Review – Captain Tsubasa: Rise of New Champions

The name Captain Tsubasa might not be that famous if you grew up in the US as well as some other countries. But if you, like me, grew up in Latin America, then you know it and probably love it. This long-running manga and anime franchise was an absolute hit among us football-loving kids, to the point that many professional players in Europe and the Americas decided to become pros after watching it when they were young. I’ve been hoping for a video game adaptation of Captain Tsubasa for so long and was hyped when Bandai Namco finally announced one earlier on this year. Time to check out if Captain Tsubasa: Rise of New Champions was worth the wait.

Captain Tsubasa

If only real-life football had these over-the-top finishing moves.

For the uninitiated, Captain Tsubasa is a classic anime/manga series that tells the story of wunderkind Tsubasa Ozora, a Japanese boy who dreams of becoming a professional footballer. The series follows his journey to become a pro, starting back when he’s still a middle schooler winning local tournaments, up until the point when he becomes an adult, signs for Barcelona, and plays the World Cup for Japan. It’s your typical anime: over-the-top as hell, with tons of dialogue and drama, and people shouting buzzwords for their kicks as if they were a Dragon Ball Z special move or something. In short, everything a Brazilian kid would want to watch back in the day. And this game is faithful recreation of all that nonsense.

Tsubasa’s journey from kid to pro is one of the career modes available in Captain Tsubasa: Rise of New Champions. His story acts as a tutorial of sorts, featuring easier matches and challenges to overcome, especially given how unbelievably broken the kid’s stats are. Matches are intertwined with a TON of cutscenes and even more TONS of dialogue, just like the anime itself. Fans of the franchise will feel right at home with these really well-crafted scenes, which look great and feature decent voice acting. People who are here just for the sake of playing some exaggerated football are best advised to ignore this mode.

Captain Tsubasa

You thought Messi was broken? Meet Tsubasa.

The real MVP in Captain Tsubasa: Rise of New Champions is the second story mode available right from the get-go. Instead of playing as Tsubasa, your main focus is to create a brand new character and partake in a similar adventure, going from schoolkid to eventual winner of a Youth World Cup held in the USA. The main difference between this mode and Tsubasa’s story is the fact that your character starts off with weak stats and will slowly improve depending on what you do on the pitch. You can also befriend characters from the show and turn them into your mentors, learning their techniques and further customizing your character to your liking.

That’s all fine and dandy, but this is a football game. We’re here for the sports action, for the gameplay. I’m glad to announce that if you were hoping for this game to be similar to simpler, more over-the-top football games from the past, you’re in for a treat. Some might say that Captain Tsubasa: Rise of New Champions‘ gameplay reminds them of Super Mario Strikers, and while there’s some truth behind this statement. I really thought that the game played similarly to a hidden gem from twenty years ago.

Captain Tsubasa

You can create your own anime footballer lookalike in this game. I’m a happy person right now.

Does anyone remember Super Sidekicks, also known as The Ultimate 11? It was an arcade football series made by SNK that featured simplified controls, less rules (you could tackle at will), and a meter that allowed you to charge up your kicks to a ridiculous degree. Even to the point that you would drag the goalkeeper inside the net with your shot. That’s basically how Captain Tsubasa: Rise of New Champions felt like while playing it and I couldn’t be happier about it.

Besides the simplified passing controls and easier tackling mechanisms, the game features a very neat dribbling mechanic. It’s is less about knowing how to perform complicated button combinations with the right analog stick (looking at you, FIFA) and more about precise timing. All you need to do in order to perform a super stylish dribble is press the ZR button at the right time. It makes you feel cool as hell while doing it, that’s for sure. The more correct passes and tricks you perform, the faster you’ll fill a special meter that will improve your players’ stats momentarily. It will also fill up your shooting meter bar much faster, allowing for you to perform the anime’s ridiculous special kicks more frequently.

Captain Tsubasa

The anime’s over-the-top cutscenes are featured in here.

I tackled (hehe) Captain Tsubasa: Rise of New Champions on the Switch, and despite being initially worried about the game’s performance, it does a good job on such weaker hardware. It’s by no means a gorgeous game, but I enjoyed its cel-shaded visuals, especially during cutscenes. It just gets the job done during gameplay, maintaining a stable framerate with passable graphics. It does run pretty well both in docked and portable modes, but there was one thing that annoyed me all throughout my experience. Its loading times were way too long, sometimes taking even longer to load a dialogue-heavy cutscene than an actual match.

Captain Tsubasa

It’s a lot easier to dribble in Captain Tsubasa than it is in FIFA or PES.

Captain Tsubasa: Rise of New Champions is exactly what I wanted from a game based off the classic anime franchise. It looks the part, it’s filled with overdramatic cutscenes and set pieces, and its gameplay doesn’t exactly follow the rules of football to a tee. This is basically the closest to a Super Mario Strikers or one of those older SNK football games you will find in the market nowadays. It’s a simpler, colorful, more accessible sports game that oozes style and charisma, something that even non-fans of the sport (or anime in general) will probably want to take a look at.

 

Graphics: 7.0

The cutscenes look great, as if you were looking at the anime itself. The game doesn’t look that impressive when you’re actually playing it, but the framerate is stable, so it gets the job done.

Gameplay: 8.0

The core rules of football are here, but the simulation aspects of other games are ignored in favor of a faster pace, less rules, and more set pieces.

Sound: 7.5

A ton of voice acting that brings the game closer to its anime roots. There is also an excessive amount of voice acting during games, which can be a bit too distracting at times.

Fun Factor: 8.5

Not only is this a phenomenal recreation of the anime’s plot and overall style, but it’s also a really entertaining arcade football game in its own right, with simpler rules and more fantastic set pieces.

Final Verdict: 8.0

Captain Tsubasa: Rise of New Champions is available now on PS4, PC, and Switch.

Reviewed on Switch.