The fantasy football RPG arrives on the Nintendo 3DS for the first time along with a new hero to boot. But with a darker and more corrupt storyline is Inazuma Eleven GO: Light & Shadow worthy of championship glory, or will it dribble down into the corners to be forgotten?
Level-5 has granted us a new vision for the Inazuma Eleven series and welcomed protagonist Arion Sherwind as Light & Shadow’s football hero for Raimon. For those less familiar with the series, it’s been ten years since Inazuma Japan clinched their victory at the Football Frontier International – which closed the third instalment of the original Inazuma series – with goal keeper Mark Evans at the helm of the game. Now, there’s a deeper and larger darkness at work behind football, where winning or losing matches is predetermined by Fifth Sector bigwigs, making players detest the sport they once loved.
For 3DS owners who are fans of Japanese anime, the Inazuma Eleven series is bound to nab your attention. Gripping cutscenes with hyperbolic drama, along with superb voice acting, is certainly expected, so it’s without a doubt Inazuma Eleven GO: Light & Shadow delivers action marvellously. Characters are voiced with such sincerity that it brings the sports RPG to full and vivacious life, something that the cheesy and cliché script lacks in comparison. And combined with the upbeat tunes and fully operational 3D overworld, Light & Shadow both looks and feels the part handsomely.
Yet while the game’s aesthetics are beautiful, there are times when frame rate drops can occur between character conversations, and are noticeably present in 2D and 3D. Although only a minor issue in the grand scheme of gaming, it’s an aspect that detracts players from the storyline and character voice over – and no player wants to miss loveable Adé’s Geordie accent and his cracking anecdotes on the team’s formation and competitive fishing.
On a similar path, Light & Shadow’s story mode script is a rather unfortunate and painful experience. Aside from the odd scripted guffaw, Arion’s love for personifying football is a little vomit-inducing. His constant peppy attitude towards his team mates can become so tiresome that players may find themselves cheering on the villain of the story after a quick jibe to the protagonist.
Forced jokes often meander throughout the script, as well as an unfortunate social networking device called “iNattr” which has Raimon’s football squad needlessly hash tagging every last word. Luckily, players can avoid ever having to find out which sandwich JP wants to buy, or which #awesomefriendisawesome, and why Arion is #sozlike over an inside joke. Sadly, there’s no “soz ‘ard” to add to the game’s British colloquialisms.
In terms of gameplay, Light & Shadow brings the best of both worlds with battle modes and match missions, as well as straight up football. Players are able to customise the Raimon team and recruit new members through a grand selection of PalPack Decks, along with the ability to purchase boots, wrist and neck accessories, and gloves for stat boosts. Item chests are also hidden throughout the overworld, with the better item stat boosts located further afield as you progress, encouraging exploration.
By using the stylus, matches can be easily mastered through ball passes and intercepting the opposition with blocks and slides. As the game progresses, players will be able to summon a fighting spirit or use special moves in order to get the upper hand on the field. Basic football rules apply to levelling in matches, but occasionally story mode will enforce a new spin on the game with match missions. As such, they produce variety, as well as breaking up the monotony of training, giving Light & Shadow larger appeal.
On the other hand, verses battles used to train the Raimon team are typically very easy to exploit. With only three different match battles to train in – scoring a goal, defending the ball, and upping offence with tackles – most can be won within a couple of minutes and rarely need decisive planning.
In a nutshell, Inazuma Eleven GO: Light & Shadow delivers a solid gaming experience and will become a sure hit with fans of the animated series and its previous instalments. But the game is drastically let down by its poor script and monotonous, highly exploitive gameplay, leaving Light & Shadow unavoidably offside.
*Please note the Shadow version was played for the above review.