Having defeated Alius Academy to save Japan from catastrophic destruction, Raimon’s fearless footballers now find themselves taking on the world’s best as they train hard toward their participation in the Frontier International Championships in Inazuma Eleven 3.
Whittled down by Coach Hillman to form Inazuma National, they’re soon dismayed when they learn that their wise guide has relinquished his position and passed the mantle to “cursed” Coach Travis, who sees a return to the profession having served a mysterious ten-year ban. His strict approach takes the players by surprise, but is it what’s needed for them to succeed in the international arena?
LEVEL-5’s much beloved Inazuma Eleven series is back, gallantly striding up the pitch to shoot its uniquely football-infused RPG experience into your Nintendo 3DS cart slot for the first time. Fans will already know what to expect – the game’s tried and tested formula seeing you trudging across locations and level grinding your team to ensure sporting superiority over any competitors, with the meandering narrative weaving itself around that.
Camaraderie and respect for each another remain key moral pivots within Inazuma Eleven 3‘s narrative, with captain Mark Evans retaining his infectious enthusiasm for the sport to continually spur on his team. Newcomers Austin Hobbes and Archer Hawkins have their own inner demons to tackle, series regular Axel Blaze verges on bowing out on his football dreams when his Dad pulls rank in determining his career choice, and Italian player Paolo Bianchi’s touching quest to win the competition to raise funds for an operation to restore a young girl’s eyesight. While the story will most likely lack the depth that older players will seek, there’s an endearing charm throughout that echoes the youthful vigour present in recent Nintendo eShop release Attack of the Friday Monsters! A Tokyo Tale, helping to drive you through the game to completion.
Where Inazuma Eleven 3 loses pace on the field is that the game proves barely dissimilar to that which has come before. Visuals are a marginal improvement on that seen within its Nintendo DS predecessors, with the game’s universe failing to come alive through the handheld’s oft-flaunted stereoscopic 3D as the vast majority takes place on the lower touch screen.
Matches still amount to the game’s greatest strength, riotous occasions that see you blasting shots at the opposition’s goalkeeper empowered by arcane wolves, ferocious tigers and streaks of flame. Yet those tied to the plot are so often interjected by scripted instances that you barely have time to enjoy them – your team being awakened to new special moves or suddenly rallying themselves to victory after becoming downtrodden. Still, there’s much fun to be had in the joyous wackiness of it all, and the newly introduced special tactics see the entire team get involved and working cooperatively to make the most of the offensive or defensive opportunities as required to gain a temporary advantage.
The international teams that you face will keep you on your toes, each playing with their own unique strategies. From the water-ridden antics of Australia’s Big Waves to the tempestuous endurance of Qatar’s Desert lions, there’s much variety in the opposition that is thrown at you. Chaining moves seek to alleviate such challenge, though doesn’t elevate the game much beyond that which has come before it.
The Connection Map makes a return, inviting you to play against teams that you’ve previously bested in an effort to recruit their players, whilst the Scouting system is now randomised through slotting tokens into a capsule vending machine. Needless to say, your main team is so ridiculously empowered that you most likely won’t need the aid of either of these, though completionists will jump at the chance to gather the 2000-odd players that are housed in each version – even if there’s little incentive to trade between the two.
With Inazuma Eleven 2 I signalled my hope that LEVEL-5 would demonstrate more ambition with this successive entry, and that sadly isn’t to be found here. What we do unearth is much more of the same, although eased, refined and as full of energy as ever. For fans, that isn’t necessarily something to complain about, but more dramatic improvement is needed to push the series more aggressively up the pitch.