Released in 1994 by Sony Imagesoft
This speedy, simplistic soccer game has its charms and provides a tough challenge, but I can’t imagine spending a whole lot of time with it.
Where it falls in the series
Most sports video games are easy to find at dirt cheap prices, but the famous Sensible Soccer series seemed to require more of a quest and more of an investment for someone in North America … or so I thought. I did some research and voila! Apparently I could enjoy “Sensi” on an American SNES, retitled Championship Soccer ’94, for only $11 plus shipping!
The series has a gazillion editions starting in 1992 on the Commodore Amiga, but Sensible World of Soccer, released in 1994 on Sega Mega Drive, seems to be the champion of the franchise. Nowadays, you can easily download updated versions onto an Xbox One or PS4.
Praises and gripes
In some ways this game is realistic: teams use actual formations, the field is big, and you need to pass a lot. And in other ways it’s ridiculous: it moves fast, goals are scored often, and players aren’t ruled by realistic physics.
The controls are ultra responsive and ultra simple — pass, shoot, slide tackle, that’s it — and there’s almost no finesse to this game. Each player glides along the surface with only one speed, there’s no speeding up and slowing down. You can only juke a player out if your guy is much faster. You’re just stringing together quick little passes to get closer to the goal. Defenders steal the ball automatically, or they can lunge from 10 feet away with a superhuman slide tackle. The ball curves in the air and apparently responds to the D-pad, which looks pretty nifty, but doesn’t have a huge impact on the game.
The default length of a game is six minutes, and you’ll usually end up with scores like 2-1, 1-1, and 1-0. Goalies are tough, but the action is just so fast that there are plenty of scoring opportunities. Is it fun? Yeah … I mean, I think … I don’t really know. It’s fun to score goals, but defense can be frustrating. The game automatically switches players for you, which is maddening at times. And even the wide view sometimes seems limited, as the key player in your passing strategy is somewhere just off-screen.
You can select from formations and strategies that were impressive at the time, and there are a ton of international, pro, and “custom” teams. (They aren’t actually custom; they just have silly names like “Pizza Toppings” and “Fruit Town.”) You can set up various leagues and tournaments, and choose from three difficulty settings. There are different playing surfaces and weather, but this just affects the shade of green on the field, not its physics.
Oh! One very notable downfall: you can end up matching teams wearing similar uniforms and you can’t tell them apart. And Oh! I forgot to also mention that the game plays the same chugg-a-chugg heavy metal music during every game.
Anyway, it’s fun but very basic. It’s a decent “drunk dudes hanging out” game, where you can laugh at how stupid it seems in this day and age.