Kitbag Retro: Video Games

16/11/16

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As well as unwrapping the newest kits from your favourite clubs and countries, many of our Kitbag.com customers will be looking forward to booting up FIFA 17 for the first time this Christmas; the latest edition in an iconic gaming series. The fastest-selling FIFA to date, countless players will be counting down the days to try their hand at EA Sports’ most complete offering yet. But before this festive season kicks off, Kitbag.com has rooted through the retro goodness to dust off five favourite football games from our younger years. What’s your personal fave? Any console classics we have missed? Let us know via the Kitbag Twitter.

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Sensible World of Soccer

The sentimental favourite that triggered an avalanche of football games in the 1990s, Sensible Soccer still retains a cult following today; with European gamers in particular enthused by the best-selling 1992 original’s rapid pace, aftertouch wizardry and charming scuttling sprites, in spite of crowd noise possibly more akin to that of a hair dryer. Sensi’s acclaimed follow-up, Sensible World of Soccer built upon the critical and commercial success of the inaugural edition, improving a number of issues and expanding to include more than 1,500 (!) playable teams from across the globe. The effective juxtaposition of unprecedented detail and joyously simple gameplay made for a potent combination, to the point Stanford University would later include SWOS in its ten most important video games of all time. With its legacy continuing to this very day, August 2016 saw the underground Sensi community converge in the Netherlands for Sensible Days, their 13th annual World Cup-style weekender.

Fever Pitch Soccer

An unusual entry in the canon, Fever Pitch Soccer made foul play a central part of the game, with dubious official ‘Richard The Rogue Referee’ turning a blind eye to a host of on-field shenanigans. With an added emphasis on character, each of the so-called ‘Star’ players in Fever Pitch would possess certain inflated attributes, helping distinguish them from the identikit competition. Among the standout gimmicks, one ‘Star’ was particularly skilled at diving to win free-kicks, while another would specialise in barging opponents mercilessly to the floor. With gamers able to use the ball-striking button to kick out at their opponents (!), the Beautiful Game this certainly isn’t. Nevertheless, Fever Pitch’s nutty novelty value makes it one of the most appealingly-original efforts to come down the pipeline, even if its isometric style might resemble early FIFA to the untrained eye. “GASP in awe when a 40-yard scorcher bursts into a flaming fireball and blasts the goalie into the back of the net”, cries the manual. Suffice to say, we’re in.

International Superstar Soccer

By 1995, the fledgling FIFA franchise had been quickly established as the king of console football, only for a new contender to the throne to emerge in Konami’s imitable International Superstar Soccer. Bringing arcade qualities to the Super Nintendo home platform, ISS played like a dream, with its high-octane action enhanced by an intoxicating and intensifying drumbeat soundtrack. Despite its lack of player name licencing, ISS made use of some memorable noms de plume, with Brazilian talisman Allejo and Dutch benchwarmer de Veer making their own names via their irresistible on-field finesse. The addictive ISS Scenario mode meanwhile provided challenges aplenty for players of all skill levels; a perfect accompaniment to the more traditional head-to-head and tournament options. ISS would evolve into Pro Evolution Soccer; its sprawling Master League format adding even more longevity to a series that would eventually shift more than 50 million copies worldwide.

FIFA: Road to World Cup 98

While FIFA 95’s ‘invisible walls’ option might have left gamers rolling with laughter, FIFA 98: Road to the World Cup was the official series’ most satisfying effort to date. Retaining its predecessor’s popular indoor football mode and commentary elements, FIFA 98 introduced a number of advanced features that would soon become signature, from the ability to alter teams, kits and players to the use of licenced in-game music (with Blur’s Song 2 serving as the game’s opening theme). Released in a transitional period between 16-bit and 32-bit platforms, FIFA 98 would appear on no less than seven major consoles, from Sega’s Mega Drive and ill-fated Saturn to the new Nintendo 64. With improvements across the board, from graphics to AI, this blinder from EA Sports really was a whole new ball game.

Championship Manager 00-01

For years the definitive football management franchise, the Championship Manager odyssey would reach its pinnacle in the early noughties, after a tie-in with The Telegraph ushered in an influx of new players for its 2000-01 edition. CM 00-01 was a perfect storm of features and fun, with any aspiring Alex Ferguson able to tear through a full campaign in no time, while sacrificing little of the in-depth detail and control synonymous with CM’s most absorbing incarnations. Gobbling the hours like a productivity-devouring Pacman, CM 00-01 was the kind of game that would seize control of your very existence and with a host of new leagues at each manager’s disposal, the millennial edition’s shrewd introduction of a vast in-game editor ensured that even the most outlandish scenarios were now within players’ reach. Gloucester City in the Premier League on a foreign oligarch’s budget? Telford United making waves on a UEFA Champions League adventure? Whatever your premise, CM 00-01 could make it happen, all while you perfected the art of convincing friends it was achieved through virtual grit. AC

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