FIFA International Soccer is a soccer sports game developed by Extended Play Productions, who were a part of EA Canada and published by EA for the Sega Genesis, SNES and many home computers in 1993. This game was the first in the FIFA Football series of video games that nowadays has an annual release and follows the model that EA had already set out with the annual releases of NFL Madden games and NHL games going back to the early 1990’s. The purpose of these annual releases were to update the squad lineups, so that players could play with the most up to date squads available at the time. EA obtained a licence with the sporting bodies of American Football and the National Hockey League to officially licence the players and the team, so that the players could play with their favourite teams and players, as well as build their dream teams. However, FIFA International Soccer being the first in the franchise does not have officially licenced players, but more players whose names are made up to make sure that there were no issues with copyright infringement. This review of the game will be of the Sega Genesis version because it is the version that I am most familiar with.
FIFA International Soccer allows the player to control international teams rather than football clubs, but there are multiple gameplay options to choose from. The first one is exhibition, where the player can have a one on one match against the computer using any of the international teams. However, the issue with the menu where the player picks the team is that the game does not show any stats about how good the teams are that are being picked. For example, someone new to the game might not know that Qatar is the weakest nation in the game and therefore might end up picking the strongest team to face. The only time the game shows the stats of the teams being picked just before the match starts. NHL 94 released the same year had the ability to show stats before picking the team and it is confusing to see why this system was not introduced in this game.
The other options are for Tournament, Playoff (which is similar to Tournament) and League mode, where the player picks their team and many other teams to face off in these formats. This is the only way to be able to play leagues and tournaments because for this release of the game, there was no officially licenced trophies or leagues. This was however addressed in the later games in the franchise with officially licensed leagues, teams and players and later games in the franchise had World Cup games and European Championship competition. The problem with the Tournament and League modes is that the game can only have up to 8 teams at a time picked for these competitions, meaning that the Tournament mode might end up being quite short. Also, the game does not save the progress of these tournaments to the cartridge, but instead the player would need a password to return to where they were.
The graphics of the game sadly have not aged very well at all and the running animations of the players look quite janky. The camera perspective definitely does not help with this because it is from a side isometric view, pointing down from the right side of the pitch and pans to follow the action. The one part of the graphics that I feel stand up really well is the amount of detail and variety of animations from the crowd. FIFA games have always struggled to get the crowd animations correct, but this game considering the limitations of the console did a really good job of giving the impression of a full stadium and the feeling of the crowd being in the stadium. Surprisingly, the detail of the people in the crowd seems to be higher than the amount of detail on the faces of the players on the pitch. The detailing on the different areas of the stadium, for example the stairs that lead further up into the stands have some fantastic detail in terms of shadowing and colour textures. The pitch at times can look quite fuzzy and can be disorienting, whilst the area for the dugouts is strangely yellow.
The gameplay is where the game both shines in terms of the controls, but also accentuates one of the major problems with the camera perspective regarding the controls. The ball control once the ball has been kicked is a little bit crazy because the player can press left or right to curve the ball as much as they want and in both directions from the same kick. This can mean that if the player is playing against a weaker team, it is very easy for the player to scores from the halfway line. I think this is because it was going to be tough to programme accuracy of the shots both on the hardware and from the camera perspective.
Speaking of the camera perspective, the isometric camera angle makes controlling the players quite a chore because whenever I push down, the player would go down and right. This is because the controls were programmed to behave with the camera in mind, meaning that if I wanted to run down to the opposition goal, then I would have to hold down and left. This can be really awkward because the camera is in an awkward place and if the camera was from the touchline, then the controls would feel a lot more natural.
Sound And Music
The sound in this game is quite minimal because the main sounds heard are the crowd, which is predominantly white noise. White noise was used because using audio samples was not an option and the only other option for games from this era. The music heard in the menus was composed by Jeff Van Dyck, who composed music for the original Need For Speed game published in 1994. Nowadays, he composes music for The Creative Assembly and Sega, for games such as Total War, Alien Isolation and Hand Of Fate. The compositions in the menus are great because they are upbeat and extremely catchy and means rather than having a menu which is quite and bland, it adds life to these menus.
FIFA International Soccer was the first of the series that would continue for more than 20 years and each installment adds something new to the franchise. Sadly, this game has not aged very well and very difficult to play because of the janky controls and weird camera angle. The music in the game is great, but I feel that something was missing that was added later on and that was using the licensed players and competing in licensed tournaments. I think if EA had of got the licence for these players and teams, then the game would be somewhat more memorable, but today it stands as the beginning of what would be a hugely successful franchise.
Copyright ©2017 Liam Piper. All Images Used Under Fair Use