Monday, March 25, 2024

Game 406: Soccer

This past weekend, I was in downtown Boston, visiting my friend "B." It was absolutely pouring, and we spent the evening playing obsolete sports video games, when neither of us have cared about sports in decades.


In the above video, I play USA, "B" plays Brazil.

Soccer is the first game credited entirely to Nintendo's internal studio Intelligent Systems, though it has none of the team's signature traits yet, feeling much like Nintendo's earlier bare-bones sports titles. At least this one has a halftime show.

Does soccer even have cheerleaders?

The game was a struggle for both of us. One of the biggest control issues was selecting players to pass to or switch control to - in theory, using the d-pad selects a target teammate in the direction pushed, highlighting them and allowing you to pass or take control, but in practice it often just refused to highlight the right teammate, causing us to pass to the entirely wrong one. And teammate AI is chaotic and often useless when left to their own devices.

Occasionally one of us would foul with an illegal pass, and we'd have no idea what actually triggered it. The manual notes that software limitations prevent Nintendo Soccer from completely and precisely implementing official IFAB rules, but we'd still see offside penalties despite not passing the last defender.


The screen also does not scroll smoothly, but only scrolls when the ball reaches an edge of it, making offense a frustrating exercise in blind advancement - you don't get to see the goal or its defense situation until you're already very close to it!

But the real fundamental problem here is that NES Soccer is slow. Players awkwardly dribble the ball like small children just learning the sport, pushing it forward a bit, running up and pushing it again, which makes crossing the field clumsy and boring. Shooting goals is the nail in the coffin - it is so slow that we were able to block shots with our goalies ever single time, and I don't see how assists could accomplish anything but give the goalie even more time to react.

Just to test against the theory that maybe we were just bad at offense, I played against the computer at maximum difficulty, and made no attempt to keep the ball away from my goal. I still blocked it every single time.

The level 5 AI also made an offside pass and two out-of-bounds kicks as my whole team stood still and laughed.

GAB rating: Bad. It's not completely broken like Tennis, but the only thing fast about NES Soccer is how fast its annoying little problems add up, and a soccer game where you'll never score until the final penalty kick session feels pointless.


  1. Interesting to see a 1985 soccer game that doesn't have the ball glued to the player's feet. I remember Kick Off, a much later game, being famous for breaking with the glued ball.

    1. I remember a Genesis soccer game - probably FIFA, where the ball looked like it was always hovering in place a bit in front of the player's feet as he ran across the field. It looked silly to me even then.


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