TOKYO--Nintendo's DS console hasn't had much by way of sports games thrown its way, and many would say that it doesn't lend itself too well to action games on the whole. There are exceptions, of course, but it's undeniable that it can't compete with the graphical processing power of something like the PlayStation Portable, for example.
Maybe that's why soccer games for the DS are light on the ground. EA released one last year under the FIFA banner, which achieved reasonable success, and finally, Konami is looking to do the same with the Winning Eleven series.
Since our hands-on last month, a few more tweaks have been made to the gameplay, although most of the functionality of the game remains the same. The version we played at TGS was more difficult to evaluate in terms of menu options and so on because it was, of course, all in Japanese.
But that didn't stop us from taking the game for a spin to see how the matches are coming along and, happily, we can report that it's doing just fine. The game runs smoothly on the DS, although perhaps a little slower than veterans of other platforms might be used to, and there's no doubt that the controls are more simplistic as well.
Although the basic diamond of buttons remains true (through ball, shoot, cross, and pass) with the left shoulder button to select players and the right shoulder button to sprint, the game's more reminiscent of low-fi days gone by, and of titles such as Microprose Soccer and International Superstar Soccer. In fact, that should come as no surprise, given that the developer has stated its intention to emulate the latter of those classic games; not only does that seem to work quite well, but the platform performs much better with a streamlined product.
Throughout the game the action on-pitch is seen on the top screen of the console, while a map showing the locations of all the players and the ball is on the bottom screen. Menus are easily navigable, or at least, they will be once they're written in English, and features such as the preset formations are all as they were in the previous play test.
When a goal is scored the replay camera and speed is controlled via a diagram on the touch screen, which makes it easy to adjust to whichever viewing position is perfect to enhance the glory of the moment, and the touch screen is also used in an interesting way for penalty kicks.
In the match that we played through, the result was eventually decided by a penalty shootout, and that gave us the opportunity to see how that element of the game worked. When you take a penalty you choose one of six areas of the goal to aim at--three along the top (left, middle, right) and three along the bottom. The shot is then taken, and if the keeper dives the wrong way, you're usually OK, though it is possible for players to miss the target. If the keeper dives the right way, there's still a good chance to score, but that's obviously diminished a fair bit.
If, on the other hand, you're facing a penalty, you go through the same process and hope that your opponent has gone the same way. It seems more clinical than the approach on other WE games, when it was easily possible to miss three consecutive shots and not know why. In contrast, the DS version of the shootout saw both teams score 10 successive penalties, even with keepers guessing correctly, before the final opponent put his shot past the post, poor lad.
Unfortunately, we weren't able to gather any new information on exactly which teams will be playable in the game, although we're sure we saw both club badges and international kits in there at one point. Nor did we have any opportunity to try out any multiplayer matches, but we'll keep our eyes peeled for more information and bring it to you as soon as we get it.