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Inazuma Eleven Review

Football mixed with a Japanese RPG makes for a beautiful game

Inazuma Eleven is a riotous, creative take on the beautiful game. Exuberant, victorious and silly in equal measures, there has never quite been a football game like it.

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The story focuses on talented young goalkeeper Mark Evans. He's a pupil at Raimon school and pretty much the only kid interested in keeping the school's weary football club going. When exceptionally skilled striker, Axel Blaze, transfers to the school, Evans takes it upon himself to convince the kid to join the club and sets off to try to gather a team in order to enter the inter-schools tournament.

A Game Of Two Halves

Much of the game plays out like a soccer-themed Pokémon, in which you roam the school premises, chatting to other pupils while trying to inspire them to support the team, and attempting to recruit the finest of the 1,000-odd players dotted around the city to join its ranks.

A cute, engaging story is delivered in the Japanese RPG style, with set-pieces, cut-scenes and simple side quest missions. There are scores of treasure chests filled with stamina replenishing drinks and bits of sportswear to improve the performance of your star players.

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The other half of the game is a unique take on football. Using the stylus you draw lines on the pitch to direct your team, who follow the paths you make for them. Meanwhile, tapping on the screen will allow your player in possession to pass to a teammate. When you near the opposing team's goal you simply tap on the area of the net that you wish to target, and launch a strike towards it in a beautiful arc.

A Shameful Challenge

Inazuma Eleven's matches play out as a strange mix of real time tactics and RPG-style micro-battles. For example, while it's possible to intercept a pass between two opposing players, when tackling an opponent the game pauses entirely and presents you with two options for the challenge. You choose one of these (A safe tackle or a more risky sliding tackle, for example) and the game then calculates whether the tackle is to be effective or not based on your character's ability and current stamina level. Either way, a cut-scene shows the result of the skirmish, before play begins again.

Likewise, when you take a shot on goal, or when the opposing team takes a shot on your goal, the game pauses and you are presented with two basic options for a shot or save.

Certain characters also unlock special moves after time - God Hand, Fire Tornado and Fire Shot being prime examples of these. If your character has enough points during a match to pull off one of these moves (which work much like Pokémon's Technical Machines), then when lining up a shot, tackle or save, you'll be able to select their individual super technique.

It's nothing short of an ingenious set-up and, while there's the odd glitch, in general matches are fast-paced and exciting. There's exactly the right balance between thoughtful strategy and out-and-out action, and, thanks to the story that frames each and every key match, it always feels like there is everything to play for.

Can You Manage?

The team management side of Inazuma Eleven offers a dizzying amount of strategy to sink your teeth into. When talent scout Celia joins the club you can send her out to scout for players of a particular position, or club. After a while you can revisit her in the team's tiny wooden clubhouse where she will give you a list of potential transfers, and a clue as to where to find each.

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14 comments so far...
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  1. CyberGW Thursday 25th Aug 2011 at 14:50

    You've posted it online ALREADY????
    I know it's an edited version but still, I've not even had time to read it in the mag yet!

  2. 3DDCaptinJ Thursday 25th Aug 2011 at 14:54

    I'm not a big fan of Football games, but I'm seriously considering this. It looks like a great mix of football and RPG. :D

  3. tomonm Thursday 25th Aug 2011 at 15:24

    You've posted it online ALREADY????
    I know it's an edited version but still, I've not even had time to read it in the mag yet!

    Well it is out tomorrow

  4. TheRedPlumber Thursday 25th Aug 2011 at 16:04

    Never been a massive fan of JRPG. I'll avoid.

  5. SunnyIsland Thursday 25th Aug 2011 at 17:55

    Huge fan of Inazuma Eleven here! I imported the Japanese one and it is very good :) Glad that I'll be able to get the english one now. If you love cute characters, RPGs and anime cutscenes, then I highly recommend this game!

  6. zapper01 Thursday 25th Aug 2011 at 18:51

    I've never really liked football much but your review has convinced me, so I might get it eventually. Plus it's got a team of Professor Layton characters, although I heard you can't play as them which makes me sad.

  7. imbusydoctorwho Thursday 25th Aug 2011 at 22:36

    I don't like football but it does sound quite good,dno,I need to try it first before I decide.

  8. eternalmidnight Friday 26th Aug 2011 at 08:27

    I'll pick this up when it's on sale :) What I really want to see is an Eyeshield 21 game, same as this different sport but based on an awesome anime :)

  9. super yoshifan Friday 26th Aug 2011 at 22:42

    I'm a huge football fan but the anime/general arcady mix is putting me off slightly.

  10. Super Andre Sunday 28th Aug 2011 at 15:30

    I've ordered this game today. :D

  11. RTY1998 Wednesday 7th Sep 2011 at 17:13

    It's funny how much Inazuma 11 is like Pokemon. I would go as far as saying it was the best Pokemon clone ever! Not as good as Pokemon though.

  12. PickleHB Sunday 9th Oct 2011 at 20:33

    I do not like football, not regular season, not international. But I do like Level 5s commitment to quality gaming and story telling. After reading the review I bought this to fill in the quiet moments at work and while my wife watches X-Factor and am hooked. Great game, strategy could be a bit deeper but hopefully sequel will be released with more of everything. Love this game, do not let any sports or JRPG prejudices stop you from getting it

  13. Samster296 Sunday 9th Oct 2011 at 20:39

    I like the Mario football games very much, so I will get this game probably at the beggining of 2012

  14. kylewithaface Tuesday 25th Oct 2011 at 18:17

    i hope that they bring the sequels to england because i dont think the Japanese have english subtitles

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