Captain Tsubasa: Rise of New Champions Review – No-Holds-Barred Soccer

Falcon Kick!

Have you found yourself upset as of late with mainstream soccer games? No one would blame you. Fifa and Pro Evolution have become stagnant. For the past several iterations, both franchises have failed to see any real, significant, change. Thus, it’s hard not to look at them and feel as if EA Sports and Konami have been coasting through their development cycles. I understand that as we inch closer to a new generation, it’s difficult for a team to split their resources up in order to cater to a lesser version of a product. NHL 15 suffered immensely from this. But, regardless, sports game fans are tired of being asked to shell out, time and time again, for what often feels like last year’s game.

Captain Tsubasa: Rise of New Champions (RoNC) isn’t going to blow anyone away with a refined, realistic soccer experience. In fact, it made me curse out my TV more than a few times. But it’s different. And, damnit, it’s a lot of fun because of that.

Career mode is a fantastic place to start for newcomers. Two different tales are available for the player to go through, one of which revolves around Tsubasa and his middle school team going for a third-straight national championship. This path acts as a fantastic jumping-off point, as you’ll be offered a pre-game lesson before every match, detailing the more intricate moves buried within RoNC. And it’s great that much of the presentation mimics a real-life sports broadcast, complete with interviews, commentary, warmups, and post-game celebrations.

But for every bit of authentic presentation developer Tamsoft sprinkles into RoNC, it’s equally as aggravating that the original story content isn’t as engaging. Dialogue gets drawn out to a frustratingly slow pace, and most of the script is repeatedly drilled into your head in that classic, roundabout anime style. Having Tsubasa express that the team is fired up conveys your message as it should. There’s no need to then have nine more guys talk about how pumped they are. I also appreciate the attempt to tell the story during an actual game. Splicing cutscenes in with live-action is a bold move that most wouldn’t dare try. It works for the most part, although, when the only way your opponent is scoring on you is through one of these moments, it’s easy to feel like RoNC has been laced with cheap, artificial difficulty.

Redemption or Relegation?

Seeking a challenge against the AI, however, is only going to take you so far. If you want to truly test your mettle, you’ll need to step up against the world. And Tamsoft knows that the heart of RoNC will beat based on the online community. They’ve done an admirable job in creating a Fifa-style divisional mode in which you compete against others to earn points. This is done in an attempt to move up to the next tier at the season’s end. The competition is already fierce, and those that are late to the party may find themselves fighting to ascend the ranks. But this is undoubtedly the most intriguing part of RoNC, and assuredly the reason many of us will keep coming back to it. Just be sure to bring your A-game.

On the surface, RoNC is incredibly intuitive to pick up and play. Pass options mimic that of traditional soccer games, wherein you have a short, long, and through option tied to different face buttons. Shooting is as simple as filling up a meter when within range of the net. And changing a team formation on the fly is done with the d-pad. But it’s the choice to condense deke moves to the trigger that ultimately make RoNC accessible for everyone. If you want to become the best of the best, though, you’re going to have to perfect the intricacies of the control scheme. Once you start mastering moves like the ‘1-2 pass’ and ‘Super Saves,’ you realize there’s much more under the hood than expected. A classic case of easy to learn but difficult to master.

Unfortunately, I can’t act like getting good was entirely a process of figuring out a well-designed control layout. It was also a battle of conquering its shortcomings. Unlike Fifa or Pro Evo, where things like shot and pass pre-loading work without a hitch, RoNC seemingly struggles with registering the same inputs. This has led to a countless number of situations where a surefire goal has been lined up only to be whiffed on. Once or twice, I can let go. That’s soccer. But after the thirtieth time in a handful of games, I start to feel like I’m getting robbed.

The other issue is the blatant level of repetitiveness that permeates almost every facet of RoNC. I’m not sure how much longer I can watch these goalies making the same half-hearted attempt at a save, only to have the ball blast through their hands. And I’m sick of seeing every player out on the pitch fall to the grass in the same way when getting tackled. I dig a lot of what RoNC is doing. The online versus and the team-building that comes with it, the fun campaign modes, and the easy to pick-up-and-play style are nice touches. But if each game starts to feel indistinguishable from the last, the fan base will shrink like a pair of deflated soccer balls.

Final Thoughts

Anyone hip to the source material is sure to find a lot to love about Captain Tsubasa: Rise of New Champions. And if you’re tired of the same old song and dance that is Fifa and Pro Evo, RoNC might just be exactly what the doctor ordered. But I’d also love to see Tamsoft and Bandai Namco take another crack at this universe because most of what’s here could be made exceedingly better with a solid polishing. Until then, I’ll keep shoulder-checking and falcon-kicking my way to the championship.

***PS4 code provided by the publisher***

The Good

  • Deeper Than Expected Control Scheme
  • Easy to Pick Up and Play
  • Online Seasons

The Bad

  • Input Pre-Loading Doesn’t Always Work
  • Repetitive Animations
  • Dialogue Tends to Drag