Summoning God's own hand to intercept a shot powered by supernatural wolves. A seven-foot teenager with the face of a Toby Jug. The offside rule. To those unacquainted with Inazuma Eleven, these statements could be alienating, to say the least.
A true fan, however, might find them banal enough to flick their pristine Mark Evans ultra-quiff and sigh something like, "Been there, kicked that... with a huge boot made of ghosts." This is the thing about fan service. With every new attempt to please your interest group, that group demands more, while everyone else gets pushed further away. In its jump to 3DS the world's only football-RPG is a perfect example.
Functionally, visually and narratively, this is more or less identical to its DS forebears. Mark Evans is still the chirpiest child ever to be in near-constant mourning for a grandfather he never met. A team of unspeakably powerful magic users still needs to be assembled to play a football tournament (this time, a world youth cup) that could decide the fate of the planet. Play is still a 50/50 split between plod-about-town Poké-venturing and quietly revolutionary, touchscreen-situated strategy. If you've played Inazuma, you'll know what's going on.
If you haven't however, it'll take a fair bit of getting used to. Such is the commitment to an existing fanbase that the story starts out of nowhere, with seemingly important characters wafting in and out of the central plot with no introduction. Tutorials explaining both the methods and reasoning behind collecting the hundreds of potential players and how they're used in matches are reduced to picture-filled slideshows that communicate the basics and nothing more besides.
It's not insurmountable - the story is paper-thin and the benefit of the action-strategy battles/matches is that you learn as much from trying things out in unimportant encounters as you do by painstakingly micromanaging stats - but it's by no means welcoming.
It's also an increasingly dated format. The long sections of essentially un-interactive story (now peppered with FMV scenes that draw from the series' sister animé) jar with the still-brilliant action of playing matches, which mixes a manager's arrow-strewn tactics blackboard with obscenely over-the-top JRPG spellcasting.
The only concession to the 3DS' increased cart size is in attempting to remedy that imbalance by increasing how much there is for you to play. The ability to create several Connect Teams, used in mini-tournaments activated through a sort of treasure hunt across Japan or to link up matches with other players, means there are far more opportunities to just stop for a proper 11-a-side game.
Even that has its problems, though. Story characters are grossly overpowered in all match-ups, meaning building a collection of 'wild' players doesn't have the effect it once did. Finding a player who's above average for a level eight (or just has an amazing saucepan hat you'd like to see more of) means little when you'd have to grind for two hours to get them up to the standard of your story team.
Inazuma Eleven, then, retains its charm, quirks and problems. There are a few new facets, to be sure, but this is fan service at its most serviceable.