If you are over 30 (or in any case if you are close to us), you just have to hear the sentence pronounced sports cartoons to make you think of three names: Holly and Benji, Mila and Shiro, Slam Dunk. The first two will surely have found a place in the afternoons of your childhood, while the third – also known for one of the most irreverent Italian dubs – may have appeared at the window of your adolescence, given the slightly more advanced publication.
However, these three titles have something in common: having brought entire generations of boys and girls closer to the world of sport thanks to the stories of very young protagonists who are incredibly close to the viewer's point of view, becoming real sources of inspiration.
Unlike many other anime, however, the sports ones hardly receive good quality video game adaptations and of this trio only one has been repeatedly resumed in the form of a video game over the last 32 years (so much has passed since the first title for the NES): Holly and Benji, or rather Captain Tsubasa. Today the series returns with the first new game since the days of Captain Tsubasa J released in 1994 on the original PlayStation: here comes Captain Tsubasa: Rise of New Champions, announced in January and finally available.
- FROM HOLLY AND BENJI TO CAPTAIN TSUBASA: SOME THINGS TO KNOW
- THE BIRTH OF THE NEW HEROES
- PAD IN HAND: A PURE ARCADE
- MULTIPLAYER AND EXTRA
The graphic style adopted by the 2020 title faithfully follows what we find in the remake of the anime released in 2018, which also arrived in Italy and characterized by the use of all original Japanese names in every market. The anime of the 80s, in fact, had different localizations according to the country, thus creating a strong sense of discontinuity in the names of the characters, teams and schools involved. The 2018 operation was therefore necessary to recompose the brand and give it a single global identity able to make it more recognizable, keeping all the original names starting with the title: Captain Tsubasa then takes the place of Holly and Benji.
Rise of New Champions therefore follows these rules and this could create a moment of confusion in those who approach the game without being aware of the operation and its origins. Fortunately, the title includes cards dedicated to the characters that are also shown to us during the uploads, in which we find their names and main characteristics, in order to quickly connect them to the old identities.
For example, it will not be at all difficult to understand that behind the tired image of a Jun Misugi that you bring your hand to your heart there is precisely the fragile Julian Ross, as well as the big tooth on display and the defiant grin of the twins Tachibana they make us understand immediately that we are in front of the twins Derrick.
Oliver (Holly) Hutton gives way to Ozora Tsubasa, Mark Lenders to Hyuga Kojiro, Benjamin (Benji) Price to Wakabayashi Genzo, Ed Warner to Wakashimazu Ken, Tom Becker to Taro Misaki and so on (note: in Japanese the surname precedes the name). The teams also have their original names, so New Team becomes Nankatsu, Flynet is actually Furano, Muppet is Meiwa and Mambo is Musashi. The Toho, Otomo and Hirano do not change.
The work of brand cleanup it also concerns the dubbing work, which now maintains its Japanese identity unaltered by offering us only the original dialogues, without integrating an alternative dubbing in English or other languages. To give voice to the players there is the same cast of actors also involved in the anime of 2018. Obviously we find the complete localization in Italian regarding the texts and menus, which have been subjected to a good quality translation work.
Unlike what you might expect from a football game, Rise of New Champions focuses most of its cards on a rich single player campaign, which represents most of the content in the title. In doing this, the game offers us 2 narrative arcs that we can choose to face in any order, although it is recommended to start with the one dedicated to Tsubasa.
The two stories are contained within The Journey, where we will find the Tsubasa Episode and the New Hero Episode. The first is the one recommended to start, as it is a long tutorial that allows us to discover the basic game mechanics game after game, thanks also to real training to be carried out just before each match. The duration of this part of the campaign is about 4 hours and is set during the last year of the Tsubasa averages.
Nankatsu is facing her third national tournament and is looking for the perfect result, having already won those of the previous two years. We are therefore at an advanced stage of the anime's plot, since all the events related to the elementary school period are skipped. This ensures that in the narrative arc Benji (Genzo) is present only in the form of a memory, as he moved to Germany at the end of elementary school.
The tournament will still allow us to refresh our memory thanks to the fact that almost all of Tsubasa's Japanese rivals will appear in the matches of the competition, up to the famous clash with Otomo and her legendary Mark Lenders (Hyuga Kojiro). The matches of the Tsubasa Episode do not present particular difficulties and in many cases there are scripted elements necessary to reproduce situations and scenes that we have seen in the series, to the point that some games could be won automatically simply by avoiding being netted (or, vice versa , you should score at least 2 to avoid a tie).
