Thank you, Level-5. Thank you so very much.
It’s a sentiment I feel compelled to express after playing each and every title this developer produces because they really are just that damn good. Be it the Guild series on the Nintendo eShop providing us with classic games such as Attack of the Friday Monsters and Crimson Shroud or whether it is the unforgettable Professor Layton series or even the PS3 JRPG fantasy epic Ni No Kuni, Level-5 always produce imaginative groundbreaking video-games and Inazuma Eleven is no different.
Now before I get into the thick of things, I’d like to preface this review by saying that I am a pretty hardcore Level-5 fan and have experience with the Inazuma Eleven franchise having played previous installments of the game and immersing myself in the anime and even manga iterations of the series. I mean it is pretty great afterall. So this review is coming from the perspective of a fan of these titles and the franchise itself.
Right from the get go Inazuma Eleven GO: Light separates itself from past Inazuma Eleven titles in a big way. In previous installments of the series you play as Mark Evans (Endou Mamoru in the Japanese version) a goal keeper for Raimon Junior High’s Football Club. This game goes the complete opposite direction out of the gate, you begin as a first year Arion Sherwind a plucky young kid who loves football after having his life saved by a footballer as a child. His backstory is classic Inazuma Eleven where a near fatal incident involving football somehow spurs him on to play football.
But it isn’t that simple for young Arion as he first has to make it onto the team. The game is set 10 years after the events of the original Inazuma Eleven series and features a cast filled with colourful new characters. It is a very rewarding experience for players that have played the original games as you see how far the Raimon Junior High school has come in the since those games with the school now afforded a proper club room and even an indoor and outdoor arena for football. Furthermore seeing familiar old faces return is a genuinely thrilling prospect. The key here is that the game doesn’t rely on gamers have prior knowledge of who these characters are and what has happened to them instead placing the perspective from the eyes of Arion Sherwind who has no real connection to any of that past apart from admiring the players from afar. This makes each interaction feel both like reuniting with old friends and also meeting them for the first time.
Exploring the town around Raimon and beyond is a lot more fun this time around with plenty of nooks and crannies to poke about in. Also there are a lot of different types of players to recruit and a variety of different ways to do it. What I found most interesting however was the fact that you can now finally recruit female players. That’s right Inazuma has gone all gender equality on this thing and I love it.
The game’s RPG elements are much more detailed in this title compared to past games with a lot more focus on leveling players and stats in hopes of building your team. I love the level of customization on show here as well, you can realistically create any team you can imagine. It is a sense of freedom that really makes it feel above its RPG roots but at the same time it remains firmly ingrained in an RPG style of team building and a bit of grinding. You will no doubt find yourself seeking out players who have the fabled ability to summon a Fighting Spirit or even searching far and wide for a particular special move you’d like to try out on the pitch.
The gameplay largely remains untouched compared to previous Inazuma Eleven titles but has been given a new coat of paint that really takes the visual experience to another level. The visuals for Inazuma Eleven GO: Light are not unlike those seen in Level-5’s upcoming Yokai Watch and LBX: Little Battlers Experience games which makes for a nice common style among the Level-5 brand. The game simply looks gorgeous and the Inazuma Eleven series has never looked so good.
This English release of the game features some voice acting work which is at times suspect to say the least but it manages to carry the spirit of Inazuma Eleven rather well with a true sense for what a ‘world game’ football truly is. Many characters have accents and often speak in other languages which is at times baffling but it is a stylistic choice that I find rather endearing as the game rolled on. I have to give credit where credit is due, this is one of the most varied dubs as far as casting goes and the attention to detail in that regard is much appreciated.
It is worth noting that there are actually two versions of this first Inazuma Eleven GO game, Light and Shadow. For my review I got the Light version which features a fair amount of differences in comparison to Shadow, the most major of which is a storyline featuring Xavier Schiller and another plot line revolving around a new character named Bailong. There are also plenty of game exclusive special moves, fighting spirits and players which makes trading between titles all the more enticing and option.
Inazuma Eleven GO: Light like past Inazuma Eleven games is more than just a football RPG. Inazuma Eleven is like Pokemon meets FIFA. It tells a story every bit as emotionally engaging as any Final Fantasy game and it has a certain heart and soul to it that is utterly unique to Level-5 games.
Whether you like football or not, Inazuma Eleven GO: Light is a RPG unlike anything else in gaming. It is a creative and imaginative vision of passion in motion. Level-5 have done it again, Inazuma Eleven GO: Light is one of the best RPGs available on the 3DS and one of the most innovative ever in the genre. Thank you, Level-5. Thank you for Inazuma Eleven.
Looking for a second opinion? Check out Frank Inglese’s review of Inazuma Eleven GO: Shadow – Click Here