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Pro Evolution Soccer 2011 3D - 3DS Review

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Pro Evolution Soccer 2011 3D

3DS | Konami | 1-2 Players (local multiplayer) | StreetPass Support | Out Now
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29th June 2011; By KnucklesSonic8

I've never been a big follower of the Pro Evolution Soccer franchise, but I know enough to conclude that the series excels at providing a realistic and deep take on the sport. Certainly bringing such an established franchise to the 3DS with all of its features could only work in favor of the direction Konami wants to take with PES moving forward. I had my doubts, of course. Even if this particular title didn't suffer from the port treatment seen in other 3DS launch titles, I was unsure what to expect from this game. After having played it for several hours, though, I can honestly say Pro Evolution Soccer 2011 3D is a great first effort from Konami. 

    Starting off with mode selection, the Main Menu allows for five different gameplay choices that will shape the quality of your experience. For a quick game, you can select 'Exhibition'; head to the UEFA Champions League for a tournament-style challenge or sign up for the Master League to take on the best teams in the world; select 'Edit' to change the default names of stadiums, players, and team names; and finally, the 'Wireless' option will give you the ability to set up a local multiplayer game for you and your buddy. Setting up the game for play doesn't take too long, regardless of which mode you end up selecting. 

    Before heading out onto the field, you can adjust your team's formation by using the Touch Screen. Under this Formation menu, you can move character icons to different starting positions or make player substitutions as needed. Detailed information is also provided on each character's stats and you can also identify which players will take corner and penalty kicks. One other important detail you should always confirm is your Strategy selection. Up to four strategies can be selected to have on-hand during a match, including Pressure, Counter Attack, and Centerback (CB) Overlay. During play, you can tap on one or more of the four sectors located on the right of the Touch Screen to get either your entire team or individual members to act out these directives. 

Selecting the Options sub-menu will give you access to a host of other adjustable gameplay settings. Match time can be set anywhere from five to thirty minutes in length (in increments of five), you can toggle entrance scenes on and off, remove certain features of the overhead display and a couple other things. Button configuration can be adjusted as well, but from what I observed, this can only be done during a match which is a bit odd. Save data is managed using the SD Card, and this includes not only the base file but also settings and your progress in the two league modes. Once you've figured all the preliminary stuff out, it's time to head to the stadium.

    Now first thing to mention is the fact that the game includes no Tutorial option for new players, so this is one game where you should actually follow the advice of reading the manual before playing. First up are the shared controls which do the same action regardless of which phase (offense/defense) you're in. Player movement is controlled through use of the Circle Pad or the +Control Pad, the R Button is used to Dash when held down, and a quick press of the L Button will allow you to control a different player. Those ones are easy to remember.

    When you're on the offensive, long passes are performed by holding down the A Button and releasing it when the energy in the gauge is at a desired level. The X Button is used to kick the ball a little bit ahead of you, the B Button for a short pass and the Y Button to take a shot at the net. When your team switches to Defense, the A Button is used to slide tackle while the X Button offers limited control over the goalkeeper when the occasion calls for it. Additionally, holding down the B Button will apply pressure on the rival player -- a valuable skill that will be used often. Players can also enlist the help of a computer player to do the same thing with the Y Button.

It doesn't take long for the basic controls to sink in, but once they do, you'll quickly discover that it's important to experiment with more advanced techniques using various button combinations. Many of the feints and dekes have you holding Down or quickly pressing the L Button in tandem with directional movements of the Circle Pad. Different types of shots and passes can be performed as well, so all in all, these additional skills really do add depth to the game. To be sure, player progression does take time before you see results.

    Notably, there is a huge difference in controlling players with the Circle Pad instead of the D-Pad. The level of control is really top-notch for a handheld soccer game. Such a control scheme affords more skill-oriented gameplay and fluidity with ball movements, especially when split-second decisions are needed. This enables you to keep a hold of the ball during those moments in a much more effective and comfortable way than what would be seen using the D-Pad. 

    However, it is worth mentioning that using the Circle Pad to direct shots is a bit imprecise. If you try to manually adjust the direction of the ball as you come out of a dribble, often times you'll unwittingly send the ball off a few inches from where you want it to go. It's simply more reliable to release the Circle Pad entirely when firing a shot, which is too bad. Moreover, even when holding down the A or Y Buttons for a long pass or clearance shot, it's important to keep in mind the direction you need to face and turn the Circle Pad in that direction as your player follows through with the shot. Otherwise, you'll find yourself firing the ball into inaccessible territory. 

One other aspect of the game that really impressed me was the camera! The "Player Camera" never remains stagnant -- it follows you and the other players in such a smooth way that you really get a good grip of who else is nearby when the pressure is on. It's almost immediately discernible just how well done the camera work is, making you feel like you're a part of the action. The immersiveness of the whole thing makes it a definite highlight of the game.

    In discussing the matter of authenticity, you would hope for some solid AI, and I'm happy to report that, for the most, Konami did a job with programming the CPU's. There are five skill levels you can set them to, including Beginner, Regular and Top Player. It was excellent to see just how realistic the AI really is. I would chuckle as the referee called them out for being off-side or get excited over a mistake they made that opened the way for a throw-in. At another key moment, I was completely focused on the movements of one CPU in particular who was purposely waiting by the corner and getting behind the ball in such a way to have me to knock it out of play. I loved that!

