Want a portable, fun, and easy to learn soccer game? Yeah, so do I.
It’s imperative to start off this review by stating that this is not a bad game. It’s just barely better than mediocre. This game isn’t meant for the average person to pick up and play; it is for the hardcore soccer fans and people with higher than average dexterity. If the DS exists to keep games simple, then FIFA World Cup 2006 is the rebel of the lot.
FIFA has all the trimmings of being a pretty DS soccer game, but it lacks much of what makes a sports game fun. While the game does at least allow for single card download play, there is the issue of finding someone to play with, and as I stated in the GameCube World Cup review, sports games are best when they’re played with other people (with rare exceptions).
The menus are impressive, the music selection is nice, and the presentation is clever, but the game is boring. If a development team is going to make a sports game for the DS, this is the perfect interface. There are no vast catacombs of menus, the songs that play are pleasant without being totally distracting, and the little fun-facts provided during loading screens –yes, loading screens– are nice little touches. When you start up a World Cup game and see the confetti floating down upon the field as the opposing teams line up, you wouldn’t be amiss to think, this game is going to be damn good.
Prepare yourself for disappointment.
The colors are dark, the action moves slowly, the controls are cryptic, the movement feels sluggish, and the touch-screen strategy changes are pointless. The gameplay is passable, but unless you’re a hardcore soccer nut and a veteran gamer, there’s no reason to bother. Portable games should be easy to pick up and play. This game has too steep of a learning curve. Quite a bit of practice will be required to do well against the easier teams. When you finally do improve, the game is too easy.
An example of the insanity that went behind the creation of this game is that rather than keeping things relatively simple with the button placement, each button has two, sometimes three functions, many of which are dependent upon pressing the L button. For variety, the game includes an “arcade" control option, that does nothing more than change the location of two face buttons. On top of that, there are the needless touch-screen tactics in which you can change your formations on the fly. I’m not sure how they planned on gamers actually using this feature. Sure, the placement is next to the right thumb on the far right of the touch-screen, but you’ll never have time to take a break from using the other four buttons and select a formation from the mini-screen menu.
If you were to bother continuing the game out of sheer intestinal fortitude (or a mad love of soccer games), there is plenty to keep a man busy for a while. Several cheesy mini-games alternate between using the touch-screen and the face buttons. In addition, there are the requisite unlockables (posters, trophies, etc). None of the mini-games are particularly enjoyable, but they’re there, and they break the monotony as well as provide you with some practice.
Sadly, at this point, there are no great sports games on the DS. At best are these not-bad ports of console games. The hope, of course, is that one day someone will figure out that maybe sports games don’t need to be perfect simulations in order to be fun. Granted, there is a place for sims, but the DS is not it. The DS sports games should have a more arcade feel to them and should take advantage of what the system does well. I understand that the WiFi service may not work with games that require so many models on the screen at once, but, in these cases, the game should excel at being single player entertainment.