Nothing ages quite like a sports video game. Which is to say, nothing ages quite so badly as most sports video games. Has Super Soccer stood the test of time?
In Retro Game Of The Week I pull a game from my collection and write about why it’s important or interesting. Or in some cases, badly dated and rubbish.
As regular listeners to Vertical Hold: Behind The Tech News (you are a subscriber, right?) will know, I’m not a big sports guy. A bit of professional wrestling here and there, and a few sports I will watch from time to time, such as Ice Hockey (hey, I’ve got Canadian relatives) and soccer.
Association Football Rule 347: The Defending team shall line up in precisely straight lines at kickoff.
The soccer thing comes from the fact that I spent some of my teenage years living in the UK, and if you live in the UK, you HAVE to like soccer.
It’s the law, and if I disobeyed that law, the reigning monarch could have me fed to the royal swans.
Chortling when “Spotted Dick” is served at dessert? Also a capital crime.
But in the world of video games, sports games have a distinct reputation of not ageing well. Old sports games are generally held to be inferior to newer efforts, because we’ve come a long, long way from the era where an Atari 2600 game would try to convince you that the same square pixel could be a basketball, soccer ball or hockey puck.
Professional Wrestling’s a bit of an exception here — you can’t have my copies of WWF No Mercy, Fire Pro Wrestling Premium X or Virtual Pro Wrestling 2 without killing me first — but I digress.
Mario’s not the only one to branch out into other game genres…
Super Soccer (SNES) was one of the earlier — probably the first, but I’m not certain on that — sports games available for the Super Nintendo Entertainment system. Developed by Human Software and based on their Formation Soccer game for the PC Engine, it’s a knockabout soccer title with a slight arcade feel.
Try not to think about the fact that nobody’s got a face because…
OH GOD THEY’RE NOT HUMAN ARE THEY?
OK, it’s got a very arcade feel, because the most notorious thing about Super Soccer is the way that you… ahem… tackle. The game features a standard sliding tackle with the usual risk-reward mechanism fairly well implemented for a game of its era.
However, it also features a move that’s a bit less within the standard rules of association football as I remember them. It’s a shoulder tackle, and it’s even called that within the game’s manual.
This is (more often than not) viewed as entirely legal play, as I shoulder barge my opposition to nick the ball from them.
Shoulder barging your foes in Super Soccer is never not amusing, even though it’s not really in the standard rules of the game proper.
There is some small risk here, because every once in a while the ref will wake up and realise that you’re thumping your foes so hard that they shout out in pain… but it doesn’t happen a lot.
Although if you DO get called for a shoulder tackle, a red card is a near certainty.
The ref’s mostly asleep… except when he isn’t.
The SNES had quite a few soccer titles over its lifespan, and many of them haven’t aged well because if you’re truly passionate about that sport, the shift to proper 3D visuals made the most immense difference to playability and strategy.
GOOOOOALL!!! (Much easier scored going up the screen than down, I find.)
Meanwhile, SNES Super Soccer is stuck with an up and down mode 7 screen style that means it’s a lot easier to play in the half where you’re dribbling up the screen than down, especially as there’s no player radar to speak of.
Actually, there’s not much here to speak of in terms of options, either.
Top artists toiled for WEEKS to produce this highly detailed start screen.
You pick difficulty essentially by choosing a stronger or weaker team, there’s no way to turn the game’s slightly annoying soundtrack off, and you’re either playing straight exhibition matches or the password based tournament mode. That’s your lot, like it or not.
Germany vs Belgium isn’t an even matchup.
I mean, the Belgian player’s only got one full leg for a start!
One interesting inclusion here is the option for a 2 human players vs CPU game, which certainly wasn’t a common idea at the time. It’s an interesting way to play Super Soccer, for sure.
Super Soccer has aged better than most, but it’s certainly not up there with the timeless sports classics — and for soccer games, that’s got to be Sensible Soccer for sure.
How to play Super Soccer (SNES) today
This one’s pretty easy if you’ve got a Nintendo Switch, because it’s part of the Switch Online SNES games library.
My own copy was bought second hand years ago, and if memory serves it only cost me a couple of dollars, because it’s in pretty shabby condition with a yellowed case and frayed front sticker. It’s not pretty — but it works. This is your reminder that even well-worn video games are still games, and deserving of your love. Once I’ve finished typing this up I’ll give my copy of Super Soccer (pictured above) a bit of a clean, I promise.
If you wanted your own copy, it’s one of the easier titles to acquire for a relatively low price. That’ll partly be that sports game thing, but also because it did sell quite a few copies back in the day — as memory serves for a long while at launch it was one of only a handful of SNES games you could buy, period.