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Inazuma Eleven Go (Shine Version) Japanese Format (NTSC-J). Box,package,
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The Inazuma games are a series that focuses around a middle school soccer team that has to face off against other soccer teams in an increasingly difficult series of matches. These soccer battles are complete with special moves (such as kicking flaming soccer balls at players' faces) and ridiculous characters as is normal in Japanese Anime. The gameplay is divided between these soccer matches (controlled on the bottom screen by the stylus) and RPG elements where you walk around the city fulfilling quests and leveling up characters. Both are fun, and the increasingly more absurd plots add greatly to the battle elements. This time the enemy is the Holy Road, an organization that controls Japanese soccer so that no team is greatly superior to another. Soccer is managed to such a degree that teams are given the results in advance (including the score) and expected to play to them. Naturally Raimon ignores this and leads a soccer revolution against the emperor, which provides a nice rebellious theme to the game.
Unlike the rather disappointing Inazuma Eleven 3, Inazuma Eleven Go! has been redesigned for the 3DS from the ground up. Instead of the Super Nintendoesque sprites of the first trilogy the entire world is rendered in stylish 3D maps. These maps are focused more on looking pretty than looking fancy so they don't really take anything away from the game. In fact I prefer the Animeish design to that of the original, which featured characters that were a little too blocky to be considered cute. In fact, the only problem I have with the new graphics is that it is now much more difficult to recognize your players during battle. The easiest way of doing this is to hit start until their names show up underneath them, but it'd be nice if this wasn't necessary. The soccer battles continue to be played on the bottom screen (I'm not sure how else they could have done them) but everything else is on the upper screen which allows for a widescreen view of significantly better quality.
The gameplay hasn't been altered much at all. The biggest change is that they've added an even higher level of special moves to matches so now the low end maneuvers such as headers don't really work anymore. This means you burn through your TP at a much faster rate. At the top of the new system is the kenshin, a sort of special summon that you can use to give your characters power. Not all characters have these kenshin so it can be quite hard going, especially early on. These kenshin are so overpowered they're a bit broken, meaning that when a player has a kenshin activated they are basically unstoppable. Plotwise this is a boon since it means the challenge feels real, but from a gaming standpoint it can be a real nuisance. Once you get your own kenshin it becomes more fun and the game resumes its entertaining ways. Having seen the Anime I expected to hate the kenshin, but they actually worked pretty good and didn't utterly derail the existing system. The game still has some overly plotted battles, but the goals in these has become better defined with a glowing circle indicating where you need to get your character to with the ball. There are also less of them, which is good. Another improvement is the removal of the outdated random battle system. Now to level up you travel the map looking for the red dots which indicate a team wishes to challenge you.
The only real downside to the game is that the original characters are gone. No more Endou Mamoru or Goenji Shuya with their distinctive design and entertaining personalities. This game takes place ten years later and features an entirely new cast of characters. In the lead is Matsukaze Tenma, a first year student whose idealism and energy enervate the team into fighting the directives of the emperor. Shinsuke comes in with Tenma and is a small guy whose main character trait is being plucky and loyal. Shindou is the captain of the team and he's basically a musician whose powers allow him to conduct the team like an orchestra. Tsurugi is the cool ace striker, who doesn't take his hands out of his pockets even when making his special move. He's there as a mole to make sure Raimon fails, but he's fun to watch. Unfortunately these are the only characters who are really memorable. Everyone else is either bland or vacillating too much to leave an impression. Still, these four are cool and the supporting cast isn't as obnoxious as in the Anime. They might not be as good as the original crew but they're not bad either.
You may notice that I'm using the Japanese names for everything here. It's because, even more than in the previous games, the localization is atrociously bad. I don't know why they think that we can't handle foreign names but they've really gone out of their way to make the English ones feel even more foreign than the Japanese ones could ever be. For example Tenma is now Arion Sherwind, while Shindou has become Riccardo Di Rigo, and Shinsuke is Jean-Pierre Lapin. Worse names are to come with Subaru Honda, Wanli Changcheng, Michael Ballzack (seriously), Doug MacArthur, and Hugues Baudet. Even terms are not immune from change with the original kenshin (reasonably translated as avatars in the Anime) now called fighting spirits. The only coolish name they've created has been Tsurugi's Victor Blade. Worse still, they've apparently run out of actors who can do cockney (which was bad enough in itself) and are now giving characters random nationalities. Shindou is now Italian, replete with bad accent, while Shinsuke is French. We've also got Spaniards, Americans, Portuguese, Koreans, and Chinese, all of whom are actually Japanese. Given that most of these names aren't English I can only repeat the question: WHY CHANGE THEM?!? And yes, just like in 3 they are speaking random phrases in those languages whenever they're given the chance. It's uniformly horrible. About the only entertaining one is Tsurugi, whose bizarre Russian accent is so stereotypical and amusing that I actually bother listening to it.
Names aside the plot is entertaining and the battles fun. The new kenshin system works well and the few improvements to the system offer genuine refinements instead of just changing things for the variety. I think this game is a marked improvement over the last one and is on the level of the first two games in the series. High praise indeed considering all the advantages that those games had over this one, including characters, originality, and setting. After playing 3 and having seen the Go! Anime I thought I was tired of this series. I was expecting something tired and derivative but that wasn't at all what I found. Well done guys.
For people new to the series this is the fourth game in the main set. The first three are for the DS and will play on US systems, although 3 isn't available in English unless you have a European 3DS. In Inazuma Eleven Raimon went up against the evil Teikoku (Imperial) Academy in the Football Frontier (the predecessor to Holy Road) to determine the best team in Japan. Inazuma Eleven 2 (Firestorm and Blizzard) ups the drama by having them face aliens intent on conquering the world through soccer. From this game on the series has released multiple versions of each game, the only difference being the characters you can recruit and some minor plot points. These are the last ones available in English. In Japanese there is Inazuma Eleven 3 (Spark,Bomber, and Ogre) goes back to a soccer competition (with humans) only this time it's global. There's also the other version of Go! (Shine/Dark) which has different characters from the original cast show up. For the Japanese 3DS there are also the two sequels to Go!, Chrono Stone (Raimei and Neppuu) and Galaxy (Big Bang and Supernova).