Aesthetically Pleasing Moments From Video Game Football History #12

Last time in APMFVGFH we looked at the odd but lovable Libero Grande, which started life as an arcade game in 1997 before going to PlayStation. For this edition we rewind the clock back seven years further, when another unique and colourful football title was hitting Japanese arcades.

**Credit to the original YouTube uploaders playing the game: CheesestringXX and syndromtr**

As you can see, the game for this installment is Taito‘s Football Champ, which debuted in arcades in 1990 before a version was adapted for Super Nintendo and Amiga. To give the image above it’s full presentation:

This intro graphic is followed by a nice team-select screen with the Maracana Stadium in the background. There are eight countries to choose from, after which one of four star players must be picked for your team:

Of course all these players have brilliant and hilarious faces, which smile when selected:

Heading to the gorgeously vivid match itself, the faces get even better when we see the commentators who are shown before kick-off (here between Brazil and France, we’re not even going to get into the wrong kit colours this time) and during crucial moments. One, who’s presumably meant to be Brazilian, looks like some sort of mutant-alien dressed as a human, and the other is vaguely, familiarly French:

Some other nice details in a classic Japanese animation sort of way include the balding, rotund referee; a goalkeeper with excellent posture and a tiny waist; and photojournalists sitting next to the goal:

Checking out the photographers on the other side of the goal, it becomes clear that the pitch is surrounded by a running track and sponsors for hip, fake brands like “River” and “Logic”:

More on the hoardings and that area of the ground in general later. Another famous aspect of Football Champ is violence, with foul-moves very much fitting for the arcade such as this beautifully graceful flying knee:

When a foul is committed the ref will issue yellow card, with a red coming after the third foul (by any player). That is, brilliantly, unless the ref hasn’t seen the incident (when he is off screen). In the case below where a nasty punch is delivered, he happens to be very much present (luckily, the victim channels Shawn Michaels in his quick recovery):

A while later, a penalty has been given for another punch (which to be honest looked outside the box to us). France attempt an unorthodox pass-penalty, but, to the commentator’s utter dismay, are then instantly granted another spot-kick with a red card for Brazil:

The player then proceeds to make an insanely long run back to his own half to leave the pitch, even though it is soon revealed that the tunnel is closer to where he has just been:

Having sprinted past own manager and team mates (who evidentially don’t have a bench and must stand all match on the track), it can clearly be seen that an exit could have easily been achieved far closer to where he was dismissed. The manager’s double face-palm may well be for his player’s idiocy, as much as being a man down:

The run is not totally in vein, however, as it does give us the perfect opportunity to piece together a look at more advertisements, as well as fans. Alongside the game developer Taito are fictional powerhouses Marutake and Zatthäus (Maradona and Matthäus?), while the supporters in the stands behind are adorned with scarfs and banners, and the manager of the other team can also be seen:

Back to the second penalty, and while this time a shot is attempted, the huge goalmouth proves not to be an advantage:

Moving to a different aspect of the game, and to the opposite end of the field now, another of Football Champ’s signature features is the Super Shot, or “Super Shoot”:

Similar to the kinds of shots we saw in Nintendo World Cup (which is also quite violent funnily enough, and also from 1990), this can be used by your star player at specific points in the match like when you’re drawing or losing, or when there’s 30 seconds left on the clock. Accompanied by an acrobatic graphic, the shot amazingly sends the ball straight through the net to destroy the advertisement behind:

Pausing before the moment of impact allows us to make out the unfortunate board properly:

The goal produces a fantastic celebration from the scorer, who makes good use of the running track and skips for joy, this time to his tiny-headed manager’s satisfaction:

Hell:

While the goal is scored we also get a nice look at the “curva”, with supporters holding scarfs and flags:

An even better Super Shot is to come, as this time the goalkeeper himself is taken through the net and bounces distressingly hard against hoardings, as a new Spanish commentator laments the situation:

One more variation must be highlighted, featuring an incredibly flawless, multiple back-flip buildup from the German player, while his monocled commentator sneers:

Finally for now in this great, crazy, anime-tinged game (which is only really missing random pitch invasions like in European Championship 1992) is the ability to strike the referee himself:

