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There is something about juxtaposition that I really enjoy especially when it comes to the wild world of RPG tropes. You see, there is a layer of ridiculousness in every single game we play, requiring us to suspend our disbelief to match that universe. We write off various concepts and plot hooks because they can only exist within that world no matter how little sense they make. We also experience this with movies and other media as well, pointing out odd inconsistencies because it just doesn’t make sense. Soccer Story, a role-playing game is so self-aware of this fact and fully leans into it, delivering a rather sweet and interesting experience painted over with a soccer motif. If you have played Panic Barn‘s previous game, Golf Story, then you know what you are in for.
Soccer Story is the age-old tale of a young main character looking to take down a mega corporation that outlawed the sport of football. A calamity occurs and now the sport is overseen by a major conglomerate called Soccer Inc. You play as a spunky youthful player whose goal is to create the best damn soccer team ever seen and take down the company that turned the sport into a soulless husk. This silly and over-the-top concept makes the game so incredibly difficult to take seriously, which is great because I have been playing too many “super serious” games lately and taking a break from brooding characters is sure to do me good.
Most of the game you will be traversing the world map, completing tasks for the NPCs, wondering why your house only has one bedroom, and attempting to bring the joy of football back to the town. Talking to characters is fun and interesting as many have side-quests that involve you performing various tasks ranging from sliding into boxes to using your magic soccer ball to hit floating signs carried by drone armies. This injection of sports into a full-fledged RPG is ingenious and deserves a ton of credit.
If you are mad that I have been interchanging the phrase “soccer and football,” well good news because the game openly mocks people by bringing subject matters like this up from time to time. These “ascended memes” are littered throughout the game, and it works, it actually makes the game a bit more enjoyable. If you see something that is cringy or awkward, it was done on purpose as an ironic jest.
I found Soccer Story’s graphics to be simple and pretty with an old-school retro motif that is both great and a bit troublesome. Soccer Story adopts the same isometric camera style as classic titles like Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past and Pokémon. So naturally, there are a times where certain tasks or items are hidden behind various elements like trees and pillars, which gets a bit frustrating, but once again, it feels intentional. One of the various activities you can complete involve kicking your ball into boards and if that board is positioned vertically, it will take you a bit longer to find, if you didn’t know it was there to begin with.
Aside from the role playing and worldly tasks to complete, there just so happens to be a rather fun football game to play here. This is where Soccer Story gets even more ridiculous and outright fun. Yes, I am not a sports guy by any means, but when my players are on the pitch and going against a team of toddlers or old people. I will get competitive, and I will not feel remorse as I slide into an old man to steal the ball and score against their oddly agile
There are a few ways to enhance the soccer experience through upgrade systems. You will get medals to upgrade your characters or coins that you can use to buy medals to apply to your characters. You have a team of players that you must manage, so you must plan accordingly, giving medals to your team based on what you personally value. Who will get the upgrades first? It is your main character, because most puzzles require you to upgrade various abilities through this mechanic. Giving medals to other characters feels like a waste until you are on the pitch. Maybe the anthropomorphic panda goalie gets some bonus stat increases but when you have a solid offense, why bother with a defense? That might be a bad take and the reason why I don’t and shouldn’t play sports.
I think Soccer Story is a very creative game. I give the developers a ton of credit for creating an RPG with unique mechanics and story that is every bit cliche as it is great. Aside from some control issues and incredibly minimal graphical hiccups, I think Soccer Story is worth playing especially since it has launched on Xbox Game Pass. Give it a shot, you got nothing to lose unless you are really invested in the World Cup.