TOKYO--The traditional route for games in the past has been to debut in the arcades, and then port to home consoles. This is especially true for some of the beat-'em-up legends of the '80s and '90s. Winning Eleven, however, is going in the opposite direction. As well as all of the home platforms you'd expect, this year's TGS featured an arcade version of the football favourite, and we couldn't resist giving it a try.
The first thing that really struck home was that, despite the fact that it's clearly the same game that we're used to elsewhere, Winning Eleven 2006 Arcade Championship feels startlingly different when you swap the normal control pad configuration for a stick and six buttons. Instant recollections of younger days playing Virtua Striker sprang to mind, as the whole play style seemed to change.
Rather than featuring the patient build-up play, array of passes, and final flourish we're more familiar with, the arcade version of the game seems to reward a more direct approach. The buttons, in basic form, allow you to pass, cross (or play a long ball), sprint, shoot, change player and play a through ball, which gives you all of the main options for play. However, a deal of the subtlety is lost in the process of dumbing down the controls, and the less elegant method of pass and run, on our attempts at least, seemed more in order.
We played several matches against the computer and found a reasonable level of competition there. As England, featuring a recently dropped David Beckham, we managed to score a fair few goals, from a variety of situations. Lampard scored a precise, swerving shot from the edge of the area, Rooney bundled past a defender and took it around the keeper, Owen challenged the keeper almost on the byline, and the fumbled catch fell at his feet for a tap-in.
All in all, the result was definitely great fun, more open and exciting that most Winning Eleven games tend to be at home, and it looks like Konami has intentionally adapted the game to suit its new environment.
The length of each game is shorter, only a few minutes in all, and as you'd expect from an arcade version, there are far fewer options in terms of game setup. Instead you can play friendlies or tournaments against the computer, or take on somebody else at a linked machine.
What could be very interesting about this particular game however is the sadly undecipherable online league mode. Diagrams and Japanese text around the screen alluded to a five-tier playoff system, with challenges coming in from other human players, but just how this could work out in reality we're not sure. It certainly sounds appealing, though, and could prove popular especially if challengers can come in across an Internet connection. We'll try to find out more on that and keep you updated.