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.

Youtube link

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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 #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!”