What a sucker-punch, and the fact that he somehow simultaneously manages to win the ball makes it doubly impressive in terms of the sheer feat. Breaking it down to frames really shows the brutality of the clattering:

It’s ok though, he’s alright if a little dazed:

 

 

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YouTube videos:

Football champ Arcade. The dirtiest team ever.
Football Champ (arcade) Supershoots with M.A.M.E. cheat

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Aesthetically Pleasing Moments From Video Game Football History #11

Plunging head first into APMFVGFH time warp once again, this edition takes us to the heady days of the late 90s and early 2000s as we look at a groundbreaking series that straddled the millennia.

If it wasn’t clear from the blurry, vague image above, in this edition we are highlighting both LiberoGrande – released by Namco for the PlayStation in 1997 – AND LiberGrande 2: International –  released in 2000.

The name of the latter suggests that the series had expanded from clubs to also include national teams, when in fact national teams are all that’s playable in either game. But the main point was players rather than team, as instead of playing as a whole XII and continually controlling who was on or nearest the ball, as in most conventional football games, LiberoGrande demands the gamer select one world-class player to control for the entire match.

Having originally appeared as an arcade title, “libero grande” itself translates to “free big” in Italian, referring to the historic calcio position of libero (sweeper), and implying that the game gave the player more freedom than ever before. While nothing spectacular in terms of gameplay (as far as we recall), luckily we care not one jot about that in this series and over both games there are some funny and genuinely impressive moments.

For one thing, like International Superstar Soccer the actual player’s names are not allowed appear due to licensing reasons, and the 21 playable “characters” and 10 unlockables are all parodies, often with unintentionally hilarious results. But we always love some fan action in the coded stands also, and thankfully this game provides more of it than most.

After the title screen, the intro video immediately sets the tone for what this game is going to be like:

Later in the intro, it appears as if the game is being played in an ancient crumbling stadium, or one that’s been bombarded. Some commendable Danish banner hanging is also visible:

Before getting to a match, the gamer must select their player which includes a snap shot of the legend’s face. The real life equivalent of each is fairly easy to figure out, and a full list can be found on the LiberoGrande Wikipedia page, but given the Japanese origins of the game it is not surprising that many of them turn out like anime characters.

First is Raimundo, the friendly N64 Legend of Zelda villager:

Then there’s the inflatable Alfred Shaffer from England:

Lion-Man, Cornelio Valencia:

The Romanian Redneck, Godwin Hasdeu:

Concerned aunt, Jordan Krüger:

Arrogant pirate princes, Antonio Del Pacino and Robin Garrick:

Stoic Latin hero, Renato Gallegos:

And the only Serbian ever to have an “x” in his name, Dormen Smixolovic:

Some other interesting name choices include the combination of Oliver Bierhoff with an 19th century emperor, creating “Oswald Bismarck”; Andreas Möller going Ducth to become “Ajax Möbius”; Romario’s metamorphosis into a keyboard – “Roland”; and they transformed George Weah into “Gerald Wells”, an accountant from the American mid-west.

Another sidenote from the Wikipedia page is that someone thought it important enough to include the  “Flags indicate national team as defined under FIFA eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-FIFA nationality.” just in case the FIFA rules-audit people are skimming through old football game pages.

At last we come to the teams emerging – in this case the Netherlands and USA (the angle of the camera at first makes it appear as if the flags and country names are aligned to the wrong side, but this is rectified as the camera spins around). Immediately the eye is drawn to the crowd in the background as we see flares, strobos, tifo flags, and banner hanging from the Dutch supporters:

The pyro looks even more impressive for night games, and who better than Italy’s virtual ultras to demonstrate:

One thing we love in soccer simulators is when your players crumple the ground pathetically upon conceding a goal or being sent off, and happily, this is the case here. Upon France scoring against Italy early in a friendly game, an intensely huge “GOAL” scrolls along as the whole Italian squad drop to the grass to cry and pound the pitch, and ask God why they were born:

In the background, a quite disturbing celebration is taking place between two French teammates, who are engaging in unholy communion through some sort metaphysical alien bio-technology. But in quite a lovely kit:

