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Inazuma Eleven GO: Shadow Review

Inazuma-Eleven-GO-Shadow-Cover-Image-01I’m an Italian man, it’s true. With a last name like Inglese (the Italian word for English), it’s kind of hard NOT to tell that my cultural origin is that of the mediterranean variety. Being Italian, many people expect a certain few things of me: They expect me to express my words with the motions of my hands, which I do, they expect me to be an expert when it comes to the country’s cuisine, which I’m not, and they expect me to be good at soccer, which is understandable seeing how enjoyed the sport is over in the country shaped like, well…a big boot.

Fact is…I’m not that big a fan of the game. Never have been and, until I started playing Inazuma Eleven GO, I never thought I would be, but here I am writing a review of the soccer video game that, without giving too much away, will most likely be my personal video game of the year, so long as Level-5‘s other title Little Battlers Experience (set for a release in September) doesn’t set a new standard for the medium, which is a huge possibility.

Having never played an Inazuma Eleven title, heading into GO: Shadow was like walking onto a soccer field wearing a blindfold; something not encouraged by those who take the game seriously. Unable to deny the recommendation of Luke Halliday, I decided to pick up a copy of the game which was released in Japan quite some time ago but has only now been brought to Western shores. Needless to say…I was instantly hooked. Why though? What about this seemingly simple soccer title rejuvenated my love for video games? Well, it all started with the game’s story.Inazuma-Eleven-GO-Shadow-Screenshot-01

Set many years after the original run of Inazuma Eleven games, GO puts players in the soccer boots of one Arion Sherwind; a young soccer enthusiast that has just entered the oddly cut-throat world of modern day soccer. Wonderfully, GO makes you, the player, immediately aware of the fact that you do not need to have played previous titles to jump right into this new one. Not only does the game start with a brief and succinct synopsis of previous events, it also has you follow the story of a young boy who too is very much new to the life of a Raimon Eleven player.

Inazuma Eleven GO exists in a strange but likeable world essentially ruled by soccer; something that seems so silly but something that you will quickly come to absolutely adore. You, as Arion Sherwind and a cast of interestingly complex characters, must fight against the all-encompassing grasp of Fifth Sector in an attempt to restore the game of soccer back to it’s original glory.

It sounds kind of ridiculous right? Yeah, it totally is…but not in a way that’ll have you hating on it for more than a split second. Despite it’s overly simplistic and highly unbelievable over-arching story, the story holds itself up with an air of charm and class that I thought the current state of the video game industry had buried once and for all. Turns out I was wrong. Level-5 saved it, and they gave it to Inazuma Eleven GO.

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Backing up the game’s endearing storyline is that of it’s gameplay which perfectly blends styles befitting to that of both casual and hardcore gamers. Using the Nintendo 3DS’ touch screen, the aim of every match is to manoeuvre your team around the field with the intention of scoring goals…it’s basic soccer. What’s not basic about this game is the amazing level of strategy that can be put into place by paying close attention to the game’s RPG side which allows you to develop an array of different characters each more unique than the last.

The aim of the game is not only to complete the story but, much like Pokemon, it is to befriend and train as many of the characters as you possibly can, creating your very own dream team in the process. Level-5 have implemented a classic RPG levelling system which they’ve then tweaked to be more soccer-friendly; something no other developer could pull off while staying true to those same classic RPG mechanics that we’ve come to know and love over the years.

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I honestly didn’t know what to expect of this game when I loaded the cartridge into my system: I certainly didn’t expect visuals that utilised the handheld console’s 3D capabilities this well, and I certainly didn’t imagine a character cast this large without design overlaps. It really took me by surprise. As we know, the Nintendo 3DS isn’t a machine designed to bring players the very best when it comes to graphical performance. While some of the more recent Nintendo 3DS titles are indeed visually appealing, developers tend to rely more on the game’s mechanics to make it likeable rather than just how good it looks.

Level-5 walked this route for Inazuma Eleven GO, but took certain shortcuts to ensure that players would get the chance to experience some of the best of both worlds: For the most part, the game looks absolutely brilliant! Character models, when seen up close, don’t look as polished as you would expect but  the rest of the game’s visuals make up for it…and then some! It’s hard not to like a game so visually cheerful with it’s vibrant colours, flashy soccer techniques, wonderful dynamic camera work, and a world designed as the perfect backdrop to a story of it’s calibre. It’s simply amazing!

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You may have noticed as of late; not many Japanese titles that make their way to the West get the full localisation treatment. Nowadays, fans of English dubbing in Japanese video games are having to deal with text translation only, missing out on the majesty that could be a full English cast. I actually don’t mind playing games in their original Japanese dubbing. I didn’t think I was missing out on anything…until I played this game. Inazuma Eleven GO has a full English cast of wonderfully English voice performers.

Each and every single character has his or her own unique voice that sets them leagues apart from all the others, and the real kicker is that those who perform said voices are absolutely amazing at what they do. I must repeat myself; the story of Inazuma Eleven GO is very much over the top, but it is the voice performers who lend their talents to the individual roles that allow you, the player, to feel as though what’s going on is indeed possible and does indeed take a toll on both the hearts and minds of the characters involved. It’s spectacular! That, alongside the wonderfully fitting soundtrack, makes this game not one just to play but one to listen to as well.

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My love for video games, in more recent times, has dwindled. The last game I truly enjoyed was Earthbound when I replayed it a year or so ago, spending most if not all of my free time exploring, battling, and moving forward in the story. I loved it. I enjoyed it so much, but since then nothing has captivated me in the same way. Most game that are released nowadays seem almost corporate to me, as if they only exist to make money, not for the enjoyment of the people who’re purchasing it. Something has happened in more recent years, something devastating, something I feel as thought Level-5 are singlehandedly trying to reverse.

Inazuma Eleven GO has made me love video games again. with it’s simple concept, polished mechanics, likeable character cast, and extensive playability, it’s a game that is simply…fun. Which, I may be mistaken, but…isn’t that the whole idea of a video game? To be fun? To be addictive? To make you feel as though your money is worth more than six hours of mindlessness? Inazuma Eleven GO went from being a game I had barely ever heard of to one of my all time favorites almost instantaneously. Good games make you feel that way. It’s just too bad there aren’t more out there like Inazuma Eleven GO.

Looking for a second opinion? Check out Luke Halliday’s review of Inazuma Eleven GO: Light – Click Here

Grade: A+

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2 comments on “Inazuma Eleven GO: Shadow Review

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