The perfect gift to make your kids think they suck at videogames.
Earlier this week, I noticed that a person in my house was making some whipped cream. I like whipped cream - a lot. Later that night, when everyone else had gone to bed, I roamed our fridge, and noticed a transparent plastic container, that held the precious cool whip. So I quietly took out a spoon from our drawer, scooped out a large portion of the precious whip, and downed it in mere seconds. What’s the point of all this? Plain yogurt looks a LOT like whipped cream.
Just like how Disney Sports Soccer looks a lot like an arcade game for kids. Anyone that picks up the game looking for something comparable to Sega Soccer Slam won’t be as disgusted as I was when I gulped down that vile yogurt, but they will be just as surprised and confused. Konami, using an altered version of their revered Winning Eleven (Remember International Super Soccer 64?) engine, has created one of the deepest soccer simulations on the GameCube, and draped the Disney license over it. Why did they do this, you might ask? Don’t look at me.
Unfortunately, many gamers, or at least avid soccer fans, will take one look at the case for the game and walk away. The graphical focus featured in Disney Sports Soccer is completely geared towards a younger demographic. The surprisingly long and beautiful introduction FMV showcases numerous cartoon clichés (such as the spots literally falling off a Dalmatian player), which are so wonderfully corny, you can’t help but elicit at least a chuckle. This visual mindset continues into the game, as one will witness everything from stars circling over fallen players to Donald Duck sticking his backside towards you in an attempt to block a free kick.
The game itself does look quite sharp, if not a little sterile. The menus, which consist of pasty white interfaces, eventually lead you to one of several well-modeled soccer stadiums. The heavy use of a soft blur, one of the few effects used in DSS, quickly becomes apparent as the players walk onto the field. While the fields basically consist of a flat, average texture, the character models themselves are excellently rendered. All of the players are well defined, boast sharp texturing, and feature no aliasing whatsoever. This maintains the pristine feeling of the visuals.
Thankfully, the players animate superbly as well, which should be expected from a game utilizing the Disney license. Goofy’s drooping ears will flap in the air when the lanky joker breaks into a sprint. Donald will skid across the grass on his belly when tackled. Players will flail their arms when pelted with the ball, and so forth. Konami has managed to add flagrant movements to the game without interfering with the game of soccer itself, which is a considerable achievement. Players will not only follow the ball with their heads, but (upon closer inspection using the great replay interface) with their eyes as well. There’s nothing extraordinary about Disney Soccer’s graphical style, but it’s not ugly, and it does get the job done.
In the audio department, DSS pretty much presents everything one would expect. The music is comprised of very soft guitar riffs, not unlike many of Sega’s games, and nothing more. These tunes play when navigating menus and playing the game, but don’t really add or subtract anything from the experience. Sound effects are in the same realm, in that they’re only barely perceptible. There are two facets in terms of voices: the players and the announcer. While only the captains of each team speak during and after the game, they consist of the flagship Disney characters like Mickey, Donald, and Goofy. The characters that do speak regrettably only utter a few lines each, and they’re all forgettable. Unfortunately, the announcer does not share these characteristics. Imagine a lazier version of the Wave Race (64) commentator, add the fact that he often changes his tone of voice in mid sentence, and you’ve got DSS’s man. Most of the sound is bearable and acceptable.
Disney Soccer’s control, however, is where the game really begins to shine. While the game does share the same basic control scheme as most other soccer games, such as tackling, slide checking, and so forth, Konami’s utilization of the C-stick and R-trigger open up possibilities for beautiful plays. When in possession of the ball, a simple tap of the C-stick in any direction prompts a line, which stems from your player to point in the direction the player moved the yellow analog stick. This allows for sharp angle or lead passes to be made effortlessly, and is a terrific implementation.
What’s even better is that the developers of DSS have taken advantage of the GameCube’s analog triggers. When shooting or passing the ball, players can set how high they want to kick the ball. Holding down the right trigger causes the kicker to smack the ball with a high arc, whereas a slight press of the shoulder button could be all you need to float the ball over a defender’s foot. Coupled with the ability to set a spin on the ball in mid kick, you’ll find yourself converting a curving crossed ball over the goaltender’s head in no time. While some of the game’s mechanics can be faulty at times, Disney Soccer’s control is a top-notch effort.
