Raimon Eleven hit the pitch once more in this sequel to last year’s Nintendo DS release, Inazuma Eleven.
Having won the Football Frontier the team now faces an even greater challenge, as an alien team from Alius Academy arrives on Earth. Taught to use soccer as a means of destruction, they destroy Raimon Junior High School and set out to turn the other schools across Japan into similar wrecks.
Mark “football fanatic” Evans, Raimon’s goalkeeper, is horrified that his favourite sport is being used for such destructive means, and rallies his team to put an end to it. Without the strength to defeat Alius Academy with their current team, the Raimon Eleven hop aboard their minibus, the Inazuma Cabin, as they travel around Japan to recruit the very best players.
Whilst the most significant will be encountered through natural story progression, a scouting system, sourced through Coach Hillman, allows you to search for those that play in positions that you feel your team don’t quite excel in.
You can also spot new talent through indulging within ‘Competition Route’, a series of matches in which you play against rival teams that also allows you to level your current players. This mode proves a notable aside to the core game, with its reward soon becoming apparent.
Matches are once again played from a top-down perspective, team movement being directed through drawing lines with the stylus from individual players. With the ball, tapping a spot on the pitch sees you perform a pass in that direction, whereas tapping your opponent’s goal, once you’re near enough, will allow you to perform a shot.
Stumbling into the path of another player on the pitch will see you enter a command duel, in which your statistics and element type will be compared with the opposing player to determine a Form value.The player with the higher value will therefore either succeed in retaining or regaining possession of the ball.
Each player, and their special moves are assigned their own element between Air, Wood, Fire and Earth, each having their own strengths.
These must be exploited to succeed, Air beating Earth, Earth pounding Fire, Fire besting Wood and Wood triumphing over Air. Similarly, the power of special moves can be increased if used by a player with the same element. Such special moves are a clear highlight, players leaping into the air to unleash a fiery tornado as they kick the ball never becoming tiresome.
Once during a match, you can also press L (or R) to fire up your team, immediately making their shots more powerful, lowering TP usage, and increasing their chances of winning command duels.
Predictably, in most instances, you must win the match to progress. Although, when wandering around locations between central plot points, there are random encounters where local players will challenge you to score a goal or gain possession within a specified time limit.
Through playing matches you will level your team members, regularly making passes and besting your opponents in command duels rewarding you with a ‘Nice Play’ bonus that grants more experience points.
You will also earn both Prestige and Friendship points – the former being used to purchase items and equipment to boost the statistics of your team, whilst the latter is a necessity for recruiting new players.
With two versions, ‘Firestorm’ and ‘Blizzard’, each with exclusive content, you are encouraged to trade players with friends, as well as playing matches together.
Disappointingly, Inazuma Eleven 2 fails to establish itself much further than the boundaries set by the original, becoming marginally evolutionary rather than revolutionary. Still, there’s a solid foundation that remains to be built upon, and those that enjoyed Raimon’s first outing will surely find the sequel just as engaging. I just hope that LEVEL-5 are able to demonstrate more ambition within the next instalment, as Inazuma Eleven 2 regrettably plays it safe.