My grandmother could shoot better than you . . .
Ahh, there's nothing like the sportsmanship of soccer, the only sport where it's more dangerous to be a fan than a player. If you find yourself afraid to go down to the local stadium to watch a real game and you don't want to have to listen to Spanish commentary (Gotta love Univision.), then you might find yourself in front of this game.
International Superstar Soccer 64 has burst onto the scene to boost the paltry game library of the N64. For a game system with less than thirty games, it seems odd that two of them are soccer games. (FIFA Soccer 64 is the other one.) Not that I'm complaining; I love soccer, and the more the merrier. Especially when it's a game as good as International Superstar Soccer.
Let's start with the graphics; very beautiful and very smooth. After some serious disappointments (see War Gods), it's good to see that some of the third party manufacturers are finally getting the hang of programming for the N64. Due to the sheer power of the N64, these players are able to do some very impressive moves. Players can do almost any moves that the pros can do with the simple touch of a button. They look great while doing too. As it should be with an N64 game, almost everything is polygonal. Unfortunately, the sprites stick out like sore thumbs. When a player runs up to the crowd to celebrate a goal, there are three polygonal people who look perfectly fine, but the rest of the crowd seems to be trapped behind a sheet of glass. While this doesn't effect the overall gameplay, it would have been nice to see the designers take the time to make the audience look better, even if they had to use all sprites.
The control is a little difficult to master and that isn't helped by the N64 control pad. Without ranting about the pad itself, the control is really complex for a soccer game. The instruction manual dedicates four pages to telling you how to control the players. This, of course, allows you to do many things that were not possible in previous soccer games. Once mastered, you're able to do just about everything that a real player can do and with a fair amount of ease. It just takes time.
The gameplay is where International Superstar Soccer 64 outshines many soccer games. Unlike other games of this genre, this game takes strategy to win. You have to position your players, feed the ball, juke opponents, and shoot the ball just right to get it around some of the toughest goalies ever. No cheap, easy goals in this soccer game. Each goal is earned with blood, sweat, and tears (it hurts to use that stupid plastic control stick.).
The game runs like most other video soccer games in existence. The camera follows the ball and the player you control has a different marking than the rest. Nothing new. Except, that is, for the penalty kicks. International Superstar Soccer 64 has the best system for penalty kicks ever, bar none. Both the goalie and the striker are given cursors. As the goalie, you've got to have your cursor land where the striker's does, and as the striker you've got to make sure the goalie misses. You can also make the cursor disappear at any moment by pulling one of the triggers, thereby maintaining the element of surprise. This system is better than the tried and true "guess one of six directions and cross your fingers that your opponent doesn't choose the same one." Just like in real life, making or blocking a penalty shot relies on skill as much as luck.
Why is it that every soccer game has to have a British announcer in order to sound authentic? International Superstar Soccer 64 is no exception. The announcer is actually quite good, despite the limitations of sound bites imposed by the cartridge format. The only time the announcer sounds choppy is when he says the team names. Other than that, this announcer could go head to head with any of his CD brethren.
Speaking of team names, International Superstar Soccer lacks one very important thing -licensing. Due to the fact that the FIFA license was already taken by EA Sports, Konami was forced to simply use the names of countries for the teams and make up all the player names. This isn't a big issue. Whoever is on a national soccer team right now could be back to selling hot dogs in two months. The players change all the time, and most people haven't heard of 90% of them. It would have been nice to have a few recognizable names, however.
All in all, International Superstar Soccer is one of the best soccer games to come out for any system, second only to Worldwide Soccer '97 for the Saturn. Combining smooth gameplay with fast paced action, this game is a must buy for any N64 owner who loves soccer games.