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:
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Aesthetically Pleasing Moments From Video Game Football History #9

Last time in APMFVGFH we looked at one of our favourite childhood SNES games here at  Pyro On The Pitch, with the delicious colourful glory of 1994’s FIFA International Soccer. We now rewind the clock 4 years before to 1990 and a NES game that shares a similar place in our hearts.

Yes, here we have Nintendo World Cup for the Nintendo Entertainment System, released in 1990 by the video game developer Technōs Japan Corp. Brilliantly, it is a localisation of “Nekketsu High School Dodgeball Club: Soccer” (or “Hot Blooded High School Dodge Ball Club: Soccer Edition”) released for the Family Computer, which was centered around completing high schools rather than international football teams.

The game opens with the slick screen above, featuring the Nintendo World Cup trophy itself. Like last time, the theme music is again iconic to us who remember it from our youth, but even to fans of video game music in general it is worth a listen through the link at the end of the article.

The team select screen is simply white text over the black background, but of course this is NES so it would be a bit much to expect anything more. Lists of countries are one of our favourite things anyway and there are 13 here to choose from. With the 1990 World Cup a month away when the game was released,  non-qualifiers France, Mexico and of course Japan are included, while eventual quarter-finalists Czechoslovakia, Ireland and Yugoslavia miss out. Despite being two years away from playing an international as a independent state, Russia are also listed rather that USSR:

The game itself is quite a nice chunky affair, with a whole cast of hilarious characters in the players who all appear ready to start boxing. In fact we must come back some day and do a full photo-essay on every player we can find in the game:

The kits are block colours and as you can imagine are far from accurate. Some fit basic familiar formulas such as orange for the Dutch, blue for Italy and a kind of dark yellow for Brazil (see above), but France wear green and Cameroon are in a bold purple affair (see above). The shirts themselves seem to be in fact vests as no sleeves are visible.

Along with a basic radar and count down timer, the boxes at the bottom of the screen helpfully show your team mates communicating with each other:

As you can see above there is a player laying in discomfort on the grass, clearly having been wiped out  in a collision with the bad-ass in the shades clearing the ball. It is appropriate that the players look like they are ready to box, as it is quite a violent game. Eyes regularly bulge disturbingly from heads of victims of crunching challenges, as they fly helplessly into the air:

As far as we remember there is no ref and so no fouls or free kicks. This means that particularly aggressive matches can leave bodies of injured players strewn all about the pitch like a war-zone.

You also may have noticed the ethnic differences of the players, which was quite a step in football game graphics for the team. England – wearing quite a nice navy strip with what actually appears to be red trim – are uniformly white blonde in true Anglo-Saxon fashion:

Another blonde is the woman who appears at half time in nothing but a red bikini. We have no idea what this has to do with football. At the time she probably would have been referred to as a “babe”, but progressively she appears to have ample thighs and hips:

At the end of the match, which as you can see can be won in quite a convincing fashion, your successful squad swaggers smugly across the screen with a couple of them carrying towels (of course if they lose they are dejected). The third player from the right looks furious about something, which considering the scoreline may well have stemmed from a personal slight:

Besides violence, strange reality bending occurrences are also common in the form of super shots. Here one crouching  player uses the power of super position to create two balls from one, as a red haired French opponent climbs on his head:

Doubtlessly black arts were employed to create these unnatural abominations…:

Some of which were basically weapons of mass destruction:

That was scary. But more soothing is that the game is played on a beautifully mowed green pitch. It’s not the only option though, as a selection of surfaces are available:

The concrete option creates the impression of some sort of nightmare world devoid of most matter:

The soil pitch contains a number of rocks, adding to the potential for injury:

Lastly, we come to the ultimate aim of the game: to win the Nintendo World Cup of course. The player must beat every other team in a row, with the standard of opposition gradually increasing. But before each round is the real highlight of Nintendo World Cup in the graphic that is used to represent each location. Famous landmarks include Mount Fuji, the Arc de Triomphe, Big Ben, New York City, the Colosseum, and the landscape of Patagonia for Argentina. Cameroon, meanwhile is represented by a couple of huts on the planes, with a stereotypical wild west and cactus scene apparently being the most apt thing available for Mexico.