All of this is functional to the narrative and happens almost only in this part of the campaign, while things change once you start playing the New Hero Episode. This is in fact the most interesting component of the mode for the single player, as it allows us to create our character, choose his role and make him play within one of the 3 great teams (Toho, Furano and Musashi, you cannot choose the Nankatsu for plot reasons) selected to take part in the selections for the Junior Youth World Challenge competition.
The arc of the JYWC is completely new and was created specifically for the title. An American billionaire has organized a global competition where youth teams from all over the world can compete to decide which is the strongest on the planet. This is the first international scenario for Japanese players who have just finished the national middleweight tournament and the country's football association has decided to organize a small exhibition tournament, in which the young promises of the ball can prove their skills at order to be selected to be part of the Dream Team which will represent Japan.
This is where our character comes into play, a first year student who is chosen to reinforce the ranks of the team we have chosen during the player creation phase. The editor is quite rich and allows us to create our alter ego by fishing from many elements that faithfully follow the aesthetic canons of the series, from hairstyles to faces, passing through sweaters and accessories. Freedom in this respect is really great and it is not limited only to the creation phase.
During the campaign, in fact, our player will be able to acquire all the various styles and special techniques of companions and rivals, through a friendship system that is influenced both by our performances on the field and by the many optional dialogues that allow you to increase affinity. with the different characters.
This will allow us to gradually acquire the most devastating techniques – including Tiger Shooting or Guided Shooting, but also the famous South American Dribbling and many others – which will make our alter ego a real loose cannon on the field, as potentially able to embody all the best skills of the various players in a single character (note: during matches we will still control the whole team, but we can go directly to our character by pressing R3).
Our performances on the pitch will also directly affect the parameters that will be improved from game to game, making us more and more effective in our role. In addition to this, the achievement of certain results (such as winning with a difference of 2 or 4 goals) will allow us to obtain bonus points that we can spend manually for the enhancement of statistics. In short, even in this case maximum freedom of customization. Finally, there is no lack of the possibility of equipping passive abilities capable of affecting statistics or game mechanics.
The New Hero Episode is therefore much more interesting and fun than the one dedicated to Tsubasa – but we already expected it from the premise -, however it is good to point out the enormous presence of dialogues and intermission scenes with multiple choice dialogues, able to have a minor influence on the development of the plot. New Hero, in fact, is structured like a real season of the anime (if you pay attention to the dialogues you can also understand when one "episode" should ideally end and start the next one) and this means that between one match and another there are long sessions of dialogue necessary for the advancement of the plot. It makes us understand that we are certainly not facing any football game.
Pad in hand, what was a sensation immediately finds confirmation: Captain Tsubasa: Rise of New Champions does not integrate any simulation element, but is a real arcade with a football theme. The control scheme is that of a classic FIFA or PES – so many players will immediately feel at home – but the games (which last 60 minutes, with 2 halves of 30, as in the anime) take place in a completely different way.
In the game there are no fouls resulting from contact between the players and the only times you hear the referee's whistle will be at the end of the time, for a side foul or for an offside (the mythical trap of the out of the game returns to strike!). By eliminating this aspect from the equation, it is also easier to accept that at every tackle the opposing player is literally blown away!
The core of the gameplay revolves around managing the Spirit (stamina) of each player and controlling the team's Zone V mechanics. Let's start with the first. The Spirit allows the player to sprint, to successfully dribble, to make a save / deflection in extremis in defense and to activate special shooting techniques. In the case of goalkeepers, the Spirit is essential to save, as when it reaches zero it will be impossible to block the ball.
Basically it is practically impossible to score a goal using the simple shot button, as this kind of attack it affects almost nothing on the goalkeeper's Spirit bar. Instead, special shots are the easiest way to score, even if even in this case it is not certain that a Tiger Shot cannot be saved with relative ease by an experienced goalkeeper. In addition to the Spirit, in fact, other mechanics also come into play that take into account the properties of the special shot (such as power, speed, type of shot), the attack and technique statistics of the player and the various skills and defensive statistics of the goalkeeper.
Reading these last lines it seems to describe a role-playing game and not a sports game and this is partly true: the management of the character, the team and his skills is almost as important as the match itself, as they will allow you to better contrast the increasingly fierce opponents that you will find both during the storyline and in online challenges.