If the control wasn’t a blatant enough indication that DSS is a deep soccer game masquerading as a child’s game, then the gameplay will be. Though most gamers that have a grasp on the nature of soccer will breeze through the game set on easy, toggling the setting can ramp the challenge up from a light-hearted match to a tight-checking game that demands perfect positioning and full utilization of the game’s mechanics. The games themselves play just like actual soccer matches though the similarities do vary according to the way the player wants to dictate the match. Each team has ten players, plus a goalie, but only three different characters. There is one captain/flagship player per team, nine generic characters, and one of two different goaltenders. This means that selecting Donald’s team will have you controlling Donald and nine other chickens that all look the same. While taking this course makes the game seem a little more stagnant, it allows for more teams, and thus, more variety in play.
The majority of the teams either hold a distinct advantage in one category (ranging from speed to strength) over the majority, or they closely mirror a rival in more than one aspect. Were Mickey’s team to play Pete’s, (the huge guy from the Goofy series) Mickey and his band of mice would hold a distinct speed advantage over Pete and his pigs. However, Pete’s team would definitely harbor both a large height and checking advantage. This diversity in play style further increases the unique strategy needed to play DSS. Players can also toggle through different positioning choices, and can even go to the lengths of rearranging where each individual player should be on the field. Despite nine of the players looking alike, they all possess unique names and attributes. The complexity of the title is staggering and completely overwhelming.
That’s not to say that the game is all hardcore soccer, as one is occasionally reminded that this game is searching for a minimal appeal to the casual soccer or Disney fan. While small examples can be found in certain players attempting bicycle kicks and then effortlessly landing on their feet, or downed opponents ‘kipping up’ from their backs, the main illustration of the Disney side of DSS is the magic system. With this system in place, each team captain can use a self-assigned magic spell every five seconds or so. There are over a dozen magic attacks, ranging from blasting the opposition across the screen with an energy ball, to gaining a temporary super burst of speed. While this aspect can originally seem amusing, it quickly becomes evident that the magic system critically detracts from the game itself. What was once a game of positioning and strategy quickly becomes one of outrunning lightning bolts while frantically tapping the magic button. Other than that, I have few qualms with Disney Soccer’s gameplay. While the checking system can sporadically be frustrating, these are just minor concerns that are shadowed by the game’s excellent mechanics.
As far as game modes and extras go, the game comes up a little short. Aside from the usual exhibition matches, players can opt to either enter the Challenge Cup (which is basically just a tournament) or the World Cup. In the World Cup, one chooses a team, and then plays all of the other teams one by one, until eventual domination is obtained. Then, depending on whether the characters on your team are good natured or bad, one of two ultra teams, composed of all of the good or evil team captains, challenges you.
While their individual attributes obviously outrank the generic players on your team, the real scare comes in the form of magic. While your team has only one player that can use one magic attack, the super team will have at least three. This results in absolute carnage, and goes far beyond being fun. Thankfully, magic can be turned off before entering the Cup. Aside from unlocking the two all-star teams, playing through the cups grants you special shoes, which hold a magical power. While these meager incentives do not bode well for the replay factor of the game, there are few things more entertaining and intense then playing an exhibition match with three friends who know what they’re doing.
Disney Sports Soccer is easily one of the most pleasant surprises I’ve witnessed in terms of gaming. As I’m not a huge soccer nut, I reviewed this game based on the assumption that it would be an over-the-top arcade game like Sega Soccer Slam. Instead, I was greeted with one of the most complex, yet user friendly sports games I’ve ever played. Although I can understand that the faction of dedicated soccer fans that want a cartoon themed game is not a large one, I have to recommend Disney Sports Soccer to anyone that’s even remotely interested in playing a deep and entertaining soccer game. I’m still not a big soccer fan, and this game isn’t going to turn me into one anytime soon, but I can’t deny that it’s one of the best multiplayer games on the system.