While Konami's Disney Sports series doesn't exactly have a stellar track record, there's one game among the bunch that stands head and shoulders above the rest. That game is Disney Sports Soccer, yet another sports title featuring the beloved characters of the Disney universe that actually manages to provide just the right balance between sim-style play and arcade-style antics.
Anyone familiar with the Disney Sports games will know exactly what to expect from Disney Sports Soccer in terms of game modes. The game's version of a season mode is the dream cup, which is essentially an elimination tournament among the game's eight teams. There is also a challenge cup mode, which puts you up against every team in the game until you've beaten them all, and an exhibition mode for single games in solo or multiplayer form. The game's teams are captained by all the industry-standard Disney characters, including Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy, and more.
Disney Sports Soccer's gameplay is set up in an interesting way. Offensively, the A button is used to shoot the ball, and B passes between players. Simply hitting one button or the other will cause the ball to fly in whatever direction your player is facing. However, if you hit the C stick in the direction of the goal or a player that you want to pass to, hitting either button will send it that way, regardless of which way your player is facing. Additionally, the R trigger acts as a turbo button, increasing your speed when you're running with the ball and adding force to your shots when you're kicking toward the goal. On the defensive side of things, the B button is used as a shoulder charge to try to knock the ball loose from an opponent, and the A button is a slide tackle, which will knock the ball away and trip up the opposing player. The game has a simulation-styled slant to it not entirely unlike Konami's Winning Eleven games. This in and of itself may be very confusing and frustrating for younger, more inexperienced players. However, fans of soccer games shouldn't have any trouble picking up the game's mechanics and should find Disney Sports Soccer's gameplay to be somewhat rewarding.
The game is not entirely sim-styled, however, thanks to the one arcade element it brings to the table--that being your player's magic abilities. On either side of the ball, the Y button is used to activate magic. Only the teams' captains can use magic, and the types of magic can vary greatly, ranging from massive kicks that blow through players and goalies alike to invincibility power-ups that keep the ball glued to your player. Magic can be earned by progressing through the dream cup mode, and there are more than 12 types of magic in all. Given the simulation aspects of the game, you would think that this type of thing would be completely out of place. Instead, it manages to keep the game from becoming completely sim-style and is exactly the kind of thing that will allow the younger audience to appreciate the game.
Unfortunately, Disney Sports Soccer, much like the other Disney Sports titles, falters graphically. The character models for the players are the exact same ones used in the other games, and they don't look any better here. Aside from the known Disney characters who captain the various teams, the remaining players are generic characters whose models are reused to fill out the rosters. None of them are especially inventive looking, and, additionally, it can be very confusing to try to keep track of which player you're controlling when multiple players on your team are fighting to take possession of the ball. Animations are extremely limited--usually only one or two per action--and most of them are rather dull when compared with those in even the most rudimentary soccer games on the market. Save for the introductory sequences before each game, the soccer arenas aren't much to look at, adding little, if anything, to the overall presentation.
Disney Sports Soccer's sound is also a rather painful endeavor. Much like its sibling Disney Sports titles, the game has a lot of generic sound effects that irritate more than they entertain, and there's some intermittent trash-talking among the Disney characters, most of which is fairly unimpressive. What truly destroys the game audibly, however, is the in-game commentator, who is just as awful here as he is in the other Disney Sports games. His commentary is meaningless, his personality is entirely grating, and he, in effect, ruins the entire audio experience during gameplay to the point that you'll absolutely need the mute button.
Though the game may be a bit too sim-based for the younger audience a Disney game targets, and the lack of visual and audio polish certainly detracts from the overall experience, none of these problems are enough to keep Disney Sports Soccer from being a recommendable game. The gameplay is technically sound, with enough arcade-style elements to keep things fresh, and it borrows just enough from other popular soccer titles such as Winning Eleven 6 International to make it an easy pickup for the hard-core fans. In the end, Disney Sports Soccer is a surprisingly enjoyable representation of the sport that most soccer fans should be able to appreciate.