You may have noticed above that the wavy flags continue around the pitch in the crowd, with four behind this goal alone:

Getting a closer look, the flags are quite massive with the white pole a pleasing touch, although the flag appears to be waving itself:

Moving on to LiberoGrande 2 as it was known in Japan, or LiberoGrande International in Europe, the game for the new millennium had an updated, clean look that we love:

As the caption says: “This is the ultimate Football game”. As in the last one ever? Here’s some more nice screens:

Libero 2 switches things up by focusing on the country first, rather the players. The team select screen is also great, with four elegant globes above the national flags:

Once you have your team the player then is selected, and this time it can be any of them. Here a nice Portugal kit is on display:

Lastly, we come to a match between Sweden and Germany in the San Siro. As the teams emerge, we see an immense traveling mob of Swedes in mostly black jackets with banners, flags, and bouncing in unison. The slight time delay between the rows creates an amazing effect:

It is one of the greatest scenes in any football video game:

LiberoGrande 2 would not be the ultimate football game, but it would be the ultimate game in the series. The idea of controlling a single player may have seemed boring and pointless to some at the time, but it was later adapted by both the Pro Evolution and FIFA series, showing that Libero really was a trailblazing legend of a game.

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YouTube Links:

Libero Grande Italy vs France
Libero Grande Netherlands vs USA
Libero Grande 2
Libero Grande 2 Sweden vs Germany

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Aesthetically Pleasing Moments From Video Game Football History #10

We last featured a PC game in APMFVGFH back in episode 4, with the legendary Championship Manager 01/02. We return to the platform now with a title from the same period that was also similarly based around the world of football while not an actual football simulator, but not to quite the same universal acclaim as CM.

That’s right, here we have the iconic Hooligans: Storm Over Europe; another game that at one point was present in our very own POTP library but later loaned out to a DJ and shamefully never returned (we’re not really angry, share and share alike). Released in January 2002 as the debut publication of Dutch developers DarXabre, it is as close to “Football Hooligan Manager” as the world has yet seen, or rather “Warcraft 2-meets-hooliganism”.

Unsurprisingly the game received push-back from the outraged football establishment at the time, with the likes of the Dutch KNVB and the English FA both demanding it be banned. As the player takes control of their own firm setting out on a European campaign of destruction, the inclusion of the group name “Tartan Army” as one of a set selection to chose from also drew ire from Scottish supporter quarters; our preference was the ironically inapt Ultra Boys.

Your firm is a diverse group consisting of several distinct types of hool, powered to varying degrees by the intake of booze and drugs, and participation in violence and looting. Without these, they will turn astray back to a peaceful lifestyle.

Types of member include: “the rat”, good at sneaking but with weak drug and alcohol tolerance; the boombox carrying “raver”, with a high drug tolerance but low alcohol tolerance; and “the hooligan”, an expert in demolition and crowd control. There is also “the bulch”, who is, to quote Wikipedia, “an overweight dumb man who functions as the muscle”, and the leader (unfortunately not “Top Boy”), who can carry a gun and rallies the troops like no other.

Threaded in between the various game stages that we will see below, are cheesy cut-scenes of a classic mish-mashed “Hollywood hooligan” group (with different accents), being interviewed under the premise of a Dutch documentary:

The hooligan flag hung high indeed.

Despite this, the game itself is an absolute graphic delight. Here we see the opening level, as riot police with two vans are prepared outside “Station Noord” in a quintessential Dutch city, awaiting the arrival of the firm via train:

Among the many great minor details, a highlight is the inclusion of an Andre the Giant “OBEY” poster adorning the half-pipe of an adjoining skate park.

Like the real hooligan scene of it’s day, the majority of gameplay takes place away from actual football stadia, but here we get a nice exterior shot of the local ground. A few groups of boys are already mooching about the courtyard, and you better believe that pile of debris cordoned off just outside will soon be repurposed for nefarious means:

Going back to the train station, it is clear that the traveling hooligans have already arrived. We seem to have just missed them, but the gruesome and bloody scene left in their wake leaves little doubt:

Oh my.

