I’ll be honest here. Sports games are not typically my cup of tea. Annual releases like Madden NFL, FIFA and NBA 2K tend to go ignored without looking back. That being said, I do make the occasional exception when it comes to arcade sports titles. Games like Hot Shots Tennis or Mario Golf are perfectly reasonable to me. Bandai Namco recently announced that they’re adapting the Captain Tsubasa manga and anime into a game. Captain Tsubasa: Rise of New Champions is exactly my kind of sports game. It combines arcade style gameplay with retro anime visuals, and it results in a sort of anime Super Mario Strikers. Thanks to Bandai Namco, I was able to play the game in a preview build.
Captain Tsubasa is the story of a young football player, Tsubasa Ozora. Throughout his promising career, he makes friends, rivals, and gains experience as he grows with the series. Despite starting in 1981, this series is still going, with the current manga titled Captain Tsubasa: Rising Sun. That’s pretty impressive for a manga, though with the universal appeal of football, it remains popular worldwide. While we’re told that this game would have a story mode, we didn’t experience it in our preview here. All we knew was that Tsubasa was attending Nankatsu Middle School and the game was against Toho Academy.
With story out of the way, we can focus on the pure gameplay. As mentioned before, this game is an arcade style football game, much like Super Mario Strikers. Characters can perform insane looking signature shots that break the realm of reality. A lot of them will involve animals like tigers, eagles and more, creating an intense cinematic shot. Each character will also have a stamina bar that allows a variety of options at your disposal. This includes sprinting, whether offensively or defensively, and depending on how much stamina you have, it can allow for special dodging or tackling. The stamina bar can even give you special passing.
One thing that really caught me by surprise was the way shooting worked. You can make shots by pressing the square button (Y on Switch), though holding it down will allow for the charge shot. When playing as certain characters, holding it down fully will be the key to unleashing their signature shot. Not every character has one, but a good amount of them do, and they pack a punch. The goalie seems to be automated, though they have their own stamina bar as well. The lower the stamina, the more likely the shot will go in. Even if it appears that the goalie catches the ball, if it’s powerful enough, it can spin right through their hands and into the goal. This gives the game a real “edge of your seat” feeling to the scoring.
Not being used to normal sports games, it took me a while to get the hang of what I was doing. After practicing the controls and understanding the mechanics, I ended up doing much better toward the latter half of my game. The CPU managed to score on me early on, but my defensive capabilities had improved almost instantly. It almost made me feel like I was in an anime, never wanting to give up. Improving on my offense, I managed to make an attempt to score with several signature shots, beating down the opposing goalie until I finally made one. There’s a mechanic called V Zones, though I unfortunately wasn’t able to figure out the purpose in my match.
The game combines the authentic looks of FIFA with the style of older anime, which feels interesting and fresh. This will not only help appeal to fans, but also to those that crave a bit more spice in their sports games. Time will tell if the cinematic gameplay will overstay its welcome or not. It’s very possible that there will be a feature to turn it off, but we’ll see how things go. The game has Japanese commentary, which isn’t too surprising. With English subtitles on the bottom, it can be a bit difficult to follow when actually playing the game. It’s likely that it will stay in Japanese, but we’ll see how things go. At least the soundtrack was very motivational and inspiring, feeling like it was driving me to play harder.
In the end, my game resulted in a tie. Toho kept up a good defense toward the end and we were unable to best each other. As I mentioned before, sports games aren’t exactly my calling, but I had a lot of fun playing Captain Tsubasa. It really does feel like a game I can play with a buddy and enjoy the competition. Since the game was just announced, there’s still several details to be shown. It it helps, you can check out our chat with Dennis Lee, the Director of Brand Marketing for the game. Captain Tsubasa: Rise of New Champions will release sometime in 2020 for PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and PC. What do you think? Will you be checking it out? Let us know in the comments below!