Inazuma Eleven is one of those games that on paper sounds absolutely ridiculous, unless of course you’re Japanese. While this type of game is pretty uncommon in the states, the Sports RPG genre is pretty popular in Japan. After playing Inazuma Eleven, I can certainly see why.
Inazuma Eleven is a game developed by Level-5. Last time I checked Level-5 was making great games like Ni No Kuni, Rogue Galaxy, and even the Dark Cloud games, so it’s safe to say that they know their stuff. The game starts you off as Mark Evans, goaltender and all around positive young Jr High kid. The soccer club is in shambles and is about to get the boot unless you can pull the team together Bad News Bears style and win some games! Doesn’t that sound exciting? Throw in some hardcore junior high anime drama and you have our story, more or less. It does get deeper as you start playing other teams and learning more about the world this takes place in. It is so over the top and ridiculous its actually quite fantastic. A couple of the teams you will face include a supernatural and dark magic using team, and one built up of feral children. While the story elements and world are all very cliché anime and JRPG fair, its still presented in a neat way. Even myself not being a fan of Soccer (or football), I found the story and setting to be quite appealing.
The highlight of Inazuma Eleven is the gameplay. The bottom screen is used to control all the players on the field with the stylus. At first it seems frantic and confusing, but I found that if you only focus on a few players at a time and let the AI help you out, it isn’t nearly as boggling. Once you get it down that’s only the beginning. Your players develop useful skills to help them on the pitch. When a player on the field comes in contact with another player who has the ball (and vice versa) the game stops and brings up a menu. This brings up two basic abilities based on the situation, like dodge or charge when trying to get past a defender. Pick one of those abilities, there are some stat comparisons and invisible dice rolling, then a neat animation occurs showing you succeed or fail. There is also a lightning bolt symbol that allows you to use a special ability. These are all over the top fun to watch abilities varying from having a magic dragon help you kick the ball, short range teleportation, and summoning a wall from the earth to stop the ball. These are not the only abilities either!
The soccer parts of the game take place in two different situations. One is the JRPG style “Random Encounter.” Instead of monsters you are battling other clubs at the school like perhaps the Comic club or the Sumo club. In these battles you have 5 in game minutes to either score the first point or get the ball away from the other club. These battles are 4 on 4 only. Then you have “boss battles” which are the full soccer match with Eleven players on each side of the ball. As you progress through the game, you are constantly meeting and recruiting new teammates. They all have stats and different abilities so there is a lot of tweaking if you like to fully manage your team.
Inazuma Eleven is another perfect example of “why didn’t we get this sooner.” Perhaps the Sport/JRPG fan is a minority, but this game really shows how much fun and heart you can have in a little genre crossover. Inazuma Eleven is a perfect addition to any RPG fan.
- Unique gameplay
- Special Abilities are really neat
- A ton of characters
- Charming and whimsical
- Learning curve in the beginning can be stressful
- Sports theme may be off putting (though it REALLY isn’t)