New Star Soccer 5 - Review
Every once in a while a game comes along that attempts to challenge our assumptions of its genre. That game is New Star Soccer.
According to the creators, New Star Soccer 5 is a game where “You need to train hard, play matches, make transfers, do interviews, stay in touch with friends, sign sponsorship deals, go to the casino, buy items, cars, horses, property, a private jet… The list goes on!” And it most certainly does. The unique selling point of this title is its combination of an impressive 2D football sim with tons more extras than you could expect to find anywhere else. In short, you live the professional -and- personal life of a footballer.
A point of note is that the game comes with a learning curve for new players. As such it has a ’simple’ control scheme whereby ‘Z’ simply kicks the ball and chooses the optimum pass or shot for each situation. Good for beginners. After a few matches you’ll begin to get the hang of things, but with so many distractions outside of the pitch you might get too distracted! Your fitness depends solely on how much time you’ve spent doing things (seeing friends, buying items, etc) between matches, so be careful not to do too much.
If you do spend your time doing too much stuff, there’s always some remedies. You can buy energy drinks before a match, for example. In my case I drank two pints of beer, an energy drink and bought some shin pads before a match. Energy at 83%, tackling and flair at an all-time high, what could possibly go wrong? Unbelievably, I was injured after a few minutes and so that was the end of the match. Not the best start I thought.
With a lot of time to kill I opted to try out some of the many mini-games associated with the game. There’s a simple ‘match a pair’ type card game to establish whether you increase your reputation with fans or your boss, as well as a similar game for your friends. All of these meters add to an overall happiness meter that can give you a boost when you’re feeling happy… or make you mishit your passes/shots when you’re not.
Of course, a large part of this game is about making money and that is largely achievable via the casino. There are a few games (blackjack/roulette) that have appeared in many other titles and it’s a similar fare here. You can bet high and make money. Unfortunately for a game which relies on high scores so much, the system is highly abusable and you could just as easily save the game, bet money, win money, save again… and if you lose money just quit without saving. Nonetheless it’s a nice idea and adds to the overall feel of the game.
Eventually, I was no longer injured and could start playing again. So I did the usual tactic of getting plastered before my match and everything seemed to fall into place. Not. My problem is that there’s no mode where I can just learn how to play the game without all of these extras bundled on top of it. If there was a free-play mode, say, where you could just kick the ball about and -learn-, I would stand a much better chance of enjoying this game. In terms of only being able to play five matches a day, I would be quite frustrated at this point.
Fortunately however, I am reviewing the full game, not just the free trial. And it’s a good thing too, as the moment you can play as many games as you like in a day is the moment you start enjoying NSS. This game has a lot going for it, though many of these qualities only come forward when you’re bombing through matches and spending your time training, getting better to make the game easier. It really creates this addictive ‘one more match’ type feeling, which of course is ideal for a game of this type.
You know what’s brilliant? Pressing F5 to skip to when you’re subbed on. I can’t overstate the excellence of this feature. Really, really good. You wonder why they don’t have this for the Be a Pro mode on FIFA or PES – it just skips right past all the stuff you don’t care about. The same applies for when you’re subbed off. This is one of those fantastic features that makes the game feel great to play.
And you know what? If you care for your own sanity, you’ll ditch the simplistic control scheme and play with the advanced controls. Honestly, I can’t believe I played for so long without using them. It doesn’t change much, just splitting up pass/shoot/lob, but it really makes everything a lot easier. If you were frustrated with the other control scheme, i’d consider changing it up and seeing how you feel with this.
Ultimately, this is a highly ambitious game and as such there’s always going to be something to complain about. As noted previously, one of my major gripes is that there is no ‘free play’ mode for those on a 5-games-per-day free-trial. A big mistake in my opinion – there’s a reason that the FIFA demo lets you play unlimited matches with set constraints; you get to explore the engine and understand how to play.
Perhaps most damningly, one could relate playing New Star Soccer to playing Pro Evolution Soccer – with Super Cancel always being held down. Sound like fun? Maybe. It just takes a heckload of time to get used to the controls. And that simple learning curve I mentioned before can just be completely thrown out. This game takes a while to learn how to play and there’s no way you’re going to learn in just 5 matches… especially if you’re a substitute for two of them. I want to encourage people to play this game, but there has to be a mode whereby your player always attempts to latch onto passes made to him. There’s a reason both FIFA and PES do this.
Now having said that, one shouldn’t be quick to judge - there’s a reason that the New Star Soccer series has been able to reach a fifth instalment. The core gameplay is different to what you’ll find in the mainstream football games available at the moment and that’s something which should be applauded rather than decried. Perhaps it could find a better life as an iPhone game? I’m sure something of this quality would be hugely successful on the App store.
Despite its flaws, New Star Soccer 5 is a rich and engaging satire on the life of a footballer and encourages management that you won’t see anywhere else in a football sim. Once you get used to the controls, you’ll find yourself having a blast. Is it as good as PES or FIFA? Of course not. But it sure is something different, something richly entertaining, and that’s something we can all appreciate in the current market.
Against all the odds, New Star Soccer 5 rocks. And as an indie game by an indie developer, I would encourage all of you to at least give it a try. Perhaps the price point is too high and that may be a sticking point for some of you, but i’m all for supporting the fresh and the new.