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International Superstar Soccer 64

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Reviewed by Scott McCall Before even starting the review, an immediate comparison of FIFA Soccer 64 and International Superstar Soccer 64 (ISS64 herein) becomes necessary. Though ISS64 may not seem like a gift to soccer fans, the first few times you play, it does become apparent just how realistic it is with each game played. FIFA Soccer 64 may have satisfied soccer fan's desires for the time being, but it's quite easy to see that FIFA will begin to collect dust now that ISS64 is out. Because EA Sports hold the exclusive rights to the FIFA (and now World Cup 1998) license, and it wouldn't make any sense to include J-League teams in foreign versions, ISS64 contains 36 international teams. The teams are divided into six groups: North/Central/South America, Europe 1, Europe 2, Europe 3, Europe 4, Africa/Asia/Australia. Like FIFA 64, ISS64 features a fairly decent number of options. Players can play an Open Game (exhibition), International (World Cup, complete with regional qualifying), World League (a league consisting of international items), P.K. (penalty kicks), Scenario (a total of 16 pre-defined scenarios to try to successfully complete), Practice (consists of "Free Training," "Free Kick" and "Corner Kick"). The Options mode consists of the following: Game Config, Edit Name, Create Player, Team Reg Player and Delete Player. Underneath the "Game Config" screen, there are options for Game Length (three, five or seven minutes per half), Game Level (five difficulty levels), Sound (stereo or mono), Commentary (on or off), Extended Game (Gold..GL or Extended). You can also turn Fouls, Yellow Cards and Offsides on or off. Finally, there are four referees (Hasegawa, Heinz, Carlos and random). Even more options are present in the Open Game mode. There are three handicap settings available so players can be evenly matched: Condition (the health of the players), Players (you can put anywhere from 11 to 7 players on the field) and GK Level (five levels of difficulty for the goalies). After that, five stadiums are selectable: EuroCenter Stadium, Euro International Stadium, Asian Stadium, African Stadium and S.A. Main Stadium. Considering FIFA Soccer 64 had a mere two stadiums (and both look the same), the five stadiums in ISS64 are actually noticeably different not only in their surroundings but in the crowd, grass, etc. Once the stadium is selected, even more options are available to the player. You can substitute players; designate which player will kick the ball on corners, free kicks, etc.; change the team's formation; change the team's strategy; decide which human players will play on what team; and change the weather (day or night; clear, rain or snow). With all the options out of the way, here is a quick summary of the controls. Unlike FIFA Soccer 64's unnecessarily complex control scheme, International Superstar Soccer 64 has a fairly simple control setup. On offense, the A button passes, the B button shoots, left C is a lob pass, top C is a through pass, right C is a give & go pass, and bottom C is the sprint button. Although I don't have the exact specifics on the defensive control scheme, it goes something like this: the A and B buttons are used to try to take away the ball, left C is a slide tackle and bottom C is sprint. There are a few other defensive moves, too, such as a push. Headers, bicycle kicks and the other fancy soccer moves are generally dictated by the computer. Whenever the ball is in the air, the player just has to position himself or herself correctly underneath the ball and press the A or B button. Also, the strength of passes and shots depend on how long the button is held down. The most important innovation in ISS64 is the inclusion of a through pass. A through pass is when a player passes the ball a little farther down the field into open space for a running teammate. As hard as it may be to believe, ISS64 is one of the first games to implement this feature as a separate button. Previous EA and Konami soccer games did not have this feature. This is an important part of real-life soccer and greatly helps the gameplay of ISS64. The vast amount of options and easy-to-use control scheme only help the gameplay in ISS64. The on-field action is smooth and realistic, unlike FIFA 64, and the ball physics seem to follow the laws of the universe. Free kicks, goal kicks and corner kicks all take place in a convenient fashion with a helpful arrow. Since the game requires 61 pages free on a Controller Pak (FIFA requires 63 pages), it also saves a nice array of statistics. When you play in a tournament or league, it keeps track of the individual goals and cards and a whole bunch of team statistics. There are the quintessential half-time statistics, and the game even shows the scorer's individual statistics after a goal is scored. As noted above, the game also makes use of the four controller ports like FIFA Soccer 64. You can divide up the four players any number of ways: three on one team, one on the other; two on one team, none on the other; and more. Some complained that Perfect Striker (the Japanese version of ISS64) was too easy. First, whereas the Japanese version defaulted to the easiest difficulty setting, the English version defaults to level three. Second, some of the artificial intelligence has been improved as well. With five levels of difficulty in total, even the best soccer player should be challenged for some time to come. Besides the amazing gameplay, the other aspect of ISS64 that makes the game so realistic is the graphics. While FIFA 64 has bland colors and looks low-res, ISS64's graphics are extremely lush with rich color, life-like animation and tons of subtle details. Each player looks completely different from one another. There are various skin colors, hair colors and facial details. On top of that, each uniform has a distinct look, including a home and away jersey. The incredible animation is also thanks to ISS64's superior polygon graphics. When viewed close-up, the players actually look life-like, unlike FIFA 64's odd-looking players. They also have much more animation. Besides a multitude of on-field animation, each player also has detailed animation for when they score, get carded or let up a goal. It is truly a sight to behold. I would also like to point out that ISS64 probably has the most realistic-looking crowd I've every seen in any sports game. Lots of times, after a goal is scored, the scorer will run to the crowd and show off. The crowd is up-close at this point and looks very realistic. They look quite realistic from a distant view, too. If there's any facet of ISS64 that FIFA Soccer 64 might be able to compete, it's probably in the sound department. Still, ISS64 comes out on top overall in this category. Even though FIFA Soccer 64 technically has three announcers, ISS64's one announcer is much better than the trio, thanks in part to the enthusiasm and nice variety of comments he has ("What a cracker!" and "Brazil are on the scoresheet!" and "Goal, goal, goal, goooaaaalllll! are three examples). Play-by-play is essentially only every five or ten seconds, with very little variety, in FIFA Soccer 64. But International Superstar Soccer 64 has twice as much commentary, and the announcer averages out to say something every second or two. However, it must be pointed out that he will get behind on the plays a few times a game. The good news, though, is that he'll catch back up within five seconds. The one slightly disappointing part of ISS64's sound is the lack of crowd chants. There are a few in there (it depends on the stadium), but they are not loud enough to be a factor. FIFA 64's loud and booming crowd chants get the nod here. But ISS64 does have slightly better crowd noise. And the music is probably slightly better in FIFA 64, too, but that's a moot point. Thanks to the enthusiastic British announcer, ISS64 takes the sound category as well. Simply put, no soccer game has ever been this realistic, engrossing and beautiful. International Superstar Soccer 64 is just heads and shoulders above the rest. It's highly recommended that you sell off FIFA Soccer 64 before picking up this game. Nothing can top this one -- that is, until Perfect Striker 2 arrives.

Graphics: 4.6 out of 5 Sound: 4.2 out of 5 Control: 4.5 out of 5 Gameplay: 4.7 out of 5 Lastability: 4.7 out of 5 Overall: 4.6 out of 5

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