As for Zone V, it is a team bar that gradually fills up based on the good plays of the individuals. Once full it can be used in two ways. The first is to provide a temporary stat boost and Spirit recovery rate for the entire team.
This is very useful for having that extra boost during the offensive phases and its duration is long enough to allow you to use it even for 2-3 consecutive actions. The Zone V bar can also be consumed completely to make a 100% safe block. In this case, just press L2 during your opponent's shooting animation and a vibration of the pad will confirm that the goalkeeper will block the ball at any cost.
The mechanics behind Captain Tsubasa: Rise of New Champions are therefore very similar to those of an arcade fighting game based on the principle of paper / scissor / rock, only that here they are transposed into a completely different context, but the result is the same . For this reason, the title is quite simple to play and suitable for everyone, even if this negatively affects the depth of the gameplay and reduces the games to a well-defined pattern: reset the spirit of the goalkeeper as soon as possible with continuous attacks and repeat until the end. weather.
To this we add a certain woodiness of the movements and an artificial intelligence to the minimum terms, not so much for the degree of challenge – since the most advanced teams will be able to give you a hard time -, but for the positioning on the field of all players and their imperfect ability to reach the ball by following the most linear and simple path possible.
For example, sometimes you will see opponents and your players running around the ball without successfully reaching it, letting the character you are controlling at that moment manage to take possession of the ball without too much trouble. From a technical point of view, the game does not shine but does not even offer disappointing drops, while the soundtracks that accompany the various game phases and menus are very pleasant.
We approach the conclusion by citing the last interesting aspects. The first concerns the presence of a rich multi-player sector both locally and online in the respective Versus and Versus Online modes. As for the Versus (locally then), we can choose to carry out a simple single match, a penalty shootout challenge or even organize a tournament (all up to 4 players). The available modes are quite varied and satisfying and make Rise of New Champions the right title to always have available for when you want to organize an evening with friends with a game that is not too demanding and also involves those who do not like football.
Versus Online, on the other hand, allows you to create public or private rooms to challenge online players in friendly matches. There is also the competitive aspect (even if the gameplay behind the title does not lend itself at all) given by the League Match mode. Here it will be possible to create your own team, customize it (from the choice of players to that of uniforms and pennants) and take part in real leagues, divided on the basis of the maximum rank of the team.
This means that each team will not be able to aim to include all the most powerful players, but will have to be balanced in order to respect the parameters of each league. Overall we did not encounter any lag or disconnection problems during the games played, but it must also be said that our tests took place in the pre-launch phase, when our opponents were few and all colleagues intent on testing the title.
Finally, we point out that the game includes a wide range of collectible items (such as extra anime-style movies) that can be unlocked both by performing certain actions and by buying them from the store in exchange for the PCs, the currency you get in game. The title has no microtransactions, so the PCs are assigned only based on actions strictly related to the game. In the store you will also find many hairstyles, styles of uniforms, shoes, elements to compose your pennant and packages to obtain friendship cards with which to increase the affinity with other characters.
Captain Tsubasa: Rise of New Champions is a title that must be approached without any pretense of being in the hands of a purely title football. Its soul is completely arcade and from this point of view it manages to give us hours of fun thanks to a game formula that has now practically disappeared from the market, supported by a substantial single player campaign that exceeds 20 hours.
The presence of the local multi player is then that addition that was needed to transform it into a sort of party game able to involve and entertain even that friend who is totally foreign to the world of football, but with the passion of anime. (especially if you are 30-35 years old and as a child you dreamed with the original anime!).
Net of this, it is necessary to deal with a technical sector that alternates between highs and lows, without ever reaching excessive peaks of excellence or mediocrity, except for some behaviors of artificial intelligence: it is not uncommon to see a group of players running around the ball without anyone being able to take control for several seconds.
The frame rate does not go beyond 30 fps even on PlayStation 4 Pro (on which we tested it) and the overall realization of the models and the fields did not impress us. Otherwise, the animations of the special techniques, the interludes during the matches (especially during Tsubasa's story) and the complete Japanese dubbing manage to perfectly convey the emotions of the excited phases of the most important matches.
So if you have been a big fan of Holly and Benji and were looking for a game that could allay nostalgia, Rise of New Champions is the title for you. It's not a masterpiece but it knows how to entertain you and that should be more than enough to get your attention. The game is available for PlayStation 4, Switch and PC (digital only).
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