Inazuma Eleven returns in a Pokémon-style double release.
Level-5’s Inazuma Eleven already had enough similarities with the Pokémon games to get most Pokéfans excited. But with this second outing here in the UK (in Japan they are already way ahead of us) they have added one more similarity by releasing the game in two different flavours. Subtitled as “Firestorm” and “Blizzard”, which could just as easily be Red and Blue, these variations of Inazuma Eleven 2 offer a few subtle differences, such as different players for your football team and a different “love interest” (I use that term loosely), to tempt the fans to pay out for and play through what is already a massive game twice. Other than these minor differences, it is business as usual.
What I mean is not that there is very little difference between the two different flavours of Inazuma Eleven 2, but that there is very little difference between this game and the first Inazuma Eleven game. The main difference is the story, and possibly the size. Otherwise, anyone who has played the first game in the series will know exactly what to expect this time around. In fact, as the game seems to assume that the player has already played the first game and gives very little by way of introduction, if you have never dipped your toe into the post-match shower that is Inazuma Eleven, then you would do yourself a favour by passing on this title for the time being and seeking out a copy of the original game first. It will just make it that bit more enjoyable.
So, the story follows on almost directly from the first game and I am not going to spoil that for those of you who are rushing out to buy it. However, things take a most bizarre twist in this sequel as Raimon Junior High, home to the Raimon Eleven football team that players will have carefully and painstakingly built up in the first game, gets destroyed by aliens. I didn’t see that coming! These are not just any aliens, mind you. These are football playing aliens from the Alius Academy. So it will be up to our hero, and the player, to once again start gathering the best players they can find from all over Japan, with over 1500 available, and save the day.
So far as stories go, it certainly keeps things interesting. Very few sequels follow things on quite as directly as this one has, which is nice as the original game was only released last year and will likely be fresh in the minds of any fans. The game continues to offer the same gameplay style as the previous title – as I said, very little has changed – and will have the player wandering around different areas, finding new items and players for the team, and playing football matches, both full on and little knock-abouts.
This is perhaps where I felt most disappointed. The football playing mechanic, which is this games’ equivalent of battling as fisticuffs is never on the agenda, has remeained the same, and I was not keen the first time around. Players use their stylus to control their team on the screen with tapping and planning routes along which the player can run. I still find this all a bit fiddly and contrasting to the smooth flow of the rest of the game. Different players still have special abilities that can be used on the pitch, and there is still a high level of tactical thinking when it comes to choosing your team.
Visually, the game looks just as good as before, with the familiar RPG distance view populated by bobble-headed characters, and the impressive cut-scenes. The game will demand a massive investment of time, which will please the fans no end, and can be a bit of an uphill struggle in the early hours, especially if you refuse to heed my advice and play the original game first. All things considered, there is very little wrong with the game, with even the football mechanic problem only being a matter of taste. It is just that the subject matter feels a little too obscure to ever allow this game to be anything more than a niche hit. But, hey, I could be wrong…
I could never really get excited about the first game, partially because I am not that keen on football. However, it would seem that I was in the minority, simply because the original game seemed to stay in the DS charts (at least at my local supermarket) for an incredibly long time. Given this, and the fact that the game has changed very little from the first outing, I am sure that there are plenty of fans out there that will be incredibly eager to get their hands on either Firestorm or Blizzard, or maybe even both, and they will be very happy with what they get. An RPG that incorporates football and Pokémon-style obsessive collecting that will keep them busy for many hours. It is still a strange little beast, but I can understand the appeal.