In fact here we have each screen, apart from Brazil who were the team being played as:

Great stuff, although we’re slightly confused as to why the font is a different colour for the USA game. Having made it to the final and winning, your team is presented with the Nintendo World Cup trophy by a bald man who looks suspiciously similar to the half-time bikini woman. With the amazing little stadium finally being shown, it is also our fist time seeing fans in the background, which is good to get:

After getting the trophy, everybody smiles in anime fashion as the national flag is hoisted and the “president” claps

Considering the Japanese origins of the game, it is not surprising that there are many features of this game that are reminiscent of anime, and which probably wouldn’t have made it into a western game such as the violence and the woman. We end with one last look at the ground as the sun is setting, the stands now deserted and silent, and a lone ball sits reminding us of the epic journey we have come on:

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Aesthetically Pleasing Moments From Video Game Football History #8

In our previous edition of the snappily titled APMFVGFH series, we saw a virtual naked pitch invader and accompaning copper that in our opinion was one of THE seminal moments in football video game history. But now we have a look at an absolute genuine classic, and for once recommend clicking here for the accompanying theme music to play along as you read; preferably on headphones after having just smoked, as it is one of the funkiest things of all time.

That’s right, the above multi-flagged “SOCCER” can only mean EA Sports’ FIFA International Soccer for the Super Nintendo, released in 1993.

After insertion of the game cartridge, and the unforgettable “E..A..Sports. It’s in the game” graphics and audio tag (mind-blowing for the time), the SOCCER text appears along with one of the smoothest jams ever heard in a video game (we get hints of The Stone Roses, Happy Mondays and some other “Madchester” influences). A collage of national flags – that contains a suspicious amount of Canadian ones – floats within the text, before the letters flash into solid gold pieces and are joined by the other details scrolling on front of an immaculate pitch:

 

With that theme music playing alongside, it is goosebump inducing.

The Canadian flags are not actually a coincidence, as the game was developed by EA Canada. The use of the word “soccer” is a further indicator of the game’s North American origin, however considering the vivid colours, beautiful graphics and iconic music, all is forgiven.

Throughout the screens that follow, a very pleasing blue-tone EA Sports and ball motif flows through the background:

 

 

 

 

 

 

After progressing through the main menu – with choices for Exhibition, Tournament, League, Playoffs, Options, and Restore – the team select screen is next. Only countries are available to play as, since this is “International” soccer after all. More lovely flags and colours are on show, and Germany are looking strong this year, eh?:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Via our Facebook page we recently pondered on the inclusion of Democratic Republic of Congo. At least that’s what we remembered. Upon review of a video of the available teams, it seems that DR Congo were not actually in the game, although this could have been a different port. Perhaps this has was a case of mixed-memory, but if anyone knows for sure, please get in touch.

Going to the in-game match itself, the lush perfectly mowed grass is a thing of beauty, along with the classic flag and score graphics. Appropriately we have Canada, playing here in an all-red strip against Germany in their usual white and black. All clear on the kit front anyway:

Of course our favourite thing is always the virtual crowd and this one is excellent, even if they’re sitting rather than standing in a terrace (although some do stand up). A German shot from outside the box gone wide gives us a good look at those behind the goal, with the overly-positive reaction to the missed effort suggesting they are Canadian fans:

A ball gone for a throw-in also gives us good vantage of all sorts of characters in attendance. Look out for the kids standing on their seats and the pensive guy in the white shirt in the first row. The stairs is also great:

Another of the game’s best moments is the Half Time Report, which takes place high in the back of the stadium and features plenty of vintage ’90s North American youth:

Lastly, we come to the goal celebration graphics. They appear after the goal scorer has ran to the touchline and vary for each goal scored, getting progressively rarer the more that go in. Also note the absolutely distraught German defender pounding the ground in the penalty box, and as with all in the game, the goalscorer John Logan is not a real player in case you were wondering:

And that’s it for this installment, where we have enjoyed looking back at what was one of the first true great football video games, both in aesthetic and in fact gameplay. Unfortunately not pictured is one of the best features, where one could score by blocking the goalkeeper’s kick-outs.

