Never satisfied with their success, Raimon Junior High’s sporting youngsters are back complete with their infectious enthusiasm for everything football – once more taking to the pitch as they look to reign victorious in the Frontier International Championships.
When Coach Hillman announces that he will retire he passes leadership to “cursed” Coach Travis, left to handpick Japan’s best players to form the Inazuma National team. With the youngsters often at odds in misunderstanding his secretive and yet strict approach, LEVEL-5’s latest Inazuma entry continues to portray how integral trust and respect can be for a team to realise their full potential. A lesson in morales then, but alas we’ve actually experienced this before just a few months ago.
Whilst cloaked under the guise of an entirely new release, Inazuma Eleven 3: Team Ogre Attacks! heavily recycles content that fans will have enjoyed within last September’s Inazuma Eleven 3: Lightning Bolt and Bomb Blast. That isn’t so problematic for newcomers of course, but threatens to derail enthusiasm from those pining for a new adventure and who will most likely purchase Inazuma Eleven 3: Team Ogre Attacks! with such expectation. Even the most diehard of Inazuma supporters will easily tire as they retread through the same animated cutscenes and conversations for the second time.
In some sense, it can be seen to share a similar relationship as that which Pokémon Platinum holds as the third cog to Diamond and Pearl, players tackling the Asian preliminaries as they set out to win the Frontier International Championships as before, with LEVEL-5 interspersing this with new plot devices and a handful of new footballers to enlist.
As can be expected from the game’s title, we see Team Ogre emerge as a prominent threat to Inazuma National, an elite unit who have travelled back in time as part of Operation Thunderbreak. Under the command of a villainous Admiral Hillman some eighty years into the future, they hatch a sinister plot to erase football’s existence from history with goalie Mark Evans and his irrepressible fondness for the sport as their target. Step in the time-jumping Canon Evans, his great grandchild, to thwart such menace and the new story slices present enough to interest those more heavily invested in the onward progression that the series has endured.
As always, it is the stylus-controlled football matches that remain Inazuma Eleven’s most exhilarating component, even if they don’t individually last as long as you’d wish. Flicking passes between players as you make connected runs up the pitch is a unique and well-implemented proposition, continuing to remain unmatched by any game on the handheld let alone within the genre. Special moves fuel this part of the experience whether dodging around opposing players or powering up a fiery salvo of shots on goal, providing enough spectacle in eye-popping 3D. Special tactics and using multiple players to chain moves whenever shooting at your opponents goal are new strings to Inazuma’s bow, also seen in Inazuma Eleven 3: Lightning Bolt and Bomb Blast, although don’t prove enough of a necessity for success.
Inazuma Eleven 3: Team Ogre Attacks! continues to remain disappointing in the visual department, LEVEL-5 having once again hastily ported across the DS original complete with muddy sprites. The 3D display is often wasted on scoreboards and map overviews, which is a shame considering the developer’s prowess in negotiating the Professor Layton series’ transition to the 3DS. It’s an inevitable frustration, especially compared to what is being achieved on the handheld three years into its lifecycle.
The game can also be fairly punishing to those that forget to save regularly. Failing any of the key matches that adorn the game’s core storyline will see you immediately greeted with a Game Over screen, and returned to the main menu to reload your save. With the series targeted toward a younger audience, this endangers such situations from regularly occurring and a lack of an autosave before such points is a clear oversight.
It will be the Inazuma faithful that feel most burned by Inazuma Eleven 3: Team Ogre Attacks!, the game failing to elevate the series any further beyond that which has already been achieved, whilst falling far below expectation. As always it is the game’s frantic and yet addictive playing mechanics that will compel you throughout the experience, but what remains clear is that we’re at a point where exclusive characters and special moves aren’t enough.
To have us chanting our support once again it is high time that the series undergoes a more significant shift, and whether the Inazuma Eleven GO trilogy can provide that is something that we’re already keen to discover.