Review of the Month; Hotblooded High school Dodgeball Club: Soccer Chapter/ Nintendo World Club

The end of the month always creeps on me. I never realise that it’s here until I have no time to react. As such, have a game review of Nekketsu Koukou Dodgeball-bu Soccer Hen, or the translation in the title, or the English localisation known as Nintendo World Cup. For the sake of this review, I will call the game as Nekketsu Soccer, even if that’s inaccurate by all accounts. While I would like to use football in this post, I will use soccer to differentiate it from hand egg.

The Famicom and NES saw a lot of great sports titles, and sports titles were the thing adults went for the NES. Some games like Kick Off replicated the real soccer as closely as possible at the time, thou it should be noted that the home of the series is on Amiga, meaning the NES version was a port of a computer game. It showed, and the game ultimately wasn’t really all that fun.

Nekketsu Soccer on the other hand is just fun. It doesn’t concern itself with most rules of soccer, mostly just resorting to the idea of getting the ball into the opposition’s goal with your feet. What adds the flavour to the whole deal is the cartoon violence Kunio games are known for. You can actually tackle your opponents enough times to cause them permanently be floored on the field, and they can do the same thing to you. In addition, some fields are less than properly taken care of, leaving stones for you and other players to trip on. It’s hysterical at times and lots of fun.

Nekketsu Soccer does what the series should be always stick with; simplicity. There’s no unnecessarily complex commands to use, as the player controls just one character at any given time. Because of this, the controls are tight and as responsive as they should be. The team control is done via commands that reflect the overall simplicity very well. When one of your team mate has the ball, you can tell them to Pass it to you or Shoot. Otherwise they will advance towards the goal and act according to their AI. When the enemy has the ball, you are able to tell them either Tackle or Slide. As mentioned, tackle some poor bastard enough and he won’t be getting up anytime soon. I remember playing few rounds so that every single opponent outside the goalkeeper was down.

There’s also a secret weapon; the Super Kick. By hitting A and B together you’re able to hit the ball with a scissors kick, launching the ball towards the goal while sending any opposition flying high. Well, almost. There’s limit how many times you can use it and its power varies a little bit. You also need to hit it while the ball is in the air, meaning that you need to command your team mate to pass it to you. Timing the kick is a bit tricky at first, but once you get the timing right, you’re able to repeat it with ease.

Each round has 1min 30sec timer, and in that time you can usually score relatively high in early games, but later one when the AI actually starts getting competent you might find yourself working hard to keep the ball and enemies dead on the ground. These short burst work the best for the overall pace of the game.

Speaking of the AI, each team has its own strengths and weaknesses, thou some do seem to share similar approaches on how they act. Some tend to pass more often, some just rely on hard tackling while there seems to be those who keep really damn close to your players and steal the ball whenever possible.

The music sounds striking, but it’s not memorable. It gets you pumped and while it does leave a lasting impression, you don’t really hum any of the themes too much afterwards. It’s perfect background music and fits the game.

It’s a damn fun soccer game, one of the few I can pop in and just play for the sake of fun. If you’re looking for some light cartoony soccer, this game is for you. Hell, even if you don’t like soccer, give it a look anyways.

The game is sparse in its graphics department, and there are some flickering and very rare slowdowns. Technosoft did their best giving the stages some variety, but there’s only so much you can do with a soccer field. The characters use the now classic 8-bit Kunio series sprites, and as such are very cartoonish, especially when hit hard with their eyes bulging out. They’re not necessarily very Japanese in their visual, thou if you know where they comes from, it’s pretty clear that the characters are some sort of mish mash of super deformation and mushrooms.

Now, you might wonder what are the differences between Nekketsu Soccer and its Western localisation, Nintendo World Cup. Well, first of all, Nintendo World Cup supports four player mode through the NES 4-Score, and that’s awesome. However, if you don’t have three friends to sit down with you, you can do just fine with the two-player option in Nekketsu Soccer. Additionally, Nintendo World Cup cut all the cutscenes that existed in Nekketsu Soccer, because it has no links tying itself to the previous game, Nekketsu KouKou Dodge Ball club, even if the games was localised as Super Dodge Ball in the West as well. You’re not really missing with the intermissions, they’re just Kunio messing around. Because Nintendo World Cup made the game’s teams international, you do lose that special relation with each of the team, as they originally had a special title card for each of the match. This is understandable, as you really can’t expect to see Buddhist priests as Team Germany or similar. They still have some images showcasing the opposition, but they’re a bit more simpler in overall terms, and they still seem to use the same musical cues as the Japanese version. The round times are also a lot more longer, which kinda forces the game to overstay its welcome.

From the Kunio Sports titles, Nekketsu Soccer is one of the stronger titles. Perhaps it is simplified to a fault, where after exhausting its contents there’s not much to return to, but grabbing a few friends to play this shouldn’t be too much a problem. Despite that, it’s a title worth returning to, especially in an era where most high profile games tend to become unnecessarily complex.

Trivia; my copy of Super Mario Bros., Nintendo World Cup and Tetris was almost destroyed by a dog. The dog managed to get its teeth on the cart when we left it with the game in car for five minutes. It would act strangely, sometimes resetting the game by itself or refusing to play anything but Tetris.