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Joseph Rositano
22 Sep, 2009

Academy of Champions Soccer Review

Wii Review | Become a soccer superstar.
Soccer has taken many shapes and forms in gaming. On one side of the fence there has been the simulation titles FIFA and Pro Evolution Soccer, while on the other we’ve seen the light-hearted Mario Strikers and Sega Soccer Slam. Now it’s Ubisoft’s turn to enter the stadium with Academy of Champions Soccer. Despite having a few flaws, the game is actually quite competent and fun to play, and will immediately appeal to younger gamers.

Academy of Champions Soccer enrols players at Brightfield Academy, a school which specialises in soccer and is even run by legendary soccer star Pelé. The story mode sees you attend the school throughout an entire year – going from the humble beginnings of setting up your soccer team, to the end-of-year finals. Along the way you’ll make friendships and rivalries, as well as become a soccer superstar. The story won’t drive your enthusiasm for long, but it does a competent job of introducing you to the basics and setting up the foundations for each soccer match.

Just another day at Hogwar... Errr, Brightfield Academy.

Just another day at Hogwar... Errr, Brightfield Academy.
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Academy of Champions Soccer’s biggest drawcard is its lengthy and robust story mode. The game has some light management qualities, which has players recruit and train team members, shop for accessories and play mini-games designed to hone your personal skill levels. It’s represented as a calendar, and the idea is you go through each day completing a selection of these activities. Some days will be focused on training and recruiting, while others will be more leisurely and see you taking theory tests and chatting to your teammates about your next soccer match. There’s a nice balance of activities, and it has been integrated so that it doesn’t get mundane too quickly. If you aren’t fond of the story then there are also Mini-Game and Quick Play modes to utilise.

Mini-games are a solo affair and don’t affect the entire team. Pelé states that your custom-named character is special because he/she improves by playing the mini-games, while everyone else needs to purchase upgrades using experience earned during matches. Again, there’s a diverse range of activities on offer. Some mini-games will require you to score points by kicking goals, some will be focused on offensive and defensive tackling manoeuvres, and another even has you assume the role of a goalie. One of the great things about the mini-games is that they actually help you gain a better understanding of how the controls and in-game physics work. For example, we weren’t too confident in our goal kicking skills but after playing a few mini-games we got a feel for how the AI acted and learnt which angles were better to shoot from. It’s just nice to see some thought and effort being put into how the mini-games are integrated into the whole package.

Soccer matches don’t last more than five minutes, which is good because it keeps everything at a consistently fast pace. The game doesn’t take itself too seriously, so immediately you shouldn’t go expecting something in the vein of Pro Evolution Soccer. Instead, players are encouraged to use a range of dirty tactics to take control of the ball, including tripping other players and using special abilities. The special abilities range from turning into a whirlwind and wreaking havoc on the field, to performing a super kick. They can only be performed once the team’s talent metre is full, which can be attained by scoring goals, successfully tripping players and passing the ball to teammates. It’s always risky when a sports title features something of this nature, but thankfully Ubisoft maintain balance by not making the abilities overly powerful so that players get too dependant on their use.

Altair shows us he's got game.

Altair shows us he's got game.
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Unfortunately, matches aren’t as fluid as they could be. AI controlled characters run all over the soccer field, which gets annoying as you often don’t have team support. When trying to score a goal for instance, there are times when you’ll have the entire opposition defending the goal and your teammates will be tucked away at home base. This means your flimsy shots are easily blocked, and you’ll almost certainly lose control of the ball. There are settings which let you pick who’s a mid-fielder and who takes a defensive position, but in reality this gives you little control.

The controls are simple to pick up. The Nunchuck’s control stick is used to move the player, and the Z button lets you dodge tackles when attacking or sprint when defending. The Wii remote’s A button controls tackling and passing manoeuvres, and the B button lets you kick the ball. Additionally, by holding down the A and B buttons you can perform a higher pass and a stronger kick, respectively. Waggling the Wii remote activates special abilities. There is also a casual control scheme that is mapped only to the Wii remote and requires players to hold it sideways like a NES controller. During our play through we found the casual style was not as responsive because the D-pad feels limited in 3D space.

Academy of Champions Soccer also features support for the Wii MotionPlus and Balance Board peripherals. The MotionPlus controls allow you to perform high and low passes, as well as clip shots and low shots when scoring goals. The Balance Board on the other hand is only utilised in one mini-game. The inclusion of these controller options feels gimmicky and they add little to the experience.

Get out of my way bunny boy.

Get out of my way bunny boy.
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Visually, the game is a mixed bag. The soccer fields have a range of cartoonish effects and backgrounds. Screens will light up behind the goals and feature animals performing an action or hands clapping. Even the landscape becomes busier as large structures pop up with each winning goal. The dazzling display is unfortunately hampered by uninspiring character design, though a number of Ubisoft characters, including Rayman, the Rabbids and Altair from Assassin’s Creed, make cameo appearances which brightens the atmosphere. The music is upbeat and quite catchy, though at the end of the day is completely unmemorable.

While there are few flaws here and there, Academy of Champions Soccer is a competent title that will appeal to children. It has a lengthy story mode with light managing properties, and the game doesn’t take itself too seriously which means it’s instantly enjoyable. Uninspiring character design, lacklustre AI and tacked-on Wii MotionPlus and Balance Board support unfortunately prevent it from becoming one of the grander Wii titles available.
The Score
Academy of Champions Soccer is a competent soccer game that will instantly appeal to children. The lengthy story mode and simply gameplay design means it should be enjoyable to some degree for most players. 7
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  3/09/2009 (Confirmed)
Standard Retail Price:
  $69.95 AU
Publisher:
  UBI Soft
Genre:
  Sports
Year Made:
  2009
Players:
  4

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