivals alike, who all treat soccer as if it is the most important thing in the world. If you've seen any of the shonen sports anime, you probably have some idea of Captain Tsubasa's story, though that isn't a criticism.

While Captain Tsubasa is a soccer game it's not a traditional soccer game. It has some soccer mechanics and themes, but it's easier to describe it as an RPG where the battle system is a modified form of soccer. It's pretty easy to compare to Final Fantasy X's Blitzball game, but it's significantly more fleshed out. It's important to know this because if you go in expecting a soccer title, you'll probably hate it. This is a shonen sports anime simulator, and whatever soccer is involved is hyped up to such ridiculous levels that you can't mistake it for realism. We're talking characters who perform insane mid-air headbutts and kick a ball so hard that it catches fire.

In Rise of New Champions, you attempt to score on your opponent's goal, but outside of lucky shots, the only way to reliably do this is to wear down the opposing goalkeeper's spirit meter with repeated shots on goal. You're almost forced to rely on special shots, which do more damage to the spirit meter. Your goal is to get the ball to players who have special shots — not every character has special a shot — so they can "attack" the enemy goalkeeper until a shot gets through. Think of it like choosing attacks in an RPG, only with a lot more sports.

Controlling the ball is a bit unusual. Every character on the field has a spirit meter that represents their effective HP. It regenerates quickly but is necessary to avoid attacks, use special moves, and perform a high-speed dribble. While you have the ball, you're playing a rock-paper-scissors game. When you're high-speed dribbling, your character avoids most enemy attacks but will be defeated by a defensive player dashing into them. On the other hand, you can press dodge to weave around an enemy, but in doing so, you leave yourself vulnerable to a tackle, which does a ton of damage to each character's spirit meter, so you want to avoid that.

This is made more complex by the fact that characters all have unique attributes and special moves, which can include special blocks, dribbles and passes — all of which require spirit. It won't do any good to get across the field only to discover that you don't have the energy for a shot, but you can refresh your spirit by successfully dodging multiple attackers in a row. Each character also has passive boosts that can range from gaining bonus stats if they are behind to starting the first half of a match with reduced stats in order to gain increased ones in the second half.

Teams also have access to V-Skills, which are used when a special meter fills up. When activated, the skills give powerful boosts to your team and initiate your heroic theme music. These are almost essential for knocking down enemy spirit bars in good time because they grant enough boosts to make it effective. However, enemies also have access to these skills, and you'll need to defend against them. A full spirit bar can also be used to automatically block one enemy goal that would otherwise go in, so it becomes a question of whether it's worth using it for offense if your goalkeeper has relatively low spirit.

You really need to think of it as a soccer-themed RPG over a soccer game with RPG elements. Your goal is to take advantage of all of these bonuses and abilities to overcome your enemy. The outcome is based on actual soccer rules, so whichever team has the most goals at the end of two periods is the winner, and ties are decided by a tiebreaker minigame. This means it is entirely valid to, say, score a single goal and then spend the rest of the match playing heavy defense, but that's a fairly risky strategy due to the over-the-top nature of the gameplay.

Rise of New Champions features both an "original story" where you create your own character and one that follows the anime story. The anime is intended as an introduction to the gameplay and mechanics, and it does an admirable job by giving you a team with a lot of reliable players, including the absurdly overpowered Tsubasa. It follows the anime very closely, and that means that there are a ton of mid-match events that set the stage for how things play. These can include a player being taken out of action, a free defense against a goal, or the enemy being allowed to score a free goal on you. Some events are always going to trigger, and other events can only be triggered by certain conditions.

This idea is super cool in theory but ends up being frustrating in practice. It kind of sucks to lose a goal because the story dictated it, no matter what you did. The cut scenes are also cool, but some last a long time, and many don't seem skippable. This isn't so bad on a first playthrough, but if you lose a match, you're stuck watching them for any subsequent playthroughs. Even if a scene is cool the first time, it quickly loses its luster the second or third time.

Rise of New Champions isn't necessarily a difficult game, but it can be a draining and exhausting one. The matches are long, and you have to be on guard all the time because the hyper-stylized nature of the gameplay means that it's easy for a match to turn around because an ace player got in and somehow made his ball turn into a roaring lion that knocked your goalkeeper into the net. The result is a game that can easily frustrate players when you lose a long match simply due to the length of the match. I enjoyed the gameplay, but it's easy to see someone else not feeling that way.

The original story mode is a way to give yourself a character who levels up and grows stronger. You choose a team, join them, and play through matches. Your created character grows stronger as you play more matches, forming friendships grants special abilities, and using items boosts your stats. It's a fun mode to play and probably more accessible in some ways than the Tsubasa mode. On the other hand, it's designed with the idea that you already know how to play the game and is far less friendly about teaching you, so it's best to play Tsubasa's story mode first.

Visually, Rise of New Champions looks pretty good. It has a cel-shaded 3D style that does an excellent job of capturing the look and style of the animated show. The various cut scenes are well done, and it's genuinely fun to see the chaotic clashes between superpowered shots. Some of the character faces look a little odd, but that can be attributed to designs more than graphics. I did find it tough to tell apart players in the middle of a game unless one of their hairstyles was distinctive, which can make it hard to set up plays. The music is excellent and does a good job of setting the pulse-pounding feel of going for a last-minute dramatic play. The voice acting is all Japanese, including an announcer who speaks almost nonstop. I only mention that because while the announcer is subtitled, it may be annoying to hear a constant commentary in a language that you don't speak.

It's very easy to see Captain Tsubasa: Rise of New Champions being a love-it-or-hate-it kind of game. It's a fun representation of the insane, over-the-top action of a sports anime, but it's not a very good soccer game. Despite having multiplayer modes, it's unlikely to hold your attention unless you're deep into building up perfect teams of talented misfits. Still, fans of the anime should enjoy it, and newcomers wondering about Tsubasa will probably find it to be a fine introduction to the franchise.

Score: 7.5/10

More articles about Captain Tsubasa: Rise of New Champions
blog comments powered by Disqus