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Captain Tsubasa III: Koutei no Chousen (SNES) artwork

Captain Tsubasa III: Koutei no Chousen (SNES) review

"I remember the first time I watched Captain Tsubasa. Football (or soccer) meant absolutely nothing to me back then, but morbid curiosity (or my tendency to try and make fun of everything) and boredom convinced me to watch the entire episode. And what I saw was very refreshing (as opposed to the usual decrepit anime). Captain Tsubasa had everything you could hope for: a good plot (albeit being a bit predictable from time to time), lovable characters (in most cases) and something else that ..."

I remember the first time I watched Captain Tsubasa. Football (or soccer) meant absolutely nothing to me back then, but morbid curiosity (or my tendency to try and make fun of everything) and boredom convinced me to watch the entire episode. And what I saw was very refreshing (as opposed to the usual decrepit anime). Captain Tsubasa had everything you could hope for: a good plot (albeit being a bit predictable from time to time), lovable characters (in most cases) and something else that I have yet to define…

In other words, I was totally enthralled and watching Tsubasa and his comrades was all I cared for at the time.

Games inspired by the anime managed to break the curse which stated that such ports should be horrible, as shown by the Dragon Ball and Saint Seiya series. Captain Tsubasa II, for the NES, is a true gem now ranks as one of my favorite games. Captain Tsubasa III, which is what this review is about, is extremely close.

The main factor that demarks Captain Tsubasa III from other titles is that it actually places more emphasis on character development rather than the main story itself. The plot behind the tournament is fairly interesting in itself, but it is somewhat predictable and never a secret to those who watched the anime. However, the way the main players develop throughout each match steals the spotlight as shown by…

Tsubasa Ozora: The most skilled Japanese football player to have graced this planet. Tsubasa's passion for football has enabled him to join prestigious teams such as Nankatsu and Sao Paulo. While nevertheless a bit annoying with his childish looks and unfaltering courage, Tsubasa is respected and admired by all. Tsubasa is also left free to roam up-front as very few balls can get past his best friend and regular goalkeeper, Genzo Wakabayashi.

Kojro Hyuga: Tsubasa's arch-nemesis. Kojro likes to annoy everybody with his ruthless style and very few players can oppose him. His devastating techniques make him a truly redoubtable adversary. His most cherished strategy involves running straight into a bunch player and literally knocking them out. Moreover, Hyuga can always rely on the young Takeshi Sawada to support him in tough situations.

Karl Heinz Schneider: Borrowing names from famous German players, Karl Heinz Schneider is commonly referred to as the Human Bomb. His unstoppable shots and whimsical style make him the best player in the tournament, bar none. Karl is all what Tsubasa aspires to be.

And these are just three of the plethora of players in the game. The character development takes place during the intermissions that pop up before and after matches, and sometimes during the fixtures themselves. Tsubasa's evolution is obviously what matters, but each player perfectly blends in and you do get the fact that everybody is important.

And that is exactly what I like about this title. Technically, Captain Tsubasa 3 is indeed never as good as its prequel, but the way everybody evolves from match to match contributes to make this extremely rewarding. How Tsubasa develops to become a mature captain capable of taking the right decisions is awe-inspiring. Hyuga's drastic change from the ultimate bad-ass to a friendly player will bring about tears in your eyes…Until Schneider first appears on your screen…Then, you will just freak out!

Otherwise, Captain Tsubasa 3 obviously follows the same wonderful system present ever since the series was conceived. This blend between a usual football game and a regular RPG makes for a unique game play that has yet to be matched. Each action (pass, shoot, dribble, etc…) is performed via menus that pop up as you press the appropriate buttons.

Like in the prequel, only one character is on-screen, except in special situations. In order to claim the ball back from the adversary, you first have to get one of your own players close to it. Once this is done, the same menu automatically appears to enable you to choose among the handful of actions available. As usual, special techniques will cost a lot of GUTS and this makes for a more strategic game play since you can't afford to let all your players get tired.

This is not your typical football game, nor does it provide the frustration and tiredness associated with tedious RPG's. It actually feels as if every second of a given fixture is a small battle on its own, the outcome being determined by your skill and strategy. It is hard to top such a unique system. It is similarly hard to get bored with it as each instant is crucial and you will be literally glued to the screen.

This being the SNES, Captain Tsubasa 3 was expected to have better graphics than its prequel (which, I'll say it again, pushed the NES to its limits). Unfortunately, while the graphics are indeed better, there are a couple of things that should have been corrected. Anyway, the game follows the typical anime trend with colorful players, and backgrounds scrolling on the screen.

If anything, textures are now more precise and the player outfits look incredibly realistic (in spite of the abounding colors). The pitch itself is very life-like and while the crowd looks messed up at places, it's worth staring at. Obviously, special techniques benefit from spectacular effects and these are considerably better than in the prequel. As an example, a fearsome tiger actually appears behind Hyuga whenever the latter performs his Neo Tiger Shot.

Unfortunately, Captain Tsubasa 3 also suffers from the inexplicable ''Poached Eyes Syndrome'' which simply means that players seem to have only one eye. Most of the time, the players' right eyes seem to have been bashed and you thus get the feeling that everybody had to donate one of his eyes to be in the game. While this may not be such a huge problem, it nevertheless detracts from the game and actually rebutted me when I first got it.

The stunning soundtrack should suffice to make you forget about this misstep though. Captain Tsubasa 2 had a remarkable soundtrack (one of my favorites, only topped by the incredible Guilty Gear X and Chrono Cross scores). Captain Tsubasa 3 does not quite manage to surpass it, but it is incredibly close.

Each tournament comes with its distinct track. Music in Captain Tsubasa 3 is always upbeat and makes use of a wide array of instruments. Toho's special theme is indisputably the best track without the whole game. I like how it begins at a frightening speed and never settles down. It actually feels as if the music itself is encouraging you to trash the opposing side.

Not just that theme, every other one.

Towards the end of the game, the music gets even more frenetic. The final track (a completely new one) is a perfect bland between frantic music and its soothing melancholic counterpart. Frantic, because Germany is your opponent. Melancholic, because the game is about to end.

Due to its RPG elements, Captain Tsubasa 3 has a very low replay value. It can still be picked up again, but only if you really like it or have nothing else to play. In either case, this third release is shorter and easier than its prequels, which actually gives it more replay value. Tecmo nevertheless found a way to deal with this: 2-P All Stars.

This All Stars Mode allows two players to play an exhibition match with teams consisting of the best footballers in the game. You just set up your team before each match and go on to destroy your opponent. The addition of this nice mode contributes to give Captain Tsubasa 3 more replay value, but it should be said that it does tend to get boring after some time since it lacks the frenetic pace of the Story Mode.

The nice thing is that you don't have to be a fan of the anime to enjoy this game. Sure, it helps, but it is not really a requirement. The intuitive game play will drag you in and never let you go away until you beat it. The way each character evolves throughout the game is extremely interesting and the brilliant music itself may make you want to play the game every now and then.

In other words, Captain Tsubasa 3 remains one of the finest titles to have ever graced the SNES. To play it is to love it!

Finally, here's a small advice. Save your game in two files before the match against Toho and never delete one of them. Trust me, you'll want to play this particular match over and over again…

siegfried's avatar
Community review by siegfried (October 19, 2003)

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