Soccer Up 3D
3DS Download | EnjoyUp Games | 1-2 Players (local multiplayer) | Out Now (North America) | $6.99
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9th May 2013; By KnucklesSonic8
Extracting this basic idea of consistency and applying it to traditional sports games, those who consider themselves regular supporters of one of the long-standing franchises can usually tell when the development team has held back. With one-offs that have yet to come into their own, it's more a case of biting the bullet since there's not much within the same realm to compare it to. With Soccer Up 3D, the stakes are a bit different, which may or may not be a good thing.
After a major loss in the category of overall aptitude, Soccer Up is back for another go on the 3DS, marking the return of the original WiiWare title in what is essentially 'Soccer Up Revisited.' Soccer Up 3D isn't a full-on enhancement so much as it's more a revised adaptation in handheld form. Bucking up their efforts largely in subtle ways, I must admit EnjoyUp has had a better go at things with this iteration, with the result being a system that can be worked with more feasibly than its distressingly flawed console counterpart.
Soccer Up 3D isn't your traditional, feature-heavy soccer game, nor is it a passive wannabe. The overactive ball physics make this a game that's greatly influenced by your actions in ways that may appear unconventional to some. How this mainly ends up being realized is in power kicks, as well as with lobbed and above-ground passes. While the ball is airborne, players can control its path rather sharply, with the game treating aerial control like a game of golf where the player's inputs have the effect that wind would have. In more grounded terms, the path of the ball post-dribble gives an impression that it has a mind of its own and needs to be constantly monitored and re-directed as the situation may call for. This idea of "control" is laughable at first, but it's something you learn to accept -- even if you have nagging doubts in the back of your mind that you probably shouldn't.
There is an overall confusion in how the game defines "total control," what with the lack of refined delivery and based on however else the game decides to translate this to what it feels is freeing and less rigid. The lack of uniformity ends up bringing numerous complications to the fore, and because of this, first-time players will feel incapable based on the resources given. But interestingly enough, this unusual dynamic ends up being a way for the game to distance itself positively from other sports titles, even with the negative qualities that hamper it.
Executing plays is an aggravating process at times. If it's not because the system itself is unreliable, players will be prone to witness delays in their actions or having their movements not replicated in due course at the right moment when it counts. Again, casual players will find it hard to maintain a set strategy without essentially going with the flow, and part of this is because the AI is on an above-intermediate-level setting that can't be lowered or raised. They're good opponents in the sense that they don't leave you much room for a clear path to the goal, often forcing you to exercise some rash judgments in your passing and shooting techniques. But these patterns most certainly work to lead you along an uphill difficulty curve. It's a wonder the CPU can make sense of things so proficiently.
Embarrassing outcomes do result, with even the AI making some fumbles of their own. Yet, amidst all the craziness, Soccer Up 3D manages to be comical, ultimately being more funny than enjoyable. Soon enough, though, the joke's over, and you find yourself unsatisfied over where you're at in the scheme of things. Yes, there is a difficulty curve to work with here; it's just that you won't feel motivated to do so. At least you get to toy with two control schemes so you're not set in this one mode; the New control type lessens the extent to which you'll lose control over the ball. The rowdy and disorganized play style the game appears to revel in does come with caveats, the foremost being that interceptions, while tough to do in certain situations, are fun to pull off. And the techniques you can employ besides straight kicks, shots, and passes are adequate and offer room for players to expand their skill set. But there is a fair amount of imbalances to match and even exceed these positive attributes.
For one, the game's passing mechanics take some getting used to. There are two methods of control for customizing how these are affected, but neither are especially fluid. Either one of two situations develop: Manual passes are taken too literally where you have to switch to the player ahead to receive a kick, or periods when the ball is free of your hold conflict with who the active player is.
Additionally, actions that unfold during a game can feel abrupt at times, even disruptive. As an example, one incident saw myself, my goalie and a rival huddled close together near the net. As the CPU shot the ball, the goalie caught it, but it was not before a glitchy frame where it looked like the ball passed him completely. Just after, a tackle was still carried out even though manual control had switched to the goalie, and I was penalized for it.
On a more serious note, there are some hard-to-accept technical troubles that make Soccer Up 3D a rather buggy product. I wasn't surprised by this, given how much the original was plagued by glitches, but arguably things aren't as bad. With gameplay, there was one time -- and this happened a lot in the original -- where everyone was leaving the field but one player, presumably looking to stand out, ran out to a boundary line for a throw-in to a non-existing team. You can also expect a number of game freezes to take place as you spend time with the game. In my experience, a couple caused the game to shut down completely after returning from Sleep Mode, while one or two transpired in the middle of gameplay. They're not so regular that the game is unplayable, but it's still a very real threat that should've been ironed out prior to release.
In terms of other aspects of the game's presentation, properties of the two available stadiums are predictable, albeit with some fuzzy advertising panels and weather patterns being absent. Compared to the WiiWare version, there is better lighting to be observed and the colour scheme isn't as muddy, so that's a positive improvement. 3D use doesn't ever take off, however, and the touch screen icons used to represent players on the field move erratically, slithering around like air hockey pucks. It's also hard to get a good read on the facial features, but I imagine this is because Mii support becomes unlocked after two hours of playtime. I do wonder why this wasn't made available from the very beginning, but my curiousity rests more with the fact that it didn't become available for me at all, even after meeting this requirement. Just as an aside, multiplayer capabilities are relatively accessible here, with Download Play thankfully being an option alongside Wireless Play. So that's something to keep in mind.
EnjoyUp's own brand of soccer antics may not come stacked with a healthy amount of personality, but there is something about it that's comical. Seeing as how much of the silliness stems from mistakes made on the part of the player, I'm not willing to concede that that this is an element the game harnesses outright. All the same, the game narrowly escapes the label of being too bland.
Any payoff that could stem from Soccer Up 3D's overall setup is relatively small, and its idea of what constitutes uninhibited controls is faulty at worst. Furthermore, the fact that you need to work with the system for some time before you start witnessing any kind of personal improvement won't fly with those looking for instant appeal. Yet, in spite of everything, you shouldn't overlook the fact that Soccer Up 3D can offer occasions of fun, even while the technical issues may rightly put you off. I'd more readily recommend Soccer Up 3D over the original, but it should be emphasized that as far as sports games go, this is one you'll merely be content with and only desire to visit on occasion as a break from full-fledged offerings.
17/30 - Okay/Average
Gameplay 6/10 - Somewhat unique controls but also quite problematic, plays not always handled well, difficulty curve present but barriers exist
Presentation 5/10 - Serious technical issues and game freezes, occasional gameplay glitches, better lighting, erratic Touch Screen map, 3D not worthwhile
Enjoyment 3/5 - Can be aggravating for casual players in trying to work with the system, not entirely concerning and bland, positive caveats
Extra Content 3/5 - Ordinary single-player options including World Cup and Exhibition, multiplayer features Download Play
Equivalent to a score of 57% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating) - Our Rating System