The police, meanwhile, have abandoned their line and are regrouping in a shocked pack. Two of their members also lay unconscious across the street, as to the north the firm can be seen rampaging in the high street (note the broken windows at almost every establishment):

Later, back at the ground, the firm have launched an expert attacked from outside using the debris and are now rushing in to take the home end:

Later in the season, here we see what’s meant to be an English city. While a hooligan is entering the pub, we are really highlighting this for the billboard “SUN FUN HOOLIGAN”:

Extra marks for the bloke painting on a scaffold around the corner.

Some more nice architecture and examples of urban planning exist elsewhere in the city along with a beautifully rendered truck, while the thugs appear to go looking for a pray:

Back in the Netherlands, the grounds of a tulip company hilariously sets the scene for the next meet. The hooligans can be seen “tooling up” in a shed:

Again the painstakingly created tractors, greenhouses and pieces of machinery really set the ambience, as well as the beautiful flowers. But wouldn’t you only know it, those yobs have gone and ruined them:

The last stage is based in Germany, and finally we get a look inside a stadium. Some fans are already inside the ground, politely sitting in fetching yellow seats while police guard the pitch:

But unbeknownst to them (although they really should know), outside the hooligans pour from a local boozer:

With tension in the virtual air, the menacing mob make their way to the ground:

The gang swiftly break through the stadium gates (without paying for tickets) and the riot squad engage with the violent invaders, while innocent civilians flee the chaos, screaming for their lives:

While some firm members successfully make it inside, the narrow entrance causes a barbaric bottleneck. The miltarised, 21st century hooligans have brought sophisticated weaponry, as evident from the numerous explosions and resulting plumes of black smoke:

A few coppers stand gormlessly on the pitch, not really helping things at all as the carnage ensues. They are quickly punished for the lax attitude however, as in what really should have been a virtual edition of Pyro On The Pitch, someone accurately throws a deadly bomb in their midst:

Having defeated the first wave of police, the frenzied fans infiltrate the main stand before penetrating the advertisement hoardings and entering the field, while many seated supporters remain admirably calm. Incidentally, the retro dug-outs, though excellent, look slightly out of place compared to the relatively modern little stadium:

At the other end of the pitch, an end of season ceremony has clearly already been ruined as the blood splattered remnants of some unlucky dignitaries currently occupy the podium. An apparent lone survivor of this particular slaughter – perhaps experiencing survivor’s guilt – hangs around awkwardly, while a firm of the opposing team’s fans also stand idly by, not quite sure what to do in the face of these cold-hearted cop-killers:

At last the two firms come face to face for the final battle and given the number difference, combined with the meekness of the home fans, the brutal massacre that follows is not hard to predict. A small regiment of police, busy patrolling the end behind the goal, wisely turn a blind eye:

With their biggest rivals bloodied and beaten on the grass, many of the gang fittingly stand on the podium as the undefeated, champion army of Europe:

But you are forgetting one thing: the biggest firm belongs to the Old Bill. They are back and cordon-off the blood-soaked pitch that now resembles the Battle of the Somme, trapping a small mob near the corner flag:

Thankfully from the hooligan’s perspective, some ammunition – perhaps left over from the battle of Verdun – is on hand, causing a huge explosion and another atrocity. Those officers left standing run for their lives, leaving the remains of their comrades to rot on the unholy battlefield of the pitch, which has been downgraded to a mere arena of mindless violence:

Satisfied with a hard season’s work, and with a collection of fresh skulls in the top left corner of the screen, the hooligans casually leave the ground and eagerly head back toward the Irish bar (we assume) for a well deserved pint, and maybe a few drugs:

With the storm finally over, the innocent peoples of Europe could now start to rebuild their lives. Well, for at least a few months, as in the distance new storm clouds were forming, symbolically representing an even more dreadful conflict than the great war the continent had just endured.

That’s right, Hooligans: Storm Over Europe 2, or H:STOEII (release date TBD).

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Thanks to the original video up-loaders:
YouTube link 1
YouTube link 2
YouTube link 3
YouTube link 4

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