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Aesthetically Pleasing Moments From Video Game Football History #7

Welcome back to the feature with the most annoyingly long, but obviously necessary series-title in retro football blog history. Probably not in video game history though. What is for sure is that gameplay means zilch here. Last time, you may remember some lush screens, lush graphics, and some chillingly unrealistic kit configurations that were possibly the result of an in-game alternate timeline dystopia situation.

But now we’re going to revisit a gentler and slightly less lush time, and the very first game we featured in this series, Tecmo’s European Championship 1992 for PC-DOS. In APMFVGFH#1 we had a look at the team-select screen with it’s handsome array of 16bit flags and kits, but since APMFVGFH has evolved since then, the game is definitely worthy of another look as it has a lot more old school goodness to offer.

The game opens with the delicious, classic title screen above that just drips DOS. Blue and green SHALL be seen! And while we referred to this as a gentler time compared to Champions World Class Soccer’s future hell-realm (I would rather die than see Italy play in green, white and red), the “grey void” of the would-be terraces and soulless mechanical landscape surrounding the stadium seems to indicate a similarly worrisome time in simanity’s alter-history.

Then comes another intro screen, definitely gif-worthy, with flags (always a plus) scrolling along the top and the Tecmo rabbit logo, which conveniently basically doubled up as the beloved and legendary European Championship rabbit mascot, the greatest mascot of all time in any discipline. The rabbit had debuted at Euro ’88 and was called Berni by the Germans, before being blatantly plagiarised by the Swedes who cunningly renamed him “Rabbit” to cover their tracks.

Next, as we already covered team-select in the aforementioned episode, we are going straight to pitchside and a look at the teams coming out, in this case Germany and England:

There is a lot to love here with player’s tunnel, athletics track, vibrant crowd, and Germany in their green away shirts (a POTP favourite), as well as cheerleaders which is not so realistic or necessary, but the effort is there. The fact that Tecmo is a Japanese company lets them away with it in our eyes, but photographers and officials in place of the cheerleaders could have been a welcome improvement.

Edit: At least that’s what we thought until we were smartened up by blog reader Lucas, who is fast becoming a invaluable fact checking resource:

About the cheerleaders part, it wasn’t made up by Tecmo. From what i remember, in UEFA EURO 1992 matches in Sweden (at the time when the game was developed), before the kick-off, there were two groups of cheerleaders on each side of the tunnel when the players were entering in the pitch. (as you can see from this photo from the final between Denmark and Germany in Gothenburg)

Thank Lucas, once again we gladly eat humble pie with this correction and as always welcome any and all contributions for stuff we may have missed.

It is now half-time and we have a lovely touch that I really appreciated, as a marching band parades across the pitch playing a military like tune. The attention to detail is excellent with smart red and yellow uniforms and simulated trumpets, flutes, tuba, triangle and, of course, the band leader with their baton, all on show.

Of course as always where possible, we must highlight the virtual crowd and we get a great shot of them down near one of the corners, patiently awaiting the arrival of the players (it’s a different match). As video game football crowds go, it really is a beauty:

And now for the pièce de résistance, one of the greatest things ever placed in a video game. I have long been a campaigner (as in I enthusiastically describe it’s potential with friends and loved ones) for the inclusion of VERY occasional fan rioting interrupting video game football matches. Rarer still, sometimes matches would have to be abandoned due to said trouble, merely for the sake of realism.

While we don’t quite have a riot, or any real “trouble”, there is an instance of, if not hooliganism, definite supporter disobedience with an immediate police response required. That is because at times in this game when a throw-in is being taken, a supporter breaks from the terraces and invades the pitch, fully nude, shortly thereafter chased by an irate policeman.

As you can see, the streaker boasts an impressive pubic region and appears to be a Caucasian male of athletic build. The players and officials don’t seem to care too much, barely taking notice, as in 1992 supporter encroachments were as normal and accepted as your standard, old pyro on the pitch. Indeed the inclusion of the easter egg proves the expectation at the time for some sort of incident involving fans at any given game.

