Thanks to the World Cup the entire globe is going through its quad-annual love affair with soccer, and there's no better way to live that out than through a DS game that combines the sport with classic video game characters. "River City Soccer Hooligans" might not be the next "FIFA," but it should be able to scratch the itch that some gamers may have to want to get out on the virtual pitch.
The latest in the Kunio-kun series, seasoned gamers should be familiar with the star of this game as he has appeared in a handful of classic games just under a different name; "River City Ransom," "Super Dodge Ball," and "Crash 'n the Boys: Street Challenge" just to name a few. This time around, Kunio has returned in the spiritual successor to the Nintendo Entertainment System's "Nintendo World Cup" with an arcade style soccer game that pits his Japanese High School against some of the best teams in the world.
Retro Arcadey Fun
Overall the gameplay is pretty simple, and in a different league than what soccer gamers should be used to in terms of "FIFA" games on the DS. This is decidedly an arcade style game where you're more likely to get caught up in a passing tornado than get a yellow card. With over the top super-shots, "tackles" essentially being body checks, and little to no observance of the actual rules of the game "Hooligans" is basically the "NBA Jam" of soccer.
The Start Screen Actually Helps You
In a very wise move by the developers, instead of including a traditional start-up screen, the player has the option of jumping right in and practicing their skills. The top screen of the DS features the player running around with a ball, while the bottom screen offers button prompts for how to dribble, shoot, dash, and pull off super-shots. It's a great option for players who want to sharpen their skills, or for lapsed gamers who want a refresher, without having to jump into a full match to do it.
Some people enjoy the tense moments that penalty kicks offer at the end of a game, and "River City Soccer Hooligans" has a mode specifically designed for them. Whether you just want to practice shooting them, or go head to head with a friend, PK Battle is one of the best ways to enjoy this game, especially if you only have a couple minutes and don't have time for a full game.
GOOOAAAAALLLLL. And Another GOOOOAAAAAAALLLLLLL.
Unfortunately, like many of the other Kunio sports games that have come before it, once you have the basic skills of "Hooligans" down, not much stands in your way from running over your opponents. Overall, there are only a few teams that really offer up any level of challenge. So, if you're hoping every match is going to be a nail biter, you're going to be in for a letdown.
So Many Special Drinks
At the beginning of every match and at halftime, the player has the opportunity to equip his or her players with items that will help them out on the field. More traditional items like special shoes and drinks are offered along side items like anime and pickled plums that sync up with each players' likes and dislikes. While it's a great option to have these items available, adding a slight RPG element to the game, you don't ever need to manage them, meaning that they are all available, for every game no matter how many times you use them. It seems like a missed opportunity to add another layer of detail to the game.
Special Moves Are Special
Like all sports, "Soccer Hooligans" requires a bit of practice before you can truly master all of the games ins and outs, particularly the supershots. While they don't become a necessity until much later in the game, knowing how to score from half field is helpful no matter what the circumstances are. Pro tip: supershots are accomplished by shooting the ball at the peak of your jump. Good luck with that.
For the next few weeks soccer is going to be all the rage all over the country, and "River City Soccer Hooligans is a great way to jump on the bandwagon. Its arcade style gameplay should keep most gamers entertained while offering up some fun on the field. It's not over-complicated like a soccer sim would be, and, as an added bonus, includes some classic characters that may stir up some airs of nostalgia in older gamers.