The original Adidas Power Soccer offered two distinct play modes. Arcade mode was rough, tough, and fast, with NBA Jam-style scuffles and special moves. Simulation mode was realistic to a fault and had all the fast-paced play mechanics of turtle racing. 1998's version is much more mild on both fronts and is full of average gameplay and the occasional new take.
Control takes a considerable amount of getting used to. In general, it feels a lot more tentative than FIFA 98's solid, tight play. It's a lot slower when you're away from the ball, faster and looser up close to the action. A fair number of special moves are readily available, including flick-passes, short dribbles, and the usual sliding tackles. The all-important player control-switching is where Adidas Power Soccer 98 really blows it. There is no means at your disposal to switch which player you are controlling. In FIFA 98 you could essentially scroll through the ranks and select your man, whether the ball was loose or you were on defense. With Adidas PS 98, you're stuck with whichever man is closest to the ball. This can lead to some awkward moves on the field when it switches right in the middle of something important.
The problem is further exacerbated by the game's poor AI. While enemy AI is decent, and will put up a fair enough fight, especially on the higher difficulty settings, teammate AI is abysmal. Half the time your goalie all but gives up after one save. The worst are the fullbacks, who have the annoying tendency to just stare off into the corner. And again, since you have no means of taking over control of a drooling fullback standing motionless, you've got to do a lot of running all over the field, playing everyone's position for them.
In other control issues, the traditional speed burst button is a little odd. It's incredibly fast. Like superhuman. Like the Flash. Even in simulation mode, you literally fly around the screen at least twice as fast as the other players. And you never seem to tire. This is to be expected in the arcade setting, but it's a little unrealistic for simulation mode. To its credit, however, is the way that offensive speed bursts affect ball control. Unlike most soccer games, where you can just haul ass while keeping the ball tightly in check, Adidas Power Soccer 98's sprinting strikers don't just dribble away, they keep the ball a good three to five yards ahead when running at full speed. This leaves them wide open to enemy tackles, which it should. More than that though, you actually have less control of the ball, and if you alter your path severely without collecting the ball first, you'll leave it behind. Very cool.
Graphically, Adidas Power Soccer 98 doesn't have the smoothness or the clarity of FIFA 98. There's a certain jerkiness about the individual moves, and the victory celebrations are a little loopy - no goalie-cameraman squabbles either. What the game does have going for it is its awesome camera work. It's totally dynamic and effortlessly zooms in and out and around the action. It's so smooth in fact, that you might not notice how much it changes while you play. From nearly overhead to straight-up sideline shots, you're never missing anything, and the continual shifting improves the excitement of play and makes it look a lot more like broadcast TV.
The options department is a hotbed of pros and cons too. While the game offers no stat tweaking, it does offer 427 teams to choose from. While the game may be played in either arcade or simulation mode, they're actually very similar and not really worth the distinction, especially when compared with the last version of Power Soccer's near-NBA-Jam levels of arcade fighting.
Adidas Power Soccer 98 does a number of things well, but its shortcomings are frustrating enough to turn most players off before the whistle blows. If you're a dedicated video soccer enthusiast, ball handling and camera work are worth the price of admission. But if you're like most of us, and only require one soccer game in your life, either of 98's FIFA contributions would be better worth your while.