Just for kicks, we can make it appear there is in fact a full firm of angry, naked hooligans pouring out from their enclosure:

As this edition of APMFVGFH comes to a close (which considering the above could really have been covered as a special, virtual edition of People On The Pitch), we will leave you with these shocking scenes, the disgraceful example of which perhaps being the ultimate childhood impetus for many of today’s football thugs. Amazingly we are not quite done reviewing European Championship 1992’s aesthetically pleasing moments, of which there are clearly many, but the rest will have to wait for another aesthetically pleasing day.

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Aesthetically Pleasing Moments From Video Game Football History #6

Welcome to episode 6 of the series now known colloquially as APMFVGFH (Pyro On The Pitch is not hashtag friendly). Today we shall be casting an eye back to 1993 and the Acclaim title Champions World Class Soccer for the Sega Genesis (released on Super Nintendo the following year).

After giving a quick, respectful nod to the nice intro screen above, we are immediately turning our attention to the team select screen. Here I want to exclaim “The colours! The lush, beautiful colours!” for that’s what is in my heart. I love screens like this with a collage of national team flags and general blocky, chunky goodness:

Now several things may have jumped out to the eagle eyed among us, such as the marvelously lavish coat of arms on the Austrian flag. But first we will start with the fact that the two Ireland kits seem to be reversed, as you would imagine the home green shirt would be on the left. Going to Sweden we can indeed see that their yellow and blue home kit is on the left, meaning that white must be Ireland’s nominated home shirt:

France are in a similar position to Ireland with their traditional home shirts of blue reversed with the white usually used for aways, but red shorts have been allocated to both:

Things only become more confusing when some other big guns of European football are consulted. At least with Ireland, the kits are technically correct in terms of colours, just designated wrong. This is not the case for the likes of Germany and Spain, who’s traditional white/black/white and red/blue/black are both replaced with yellow/red/yellow (inversed for the aways). The only difference is that the stripes on the shoulders of the German shirt are black, while they are red on the Spanish equivalent:

Clutching at straws here, but again at least the Spanish away shirt resembles the real life home one, and Germany have used red shirts for both home and away in the past. But the situation over at Italy is inexcusable as they have been given a white and red home kit, and even more jarringly, green and white for the away kit:

Despite the fact that green, white and red are the colours of the Italian flag (and honestly anyone who didn’t already know that can get out right now) this does not sit well with us. For some reason green on an Italy kit is even worse than yellow on Germany and Spain. But it’s becoming clear that the game was designed for folks who weren’t too well up on European kit traditions and indeed probably would have been confused as to why Italy would be wearing blue, or why Germany would be wearing white when their national colours are black, red and yellow. However, this doesn’t explain why Spain should have their primary flag colour of red relegated to their away shirt, and the same goes for the green that is most associated with Ireland.

The developers probably did not imagine such a harsh critique of their creative liberties 25 years after the game came out and you would think nothing more needs be said on the matter, yet on we go. By the above logic regarding uneducated gamers, it is to be expected that Australia don’t have their usual sporting yellow and green. The white and red theme used instead is in a way an even worse offense than Italy, for at least there the combined colourways are reminiscent of the Italian flag. But I think it’s safe to say that nobody would ever associate white and red, or red and white, with an Australian team:

One of the more humerous cases is that of Russia, where the only difference in their home and away kits is the shade of blue on the shirt and socks. Utterly useless in the event of a clash:

But most curious is the situation with the UK countries. You may have noticed earlier that the main thing of note regarding the flags, besides Austria’s marvelously lavish coat of arms, is the lightened, reversed Scotland flag that now resembles some sort conceptual, diagonal Finnish design (similar to how Italian TV redesigned the Welsh flag in real life 1994). Even stranger is their kit selection of white and orange for the home, while orange and black for the away is actually true enough to something Scotland would wear:

As you can see from the flags, a “close enough” flag for Wales is present indicating their inclusion, but no England or Northern Ireland. Instead there is a Union Jack, which at first you assume is being mistakenly used for just England. But when selected, although the kits do suggest England, we can see from the “GBR” abbreviation that this is Great Britain herself:

There is only one answer to what is happening here and for this we must once again delve into an alternative timeline. Clearly, the United Kingdom has broken up and the monarchy fallen. Wales is a fully independent state, while civil war in Scotland has caused a partition of the country. Half has become a new independent Scotland, as represented by the flag and team above, while the other half has been amalgamated with England and Northern Ireland into the new Orwellian rump state of Great Britain.

