Much to the surprise of basically everyone, Bandai Namco announced that Captain Tsubasa: Rise of New Champions is one of the many anime titles that they’ll be bringing over to us loving weebs in the West. That’s us who are loving and weebs, not those of us who love weebs…
Anyway, Captain Tsubasa, for those not familiar with the title, is an anime/manga all about football. That’s the U.K. version of football, not the U.S. one with the plate armor, impenetrable rules, and the hut-hut hooray thing. The game focuses on the titular character, Tsubasa Oozara, a football prodigy who goes from schoolyard football all the way into the professional leagues.
One of the game’s biggest draws is the incredibly absurd special moves that the footballers perform. You get these flashy sequences where the power of a tiger is put into the football and the sheer force of it knocks the goalkeeper into the net with the ball in their hands. It’s absurd, and that’s what makes it great.
The game aims to keep that same feeling. It’s a full football match, with 11 players on each side. Each of these characters has their own strengths and weaknesses, and each of them has to be used to pull out a win. It’s genuinely tough to begin with, which could be good news for those of you who love a challenge.
You’ve got all your normal moves like passing, dribbling, and shooting, but you’ve also got some anime-specific stuff. Each character has a Spirt Bar, which effectively serves as your MP. You can dip into it to do special dashes, brutal tackles, and the fantastical supershots that give you all the power of a tiger and defy all of the laws of physics.
You can also sync up two of your characters to pinball the football between them while they advance up the field and make it into prime shooting position. There’s a lot to learn at first, but once everything clicks, it feels incredibly fun, and that’s coming from someone who hasn’t played a football game in years.
This isn’t a sim game, this is an arcade game. It’s one designed for those who either love the anime itself or those who are simply looking for a good time. It almost feels reminiscent of the old days of football games — the FIFA 98 days — where everything was just a little bit broken, and you could score from the halfway line if you were lucky enough.
Fly Like An Eagle
Of course, you can’t score from the halfway line here; the goalkeepers are too damn good. They have the Spirit Bar too, but it almost serves as an HP bar for them. If they’ve got a lot of spirit, then it’s highly unlikely that you’ll get a shot past them. You need to be persistent and lower their spirit with a flurry of shots or a few well-placed incredibly powerful ones. You can still get lucky if you’ve positioned yourself right, but getting a shot past — or through — these goalies is a genuine challenge.
Honestly, I wasn’t expecting much from Captain Tsubasa: Rise of New Champions. It’s not necessarily the kind of game I’d normally play. However, it’s actually a lot of fun.
The mix of arcade action and sim-like strategy combine to make this wonderful little amalgam of football (soccer, there, you get it once) that plays unlike anything else. It also looks great, and it genuinely had me laugh out loud at some of the pure absurdity it puts you through.
Captain Tsubasa: Rise of New Champions is set to release sometime this year on PC, PS4, and Nintendo Switch. Watch out! It could well be the next big arcade sports game.