International Superstar Soccer 64 - A retrospective review

From the joyous moment you dust off the cartridge and the commentator shrieks the title over an incessant electronic theme, International Superstar Soccer 64 hits you with all the thump and excitement of an arcade game.

Released in 1997 on the Nintendo 64, ISS was seemingly soundtracked by an endlessly optimistic synth-house-band, influenced by the annoying hooks of a Go West song.

And this music sits alongside chunky graphics of sharp-edged shapes, to create rectangularly muscular players painted in brilliantly bold and bright colours that absorb any potential shadow that there might be in reality.

Despite this, 15 years ago those three-dimensional graphics were a step forward, in spite of the fact that the N64 stuck to the soon to be archaic cartridges.

The result of this though was an assault on the senses that would have comfortably sat in the garish noise and bustle of a busy seaside arcade.

This was largely thanks to the efforts of the commentator, who would loudly spout generalised descriptions throughout the match.

However, his explanatory yelps would often be overtaken by the on-field action if it was of a fast and furious nature, resulting in him rehashing a close opportunity when the ball was now in the middle of the pitch.

Without the capacity to store swathes of anecdotes from Martin Tyler and Alan Smith – which some might see as a positive feature – the game relied upon a series of generalised statements scrappily woven together.

“Defender, to midfielder, to attacker.”

“There’s a fight for aerial domination.”

“The battle for control rages on.”

Such was the limitation of the commentary that sentences would often mix passionate exclamations with calm statements of fact.

“ARGENTINA! Regain possession.”

This though gives the game an endearing charm and adds to its chunky and occasionally ungainly arcade feel.

At the time of its release this was of little concern to me, but the lack of the necessary licence that the FIFA series of games held did, which allowed them to publish the actual names of players current to the time.

However, this now gives the game a timeless retro quality, almost as if it was locked in a portal of everybody’s youth, allowing those generic names with a vague similarity to past players, to continue to be relevant to the gamer’s favourite historical era.

Added to that is a scenario mode which tests your powers of recovery from a deficit in the closing stages of a match, often recreating a famous game, and a wonderfully simplistic penalty shoot-out option.

The gameplay is though a reflection of the games age, as it certainly is clunky compared to the smooth almost natural feel of FIFA 12 for example, but thanks to the sheer speed of it there’s little time to reflect upon this.

It’s the game’s arcade and cartoony feel though that saves it from being merely another outdated football simulation that’s been consigned to the pantheon of console amusements produced in the last 15 years.

And to some extent it’s these faults which still make it such an engaging play today.

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Bingham 12 March 2012 at 8:28am

Consummate skill there!

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