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Inazuma Eleven 3DS Review: Dragon (Foot) Ball Z

This hyperactive sports RPG won't do much for fans of serious soccer sims, but anyone interested in a more lighthearted approach should check it out.

Review by Nadia Oxford, .

In many ways, Level-5's Inazuma Eleven fits in the same locker as the Mario Golf series, or Punch-Out!!. It's a sports game (a soccer RPG, specifically), but only in the barest, most basic way. If a mundane referee tried to officiate one of the matches typical of Inazuma Eleven, they'd run up and down the pitch, blasting their whistle and screaming " Where did that dragon even come from?" before dying of an aneurysm.

In other words, don't let a lack of soccer knowledge stop you from enjoying Inazuma Eleven. All you really need to know is, the ball is round, and you kick it up and down the pitch. If you can manage that, welcome to the team.

However, even though athleticism and finesse aren't important, potential players need to be capable of stomaching anime-grade backstories about spunky underdogs, legendary grandfathers, and tormented soccer prodigies whose cool exterior masks childhood tragedy. Luckily, Inazuma Eleven's story is completely self-aware.

Self-aware or not, it's hard to dislike the game's main character, Mark Evans. His enthusiasm for soccer is contagious, even if you're not the type to give a second thought to the sport. You're driven to help him save his doomed team because he wants to give everyone the chance to discover how awesome soccer is. How can you say "no" to that?

Like most RPGs, Inazuma Eleven divides its time between walking, talking, and battles. In this case, "battles" refers to the many games of soccer you will play against other organized teams, as well as handfuls of random players looking to keep you in shape.

Outside of big, pre-scripted matches, most battles/games are short, sweet, and end when you perform a specific task, like taking the ball off the other team, or scoring the first goal. You can control players manually, though the player AI conducts itself decently and is a good choice for beginners.

Some players may find these random encounters tedious, but they're the best way to beef up your team. It's also interesting to engage in random battles that don't kill you if you lose (though Mark undoubtedly dies a little inside).

However, the game often does end if you fail to win the big story-driven matches. These do-or-die events are typically where you break out your players' special moves , like Mark's God Hand or Kevin's Dragon Crash. If you have qualms about summoning giant reptiles onto the pitch, you'll change your mind once the rival team's goalie literally warps space and time to stop the ball.

If you want a serious soccer game, or if you favor monster-slaying to sportsmanship, Inzuma Eleven won't do much for you. If you're open to the idea combining the genres into an experience that's solid and a bit silly, Inazuma Eleven will make you laugh and cheer. Ole ole ole.

The Details

  • Visuals: Inazuma Eleven is actually a Nintendo DS game, so expect a lot of super-deformed sprites and static character portraits. The players' special moves are executed via cinema scenes, however, and look pretty cool.
  • Sound: Lots of cheery music to play soccer by. The voice acting won't win any awards, but neither will it make you cringe.
  • Interface: Navigating the overworld can be done via traditional controls or the stylus, and soccer battles utilize the stylus only. The game gives you a few seconds to take out your stylus before a match begins (and the match doesn't actually start until you touch the screen), so switching between the two control schemes isn't too much of a hassle.
  • Lasting Appeal: There are tons of players to collect. Gotta scout 'em all!

If you want a serious soccer game, or if you favor monster-slaying to sportsmanship, Inzuma Eleven won't do much for you. If you're open to the idea combining the genres into an experience that's solid and a bit silly, Inazuma Eleven will make you laugh and cheer. Ole ole ole.

4 /5

Inazuma Eleven 3DS Review: Dragon (Foot) Ball Z Nadia Oxford This hyperactive sports RPG won't do much for fans of serious soccer sims, but anyone interested in a more lighthearted approach should check it out. 2014-02-26T15:00:00-05:00 4 5

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Comments 7

  • Avatar for TernBird #1 TernBird 2 years ago
    I take it Inazuma 11 isn't very deep? The review makes the game seem very simple and truncated. Not that I'm against simple RPGS--we all need at least one in our lives.
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  • Avatar for Funny_Colour_Blue #2 Funny_Colour_Blue 2 years ago
    I loved Hot Shots Tennis for the PS2 and the PSP. On the surface it was a very simple tennis game that was meant to compete with the popularity and simplicity of wii sports; yeah, no dice.

    The PSP version though, "Get A Grip" had a story/rpg mode where you traveled around the world to spread the joy of tennis. It had you playing against, princesses, hollywood actors and ninjas!

    Even the Helghast from Killzone, were a secret character, though really hard to beat, were great for double matches once you were able get them to join your team.

    I really wished they selected "Get a Grip" as a PSP remaster collection. It was a really great game. It would have be made even better if it had online coop/multiplayer.

    One of the secret best games of the PSP, along with YS Seven.Edited February 2014 by Funny_Colour_Blue
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  • Avatar for nadiaoxford #3 nadiaoxford 2 years ago
    @TernBird A bit on the simpler side, yes, but not negatively so. :) If anything, the RPG elements are a bit simplistic - random encounters, rewards after "battle," considerable linearity, that sort of thing.
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  • Avatar for Critical_Hit #4 Critical_Hit 2 years ago
    These screenshots look terrible -- is this really the 3DS one? It looks like one of the DS ones, with pixelated textures and low poly models and whatnot. Compare this to Level 5's real-deal 3DS Prof. Layton games or Yokai Watch... did NOA just bring us a DS game and throw it up on the 3DS eShop?

    That being said, I believe the actual game to be totally cool looking. THIS is what I've been wanting Camelot to do with the Mario Sports games again; a sports-RPG with a fun, strong, arcade sports core. But this looks shady to me... NOA should be throwing up the latest and greatest Inazuma Eleven if they care about launching this franchise here in North America.

    Not that they probably do, considering how downright antagonistic Nintendo (the whole company) has been towards trying to help new franchises break out. Whether we're looking at Wonderful 101, Last Story, Xenoblade or I-11 here, they just seem to want to dust them under a rug and start shouting about Mario again. I don't think they've seriously backed a new IP since launching Professor Layton in 2007(?).

    Nintendo's starting to act like Microsoft whenever they have a non-Halo exclusive...
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  • Avatar for DiscordInc #5 DiscordInc 2 years ago
    @Critical_Hit I believe this version is a 3DS port of the original DS game. So they've probably done some cleanup on the graphics, but obviously not to the level of a 3DS original title.

    I'm actually kinda glad they went with this very first one. It would have been easy for them to just release the first game of the 3DS trilogy and call it a day, but hopefully this means they intend to release all of them here.

    I do agree that this could have been given a bit more fanfare. Soccer is getting popular enough here that they could have given it a lot more promotion. It's not like everyone watches Nintendo Direct.
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  • Avatar for nadiaoxford #6 nadiaoxford 2 years ago
    @DiscordInc Yeah, soccer is actually Canada's second most popular game (you don't win any points for guessing our most popular game).
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  • Avatar for DiscordInc #7 DiscordInc 2 years ago
    @nadiaoxford Curling?

    Seriously though, it's also getting popular down here as well. I don't know where is stands compared to the other US sports, but I do know that in recent years I know a lot more people who care about professional soccer than when I actually played it as a kid.
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