Moving on (don’t worry, we’re nearly finished) from the team select we briefly get a really nice, atmospheric, black and white image of a packed stadium, which has been underlaying the team select screen the whole time:

After this we get an extremely handsome and charming French man giving us the run down on today’s featured encounter between Bolivia and Israel, a main event anywhere in the world. I will do my best translation attempt below:

“Welcome to the first match of the preliminaries. Fresh from their recent dance tour, the Bolivians face the Israelites. The participation of the Bolivians…”

There our text cuts off but I’m going to assume that the rest of that sentence ran something like “…had been in doubt due to several serious dancing injuries.”

Finally, we shall take one look at the actual match itself, and like some of the above mentioned teams we can see that Bolivia are also in an unfamiliar white and red strip. On the off chance you were wondering, this proves that the kits on the left in the team select screen were the home ones as this was the case for Bolivia (not pictured). We have chosen two images to display the cool clock system used for timing the match, as well images close to the sideline to show the most important thing: the virtual crowd:

Aesthetically Pleasing Moments From Video Game Football History #5

We had originally planned on only including one picture from this episode’s featured video game, which we had screen grabbed a while back. But upon re-review of the YouTube video, it quickly became apparent this would have been very wrong.

That game is 1992’s Super Soccer for the Super Nintendo, which we did not own. But we did just realise that it’s been starring us in the face for months as it’s featured on an original SNES poster we have on the wall, having been part of Nintendo’s European SNES launch lineup in order to cash in on that soccer craze everybody was talking about.

The game intro starts with some delightfully classic and hectic SNES music which could have been straight from the Street Fighter 2 cutting room floor (if you could actually somehow psychically cut 16-bit music with a blade and leave some of it on a floor). As it starts we also get the following ominous message flashed on screen:

Who is this mysterious “He”? Is it God himself? Perhaps a critically acclaimed, multilayered, long-form career mode transcending clubs, countries and dimensions explains all.

Before we have time to think too hard though, a few cool images flash up recreating a scene from the 1990 World Cup final between West Germany (reunified by the time the game came out) and Argentina, but in dramatic darkness:

The German is of course a dashingly handsome, blonde man as you’d expect. His Argentinian opponent however, who is quite gangly and awkward, possess hair and skin colour suspiciously quite unlike any of his real world counterparts.

Upon closer inspection, the kits are fairly accurate albeit with 2 stripes instead of 3 on the shirts and Argentinian shorts, which is fair enough. The West German shirt “ribbon” is especially well done. However, for some reason the crest, “trefoil” and shoulder stripes came out blue giving the effect of some sort of West Germany-Olympique Marseille hybrid team, which I would now like to be called Western Olympic (Fr: Olympique Occidental ; Gr: Western Olympisch).

The other glaring issue is the blatant shirt, shorts AND sock clash that is going on here, which for one reason or another the ref has decided to allow happen. Surely a local strip could have been at least sourced at the last minute if no other option was available, ala France vs Hungary at World Cup ’78.

The German apparently rounds his inept opponent with ease and leaves him seething on the ground. At this point we get the first animation of the game as he strikes the ball and it comes directly towards the viewer, an effect which would have undoubtedly left ignorant 19th century folk clutching at their faces in a desperate act of defence. Luckily, now we know it’s just a game and so I was not shocked.

After the main menu there is another lovely graphic while selecting player mode; a Brazilian in action clearly decked in a Topper made kit, c.1986:

But the kit accuracies end here. The in-game kits are of course extremely simplified compared to the above static images, but in the team select preview we see that the developers have seemingly given Belgium new maroon shirts with sky blue vertical stripes on the torso. Red is retained for the shorts and socks though, creating a totally jarring look that will have no doubt been complained about by both fans and kit connoisseurs alike, virtually speaking.

