ARC STYLE: Soccer 3D
3DS Download | Arc System Works | 1-2 Players (local multiplayer) | Out Now (North America) | $6.99
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29th March 2012; By KnucklesSonic8
In this casual-focused title, ARC STYLE: Soccer 3D presents three main options for players to get acquainted with. World Tournament, the primary mode of play, has you facing off against a number of teams leading up to the final match for the trophy. There is no bracket system or any other indication of how many teams you're up against, so on your first run-through, you'll be pretty much clueless. In actuality, though, there are eight preliminary matches that must be cleared before moving to the semifinals and finals. For something faster, Exhibition Mode allows you to play against a friend or a computer team on three difficulty settings. And then there's the Customize menu, where you're given very simple templates of uniform designs that can then be slightly spruced up with colour in a separate menu. An effective use of 3D is seen as you scroll through these latter menus as characters look like they're protruding out of the screen, but that's about good as it gets for the entire package.
The teams you can choose from are ranked anywhere from one to five stars, depending on the kinds of players that make up their roster. Each teammate is classified by their build to identify their main strength and weakness, as well as a move that only they can perform. Some characters can pull off curve shots, while others can do an overhead Bicycle Kick. These are all done by pressing the A Button. Having these moves adds to the arcade feel that they were going for, as they should. But as you'll see in a bit, there are some issues associated with these special skills.
As far as controls, you can use either the Circle Pad or the +Control Pad to move players around the field, while holding the X or R Button down to allow the active player to dash. While on defense, you can press B for a sliding tackle, or switch which player you'd like to control by pressing the Y Button. When the ball is in your possession, pressing B will pass the ball to the teammate facing you, with aerial passes being possible if you hold down the button. This can then be combined with a press of the Y Button for a header. Aside from my fingers instinctively wanting to press the L Button to switch players, the controls work fine.
Running up and down the field is made easy thanks to the game's integration of a stamina system. The triangular icon above your active player will gradually turn red to indicate that you're about to drain all of his or her energy. If this takes place, your player will stand in place for a few seconds as they try to catch their breath, but of course this is something you can't afford -- at least, in theory. This actually creates a nice pace that only starts to become a bit fun by the time you make it to the end of the championship.
Gameplay is laid out very simply, with the 3D Screen showing gameplay as the Touch Screen displays all the special skills for each player along with a rundown of the basics. The overall presentation, however, will be met with feelings of disinterest and perhaps even boredom. The audience members sitting in the audience look as flat as pancakes, the game announcements (e.g., Time Up, Game Set) are governed by a poor font choice, a lack of music is replaced by annoying chatter, and the field itself just looks dull. With 3D enabled, the game looks a tint lighter, and the camera view can be switched to ground level by pressing the L Button. But it's a good thing there aren't framerate issues, because everything else about the presentation would really be a turn-off. Seeing players trip from a slide tackle is kind of funny, but other than that, there's really no charm to the game.
It doesn't even take to the end of a match before the problems start to becomes as clear as day. This first one is a bit nitpicky, but each time the ball is passed to a CPU, they will stop it firmly on the ground for a second before they start moving again. Ever hear of a running pass, guys? More importantly, passing the ball to the goalkeepers often sees choppy transitions, evident not only in the motions that characters take as per their average animations, but also in what takes place with the camera. I alluded to this earlier, but the smallest players (runts, as they are called) can also use their special to cheat their way past the goalie and walk right inside the net with little trouble. Even if they don't go inside the net with the ball, they can easily trick the goalkeeper and shoot the ball into the opposite end. I'm not sure how that slipped by the developers.
The above actually ties into another point I'd like to make: It is all too easy to outsmart the computer. As a case in point, I purposely did nothing for an entire round, acting only to pass the ball when it was the goalie's turn. It wasn't until overtime that the opposing team finally scored a single goal on our net, and it was embarrassing to see the amount of time it took them just to get the ball off a player who was standing still! Playing for real, though, it wasn't until the eighth match in the tournament that the computer managed to score a goal on me, and even after that, there were barely any successful efforts from the few teams that followed. That should give you a good idea of how "difficult" the AI in this game is.
In all honesty, though, the AI is generally lousy. There were numerous times in my experience with this game where my active player had run out of steam, and instead of using the vulnerable state I was in as an opportunity to steal the ball, the computer players just stood there waiting for me to recover! This happens even with some of your own teammates when they're not being controlled by you manually. That's great sportsmanship if my teammate were having an allergic reaction, but for a competitive soccer title, it's really lame.
If you think that's kind of bad, the goalkeeper is the absolute worst offender on the subject of lousy AI. There was one point where I mistakenly shot the ball from my side of the field, and this particular character I was using had a curve shot as his special move. As it turns out, the ball landed a few inches away from the net and literally bounced right in. Meanwhile, the goalkeeper just stared off into the distance as though he were distracted by an imaginary team of cheerleaders. That's not even the tip of the iceberg, though.
Although they've been known to react a couple times, whenever you try doing a Bicycle Kick in the end zone, the goalkeeper still just stands there. There was also a time when the ball bounced off the post and one of the opponents on the rival's team grabbed the ball while he was inside the net. Never mind the fact that a score wasn't awarded, the goalie let him take it out. Somehow that was okay, yet me accidentally sliding into the net with the ball still counts as a goal. Without even getting into the goalkeeper's bad habits of passing to opponents who are clearly not open, you can clearly see things aren't right in this department.
After putting up with all of the above, getting congratulated on winning the entire Championship hardly feels like an accomplishment to be sure. But if you do manage to get through it all, a special match will take place that will pit you against a team consisting of Guilty Gear characters. Some of them do feel overpowered due to their agility, but fans of the series will like that little touch. As you reach the final stretch of the Championship, the game does lighten up a bit and actually starts to be fun despite the flaws. It's interesting to note that these instances of fun are unintentional byproducts of a sloppy system. But if these moments are any indication of the kind of atmosphere that would be apparent in a multiplayer session (which I did not get to try), then that's something that might be seen as amusing.
While I don't consider ARC STYLE: Soccer 3D to be a terrible game, the programming flaws give the title more negatives to speak about than positives. All things considered, the thought of paying $7 is nuts, and there is simply no other way to view this game other than being a total waste of money. With the kinds of experiences that have already been made available on the eShop, save your money and put it towards something that actually deserves your support.
12/30 - Very Poor
Gameplay 4/10 - Characters have defined attributes, stamina system leads to a fast pace, lousy AI, sloppy in multiple respects, programming needs work
Presentation 5/10 - Good 3D on menus, dull visuals, average animations, choppy camera movements and transitions, no music during gameplay
Enjoyment 1/5 - Issues with the AI severely diminish the fun factor, rare moments of fun that arise from the game's sloppiness, no charm to add appeal
Extra Content 2/5 - Customizable characters and teams, Guilty Gear cameos, multiplayer, asking price is simply too much to ask
Equivalent to a score of 40% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating) - Our Rating System