    Ideally, players should remain challenged or at least engaged during most if not all stages of their personal progression so they feel encouraged to tackle another skill level. So I was keen to observe just how well Konami would relegate and manage that balance of difficulty. Unfortuantely, it wasn't long before a problem surfaced with the same AI I just finished praising. Even when set to the Regular level, the AI seemed a little TOO good. The sorts of actions and quick-thinking used by the computers sends off a big cue that you must learn how to use the advanced techniques mentioned earlier because the basics just won't cut it by a certain point. Just like in real life, I found defensive plays to be easier to manage compared to going on the offensive where I often met up with unrealistically tough and super well-rounded opposition who reacted on a dime. Even despite implementing the aforementioned advanced techniques, I still found myself feeling discouraged from venturing anywhere past the 'Regular' skill level for that very reason.

It's interesting how one minute you could be laughing over a stupid pass or a fumbling ball, and the next you're sighing repeatedly over your seeming ineptitude. And yet, even though there will be many times when it's very difficult to score a single goal on the opponent, Pro Evolution Soccer 2011 3D is still a highly engaging game. The comfortable control scheme, the realism that comes from implementing feints and other advanced techniques -- all of this adds up to a genuinely fun experience. That's not to downplay the amount of frustration that will be had  in the central game modes, but after taking a break from the game and coming back to it, you can manifest a positive attitude once more with little difficulty.

    On a related note, the two League-based modes in the game feature somewhat different styles of gameplay. In EUFA Champions League, you'll encounter the traditional tournament-style competitions with elimination phases, playoffs, and finals. Master League, though, takes that setup and aims for a higher purpose. In this mode, you'll manage your team in a greater capacity through a week-by-week schedule. Your responsibilities will include taking note of their mentality and teamwork levels, raising your popularity, making negotiations with other clubs, and monitoring salary numbers. What's more, you can also take your world-class team and set themselves up for StreetPass matches where (from what I understand) the outcome is determined by your team's stats and the strategies you've put in place. Winning games over StreetPass will earn you points in addition to secret teams and players. So much like the gameplay elements, the modes on offer here are quite deep. 

Next, we'll look at the game's presentation. Just how well did Konami do here? First up: the 3D effects. From the moment you enter the fray and watch the first entrance scene, the 3D hits you with enough of an impact that gets you to stop and watch instead of skipping over it. When you're on the field and bouncing back and forth between your teammates, the 3D does take effect now and again, like when the ball seemingly heads towards you as it's shot through the air. But one of the best uses of the 3D comes from using the goalkeeper to clear the ball. Bringing the Depth Slider to its lowest point and bringing it back to full capacity once more, there is a notable difference in the way the visuals are represented on-screen. Making application of this at certain angles will cause someone who may be obscured from your vision to suddenly appear as if they had just come out of hiding. 

    During replays, the players really stick out when viewing at certain camera angles. By pressing the A Button you can cycle through these views and observe varying degrees of 3D. Pausing at certain moments will also lead to some attention-grabbing results, like having a player in mid-air pop out of the screen or seeing the goalie net create a bit of an illusion as if you were directly in front of it. There is some ghosting that takes place during player close-up's, primarily directly after a goal has been made. And sometimes, you can see right through their hair and make out the advertisements along the stadium wall in the background. But other than that, the 3D has really been put to good use during gameplay and if you choose to only play in 2D, you'll be missing out. 

3D effects aside, the rest of the game's visuals are pleasing. The character models look decent but the audience is more or less static and rough-looking. The overhead display works really well without being a source of distraction. Case in point: I originally thought there were no stamina gauges at all because they've been integrated with such subtlety. The layout on the Touch Screen is well-mapped to keep unessential information out of sight. There are some slight framerate dips to be experienced after a goal is scored, but they are mild. 

    As far as audio goes, I thought the game featured some pretty odd menu music that made it sound more like an RPG than a sports game. But for what they are, the tracks do sound good. The announcer comments during gameplay are very much welcome as they're not nearly as repetitive as the ones in Madden NFL Football. So all in all, the game performs admirably in this category also.

    Although there are definitely flaws to speak of, Pro Evolution Soccer 2011 3D is a fun game! There's no doubt that this is a much stronger sports gamer fix than Madden NFL Football was. Konami has not only demonstrated that they have a good handle on making use of the Nintendo 3DS' major selling point, but they've done a good job of developing a quality title that appeals to the core audience early on in the system's life. If you have someone to play with who's willing to purchase the game, then you should definitely pick this up. I doubt you'll be disappointed.

23/30 - Very Good

Gameplay 8/10 - Circle Pad offers a new level of control, accessible button layout, advanced techniques, strategy tactics, manual shot control isn't strong
Presentation 8/10 - Impressive camera integration, models look decent but the crowd looks rough, good audio, great use of 3D, framerate dips
Enjoyment 3/5 - Good fun, challenging and realistic AI, the same AI can be a source of frustration, player progression, very engaging
Extra Content 4/5 - Deep league modes, StreetPass incorporation, local multiplayer, customize names of stadiums and players

Equivalent to a score of 77% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)

Review by KnucklesSonic8
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