Captain Tsubasa: Rise of New Champions is an adaptation of the Shonen anime and manga written by Yoichi Takahashi, originally in the 80s. As I was born in the early 90s, I could only have true knowledge of the series in 2002, in one of its last transmissions in a national TV channel. I must confess that I never was into soccer. Neither cheered up for any team. I only have a bit of interest in watching the World Cup or these bigger events. However, Captain Tsubasa always knew how to hook me up, through a well made Japanese drama plus charismatic characters, which I fell in love with at first contact – even though I didn’t like soccer at all.
That said, Captain Tsubasa: Rise of New Champions was developed by Tamsoft and published by Bandai Namco. Although, it’s not its first appearance in the game market, having some past released games for older generations, like GBA, PS2 and GameCube, with a more card game approach or through arcade ones mixed with tactical elements.
For the first time, thanks to the actual technology, we can get basically an anime perfectly translated into a video game, with gorgeous graphics (except the background scenario), cel-shading visuals and cutscenes with high-fidelity to the series. Differently from DBZ: Kakarot, Bandai Namco didn’t seem to worry about telling players the exact story from the anime, and that’s a relief: I don’t want to watch a game.
Here, the first match introduces you to the game through a short tutorial which lets you play the game while it teaches you. You start Rise of New Champions under the control of the Japan’s National Team, led by the Captain Tsubasa Ozora. As it couldn’t be missing, special kicks from some extremely important characters, such as Hyuga, Misugi and Tsubasa himself, are also presented in the first minutes. After the prologue, which lasts until the game is over, the main menu is enabled with all the game options right away. Actually, almost that, since only three national teams are available initially in “free mode”. The story mode is the main draw of Captain Tsubasa: Rise of New Champions, especially for those who followed the anime from the beginning to end. This option is split into two episodes.
Tsubasa, which is about the history of Tsubasa in his third consecutive victory in the national championship, plus some flashbacks of his youth championship and memories of the protagonist with his school team, the Nankatsu Junior High School Club, to his final goal and professional career in the sport. It is a very useful episode for those who are not familiar with the anime and the characters, doing a decent job of telling the story of Tsubasa and building the necessary empathy. Despite this, it is very short and lasts a few matches.
New Hero: here you can create your own character and follow a side story, making it possible to choose between three different teams and a position on the field to follow a unique trajectory. The attraction of this one is precisely the construction of its player and the possibility of creating relationships with important chars playing games along with them, to gain their skills and equip to your own character, which evolves when showing a good performance in the matches through dribbles, saves and goals scored. Your stats and attributes also go up, as does your rank.
Despite the gameplay being accompanied by a lot of cutscenes and a storytelling so loyal to the series in the Tsubasa game option, I didn’t have a great feeling of slow pacing the way it was done. I may be suspicious, but the charisma of the characters and lines of dramatic dialogue worthy of the anime helped a lot to keep pace all the time, holding my attention to everything that was being talked about. For those who already know the history of the series, you know how simple and clear it is – ok, it’s also very tangled. And although the focus is on soccer, the shine has always been the interaction between characters and the message about the importance of friendship, the persisting and exceeding their limits.
In addition, during the matches, some cutscenes are shown to help to illustrate the moment and not let the player forget he is playing something based on Super Champions and not on a soccer sim. There are characteristic and nostalgic scenes, even during the game, such as Tsubasa’s Drive Shot, the defences of Wakashimazu and Wakabayashi, also Hyuga’s determined spirit with his more aggressive football.
I need to say that Captain Tsubasa: Rise of New Champions is incredibly unique. The game transpires the anime and brings all the emotion existing in the television series, through the contagious songs, dramatic scenes and the characteristic voices of characters in moments where the ball is touched and the teammates’ names are shouted.
Soundtracks are also an important aspect here and there to help convey very well the emotion that the game wants to give you. It’s easy to feel in an episode of the anime while the game is going on, even more with the absence of fouls (the rules are composed by the side, goal kick, corner and offside), close moments in the goalkeeper defending the goal, iconic kicks from striking characters, the ball receiving an overwhelming boost and aerial disputes for its possession.
However, truth be told: Captain Tsubasa Rise of New Champions is much more an anime game than a football game. Despite the high fidelity to the iconic characteristics of the series, the gameplay is not the most suitable for fans of the best known games of the sport. Often it seemed better fitting in the fighting genre than in soccer one. There is a requirement to score goals here: to decrease the goalkeeper’s Stamina. This element is nothing more than a yellow bar contained above each character. When this bar runs out and turns red, the respective player is very vulnerable to get the ball stolen.
The goalkeeper goes through the same stuff and is quite likely to take goals as soon as his Stamina ends. Until then, the defence chances are extremely high. I would say that it’s almost impossible to score through the basics without totally “weakening” it, except if there is a completely ridiculous advantage, such as the goalkeeper being away, or the player being completely face to face with the goal.
The recommended way to achieve a more certain score is to abuse the characters’ special kicks – each consuming a specific amount of the player’s Stamina, around 50% -, knocking the goalkeeper’s Stamina at a relatively high speed. Sometimes the goal can come out in just one attempt, making use of the main characters’ skills very close to the goalkeeper, but I haven’t managed this feat constantly. Alternatively, it is possible to score goals through crosses followed by truly stylish kicks, but only if the character has an equipped aerial kick ability. Otherwise, your chances are almost zero.
