11/03/2019

๐Ÿ’™⚽ Why I Love Football Video Games "It all started in a Fish & Chip Shop"⚽๐Ÿ’™ #Retrogaming

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It all started with an arcade game in a Fish & Chip Shop in Enfield.

The shop was called the Sea Shell Fish Bar and the arcade cabinet was TEHKAN WORLD CUP
After witnessing someone complete the game whilst I was standing in the shop queue with my dad one Friday night I was never the same again. 

I was obsessed with football video games from that point onwards and more specifically I was obsessed with the quest to find the best football game out there.
This was a time before FIFA and Pro Evolution Soccer (PES) even existed and it was also a time when there was a multitude of footy games being made. Some were good but most were bad. No one had come up with a perfect formula at the point I started my journey but there were definitely some contenders who were headed in the right direction. 

I felt that it was my purpose as a football mad 7-year-old to play every football video game I could lay my hands on and try and find that elusive holy grail of footy games.
The only problem I had was that at the start I was limited to playing the games at the arcade or on my trusty Atari XEGS. The arcade for me was the Fish & Chip Shop, the local newsagent or the Taxi Cab office. Now those venues had one or maybe sometimes two arcade cabinets in them and invariably it would be something like Golden Axe, Bad Dudes vs Dragon Ninja or Altered Beast, not many had a variety of footy games (apart from the Sea Shell with the TEHKAN cabinet). 

The Atari XEGS didn’t have much of a catalogue of footy games either which was really surprising considering that it played the whole Atari 800 XE/XL library of games. I would sift through rows and rows of Atari XE/XL video games at my local video games shop (LOGIC in Cheshunt or Rossi’s Toy Shop in Chingford) and I could never lay my hands on any footy video games aside from two games I owned. One was called Fantastic Soccer and the other was World Soccer.

Fantastic Soccer was a top-down Kick Off wannabe but suffered immensely from having no real control over what was going on. World Soccer was actually a football management game that was really good fun to play but wasn’t going to help me in my quest to find that elusive nugget of a football game. 
Oddly enough when I do a search now for Atari XE/XL football games there were tons of them released but it’s just that they never made it my local video games shop! This was a time before online internet retailers and you were literally bound by your local shop and if you bought video games magazines you were bound by the sales listings in those. The problem was even when buying a video games magazine there was generally a massive bias towards Commodore 64 and ZX Spectrum games and a small Atari XE/XL section. 

One game I did manage to buy the Atari at the time was the undoubtedly amazing Footballer Of The Year which was a footy game with a difference as you controlled one player and it was down to you to score goals in various set-piece situations such as from a corner, penalty or a snippet of open play. In many ways, this style of the genre led to the creation of the brilliant New Star Soccer on mobiles.

At this point, the odds of finding a great footy game were stacked against me as my gaming opportunities were low.

While owning the Atari and waiting for my local arcades to get in other cabs it was only when we ventured on holiday to the seaside towns of England that I was able to have a chance of discovering that footy gold. Every summer we would visit places like Portsmouth (Southsea), Hastings, Bognor Regis, Isle Of Wight and Clacton on our summer hols and with those joyous holidays came the Amusement Arcades! 

This was generally where I was able to discover the next soccer arcade game and one that would enable me to tick off another game that I had tried. The games that stand out from these visits were Football Champ from TAITO, TECMO World Cup 90 and the awesome Super Sidekicks. The animation, style and presentation in these video games were like nothing I had experienced before and at the time these types of footy experiences could only be delivered by the superior arcade hardware of the time. They contained bulky colourful sprites which were well animated and even contained players that somewhat resembled famous footballers of the time (Ruud Gullit, Valderamma, Gascoigne and anyone else with a recognisable haircut from the time) it was an indication to what console footy games would be striving towards.
In order to play all the footy games that there was to offer, I was on a mission to own as many consoles and footy games as my tiny pocket money budget could afford and my next stop would see me enter the wonderful world of the SEGA Master System (SMS). 

My mate Lee had a game called World Cup ITALIA 90 on the SMS and I was smitten by it. It was a top-down representation of the beautiful game and it had all the World Cup 90 teams in it with a group stage followed by a knockout phase. To me, it was simply the best at the time and especially when I saw the penalty mode! 

The penalties were like nothing I’d seen before and I spent so much time at Lee’s playing this game that eventually I borrowed it from him and completed it with EVERY team in the game! Looking back on it now it was actually a really bad footy game but I think the Tournament mode got me! It was a classic example of your imagination filling in for the lack of quality as you did your own build-ups to the tournament games and the draw for the knockout phases. The better playing game on the SMS was World Soccer with its cute chunky players and it’s better gameplay but because it was a bit generic it never caught my eye or imagination in the way that World Cup ITALIA 90 did. That probably had something to do with how much I loved the ITALIA 90 World cup.
When I eventually managed to save up enough for a Super Nintendo (SNES) I was so excited to play an amazing footy game on this awesome ultimate console! Yet there were yet more disappointments before I finally got a taste of things to come. 