The players stances indicate that they are ready for fighting in 1950’s America; that kind of thing always being always a plus and thankfully all of the national flags on show are relatively close to real life. The playable teams are basically the last 16 of the 1990 World Cup but with France, USA and Japan in place of Spain, Costa Rica and Czechoslovakia for obvious, but soul destroying, marketing reasons.

Back to the kits and the Belgium shirt change is tame in comparison to what was happening in the Balkans. Perhaps due to ethno-political conflicts in the region limiting supplies of material in the national colours of blue, white and red, Yugoslavia make an appearance eccentrically clad in electric green with black stripes, shorts and green socks. It’s like a forgettable Celtic third kit from 2013 or something.

Justifiable, spontaneous rioting would have surely broken out in several major cities upon the announcement of this kit, uniting broken communities and once again proving football as a vital catalyst for world peace. FIFA(TM) World Peace 2018(TM), sponsored by Kodak(TM).

Lastly for this entry, we see the stocky Italian number 10 Primo has scored for his country and is celebrating. But above him is an image of what appears to be the opposition’s supporters, because they are not looking like they are celebrating with him:

Some have their arms raised but I think it’s more in an angry, fist shaking way, directed squarely at the this flamboyant, Latin gentleman who has just ran past them in arrogant, continental jubilation.

On closer inspection the crowd is nearly entirely, young, smartly dressed men, stood on a terrace with not a team scarf or replica shirt in site and a sinister pitchside fence containing them. Yes, Primo is celebrating on front of a massive 1980’s casual firm.

There actually are a few grandmotherly types in among them, but fair dues they look as up for a row as anyone.

YouTube Link

Aesthetically Pleasing Moments From Video Game Football History #4

In a slight twist to this edition of APMFVGFH, we take a look at one of everyone’s favourite football games, the godly Championship Manager 01/02. But it gets even twistier as here we have a save game from the distant, dystopian hell-age of 2027.

This particular game, or rather career, started hilariously. I took over the reigns of Dover to begin with and within two seasons had them finishing 21st in the Conference, meaning relegation. But I was then somehow hired by by Dagenham and Redbridge who, to my surprise and delighted, had actually been promoted to the Football League. This of course was insanely undeserved and the people of Dover were not too pleased with the whole situation as I shrugged and legged it, leaving their club to die.

We’re going to take a look at who’s been winning some of the more interesting leagues and competitions up to 2027, but first briefly a stop back in the hazy, distant, vague past of 2012 and this fantastic anomalous, asymmetrical Northern Ireland formation that does not feature anyone on the left of midfield which makes my heart sing. The team had made the quarter finals of both the 2008 Euros and 2010 World Cup but after one more World Cup group stage appearance in 2014, their stock seemed to dry up.

Now to the leagues and first to Spain. Unsurprisingly Barcelona and Real Madrid dominate…

…until the duopoly is broken for an interesting few years in 2016 onwards by Levante, Recreativo and deservedly Malaga who had finished 2nd for three of the previous four seasons. After this it was back to the big two again:

Grim. In the Netherlands the situation was even more grim with PSV Eindhoven running roughshod, aside from an isolated title win here and there from Ajax and Feyenoord:

But eventually the tables are turned on PSV as Feyenoord emerge as the new top dogs securing an incredible 10 league titles in 11 years. After finishing runners up nine times in the preceding years, this must have been a bitter sweet period of success as it would have gotten quite boring after a while and made their supporters question what was the point in even supporting a team if they were just going to go ahead and win all the time. Aside from the big three, Utrecht, De Graafschap and Vitesse also provided some unexpected but ultimately unfruitful, token challenges:

In England, a similar situation seemed to be developing as Manchester United also scooped 10 championships in 11 years. Arsenal were their main titles rivals during this time and were the team to finally end 5-in-a-row title win streaks in both in 2004 and 2010, but it would be the Leeds who would emerge to take the next three.