If the opponent presses the kick command at the same time during an intersection, his aerial strike turns into a dispute for the ball in a quick gameplay of smashing button and an intensity bar, deciding the situation through a real tug of war that can also result in a goal. Anyway, the most used strategy will always be to dribble two opponents in a row using the ZR (using Stamina) to perform a combo that results in a quick and immediate gain of Stamina, and this is most effective when done close to the goalkeeper to give that special shot very close to the goal, greatly increasing your chances of scoring.
It is also possible to use, by pressing ZL, something that the game calls V-Zone, a bar is at the bottom of the screen and fills up as you can successfully perform dribbles and other stunts. Basically, it is a way to push your players to the limit and fill the special kick bar much faster – guaranteeing no special resistance against the opponent. The advantage is that the V-Zone guarantees a perfect defence with the right cutscene of your goalkeeper, if the ZL is pressed at the moment of the opponent’s kick – you will feel tactile feedback through vibration.
In case it’s not still clear, PES or FIFA lovers can expect something completely different from what they are used to, and I say that in all aspects of the game. I recently played some more arcade soccer titles, like Golazo! – also available for Nintendo Switch -, which could have taught Captain Tsubasa, some good lessons about how an arcade soccer is supposed to behave, and how to mix essential things of the simulation genre with it.
Captain Tsubasa: Rise of New Champions also has several modes available. Besides the story mode, there is the Versus mode, training, custom championships and the beloved online mode. The games over the internet are very competent and allow us to play with up to four people, 2 on each side, besides the creation and search of restricted rooms – with password – or public. There are two modes available to play online: Versus and Championship. Unfortunately, there is no way for two people on the same console to go online together, something I really missed.
Apart from game modes, in the store menu there are also several unlockables to apply to your player, both cosmetics and some equipable items useful to speed up the ranking and other aspects of the story mode. This is where card packs are sold and work like loot boxes, but bought with in-game money, fortunately and that can give you cards from characters we have already come across in the storyline to increase the relationship between them and our custom player. As an extra, there is an option to set up your own teams. It’s possible to include your custom player and famous characters from other teams, creating a true Dream Team that is almost unbeatable.
Despite being an incredible game for the anime fans, certain things are likely to depart many players who have not yet been hooked by the content on which the game is based. The biggest flaw in Tsubasa: Rise of New Champions is the excess of cutscenes and chit-chat that can irritate those who are not so interested in the story. Many of them can’t be skipped, either, and that got me quite bored in matches where I had to re-match three or four times for being defeated. I had to see the same scene before, during and moments near the end of the match, as they were part of the plot and were mandatory. In the story mode, in the New Hero episode, it intensifies a lot, and I ended up focusing much more on the games and skipping every single cutscene.
Another flaw is the soccer sim mechanics itself. As the focus here is to bring up the anime feeling, some commands in sport simulators leave to be desired, and I’m talking about fundamental things – well, they proved to be lacking here. It’s impossible to perform a false kick, and once you hold the special kick command to attack and wait for the ridiculously slow Stamina bar to fill up, there is no way to pass to a teammate unless you press the R button first to dodge and cancel while emptying the kick power. It is a boring and unnatural process, which makes the player completely vulnerable and could have been better designed.
It is also quite common to feel that the match is decided only by a sequence of dribbling combined with special shots. And this is easily noted when the Stamina rises after consecutive dribbling while standing with the ball in its foot, which culminates so that the character has a good chance of success with his respective skill and kicks the goal. It basically turns into a timing game that relies on special kicks, largely ignoring ordinary characters without special skills, requiring the player to use and, again, to abuse the Stamina system.
Another thing that doesn’t help at all is the extremely limited camera. There are 3 options, and they all remain inclined in the same way, hindering the wide view of the field when trying to identify where your mates are. Several times I felt extremely dependent on the radar, even more so in the story mode, matches where sometimes the uniforms of both teams are similar and we cannot even change the colour.
The online mode, although competent, has lag and bugs. I played games with players teleporting a lot and moments when I couldn’t finish the game, since the ball “stuck” in places inaccessible to the characters or the goalkeeper simply left the field with the ball in hand and nobody could take it from him. However, most of the time I got a solid and pleasant experience.
Last and not least, as already mentioned, at the beginning we have only 3 national teams available (Japan, England and Uruguay), and the rest are school teams existing in the anime, being necessary to unlock the others playing the New Hero mode until the end, and fulfilling some very demanding challenges to release other national teams considered secret. Honestly, Captain Tsubasa: Rise of New Champions is an excellent game based on anime, something relatively difficult to happen in the scenario where we have different adaptations with mediocre results with the sole objective of making money on top of nostalgia and love of fans for the content. It’s indeed an incredible title for lovers of the Captain Tsubasa series, even with excess cutscenes that, fortunately, can be ignored mostly. However, when it comes to soccer sim, the game is lacking, delivering you frustration. Finally, the Switch version still needs some performance patches to be offered as the best option against the PS4 version. These are constant drops in fps, both on the dock and on the handheld which shows the bad optimization for the Nintendo console.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Captain Tsubasa: Rise of New Champions Review
Gameplay - 6/10
Graphics - 7/10
Sound - 10/10
Replay Value - 10/10
User Review( votes)
As a soccer game, Captain Tsubasa: Rise of New Champions actually is a great anime adaptation. You know what I mean.