The first game I bought for the SNES, after spending about 6 months non stop playing the amazing Super Mario World, was Super Soccer. It definitely captured my attention with its mode 7 3D style gameplay from behind the player. After the initial burst of excitement with this title it became a case of rinse and repeat in terms of how to score and it just lacked depth but it was a decent start. 

It was then I heard that Kick Off was coming to the SNES and I got very excited indeed! My dreams were about to come true…..or were they!? The Kick off I read about on Amiga was amazing but the Kick-Off released on the SNES was a shambles and it meant that Super Soccer was my only real choice for about 3 years! 

But then everything changed when Konami stepped up to the plate to create one of the greatest series of footy games ever conceived. In 1994 International Superstar Soccer was born and I was suitably left open-mouthed at the presentation, gameplay and character that this video game possessed! Follow that up with ISS Deluxe and you had the beginnings of a franchise that would go on to dominate for many years to come. The ISS hallmarks were the beautiful arcade-like graphics and the brilliantly vivid presentation and then there was the gameplay which was full of tricks and flicks alongside passing that worked. It was like a deeper arcade experience and I lapped it up with each instalment.
After my SNES joyous journey, I decided I wanted a Commodore AMIGA. As you can guess, one of the major factors in this decision to get onto the Amiga train was because of a little game called Sensible Soccer, you may have heard of it?

For me, the Amiga was the pinnacle of footy game choice and quality and when you throw the management games into the mix too there was no other system that could compete on a footy games level. 

Playing Sensible Soccer for the first time was frustrating but it made me want to master the game as it was so much fun. I remember taking part in heated tournaments around my friend Craig’s house and it made me determined to eventually better everyone as I took another 5-0 thumping! 

Sensi was and still is one of the greatest footy games of all time and when you play Sensi World Of Soccer now it still stands up in 2019 and beyond! The Amiga also had the luxury of Kick Off, Kick off 2, Microprose Soccer, GOAL!, Football Glory and a whole multitude of Footy manager type games such Champ Manager 94, Ultimate Soccer Manager and the thrilling Premier Manager 1,2 and 3! It was a great time to own an Amiga and I lapped it up for years. 
One Amiga story that does stand out from all the others was when my friend Paul bought an Amiga with his brother and it came with a massive disk box full of games. It was like Christmas as we worked our way through the games one by one. There were over 100 disks in that box and contained within the slew of classics was a plethora of footy games for us to get stuck into.

After the Amiga, I actually went and bought myself a SEGA Mega Drive and that was specifically to play FIFA International Soccer as it was first released by EA on Mega Drive only when it first came out and after seeing it on Bad Influence I just had to own it! My Mega Drive ownership was short as I was about to enter the brave new world disc gaming as the PlayStation was about to become my footy friend for life...

When the PlayStation was launched in 1994 I was immediately smitten and I knew I had to have one. Then in 1997, the game changer happened International Superstar Soccer Pro (ISS PRO) was released on the PlayStation. This was a quantum leap from the SNES series and felt like real football. It was accurate in terms of building a move and yet it still retained the joy of an arcade representation. It was like nothing else before it and from that moment onwards the landscape of football games was changed forever. 

The ISS series went on to get better and better with each release especially when you look at ISS PRO 98 which took it up another notch and was then followed by a literal revolution in the footy games market in the form of ISS PRO EVOLUTION SOCCER (PES). The games were perfect and no one could touch them. Eventually, Konami started numbering the releases and they gave us amazing titles through the PS2 years right up until ISS PRO EVOLUTION SOCCER 6. PES4 is still my ultimate favourite footy game and still, it stands up to this day as a great fun game of video game soccer.
There were some other games that come along during the PES domination of the PS1 and PS2 era but none of them could match PES. The games I played were the likes of FIFA 98 Road To The World Cup, Libero Grande, Actua Soccer and This Is Football and they were fun enough but you'd always be wanting to get back to PES.

More recently over the last ten years, I have barely played any new footy games as the selection is so narrow now and it's rare for anyone to push the boundaries in terms of something different from the current generation FIFA and PES games which just strive for more realism at the expense of fun. I've hung up my current gen boots but I still adorn my retrogaming black leather lace-up boots every now and again to experience those times of arcade footy fun.

I still love footy video games but from afar. My love is directed at the years of discovery I undertook as I searched for gems of footy genius in a pile of disks or cassette tapes. The discovery journey is over but I'll always have my moment in the Fish & Chip Shop queue...
Rich

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