With the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil now beckoning, Nintendo is looking to tap into the football frenzy with the neatly timed arrival of Inazuma Eleven GO: Light and Inazuma Eleven GO: Shadow. The unconquerable Raimon Eleven are easily able to best anything the international squads could ever throw at them but is their return worth a punt?
Everything isn’t quite as cheery in the world of Inazuma Eleven, where we pick up 10 years after Inazuma National took the prize in the Football Frontier International contest. Raimon Junior High is now recognised as a centre of footballing excellence, and we now find ourselves following the midfielder Arion Sherwind, who newly transferred to the renowned school. As sickeningly enthusiastic about the sport as Mark Evans, his immediate ambition is to join the school’s football club.
Unbeknown to him, modern football has been overshadowed by Fifth Sector, a regulating body that standardises training programmes across all schools and fixes matches by issuing orders detailing what the final score should be. Weighed down by such predetermined outcomes, players have lost their passion for the sport and no longer play to the best of their ability resigned to the fact that if they disobey it will affect their school grades. It’s a sorry situation, but if Mark Evans’s story arc was a triumph against adversity then Sherwind’s tale is a full-blown football uprising.
If anything this is the series’ true transition to 3DS, after Europe played catch up with Inazuma Eleven 3 and Team Ogre Attacks! this past year. It’s a much-needed evolution, although one that still retains the same essence in approach that fans have now come to expect.
As young Sherwind, players will look to recruit the ultimate team that, through reigniting their love for the sport, will rise up against Fifth Sector and win the Saints Way’s youth football tournament. You’ll traipse back and forth between the city’s locations as you progress through the story, continuing to be told through overly ecstatic voice over, conversational sequences and cutscenes. Shops, training spots and photo opportunities are present everywhere you visit, distractions that will see you continue to build your team with specific photos needed to be taken to recruit certain players to your cause.
While the plot is riddled with enough intrigue to drive you through, Inazuma Eleven GO continues to be heavily laden with text and this is often to the detriment of the experience. This frustration is heightened by Chat Lock instances where you are encouraged to speak to all NPCs with smiley yellow speech bubbles hovering above them, although you’ll soon learn to make a dash straight for the red counterpart as that results in advancing the narrative.
It’s on the pitch where the game’s appeal is resoundingly realised. We once again shift to stylus control as you take direct command of your team, passing and shooting with the ball or rushing to retake possession from your opponents. Elements types continue to come into play, although still lack in-game clarity. Offensive and defensive Special Moves remain a breathtaking assault on the senses, whether that be the virtuosic shots of Raimon captain Riccardo Di Rigo or the runaway trains, monstrous walls, and metal-clad knights that your team can conjure to help you seize the upper hand.
Special Tactics return, putting your whole team to use as you ping the ball up the pitch or rush to defend against an onslaught, but we’re treated to a new addition in Fighting Spirits. These summonable ethereal creatures empower the player that called upon them, raising their statistics and granting them access to an even more ridiculous array of Special Moves. Levelled through regular use, they can become embroiled in a Spirit Duel if you cross paths with an opposing player who is also temporarily supported by one. Up to three can be on the pitch at any one time, so prepare yourselves for craziness…
Gone are random encounters, designated NPCs instead scattered around every location that you wander awaiting you to approach them to challenge when you wish. This means that it is solely the player’s responsibility to efficiently level your team to raise their statistics. Fear not as whenever you’re about to play a key Match Mission in the story, the game will indicate what your team level should be at that point for you to scurry off to get some further practice in where needed.
Match Missions are orchestrated by objectives, requiring you to get the ball a certain distance up the pitch or have a specific player run into a dotted circle with it before triggering a story sequence. This can be an annoyance, but you will find plenty of uninterrupted match experiences elsewhere to satisfy you. That encompasses Competition Routes, a board that rewards you for progressing across it by winning matches, local multiplayer matches with friends, and StreetPass that will see you exchange team data with those that you pass.
There’s still nothing quite like the Inazuma Eleven experience, and in Inazuma Eleven GO: Light and Inazuma Eleven GO: Shadow we can witness a return to form for the series. Introducing daring elements that shake up expectation, it’s certainly worth taking to the pitch once more to lead the Raimon Eleven to glory.