Friday 3 July 2015

Dominik Diamonds Are Forever: SEGA Worldwide Soccer 97' Review

A brief tangent before the actual game review if I may;

I came pretty late to the PlayStation party. It wasn’t until October 1998 that I finally got my grubby mitts on one and the system only had about 18 months of relevance left at that point. The funny thing was that originally I hadn’t even wanted a PlayStation. The gaming machine that I hand picked to succeed my Super Nintendo was a very different one indeed.

Yes, in the cool winter months of 1997, I had decided that I wanted a SEGA Saturn!

The reason for this was twofold. Firstly, I’d recently played one that summer. One of my mothers friends lived in Middlesbrough and her son had a Saturn with SEGA Rally. I spent most of an afternoon playing that game into the ground and left the house enchanted with the SEGA machine. In addition to this, Virtua Fighting had made it’s way to English Arcades and it’s combination of 3D graphics and (for the time) revolutionary fight physics had blown my tiny little mind. Yup, I wanted a SEGA Saturn, and to the top of my Christmas list it went.

Ah, Christmas 1997, what a depressing one that was. I stupidly had placed all my eggs in the Saturn basket, and low and behold I didn’t get one, thus meaning the gifts I did get were a crushing disappointment. Looking back on it now with adult eyes, it wasn’t the disaster that 10 year old me thought it to be, but I was just an idiot child at the time and reacted as such.

Ultimately, my parents didn’t like the idea of spending a sizeable sum on another gaming machine for me, when they were already of the opinion that I played my SNES too much. They had even gone so far as to deliberately lock my SNES away in the attic one summer as they didn’t want me playing it throughout the summer holidays. In fairness to them, they had made their stance on the matter of gaming quite clear and I should have seen it coming.

The matter was worsened for me on account that the children of the child minder me and my sister went to had wanted a PlayStation for Christmas and had actually got one. Thusly, I was hit with a double whammy of not getting what I wanted but also having to deal with another set of kids of who had on a daily basis. I didn’t react well. In fact, I’d say I reacted appallingly.

As a general rule, I didn’t tend to nag my parents for things as a child. I broke that rule in 1998. I now wanted a PlayStation, mainly because no one else I knew had a Saturn and thus I felt it would be better to go for the system that everyone else had (Because then I could borrow games from them)

So I nagged, and nagged, and nagged and nagged. It was a little toe rag basically. As luck would have it, SONY reduced the price of the PlayStation in late 98, meaning it was now more affordable and my parents eventually relented and bought me one.

And thusly, I forgot all about the SEGA Saturn. It became a victim of childhood hubris. However, it lingered at the back of my mind for the remainder of my childhood and into adulthood. Recently, I saw one online and thought about purchasing it, but eventually chose not to.

However, the thought of buying a Saturn still lingered. Not soon after deciding I wasn’t going to get one, I passed by a shop in Stockport called “Retro, Reload”. It’s a store that sells retro games and consoles, and would you know it, they had a SEGA Saturn for sale with three games for £37.50.

Reasoning that I’d probably never see an offer as good as that, I went away to mull over whether I should get one. I went to YouTube to look at videos relating to the Saturn. I’d recommend to anyone reading this to visit Adam Koralik’s YouTube page. He gives very detailed reviews of retro consoles and I found his Saturn one very helpful.

Eventually, I decided to bite the bullet and picked up the Saturn. I’ve been picking up cheap games on Amazon and eBay since. One such purchase was SEGA Worldwide Soccer 97’

SWS-97 (Shortening stuff is Keewl!) is a difficult game to review. It certainly isn’t a bad game by any means but it isn’t an especially good one either. I can say with absolute certainty that it’s the best Soccer game I’ve played so far on the Saturn, but that isn’t really saying much.

The other Soccer games I’ve already played on the console are FIFA 96’, Euro 96’ and FIFA 97’. All of them are bad and Euro 96’ is by far the worst in that it has terrible graphics, wretched game play, no customizable camera angles and no options to change the difficulty of the A.I.

SWS-97 does at least have a number of camera angles which all come with 3 different levels of zoom. There are also varied levels of difficulty on offer, so you can gradually get used to the game over time and find your own learning curve.

The graphics aren’t amazing but are decent enough for a game that was originally released in the autumn of 1996. The players give off the illusion of being 3D models but on closer inspection look to be 2D models that have been designed to look as if they are in three dimensions. The game overall looks a bit rough around the edges to a modern set of eyes, but I like the visuals on the whole.

The sound effects from the crowd are standard, but sound decent on the main. Gary Bloom provides match commentary and I must say that for a game made in 1996, the quality is very good indeed. Commentary on early football games was generally quite poor, but Bloom’s commentary sounds very smooth and I think it really adds to the match experience. The only time it sounds a bit choppy is when he reads out the team names prior to kick-off, but aside from that it’s good stuff.

SWS-97 is unlicensed, so the players have fake names and its international teams only. This was standard fare for most football games around this time period. I think FIFA had only just started using real teams and player names. The usual heavy hitters of the period such as Brazil, Argentina and Germany are present, while minnows such as Liberia also make it. There’s also an edit mode if you feel like renaming the players.

There are plenty of game modes on offer as well. There is exhibition mode, league mode, straight knock out cup and also The Worldwide Cup, which sees you go through numerous qualifying rounds in order to reach the competition finals. There is also an option for up to 4 players to take part in multiplayer mode with the player adapter.

The game play has both strengths and weaknesses. The players move smoothly enough and the three button set-up of the Saturn controller works well with one button for shoot, one for short pass and one for long pass. Passing does take some getting used to, as the ball will just stop moving after it’s gone a certain distance. This is something you’ll have to take into account when controlling the receiving player. On more than one occasion I played a pass to a player on the wing but the player would actually out run the pass and the ball would just sit there on the pitch for a few seconds before I either had the player run back to collect it or a computer controlled player snatched it for itself.

Crosses into the box are usually quite accurate but you have no real control how far they go and to which player they target. It’s also very hard to direct a resulting header or volley that comes from a long pass. Normally you just have to press the shoot button and hope it goes in.

Shooting itself is problematic in that you can’t really aim your shot in any fashion. It doesn’t matter where you press the d-pad or where your player is facing, most shots seem to always be aimed right at the opposing sides goalkeeper. This is by far my biggest complaint with the game as it makes scoring very difficult. You have to either hope the keeper will rebound the ball back to you for a follow up shot or get as close to the goal as possible without the keeper tackling you and essentially run around him before shooting.

Things got so silly in one play through that I was shooting from a diagonal angle hoping that the ball would bounce off the keeper and into the net. The most annoying thing is that while you can’t direct your shots, you can direct your passes, so at one point I was getting as close to the goal as I could and then passing the ball into the net, as this allowed me to have some decision in where the ball was actually going.

And this is ultimately why the game doesn’t get a higher score than I ended up going with. Again, this game is not actively bad. In fact, the game has a lot of positives going for it and it can be enjoyable game to play. However, certain aspects of the game play are counter intuitive and can make the experience itself frustrating.

As a result, I’ve gone with a final score of 6 out of 10

Below I’ve attached a YouTube video of some game play and also Adam Koralik’s excellent video on the SEGA Saturn

Thanks for reading

Peace Out

No comments:

Post a Comment