Another hat-trick of league wins was to come next, this time from Wolves, but the era of single teams dominating for years suddenly ends here. Perhaps this was due to some sort of economic collapse and/or disease outbreak. Man Utd and Leeds disappear as title contenders, as do Arsenal apart from a brief flirtation back at the top with a title win in 2020. After Wolves period of success, the league is blown wide open with clubs now finding it impossible to win two or more in a row. The supporters of Ipswich, Coventry, Birmingham, Middlesbrough, and Crystal Palace will have no doubt moaned bitterly about this only 12 months after celebrating manically as their sides took up unexpected league wins. And as of the “present day” you will see that a Dag&Red side, amazingly still managed by an apparently ageless yours truly 25 years after being hired, has risen up the ranks from Conference wastemen to lords of the manor.

We now jump across to Italy and Roma were able to take 6 league titles in a row, with the runners-up of the latter four being their fierce rivals Lazio. But the next four years would see Lazio take the scudeto and revenge over Roma who would be runners up for the first three of these. But again they would come back and pip Lazio in 2011 before another Lazio win in 2012 to finish off a crazy era. The following season saw Juventus finally became the first side from outside the capital to pick up a championship in 13 years.

Inter, Parma, Fiorentina and Napoli would steal championships in the following seasons, while the aforementioned three also remained strong. What is most noteworthy from these later years is that Parma could just never again capture the form that led to their title win and went through an agonising period of 7 second place finishes in 9 years.

The European Championships would see a couple of somewhat surprise runners-ups, first with Turkey suffering defeat to Italy in 2004, followed in 2008 by what must have been a tasty affair as Ireland were beaten by England in Scotland. France and the Netherlands would trade championships and 2nd place for the next two tournaments before Sweden would emerge as back to back winners, somewhat reliving their national golden age of 1611-1648 (in war and such, this was before football).

The Swedes though could not translate this form to the global stage. The World Cup would become as boring as most leagues as 2014 saw France claim their fifth bloody title in a row, and would return to champion status in the latest edition after a restbite period which saw first Argentina as champions, and then, delightfully, Croatia. Also worth mentioning that Canada as World Cup 2018 hosts was a selection which took many observers by surprise.

Well that about covers it. To be fair when I said we would be looking at some interesting leagues earlier, it probably would have been more accurate if I had said “some very lopsided and boring one horse (or two horse or three horse) leagues in a theoretical video game universe which is utterly pointless except to point out that the game mechanics may have been slightly flawed when played out over a long period of time”. But then again that exact statement can also be applied to the actual “reality” that we are living in right now, so I don’t know.

Before signing out for this longer than usual APMFVGFH, I am happy to let you know that Dag&Red still sit proudly atop the Premier League and yours truly has just received yet another accolade, hopefully en route to picking up a second league title in a row.

But my greatest accomplishment had come the season before as I guided the team to victory in what was undoubtedly the greatest UEFA Cup Final the world would ever know, beating Gillingham:

(To be honest it’s been a couple years since I played this save and don’t remember alot about it, apart from A: That it was the first time ever playing a Championship Manager or Football Manager that I actually really looked up the best ways to do tactics and training and such after having been infamously bad for years at these games. And B: I was playing just before, during and after a break up and may have been using my career as a coping mechanism which probably explains my long tenure. Surely not the first or last to use football to stave off existential dread.)

Aesthetically Pleasing Moments From Video Game Football History #3

Today’s two screenshots come from everyone’s favourite 1993 “traditional soccer (football) simulation video game” as Wikipedia calls it. Of course it’s “Tony Meola’s Sidekicks Soccer” for the SNES (yes, “Sidekicks” is correct). We remember U.S. goalkeeper Meola’s name confusing us as ignorant children in the 90’s. We could never remember how to pronounce it correctly and we definitely remember thinking about it as recently as a couple years ago, although now seem to have no problem with it.

The game appears not to have been available in Europe; if it had been we’re sure we would have rented it.

