The property that is Captain Tsubasa has been around for close to 40 years now. Having breathed life as a football manga back in 1981, it was not too long before the anime adaptations came calling. At its core is a simple enough idea, a boy has a dream of World Cup glory with Japan, and he powers his way through with fantastical shots, mindblowing dribbles, and a gauntlet of equally impressive opponents.
It remains an aspirational and wholesome tale, the very essence in which Tamsoft and Bandai Namco’s Captain Tsubasa: Rise of New Champions, capture to a tee. Surrounding its anime football core lies an action-adventure of sorts, with decisions, stats, and more to wrestle with in the two main campaigns of the game.
For the purists, there is no doubt jumping into Episode: Tsubasa will stoke the fires of nostalgia hard. It follows the story from when our titular hero goes hunting to claim the glory of winning the middle school Nationals. For fans, there is much to savour, from the cut-scenes to the developing relationships with some of the series’ most recognisable faces.
However, it can be a little too much, especially if you are not a fan of long, drawn-out exposition told through a visual novel style. The story beats certainly add to the occasion, but sometimes you just want to jump in and go all crazy on the pitch, and that can take a while.
Once you are on the green grass, Captain Tsubasa: Rise of New Champions definitely kicks things up a notch. Forget your FIFA experience and all, this is anime football at its best. Sure,
you have your standard rules of offside and whatever, but none of it really matters in this game. It is all about the hot-blooded pursuit of scoring spectacular goals.
Every duel on the pitch is personal. Be it barging someone off the ball, stealing the ball with a well-timed tackle, or dribbling past them with Tsubasa’s signature South American Dribble, the stylish close-up scenes never really gets old. You can definitely pass your way around the opposition, but that does not compare when you can humiliate them with fancy dribbles.
There are no fouls in this world, as you can send opponents flying into the air with your tackles. Even shooting constitutes a boss fight of sorts, that is, if you managed to evade the chasing pack. Unless you somehow draw the keeper out of the goal, every shot in Captain Tsubasa: Rise of New Champions will see the keeper attempt to make a save.
And what spectacular saves they are, making every shot saved seem like an incredible feat whether you are shooting in the penalty box or just after the halfway line. The more shots you pepper at the goal, the more the Spirit of the goalkeeper goes down.
Eventually, you will overcome his resistance and score a goal. If your player possesses an immensely powerful shot or one with crazy curves, you can pretty much score at will. The Fire Shot will be the bane of many players.
At appropriate junctures, players can also bear witness to pivotal events that take place throughout the story. These Dramatic Action Demos, or DADs, are flashy, fun, and often give you more understanding of the dynamics of the cutthroat middle school competitive scene. It all adds to the intoxicating drama of Captain Tsubasa: Rise of New Champions.
The football in Captain Tsubasa: Rise of New Champions is powered by a rock-paper-scissors formula, and it makes for a solid foundation to build off of. As an attacker, you can beat the opponents’ attempts at defending in two ways.
A dash will overcome a sliding tackle, whereas a dodge will avoid any shoulder barges, and so on. String any of the two together and you enter the Zone, which allows you to charge up your kicks that much quicker. All of those moves cost spirit, which will recharge on its own.
If your shot has a defender in the way, it is likely they will give tooth and nail to block it. You know it is no joking matter when the opponent puts their head or entire body on the line.
The successful moves you pull off also builds up the V-gauge. Once that is full, you can enter the V-zone, a powerup that makes your spirit gauge lasts longer and recharges quicker. Shots will also charge faster. However, if you are facing down one of those super shots with the game on the line, activate it when the shot flies at your goal to have your goalkeeper perform a super save.
If you prefer to see just how you would fare as a football prodigy, there is also Episode: New Hero to experience. Creating your character and choosing one of three schools to start your fledgeling career, this is an alternate take on the middle school Nationals.
Winning matches are expected, but there are also special conditions you need to fulfil to gain those valuable ability points to up your stats. Depending on your choice of institution, it can be doing well on your own, as a collective, or reaching a certain standard in specific areas.
You will also have the opportunity to build lasting relationships with the game’s many characters. This is the prime way of picking up powerful new skills, and creating bonds with your teammates ahead of each battle. As you mould your player in your image, there will also be pivotal decisions to be made, adding to the development of your own story.
There are several endings as well, as you fight your way to the top of the world’s stage at the international level. While the differences are not exactly groundbreaking, they provide plenty of promise as to what comes next for your player.
Outside of that, there are also offline and online Versus modes, where you can take your preferred teams and fight it out with others. Suffice to say, it can be a drastically different experience. The AI in Captain Tsubasa: Rise of New Champions is not the most challenging, but other players will certainly be. There were seldom close games, and the victor is often known way before the final whistle. You have been warned.
Captain Tsubasa: Rise of New Champions is by no means a perfect football game. It is, however, an impressive reimagining of the anime/manga that translates perfectly into a video game.
The art style is gorgeous, immersing you straight into the action, and the many dramatic moments are just wonders to behold. Load times can be a hassle, but when you are having such a rush, the wait only heightens your anticipation. However, if you are looking for an actual football sim, you need to bring your boots elsewhere. Otherwise, strap in for a fantastic time.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
A great mix of action, storytelling, and wonderful art, Captain Tsubasa: Rise of New Champions is an awesome arcade football game that truly deserves the world’s stage.
Gameplay - 8/10
Story - 9/10
Presentation - 10/10
Value - 7/10