Captain Tsubasa was a popular anime show that was dubbed for our region, I used to like as a kid, it’s about a Japanese kid who loves football and want to be part of Japan’s national team and win the world cup, something about that show used to make me love it, I can’t tell you what it was since I don’t know it myself.
One day while out with my parents sometime in the 90s, I saw a game cartridge that caught my eyes, a 3 in 1 fake game cartridge to play on my fake famiclone. One of the pictures on the cart was Captain Tsubasa, I had to pick it up and ask my parents to buy it for me.
We had one TV in the house, and as soon as my parents don’t want to use it anymore, my brother and I hooked up our famiclone and got ready to play. The game is special, it’s not just a football game, and it’s a mix between an RPG and a football match. Yes, it had RPG elements, it was like nothing I saw before, and to be clear, I haven’t played or knew any RPGs back then. And so the story begins.
Captain Tsubasa 2 (Captain Tsubasa II: Super Striker) was developed and published by Tecmo and released in Japan in 1990 and was localized to “Tecmo Cup –Soccer game-“ for the NES. The game was similar to its predecessor (which I haven’t played) but with more graphic improvements. The moment you start the game you get introduced with an amazing cutscene that I have never seen anything like it before, the story is being told with the amazing pixel art pictures above it. Since the game was in Japanese, My brother and I would just look at the art before skipping it.
Here we are introduced with the Title screen, Kick off and continue, as simple as it gets. When I first saw the game I was expecting to play a normal football game using the teams that are in the show, however, I pressed on Kick off and another cutscene with familiar characters from the show and when it ends, you get the screen with the two teams playing against each other, here I was disappointed that I didn’t get to choose which teams I wanted to play. After that, there is a screen with options it, a bunch of Japanese text that you have to choose from, after many tries to start the match we finally did it and triggered the cutscene before we saw the next screen.
The game starts, you see the referee getting ready to whistle, the announcer is sleepy, and the Time and scoreboard on the side. You push the button and the referee whistles. Until here I was expecting a game similar to “Soccer that was published by Nintendo in 1985” since I played that before. But instead, there are numbers in the bottom of the screen and the game on the top of the screen, how do you play that? It took time before understanding how to control the players, since the top screen only showed the player going either right or left, and you couldn’t see any other players in the background. After a while I understood that the number blinking in the bottom of the screen is the player you are currently controlling and your focus should be on the bottom of the screen.
After moving, the different colored numbers in the bottom of the screen are moving towards you, I was pushing the button expecting to pass the ball but nothing happened. Instead, the screen changed and there is now someone in front of me, and I’m given a screen with text that I couldn’t read and numbers on the side. At this point I didn’t understand anything from the game, but haven’t given up on it yet, so I was trying all combinations of buttons, until we kind of figured it out. You press left and choose whatever is there then move the square thing to the number of your teammate and press the button and it will pass the ball. Press Right and chose that and you’ll shoot the ball, we figured that out, now it’s time to play the game, and by playing the game I mean pass the ball to Tsubasa with the number 10 then press right go down and press the second option and use his “Superpower no one can stand in his way” shoot to the goal and score. That was until we figured out something new, we push the button but instead of him shooting the ball, a weird box with text in it appears, what was that? No idea. Anyway, the first match was easy, we figured out the controls and we are ready to play the game, or so we thought.
The second game starts and on their team there is a player with a superpower shoot too and he would always score. We had some problems now, we can’t always use Tsubasa’s super move and we don’t know why that is, plus, they got a strong player that can score on us. At this point we were just losing and starting the game over again and playing the first match which we mastered. However, the TV is not ours, and at this point we have spent a lot of time playing, so it is time to stop.
We were talking about the game, we liked it, this new system that we are not used to was new but simple enough for us to be able to control it, however we didn’t still understand it fully.
A day later (probably..?), We started the game and hit continue expecting to continue from wherever we was previously, but instead we were introduced with a keyboard like screen and a lot of text that we didn’t understand, so we just gave up and started the game again.
We started playing it again and this time we understood more, we noticed that the number on the top right of the bottom screen has a big number in it, and with each move that number starts to decrease, and in front of each move there is a small number and when we choose it, that number gets decreased from the total, and here we understood, we were calling it Stamina, It probably is the stamina meter, but I used to say when the number decreases it means he is tired and can’t shoot, and I was right. And by then we have almost understood the game fully, however, we have won more than three matches and Tsubasa got a new supermove, how can we continue from here next time we play? I don’t really remember how we figured that out, but I guess while in the screen before each match we pressed on the password screen without knowing it and figured that the number of letters on this screen is similar to the blank spaces on the continue screen. And so, we started writing Japanese, yes! Why not, right? Well, we didn’t even understand English back then so good luck with that, that didn’t stop us and we started drawing the symbols we saw on the password screen and then finding whatever we drew on the continue screen. After days of that, we started to recognize the symbols and gave them names. And on my passwords notebook now I had a bunch of Japanese letters next to Megaman’s colored dots.
After understanding that game, we liked to play it just to see the different teams, and eventually meeting the players from the show.
With all of that, Captain Tsubasa 2 is a team based turn-based RPG, your team is your 11 players and you get more players as substitutes when you advance the game, each player has their stats and moves, most of the ones you start with have basic moves until you advance the game and get other players with super moves. Stamina is used with movement in the field or when using pass, shoot commands. It’s a game of balancing your stamina with your usage of your moves to win the games and level up your characters and getting more players. The game showed you how to play it by increasing the difficulty and throwing new challenges on you each match. All I can say, what an amazing concept for a sport game that we will not see in this time and age.