First, we have a pretty nondescript team select page but I like the minimalism and the jaunty pose and tight outfit of the little fellow:

There is something also surreal and quaint about seeing North American “team” names in a game (countries and some European sides were also playable). But then there’s this, the match set up page:

In the middle we have a nice hour glass motif denoting the length of time the match you are about to play will be in real life. Like a real match, you can play up to 90 minutes and I’d be willing to bet that the amount of people who actually used this option and played a full hour and a half non-stop of this presumably poor game is zero. Beneath this, there is a marvelous system for indicating the game speed. Turtle for slow, horse for medium and cheetah for fast, presumably the first and only time any of these creatures have made an appearance in a football game.

But the best bit is at the top where we see several grotesquely misshapen skinny and muscular legs, with different size legs denoting the strength or difficulty level of each side (I’m not posting it again, scroll back up). It took me quite some time to figure this out as I didn’t realise at first that there was a difference in the “outer” and “inner” skinny legs. In “typical American” fashion, alpha male brawn is the order of the day. You’re either strong, weak or weak as fuck.

Incidentally, while the height of Meola’s fame was the 1994 World Cup, he would soon find his career diverting in two ways which would be unlikely for his European counterparts. Wiki explains:

“On December 14, 1994 Meola signed with the Buffalo Blizzard of the NPSL in the 1994-1995 indoor season. He became the team’s starting keeper, but on January 31, 1995, he announced that he had taken a lead role in the off-Broadway play Tony and Tina’s Wedding. He played five more games with the Blizzard before leaving to join the cast on February 16.”

Tony and Tina’s Wedding? I had really hoped that not content with just a video game to his name, this was a play written specifically for and about Tony Meola. Unfortunately though, it was as written in the mid 80’s and features “warm and intrusive stereotypes exaggerated for comic effect…Audience members are treated as guests at the wedding by the interactive, improvisational comedy cast.” Christ.

Aesthetically Pleasing Moments From Video Game Football History #2

In today’s edition of APMFVGFH, we look at some classic scenes from “Fever Pitch Soccer” for the SNES, released in 1995. We join the action as Kuwait, have just scored against Denmark:

As you can see, a man (or possibly man-beast, ala Street Fighter’s Blanka) with fabulous orange dread locks is decked out in Kuwait’s famous green and grey and has just scored what must have been an absolute belter. The Danish opponent can only look towards the ground with an embarrassed smile, quite possibly in recognition of a personal error directly preceding the goal.

We later rejoin as Denmark have just pulled one back after having conceded another couple of goals:

From his face, I would not be surprised to find out that the goalscorer was a heroin addict. Not that there is anything wrong with that of course. The devestated Kuwaiti defender also seems to have a serious case of “roid gut”, and his large, bulging thighs only support the theory that performance enhancing supplements may have been involved in many a pre-match meal for this particular individual. A rotund package hangs proudly in between the thighs.

Lastly, we come back late in the game after Denmark had scored again, but now Kuwait have just added a 4th to seal the game. And wouldn’t you know it, but it’s only “roided-up defender” who’s popped up to score it, and he is looking seriously devilish and even bigger than before. Jesus Christ look at those forearms:

Interestingly, the Danish keeper seems to be wearing some sort of version of the Adidas 1994 era goalkeeper shirt template in an LA Laker colourway. The hardfaced keeper (he’s been around the block) looks irate and is pointing sternly at the goalscorer as if to exclaim “He’s on steroids!”

Aesthetically Pleasing Moments From Video Game Football History #1

In a new feature here at Pyro On The Pitch, we take a brief look back at some lovely retro gaming images.

Here we have a “select-team” screen shot from Tecmo’s PC game “European Championship 1992“:

One glaring issue is the incorrect order of colours on the Russian flag, although since this is of course the Confederation of Independent States we’re talking about and not Russia, maybe this was intentional on Tecmo’s part. Also the CIS should be in red as their home shirt colour not white. Yugoslavia also incorrectly appear in away strip, so perhaps Tecmo was just making some sort of subtle commentary on collapsing states. We may never know, but hopefully the gamer did in fact choose to play as Luxembourg and lead them to glory.