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I’d like to preface this review by confessing that I have never played a game in the Inazuma Eleven series before. Other than the genre and title, I honestly had no idea what to expect from this. For those who were just like me, Inazuma Eleven is a Japanese role playing game, that’s also a sports game, developed by Level 5. If you hadn’t realised, football (called soccer in the game) is the sport of choice here. I can’t say I’m particularly thrilled with the choice of attaching a story to a football game, but I’m quite relieved this series adopts that, because it turns what could potentially be a mundane sports game into a unique experience, even if I do fail to understand from time to time. Bare with me here, I may get this a bit wrong.

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Inazuma Eleven GO: Light & Shadow is set ten years after the events of Inazuma Eleven 3. This time, instead of following the path of Mark Evans, we are given control of Arion Sherwind, a child obsessed with football, mainly due to the fact his life was saved by one. No really, a football saved his life, that happened. Football has become incredibly popular in Japan, so much so that a school’s credibility and worth is now directly proportional to the ability of their respective football team. Weaker education establishments get shut down as there isn’t enough applicants or interest in them. An organisation called “Fifth Sector” now controls all the football in Japan, and they’re also the game’s main antagonists. The “Holy Emperor” is in charge of this corrupt organisation and is the one who dictates whether teams win or lose, giving them set scores to achieve. While this may all sound quite convoluted and need some suspension of belief, the story isn’t half bad, certainly a better attempt than I’ve seen from any Western developer. Light and Shadow are the start of a new trilogy, so while there are certain winks and nods back to the previous three titles, you aren’t required to have knowledge of them, nor does the plot become increasingly reliant on you having that knowledge.

There may be worries that players won’t be able to follow the several different characters that the game gives you, but whether they are recurring or brand new ones, Arion and his team are surprisingly fleshed out and not just simply figureheads. These players are from all around the world, and I was definitely surprised to hear several different regional accents coming from them. There’s several British accents that are pronounced rather well, but sailing across to any other countries feels a bit dodgy. In particular, one of Arion’s friends is French, and rather than coming off as a genuine, accent, it feels racist more than anything. That’s slightly hyperbole, but hopefully you’ll understand what I mean, it plays to the stereotype rather than sounding true to the French accent. Dodgy at times, but other accents are brilliant, complete with mispronunciations and everything. Localisation have done a top notch job, despite some of the clichés.

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Arion joins Raimon Football Club only to find out that the sport he loves is run by the Fifth Sector and everything is regulated. He vows to make it right again and hopes to convince the other members of Raimon to stop falling out with each other and work together in order to bring balance to the force- sorry, to make everything right again. So yes, a different take on football, but Light and Shadow make no attempts to hide from their crazy plot-lines, it’s weird and wonderful consistently throughout, and that’s part of the charm, coupled with the graphical style of that players have seen in Pokémon X and Pokémon Y.

So let’s get to it, what’s an RPG without battles? Light and Shadow see you and your team gain experience by battling with other football teams, as you traverse around the overworld, red dots will appear on your map, indicating football battles (most of which are completely optional). A team of five on each side will compete and you’re given a goal to achieve while you battle, more often than not it’s simply to score a goal, but every now and then it’ll be “don’t lose the ball” or “get the ball”. These battles are short and sweet, allowing you to quickly level up, though admittedly it does start to feel more like grinding later on in the game. I’m told that these battles are more structured than before, as they would appear random in previous titles, whereas now they are initiated only when talking to an NPC. This makes the overworld a lot more enjoyable and getting around without the need to worry about starting a battle.

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Outside of these battles however, external characters don’t feel important. Before major events, you’re required to talk to everyone in the room or around the location, which feels more like filler than anything else, but Level 5 and the localisation team have done a wonderful job in making Raimon feel like a real school with people of differing groups, personalities and characteristics. It’s simply, talk to an NPC, see if they have anything important to say, move on. Even the fetch quests feels more valuable than them. The game always sets you objectives, always telling you where to go or give indications, there’s no sense of exploration, but perhaps that’s a good thing.

The battles themselves though are enjoyable, there are two different styles, the aforementioned five-a-side matches where they seem more “friendly” and also story matches, which are a full eleven-a-side teams. Using the touch screen, you draw the path you wish for your character to take, then tapping the screen to shoot, where you can select a chip shot or a normal one and adjust the strength of the shot. In all honesty, I never moved it from the strongest shot you can have. Command Duels, when two opposing players go against one another in order to gain the ball, are fundamental to winning matches. You have different options you can choose from when Command Duels occur, but neither one or the other will guarantee you’ll keep or win possession of the ball. Your other major tactic to a good offense is your Fighting Spirits. Fighting Spirits will help players win Command Duels as well as other advantageous benefits; they will become better and better as you use them more often, but they may also start to deplete your special meter.

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Story matches do get increasingly harder as the game progresses, and with some clever scripting, rather enjoyable. The more story matches you complete, the more abilities and items you’ll be able to get, though I felt items were underused and didn’t really add much to the game. The idea of balancing your points and energy for different moves, Fighting Spirits and stamina will no doubt put some potential players off, but if you can handle titles like Pokémon, you’ll no doubt pick this up quickly.

There’s a lot to be frightened of if you have never played an Inazuma Eleven title before, but Light and Shadow provide both old and new players with a sense of relief as they playthrough a surprising unique title that takes advantage of everything that the Nintendo 3DS has to offer. SpotPass and StreetPass content is available, you’ll be able to challenge other owners of the game to matches and see who comes out on top. You can also take the game online, which I honestly didn’t expect to see.

Overall, Inazuma Eleven GO: Light & Shadow concedes a few points at the beginning, but if you stick with it and cheer on the ludicrous plot line, you’ll start to see you have a real winner on your hands. It’s one of the most unique titles on the 3DS.

Thank you to Nintendo UK for proving me a review code in order to produce this review. The edition reviewed is the Shadow version of the game. There are minimal changes between the two games. Images have been taken from the official Nintendo site for the game, which you can see here.

 



Author

Daniel Switzer
Daniel Switzer

@PushStartMedia editor and Nintendo specialist.