TURN TO CHANNEL 3: ‘Tecmo Cup Soccer’ kicks NES sports games up a notch
Recently, it was revealed to me that I had sunk over 20 hours into a Nintendo Switch game called “Golf Story,” one that combines the fun of 16-bit-style golf and an equally compelling RPG factor that tells an awesome and humorous story you can’t find in any ordinary golf video game.
While this may seem peculiar for some, if you journey back into the annals of gaming history, there have been sports titles with an actual storyline element to them, so today we’re looking at a title I am fond of that does so – “Tecmo Cup Soccer” on the Nintendo Entertainment System!
“Tecmo Cup Soccer” (NES)
Tecmo is known for their “Tecmo Bowl” and “Tecmo Super Bowl” titles on the NES, which feature some basic yet stellar soundtracks that suit the sport of football very well, and “Tecmo Cup Soccer” is no different, with the added aspect of the music fitting in well with the actual story going on in the game.
I always find myself excited to face the next opponent and gritting my teeth whenever I was truly challenged. The music kept my adrenaline pumping and my fingers pressing those buttons in hopes of gaining victory. Tecmo teaches a great lesson to other sports game developers on how to craft a great ambience with a usually dry and boring subject to most casual gamers.
In some ways, the graphics are incredibly basic, as a portion of the game is simply looking at dots on a map of the soccer field, but when you are faced with making that next step, the action kicks in and you get some great visuals for the NES. Whether on offense or defense, the game will tax you with making your next move and, in turn, the game and the players within react to that decision. Your player can dribble the ball, pass it, do a standard shot or, if you’re lucky and they have a special shot, that as well. In addition, certain passes can allow a player to deliver a volley or bicycle kick, and these are illustrated quite well. Lastly, the dire situations your goalkeeper can often find himself in are displayed in this game pretty well too.
There are pre-match portions of the game that have some basic but well-done graphics to give you a more intimate feeling with the team. A newscaster plays the role of narrator in a way, letting you know about the match up and once again giving you more of a connection to the game you’re playing.
Let’s get this out of the way right now – the further you get into this game, the cheaper the AI will appear to you, as what seem like wide open passes on the field can turn into intercepted passes by a defender and headed back for a goal that somehow your entire defense (save maybe one guy) has seemingly forgotten to prevent. That being said, you find yourself in a lot of tight spots and close matches in this game but, in a way, it teaches you to be a more aggressive player. Over time, chances you wouldn’t take early on you will go for after understanding the mechanics of the game, with the stats of each player being the most crucial.
The lead character on your team is a blond kid named Robin. He has an amazing special shot he can use at one point in the game, and even some other players can develop some special skills as the game progresses, but he is, by all counts, the best offensive player you have in the game, with a spikey haired guy anchoring your defense. Most of the rest are average at best, so when you’re faced with a shot to make or a last line of defense before your goalkeeper, these are the guys you hope are on the scene.
When you strip down the stats, the illustrations, and the element of chance, this is a standard soccer game, but it is all these added things that make the gameplay so addicting while creating those frustrating “I’m done with this game!” moments that often lead to more attempts.
Soccer, to some, can be as dry and unappealing as tennis or golf, but “Tecmo Cup Soccer” takes you into the locker room and onto the field with a team that just loves the sport and is trying to get noticed. That sense of being closer to the game than just a fan in the crowd is what makes this one of the best retro sports titles out there.
However, depending on how much you’d like the game, $55-$60 is a lot to pay for a loose copy of an NES sports game, so I’ll leave that up to you, reader. Price aside, you won’t find another 8 or even 16-bit title quite like it in the sports genre.
Well, that finishes another month for me here at Turn to Channel 3. Next up, it’s a Crazy Christmas Month with a random collection of games for me to end the year with. Come see me at the ScrantonMade Holiday Market at the old Globe Store in Scranton this weekend, where I’ll be selling retro games, memorabilia, and handmade items, and I just may tell you what games are up next!
The holidays can make life crazy, but you should slow down and make some quality time to game on!