It feels like we bring this up every other week on GCNdex, and we do, but there was a comparatively heavy amount of soccer representation on the console. This episode marks soccer game number nine, and in addition to an entertainment giant trying to kickstart a franchise, it also features an identity crisis. Let’s find out more about Disney Sports Soccer.
When it was announced at E3 2002 that Disney was teaming up with Konami to release a series of sports games featuring a variety of Disney characters, it was a move that made sense. With the success of the International Superstar Soccer series, Konami showed that they could make a successful soccer title, and the fact that their catalog had a diverse collection of game genres gave a sort of hope that they could tackle any sport Disney wanted. To kickstart this new franchise of all-star Disney-themed action known as, well, Disney All-Star Sports, the team played it safe and applied a Disney look to International Superstar Soccer controls. The result was probably not what players were expecting.
Looking at the box, and the screenshots, and the footage, it’s hard not to expect a fast-paced, kid-friendly action sports title in the vein of Sega Soccer Slam. But once you get into it, you realize that Disney Sports Soccer doesn’t really know how to get there. You see, it’s quite literally a cartoon facelift on the International Superstar Soccer series: same controls, Disney graphics. As such, we’re left with a surprisingly deep title featuring penalties, fouls, substitutions, height control, the list goes on. What’s strange, though, is that it’s all covered in a cute coat of paint, leading to an identity crisis: who was this game really made for? It’s deep enough for an adult, but it looks like it was made for elementary school children, and it lacks the all-around “fun for everyone” feel to make it widely appealing.
There are eight teams to choose from, but only the team captain is a recognizable character, and they are all from the Mickey Mouse property, there’s not a selection from across different Disney series. Players choose from Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, Daisy, Pete, Mortimer, or the Big Bad Wolf to head up an 11 man team filled out with 10 generic animal players. While this was most likely done so the team captain stands out even more, it ended up leaving most of the players to be forgettable, after all, they were generic. The all around visuals look nice enough, and the animations do end up having that Disney charm. When tackled or struck by the ball, the characters are definitely filled with more personality than you would find in another soccer title. There’s even a good range of arenas to play on, as well as a fully-modeled crowd in the stands.
When the partnership between Konami and Disney was announced, Disney Interactive’s then-president Jan Smith stated, “Gamers, sports fans, and Disney fans alike will enjoy playing the Disney All-Star Sports games with their favorite Disney characters,” and former Konami of Europe president Kunio Neo said, “Disney’s all-star cast of beloved characters combined with arcade-style sports games will yield incredible success for this new series.” Based on these quotes, the question that I can’t help but ask is, why were the characters only picked from Mickey Mouse? They both stated that fans would be able to enjoy an all-star cast of their favorite characters, and they didn’t seem to be limiting it to one property at the time. Was it purely a case of playing it safe, and introducing the series with a base set of recognizable characters? There’s a huge variety of Disney properties to pull from, and perhaps making it more of an actual “all-star” lineup would have opened up the title to more players.
That being said, if you’re just in it for the controls, and if you happen to love International Superstar Soccer, Winning Eleven, or perhaps even Jikkyo World Soccer, you’d be in for a treat. Disney Sports Soccer is absolutely a soccer sim with a few added flourishes to give it that Disney character. There’s unlockable items that allow you to perform super moves, as well as a brand-new control scheme that lets you control the height of your shots. But with all these features, Disney Sports Soccer still doesn’t know what sort of experience it wants to give you. Aesthetically, everything is screaming action sports. With super moves and a distinct injection of Disney charm that is supposed to leave an over-the-top taste in your mouth. Unfortunately, it’s not a fast-moving, light-hearted jaunt around the field, filled with crazy shots and fun visuals. The very depth that should be impressive almost feels like the thing that holds the game back from what it could be. It’s very similar to RedCard 2003 in that way, stuck between a rock and a hard place – or in this case, Disney and Konami.
Considering all of the pros and cons, it’s the first of the Disney All-Star Sports franchise, and in episodes 102, 178, and 189 we’ll find out if these issues are just a matter of the dev team finding their footing, or if the entire series ends up falling flat. Because in the end, Disney Sports Soccer wasn’t exactly a slam dunk for anyone.
Did you ever play Disney Sports Soccer? What did you think of it? What did you like or hate about the game?
For more GCNdex content, including HD scans of the box art and instruction manual, visit gcndex.com. If you’d like to support the series, and get access to videos a week early, consider backing us on Patreon.