It's World Cup fever! YES! To be honest, I have little to no interest in football, but when the World Cup comes along, that patriotic, laddish behaviour in me stirs, and I end up getting all involved, and ridiculously shouty at my television.
I haven't played many football games, I'll be honest, but there was one that peaked my interest, and for a large part of teenage years, had me completely hooked. The game was Pro Evolution Soccer, or Winning Eleven if you were from the USA or Japan. Anyways, Let's talk about Pes...
First of all, I know this isn't strictly retro. A good friend of mine once said that to qualify as 'retro', a game or console must be at 2 generations behind, with the current one included. Xbox isn't retro, PS2 isn't retro, but a PS1 is, as is a N64. But seen as though I don't play many football games, you'll have to make do and appreciate me rambling on about this.
I got my PS2 for my birthday. As is the case with most of my consoles, cost me prohibited from a release-day purchase. Instead, I got mine on my birthday. I got the console, PES, GTA 3 and Gitaroo Man, and I was chuffed to bits with such a fantastic variety. Whilst GTA 3 is the one that hooked me initially, and Gitaroo Man wowed me with the tunes and music, it was PES that would provide me with the lasting playability.
Everything about this game was fantastic. In an age where Fifa was a show-off, fiddly game of ridiculous scorelines and flash moves, this game felt real. Every single part of the game was a real test of skill. You talk to anybody who's a PES fanatic, and they'll remember the glory days, and will absolutely rush to show you their replays, of that time when they chipped the keeper, when he came out super early, and was punished by your feather touch.
Freekicks, Penalties, Corners. Every single piece of this game was designed to feel skillful. You had to earn every single goal and tackle. It didn't really feel like a game, it felt like a test of skill. All that button-pressing and pinpoint precision you learnt in other games felt like training for the moment when your mate came round, running his mouth about his skills on the pitch. the true levelling ground, never have heard anyone contest decisions made in the game, rather people complaining about their lack of manipulation and practise. It's a true testament to the game that shows it's level of playability, and it's watertight mechanics.
And let's not forget about the team names. Fifa's stranglehold on the liscensing at the time meant that the game wasn't allowed any of the team liscenses initially, and so had to produce some of the cheekiest references you'll ever see on any video game, as well as the absurd:
Manchester United became Trad Bricks.
Pele became Palm
Portsmouth became the fan's nickname Pompy
Dutch playerWim Suurbier became, quite unfortunately, Slowbear.
This kind of character, this kind of cheek is what made the game great. It felt like a real fans game, a real underdog. And one thing us British enjoy is being the underdog. I played PES until about the 5th or 6th edition, when my interest in football games ended as I left university. One thing that hasn't left me, though, is my deft touch, and my fond memories of that time I curled a free kick in from 30 yards with David Beckham, or whatever the hell Konami's mad scientists named him.