With a rather long list of successes under their belt, Level-5 are a company that can seem to do no wrong at the moment. This is especially true when it comes to Nintendo's handheld consoles, where they have more than found a welcome home thanks to successful hits such as the Professor Layton franchise and Dragon Quest IX. Another such hit is the Inazuma franchise, but it has struggled to receive the same level of support in the West as in its native Japan, something which Nintendo are hoping to change with the release of Inazuma Eleven GO: Light & Shadow, albeit 3 years after it released in Japan.
Taking place 10 years after the events of Inazuma Eleven 3 the story moves away from the exploits of Mark Evans to focus on the exploits of Arion Sherwind. He's a young upstart with dreams of being a playing for the Raimon Academy, but when he gets there he finds things in a state of disarray.
Due to their benevolent control, Fifth Sector have got middle school football locked down. Fun has been almost eradicated and nobody can risk playing real football any more due to the severe consequences it could have on the schooling system. Sherwind and his friend JP don't quite understand and just want to play true football and through their infectious enthusiasm, start to enforce a wave of change that could impact the entire footballing world.
With the game introducing a fresh cast of characters and older characters also appearing, it creates for a great new story with interesting dynamics. Using the medium of football and how it can impact lives, the entire team will go through trials and tribulations, with players not afraid to let their feelings show. Team mates will become enemies and friendships will be broken, but unbreakable bonds will also be created and barriers will be broken down. By the end, you will have experienced a story that while cheesy at times, also has strong moments and serves as a good motivator to continue pushing on.
It might be hard to imagine how the world of football could work in a live-action RPG setting, but once you start playing Inazuma, it all makes sense. You get to pick a full team, complete with formations and a coach and this will have a direct impact on performance.
Once a game starts, you can micromanage on-screen players, controlling their off-ball movements as well as dribbling, passing and shots. It takes a little bit of time to get the hang of things, as you will need to move the camera around too in order to make the most of passing. The controls are a little bit finicky at times because of this, and you will quickly find that passing to feet doesn't work all that well.
The RPG element comes in with the numerous stats. Every player has lots of attributes such as shooting, dribbling and tackling. Not only do these affect passive actions such as controlling a pass, but they are also very important in dual situations. These are either keeper vs striker, or attacker vs defender and it will see stats go head to head, with the winner (after a dose of luck) coming away with the spoils. Special abilities can also boost these stats and these are aided further by a small elemental priority square, which will see certain special abilities beat out others.
On top of that, you have the spirit summoners. Certain players have the ability to support spirits, giving them greater footballing prowess. They can only use them for a finite amount of duals, but typical opponents will be waltzed over. Should two spirit summoners encounter each other, then a mini-battle sequence takes place, with the loser seeing their summoner points slashed. Overall it makes for a solid system, that while not perfect, works quite well. And after quite a few iterations, you'd expect that.
As you progress through the story, you will encounter different types of game. There's Battle Mode, which is a simple, yet tired "random battle"-type scenario, full-on exhibition matches and story matches. Battle Mode serves a few purposes, from recruiting players to gaining items, but it gets rather tedious after a while. There are only three different objectives - score, win the ball and don't lose the ball. It means that battles can either last a few seconds, or the maximum time limit. And even then, there's just so little involved in actually succeeding that it feels out of place. The other main type is story, as exhibition is essentially the same. The main difference is that in story, there are times when the clock stops and it's impossible for either team to score until an objective has been completed.
This works well in the context of the game, as these objectives are tied to core events. However, while objectives to get the ball forward work quite well, objectives revolving around getting the ball in a certain place, with a certain player, are just annoying. The target player will chase the ball around the entire pitch, making it a huge chore to actually get him in the right position. It's often a very forward area, but if the ball is near your goalkeeper, they will run all the way back, which means you then need to keep the ball in or around that forward area until they can get all the way there - not that easy considering story teams are often quite strong.
Graphically, the game isn't that much to write home about. At least, when it comes to the in-game graphics. The cutscenes are pretty cool though, there just aren't enough of them. It would have been nice to see more of these scenes, as it allows the players to really come to life, but it's understandable why they couldn't do it. Voice acting on the other hand, is superb. It's so pleasing to see so many different accents making it into the game, especially when it comes to England. It's not often that you will hear scouse accents appearing in a video game, but this Inazuma has them, and more, and it makes for an experience that seems far more genuine.
Inazuma Eleven Go is a fun experience for gamers fans that brings two huge genres together - football and role playing. The new cast of characters all have unique personalities, and are brought to life by some quirky voice acting and the story is one that has some real lasting appeal. The gameplay is decent, but by no means perfect and some of the different modes still need some work, but there is a lot to enjoy despite these clear deficiencies.
|So many different accents.|
|Blends football with RPG rather well.|
|Story has some strong messages.|
|Battle Mode gets old quite quickly.|
|Some of the story-based elements can be frustrating.|