Well, they didn't hang about with this one, did they? It was only seven months ago that we were singing the praises of Inazuma Eleven, Level-5's football RPG. Since then it seems that Nintendo's localisation teams have been working overtime because now here we are with the sequel already. Of course, it's worth bearing in mind that in Japan it took more than a year for Inazuma 2 to be released, so don't let the short turnaround time here fool you into thinking this was a rush job. If anything, Inazuma 2 is even longer than its predecessor.
Set just a week after the events of the first game, Inazuma Eleven 2 sees Mark and the rest of Raimon Eleven meeting up again to resume training. Things don't go to plan when they hear a large explosion at their school.
The explosion was caused by aliens from the interplanetary Alius Academy who want to use football to destroy the world. It's up to Raimon Eleven to literally beat Alius at their own game, but before that they'll need to go on a recruitment drive across the whole of Japan in search of the finest players around.
Yoooou're Not Changing Anymore
Anyone who's played the original Inazuma Eleven will be either delighted or disappointed (depending on taste) to discover that the sequel is much the same as the original. Obviously it's a completely new story, with new locations, characters and special moves, but everything else, including the football system, remains mainly unchanged.
It's as if the original game just continued another 30-40 hours after you finished it (not before returning all your characters' stats to Lv 1, of course).
For those new to the series then, this means Inazuma Eleven still has a great football-based battle system, where you use the stylus to pass the ball and move players across the screen while using players' abilities, stats and a bit of luck to dodge tackles, steal the ball and take shots.
It can take a while to get used to how it works and the game does your confidence no favours when the opening few matches are rigged to make you lose in order to progress the story, causing many newcomers to wonder what it is they're doing wrong and why every decision goes against them. Stick with it though and eventually you get into the swing of things, planning your own tactics on the fly and identifying which of your players are the key ones you want to build attacks around.
There's Only Two Inazumas
What sets Inazuma Eleven 2 apart from its predecessor is Level 5's decision to go down the Pokemon route and release the game as two separate editions - Firestorm edition and Blizzard edition. Much like Pokemon, the differences between the two are minimal, with only very slight differences in the story - Mark will become closer to a different girl depending on which version you play, with said girl then able to join the team - and certain version-exclusive players who can only be recruited in that game.
The latter may seem like a big deal but with a massive 1500 possible players to recruit throughout the game it's not like you're missing out on any Pokemon-style attempts to catch them all.
Fans of the first Inazuma Eleven will be chuffed to bits with this sequel because it's from the "if it ain't broke don't fix it" school. The things you loved and hated about the first game are more or less directly replicated in the second, so it's more a continuation of the story than an evolution of the gameplay. That's no bad thing as the the original was so good. It's worth bearing in mind that Inazuma 2 assumes you've already played through the first game and you know all the characters already, so if you're new to the series it would be best to hunt down a copy of the original first.