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Sunday, July 31, 2005

Football World Cup video games

FIFA has licensed Football World Cup video games since 1986, of which only a few were received positively by the critics, but given the popularity of the competition, they all did positively on the market, and the license is one of the most sought-after. Originally in the hands of U.S. Gold, Electronic Arts acquired it in 1997.


World Cup Carnival

C64 versionWorld Cup Carnival, released by U.S. Gold was arguably the worst start a franchise could have. While the license was acquired in time and was carefully planned, internal problems dragged development until it couldn't be completed nowhere near a commercially usable date. As Mexico '86 was coming closer, U.S. Gold decided to acquire the rights of an older game, World Cup Football by Artic, and re-fitting it with the licensing items, marketing it as a revolutionary title. However, this late effort was received with cynicism from everyone in the video game industry: gamers, retailers and reviewers, and started a trend of "less than what was expected" games based on football licenses. It was published on the C64, the ZX Spectrum and the Amstrad CPC.


Italia '90
There are three games named after the 1990 World Cup, all of which seemingly had the rights to display both official logos and Ciao, the mascot. One version was developed by U.S. Gold, and is a significant improvement over World Cup Carnival. With some similarities with Tehkan World Cup, the game had all teams present in the competition, and played through a birds' eye view similar to Sensible Soccer. It was released for the Atari ST, ZX Spectrum, C64 and personal computers.

The second title was developed by Sega, and has some similarities with the US Gold title, more noticiably the corner and goal kick screens. Teams are mostly based on the Mexico'86 lineups with some changes, and features player selection, with each player having individual ratings. It has a top-down view like Kick Off. Later, it was renamed to World Championship Soccer, and continued to be sold long after the World Cup ended. There is a Master System version with the official teams and calendar of the competition, but with only eight non-selectable players each side and just vertical scroll, but still some of the elements of the 16-bit version made their way into the game.

The final, and less known title was developed by Novotrade and published by Virgin Interactive. Unlike the other two titles, World Trophy Soccer was more an arcade game than a serious attempt on simulating the sport: it only had seven players aside, the game only lasted for one half and it followed a fixed playoff tree where the player had to beat all opponents. Because of that, only four teams (Belgium, Italy, Spain and England) could be picked by the player.


USA '94

Mega CD coverThe last game in the series by U.S. Gold was also the first to leave some of the mediocracy of previous titles and achieve average reviews. Keeping the same birds' eye view, but with more responsive gameplay, resembling Sensible Soccer, it was ported to most active platforms of the day: DOS, Amiga, Sega Mega Drive/Genesis, Mega CD, Master System, SNES and handhelds Game Boy and Game Gear. The Mega CD version included a CD soundtrack including two songs by the Scorpions and FMV views of 3D renders of the stadiums used in the competition.


France '98

PC coverFor the first time in a soccer game, accurate national team kits were introduced complete with kit manufacturer logos and official merchandise. The game engine is basically a remake of the FIFA 98 engine although it features some minor gameplay improvements such as ingame strategy change and more tactically accurate player positioning. And as the FIFA Series, France '98 features a song in the menu. It´s "Tubthumping", by Chumbawamba. The game also features voice-overs by Gary Lineker in the team schedules. The World Cup classic mode is also an interesting feature, with classic black and white sepia-toned graphics and commentary by Kenneth Wolstenholme creating the feeling of watching an old World Cup game. The playable teams also included several nations that did not qualify for the finals, but were considered too important to exclude. It was released for Windows, PSX, Nintendo 64 and Game Boy Color.


Korea/Japan '02
An amalgamation between the game engines of FIFA 2002 and FIFA 2003, the game still incorporates the power bar for shots and crosses but with a steeper learning curve and higher chances of being penalised by the match referee. The national team kits are accurate along with player likenessess and the stadia of the 2002 World Cup. It was released for Windows, PSX, PlayStation 2, GameCube, Xbox, and Game Boy Advance.

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