Publisher: Nintendo (Designed by Technos)
Genre: Sports
Year of Release: 1990

Date Reviewed: 5-17-98 ("Old Era")

Think of all rules and other logistics you know to be the staples of the game of soccer.

Now forget them. They will not be found here.

Nintendo World Cup, unlike Goal! and other similar games, does not devote itself to an accurate portrayal of the game of soccer. It doesn’t deal in such jargon of the game as “offsides”, “yellow/red card”, “penalty kick”, or even “foul.” It doesn’t observe the standard proportions of the field. It utilizes rosters significantly fewer in number than actual rosters. Its ball graphic is of the outdated spotted archetype. Many of the national uniforms are hopelessly incorrect (case and point, Argentina in brown, or Cameroon in purple.) This game is a flawed representation of the game of soccer... or is it?

I’ll not dispute that Nintendo World Cup is lacking of authenticity. That is a given. But when has a real game of international soccer ever passed in less than two hours, and with more than five goals per side? When has watching a real soccer player get injured ever been amusing? When has a real soccer player been able to turn the ball into a heat seeking missile? When has a real game of soccer passed without the shrill tone of a referee’s whistle filling the arena on the slightest pretense? Let’s face it. Real soccer was never this fun.

This game consists of thriteen nations, taken from the roster of the 1990 World Cup. If the player elects to play in the “Tournament Mode”, he/she will face the other twelve rosters in order of their success in the 1990 Cup, with the United States assuming the position of whichever team is selected, and playing in their style.

Otherwise, there is the “Vs. Mode”, which is the primary purpose for which this game was created. That is, Nintendo World Cup is compatible with either of Nintendo’s four player-conducive accessories of 1990. The player may join with three others, and play a ten-minute match with two of the four playing on each team. For this reason, player-swapping is not possible under the game’s program code. The “Vs. Mode” may also be played with two or three competitors, and is playable on any one of six fields, each of which has its own distinctive characteristics. The “grass” field is the standard field on which all soccer games are played. “Soil”, while predominantly similar to grass, is slightly softer, and thus the ball will stop more quickly when it strikes the ground. “Sand” is simply a more exaggerated version of the soil field, and “Concrete” is its inverse, in that the ball will bounce quite high and seldom stops thereon. “Bumpy”, for the most part, is identical to soil, except for the rocks, on which the players can very easily trip. “Ice”, my personal favorite, lacks friction, and thus any player who attempts to slide tackle will slide well out of bounds. Curiously, this mode allows for the selection of only five of the available teams: the US, Italy, West Germany, England, and France. No explanation for this has ever been offered.

Each team comes equipped with a super shot that is unique to that team. Cameroon’s stops and goes intermittently, Italy’s is very fast, Argentina’s will go toward the net regardless of the shooter’s position, and the list continues. Repetitively enough, the United States has no distinctive shot of its own, just as it lacks its own spot in the echelon of the Tournament Mode.

In terms of its graphics, Nintendo World Cup utilizes that same style used in River City Ransom -- that which became a signature of Technos. The characters’ bodies are identical from the neck down, beyond the differntiating uniforms. It is by their heads that these characters are defined, and, strangely, this style is a success. Each player becomes memorable by their hair alone, and that seves as a foundation for the establishment of favorite players -- a feat difficult to achieve in other spoorts games, where all players look exactly alike.

The soundtrack of this game is interesting, simply because of its unusual suitability to each setting. As one continues to move forward in the Tournament Mode, the music becomes more intense. The “Final Match” theme is of the same level as any other such song in any NES game. The Vs Mode, which contains little intensity, and evokes pure enjoyment from most, is marked by music one would expect to hear when playing such a lighthearted match.

So, while Nintendo World Cup is not particularly true to the game of soccer, it is superior to those games that are. It rises above the infuriating rules, and ridiculously long, low-scoring matches, to create an experience that is pure fun out of a game that can be quite drudgerous. I know of no other game that has been so independent in its portrayal of the game of soccer, nor of any game based on the sport that I like this well. Here’s to those who see things differently...

My Score: 9

The aforementioned "field types."

In the semi-immortal words of Andreas Cantor, "GOOOOOOOAAAAAAALLLLLL!!!!!!! GOOOOOOOAAAAAAAALLLLLLL!!!!!!!!!"

See, now this just isn't fun in real life.

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