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A.P.I Review: ISS PRO '98
Developer: Konami OPTIONS: S.SHOT
No.1   No.2   No.3
Distributor: Konami 1-2 Player
Game Type: Soccer Sim Memory Card
Review Date: October 1998 Analog Compatible

Setting the Scene

Remember those dark and gloomy days of pre-'97?  A time when development 
teams across the globe were striving to produce a half decent soccer 
simulation for the home console.  Oh yes, there were plenty of great 
pretenders to the throne.  None more so than those dreadful early FIFA 
games.  Let's slip back in time a little.

The early eighties brought us the simplistic "Football Manager" and 
"Match Day", before the giant leap onto the cartridge system with 
"International Soccer". Towards the end of the decade a tidal wave was 
rising with Atari, Amiga, NES and Master System all providing input 
into this genre. By the nineties soccer sims were in abundance with 
the Amiga supporting over 60 titles.

Without the processor power to provide realistic graphics, developers 
had to concentrate on gameplay and control and because of this Sensible 
Soccer sat proudly at the top of the league for many years. 16-bit 
consoles were to change visuals dramatically with International 
Superstar Soccer Deluxe on the SNES, finally linking gameplay and 
graphics in one tidy package.

Providing a next generation soccer game for the 32-bit console has 
proved a little more daunting than developers first imagined. Early 
efforts would only highlight the task in hand as sprites were replaced 
with 3 dimensional polygon players constructed using the latest motion-
captured technology. Unfortunately the quality visuals were to 
drastically effect the pace and flow of this beautiful game.

The nut was finally cracked in July 1997.  International Superstar 
Soccer Pro was the title.  Even more surprising was that the developers 
were Konami and not those wizards from EA Sports.  Their breakthrough 
was to arrive shortly after in the form of FIFA Road to World Cup.


The original hit soccer game, which sold over a million units worldwide, 
was created exclusively for the Nintendo 64 and recently won an Academy 
Award for Best Console Sports Game of 1997.  The game was enhanced for 
1998 and is being released in three different versions: International 
Superstar Soccer Pro '98 for the Sony PlayStation, International 
Superstar Soccer '98 for the N64 and International Superstar Soccer for 
the Game Boy.


ISS Pro '98 graphically is almost identical to last years offering from 
Konami.  It's quite simple really... you don't fix what isn't broken.  
Once again when the game is in motion the graphics are so smooth you 
forget that this is just a video game and you actually feel like your 
participating in a real match. 

The motion capture is superb as the player twists and turns, lifting a 
foot over the ball as he produces a perfect feint to confuse the opposing 
player.   What looks ultra realistic is when a defender is backing off 
from an attacking player, while the after goal celebrations will have 
you watching the action replay over and over again. 

One new feature included is the option to view each replay from any 
desired angle.  Combining shoulder, directional and face buttons allows 
you to sweep the camera around a full 360° while concentrating on the 
movements of attacker or goalkeeper.

Slightly out of proportion are the flags that are constantly waved 
around in the crowd.  I'll swear that even Popeye couldn't lift those 
giant national emblems that flow back and forth behind the goals.

ISS Pro 98 now includes a slide bar which is used to increase the speed 
of play.  This is an excellent idea allowing each of the five difficulty 
levels to be finely tuned to suit your individual requirements.

Once again there are five stadium to select from, while weather conditions 
range from daytime clear to nighttime rain.  It's also worth mentioning 
that the loading times have been drastically reduced to under five seconds.

Sounds and Effects

The only real failing with last years ISS Pro offering was the duff 
commentary and poor sound effects.  Thankfully these have been corrected... 
well almost.  No more must we suffer the distinct noise of two coconuts 
being clattered together whenever a player ran with the ball.  Neither 
must we put up with screaming comments such as 'Great shot Italy', 
'Good goal England' and 'It's Argentina on the ball'.

Instead we have the distinct tones of BBC commentator Tony Gubba who 
describes the action as it happens.  Unfortunately because ISS Pro 
doesn't use the players real names each touch cannot be attributed 
to a specific person, therefore it all becomes a series of brief 
statements strung together.  Still... better than that twit Konami 
used last year!  

The crowd reactions to the flow of play is very good.  As the ball 
moves nearer to the goal... so the volume of their cheering rises, 
with the banging of drums saluting a goal scored.


As mentioned, the players do not have 'real' household names but the 
facility is available to edit each team and save onto a memory card.  
Perhaps a similar cheat code to that used in World League Soccer will 
become available which automatically rearranges the letters.  I hope 
so because working your way through 40 squads of 18 players would be 
a nightmare scenario.

Button configuration remains almost identical to last years offering 
with the brilliant through pass being the defence splitting motion.  
There's long pass, short pass, shoot, centre, sliding tackle and dash.

Practice mode includes the option to brush up on a selection of set 
piece moves in the comfort of the training ground.  This is perfect 
for trying to bend a free kick around the wall or perform a diving 
header from a corner kick.  There is also a Penalty Kick mode to 
practice for those sudden death occasions.

Exhibition mode allows up to two players to compete against each 
other or join forces against a selected CPU opponent.  

In League mode up to two players can play out an entire season 
against a selection of National teams from across the world.

There are seven knockout Cup competitions involving up to 32 
National teams.

Finally, how about a one off game where the European All Stars 
take on a selected World Eleven.

Before you proceed a few minor decisions need to be taken involving 
game difficulty, conditions, stadium and venue.  The match length must 
also be determined from five to fifteen minutes.  Formation, strategy 
and team selection is the final option before the game begins and once 
again follows the ISS tradition.  This is where small colored faces 
represent the current status of each player.  Should they be red and 
smiling, then put them in the team.  Grey and miserable players should 
be dropped from the squad immediately.

Players can enjoy the realistic game settings based on actual soccer 
strategies, including all-member offense, counter attack, zone press, 
center offense and more. Basic movements, such as pass and kick, are 
made by simple button settings. Once players feel comfortable at the 
basic levels, they can change to more complicated button settings to 
enjoy advanced game techniques. 

Both teams line up to be introduced to the crowd.  Each player looks 
completely different from the next in both appearance and stature. 
There's tall players, short players, balding players, thin players 
and most importantly recognizable players. 

The whistle blows and the game is underway. The passing feels accurate 
and the players respond instantly to your instructions from the the D-pad.  
A short pass will usually find a team mate, as will an accurate long pass, 
but it is the inclusion of a through ball that sets ISS Pro above the rest.  
Neat passing movements will only advance you so far up the field before a 
'defence splitting' pass must be played perfectly through the last line 
of defenders for your striker to run onto.  Once you get the hang of this 
tactic your forwards will stand a chance of breaking through the tightest 
offside traps and the toughest teams defence. 

Shooting requires reactionary skills as you still have a power bar that 
fills up extremely quick when launching a shot at goal. Too much power 
when you are too close to the target and your shot will fly high over 
the bar, this takes judgement but before long you will be bending 35 
yard free kicks into the top corner just like the Brazilians.

Value for Money

Value for money depends on whether you already own last years version 
of ISS Pro.  Because it was so good there have been little changes in 
both graphics and gameplay.  It's definitely more of the same... 
...but then the same was very, very good indeed.
GRAPHICS: 18/20 ISS Pro 98 is little more than an update on last years hit title. It still plays remarkably well and is a must for any soccer enthusiasts collection... but only if they don't already own the '97 version.

I suppose there are great similarities between FIFA Road to World Cup and FIFA World Cup '98. Both excellent titles but would you want to own both of them?
SOUND: 7/10
VALUE: 16/20


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