Captain Tsubasa: Rise of New Champions begins years after what we saw in the anime, when our favorite players are part of the youth national team of Japan, and when they are playing the final against Germany. It’s in the climax of this game that we are invited to be part of all the past events that led Tsubasa Ozora and his team to this epic moment.
We can choose to play two different story modes. Episode: Tsubasa follows the twists and turns of the anime and Episode: New Hero featuring an entirely new plot. If we choose to start with the story of Tsubasa Ozora, we go back to his beginnings in high school, right after his mentor, Roberto Hongo, came back to Brazil when Tsubasa’s Nankatsu won the national championship against Kojiro’s Hyuga Toho. Fans of the anime should eat it up.
Each game is adorned with incredible action sequences in which you will learn more about the rivals, their special shots, and it’s also where we can also unlock cinematics that pay tribute to the work of Yoichi Takahashi in an exceptional way. If you are not very familiar with the anime, in this same game mode you gain access to additional content to understand Tsubasa’s story from the beginning. At this point if you really want to have the full experience, you might want to check out the actual show to become fully invested.
The “New Hero Mode” is a completely different story (that takes place after Tsubasa’s arc) in which you create your character from scratch, sign him up for your favorite high school team (you have three choices) and accompany him until he gets good enough to become one of the members of the Japanese national team. In this case, the plot is a bit more elaborate than in the Tsubasa story, and we can select responses that impact the story during the dialogue scenes that precede the matches. It mixes an RPG component with the action of an arcade soccer game to give you a true sense of progression as you constantly improve your character as you advance.
There’s a lot of game here. Both of the single player stories took us over 20 hours of play time, and the New Hero mode can be replayed with different story by selecting one of the other three competing schools.
Captain Tsubasa: Rise of New Champions flees from a simulation game to be faithful to the animated series. The game system is simple, and perfectly reflects the games we have watched on television. In this case, the players’ spirits are reflected as a spirit bar above their heads, which is automatically refilled and reduced when performing special actions (dribbling, racing, or shooting on target). On the other hand, the goalkeeper’s bar empties with each stop, so — in a simplified version of soccer — the game is all about exhausting the rival goalkeeper enough to finally score a goal.
Sweeps and dribbles require certain “timing” to be effective, but we got used to it in a very short time and the game itself is very intuitive. Each team plays with their own tactics and unlocks the “Trademarks Shoots” of each player, without a doubt one of highlights of the game. In order not to lose your rhythm, it is impossible to commit a foul or receive a yellow or red card, so at times we feel that it is the best mix between a fighting game and a soccer game and it blends perfectly.
As mentioned, the story mode is quite intensive and will give you a ton of stuff to do. If multiplayer is more your jam, you can play locally with up to four players or online with against a friend. The game managed to keep our attention thanks to the large amount of unlockable content of all kinds, incentivizing us to keep playing to earn more rewards.
Captain Tsubasa‘s technical section is remarkable. The recreation of the players with cel shading (3D models with the appearance of cartoons) is great, and the fields are as spectacular as I remember as a child, always packed to the brim, as if it were the Champions League final, rather than a little high school soccer game. The animations and effects are neat, and they even leave some effects on the grass after executing the most powerful shots. One of the things that this game does quite well is to make you feel that you are in control of the story and the games, when in reality each action of the opposing team is very thought out to give rise to an incredible cinematic and receive an unexpected goal, which forces you to reverse these situations and giving more excitement to the game.
However, not all is perfect. Some of the low points include some framerate drops and messy AI of the players that you are not controlling that seems “lost” in the field sometimes, especially right after they lost the ball and on occasion they don’t seem to follow the action correctly. If you are not a big fan of reading and want to go straight to the action, you may find some dialogues and backstories a little bit long and you will end up skipping most of them. So again, this is more of a fan-service game, which means newcomers might be a little put off with all the anime happening.
In short, this is not a game for lovers of soccer simulators like FIFA or PES, but it is the right choice if you are an anime lover or a great follower of this saga. Personally, I grew up playing the early versions of soccer games, such as International Superstar Soccer and Winning Eleven, when soccer games were all about scoring and have fun, despite mechanics or super graphics. So it has been quite an experience to be able to become part of Tsubasa’s story through this game that it gets to me almost 20 years after having played some of its first previous versions on SNES and just after having finished one of the last anime reboots released in 2018. Having grown up with Tsubasa and his friends in the ‘90s, it is fair to say that Bandai Namco has made a huge effort to deliver a title faithful to the nostalgia of the most passionate fans, and also deliver an entertaining arcade game full of hours of soccer and fun.
Captain Tsubasa: Rise of New Champions Review
- Graphics - 7.5/107.5/10
- Sound - 7.5/107.5/10
- Gameplay - 8/108/10
- Lasting Appeal - 7.5/107.5/10
Final Thoughts: GOOD
Captain Tsubasa is a fun arcade soccer game that perfectly reflects the world of Tsubasa and his friends, reliving the high points of the manga and the animated series. Each game is a unique experience and its story mode offers long hours of fun and replayability. Technically, it is not intended to compete with the most popular soccer games, but it is still a challenging alternative either to play alone or with your friends. If you like the anime, go for it!
Pancho is a video game & geek culture enthusiast, podcaster, and old school gamer ready to go back to the ’90s and get stuck there forever!