Inazuma Eleven: A Soccer Game For People That Don’t Care About Soccer

By Laura . March 15, 2014 . 9:30am

My first exposure to Inazuma Eleven was the anime. That is to say, I never actually saw the anime, but I’d heard about it from a friend who was a die-hard fan, so I knew a little about what it was all about. That’s why, when the Nintendo 3DS game went quite suddenly from the classic tale about a boy and his soccer team striving for the Nationals to a superpower death match with a soccer ball caught between two opposing teams, I wasn’t taken by surprise.


What I appreciate about Inazuma Eleven is that, despite all of the fantastical events happening around the students, the story still focuses on the main conflict. Mark Evans is a boy with a passion for soccer. His team, unfortunately, is not quite as passionate. The situation becomes so dire that unless the team wins their next match, they will be disbanded. It didn’t help matters that they hadn’t practiced in forever or that their opponent would be the reigning National champions, Royal Academy.


I remember that I was pretty intimidated at first. Inazuma Eleven does a good job in taking time to build up the suspense and illustrating both the main character and his team’s trepidation at taking on these elites. For example, you have to find characters to join your team, and drag one out of a locker. One even quits in the middle of the game.


However, the game doesn’t just rely on sprites holding sometimes-voiced conversations to build character and atmosphere. Royal Academy’s arrival, for example, is emphasized with a fully animated cutscene where a literal battle cruiser, surrounded by ominous purple fog and housing the team, trudges into view. An entourage of students then march out like soldiers as they dribble their soccer balls (and if that isn’t the most ridiculous thing you’ve ever heard, that’s OK because the game throws a lot more at you later) as a red carpet rolls across the field before the Royal Academy soccer team itself finally appears.


As amazing as the presentation in Inazuma Eleven is, the game plays just as well. Inazuma Eleven is, after all, first and foremost and all crazy supernatural and superpower happenings aside, a game about a soccer team, so it is a major plus that the controls for playing soccer are fluid and intuitive. I’ll admit that, at first, I was intimidated at first by the aspect of controlling eleven players all across the screen with merely a touchscreen at my disposal, but I soon realized that the game’s AI has a fairly good handle on the positions of the characters not in my view. This localized framing really helped me to concentrate on the intricate movements of the players who had the ball.


In Inazuma Eleven, your players are controlled entirely using the stylus and touch screen. You draw lines where you want the players to run and you tap where you want players to pass or shoot the ball. When a player encounters the opposing team, a menu pops up, giving you a choice between taking an action, taking a riskier action that has more chance of fouling, and using a special move.


Special moves are learned by leveling your characters, learning from other players or manuals lying around, or continuing through the story of the game.


These are the flashy moves that are the signatures of Inazuma Eleven—the flaming spiral kick, the immobilizing hypnotisms, the enormous golden hand blocking the goal and so on. Special moves require TP to use, so you can’t spam them to overpower every single encounter you have.


There are a lot of “points” in this game. One of the few things the game doesn’t do well, however, is explaining many of them, especially the stats and how they determine the success rate of your actions unless you go into the electronic manual. The most important and unique points are the Prestige Points (PP), Friendship Points, Fitness Points (FP), and Technical Points (TP).


As stated before, TP is consumed for special attacks. PP is essentially the currency in this world. You can use it to buy items, heal your team (because they won’t recover between matches), and also to boost a player’s stats to some degree. FP are used up when you take a riskier action, such as a Slide Tackle as opposed to a regular Block. When this value decreases below a certain threshold, your player will be too tired to run anymore.


This is why a team above the initial eleven (the number of players in a full team, with no benchwarmers) is advisable in longer games, and that is where Friendship comes into play. Inazuma Eleven comes with a fairly complex web of players you can recruit, and expanding your contacts on the Connection Map using Friendship points helps open up new options. These players can be just as good or better than your initial team, and you can stock up on 30 of these 1000+ choices.


One of my favorite aspects of the Inazuma Eleven is the customizability of your team. You can change the positions of almost every character, their stats to some degree, and the players you have on your team. You can choose to train through random-battle-like encounters called Battles (as opposed to matches) or run away with relatively small repercussions. Alternatively, you can train using the Friendly Match option, where you can play friendlies against any team you’ve encountered before. This gives you a major boost to your EXP as opposed to the smaller increase from playing Battles.


The game never felt like a chore—even the Battles have a 15-second time limit—and I enjoyed just running around the world just to see what I could unlock. I also looked forward to every subsequent match to see how the story would unfold next for the characters and what tricks the next team had up their sleeves. Overall, it amazed me how much and how quickly I was drawn into the world of Inazuma Eleven despite not actually being a fan of the sport of soccer itself.


Food for thought:


1. I love the soundtrack to this game—I never even got tired of the field music as I spent hours running around the school yard. The English audio was actually really good, too.


2. One of the quirks of Inazuma Eleven is that it is entirely situated in the bottom screen, so almost all controls in both the menu and overworld can be done using the touchscreen. It also accommodates both left- and right-handed people during games.


3. Unfortunately, this also means that the stereoscopic 3D capabilities of the 3DS are severely underused. Half the time, a 2D map is being projected in 3D. At least most of the special moves can be seen in 3D, since those are shown on the top screen.

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  • natchu96

    And then aliens and time travel and junk happens a few years down the line.

    All because of soccer.

    • Cure_Inazuma

      Yep. Nothing beats a good soccer match with aliens, robots, dinosaurs, and terracotta warriors.

    • AuraGuyChris

      Your point? Children’s card games apparently were a big thing in Ancient Egypt.

      • God

        And imaginary friends where also a bigh thing during medieval times, hell, people where forced to have them!

        • disgaea36

          lol I got the first 2 references but not sure about this one can you enlighten me please

          • God

            The so called “dark age” or middle ages were marked by the church forcing everyone into christianism, and killing everyone who tought differently.

      • natchu96

        They had stone tablet stand-ins that floated in midair though, and you lose your soul if you lose, so at least they took it seriously.

        Now the guys from around where the Nazca Lines were, the stuff they created wound up being integral to people playing card games on motorcycles.

        Then we have the children’s trading card that created the universe and the 100 cards scattered around that are there to tell you where the first card is, etc.

    • God

      I still remember the time aliens wanted to conquer the world, THROUGH AMATEUR FOOTBALL!!

  • Kevin Lima Ferreira

    Excelent Review! It really made me want to play the game! =)

  • Guest

    That title is accurate. Everyone should try the game, characters are very cool and the plot is bonkers but still makes you care. And overall, the game mechanics are so fun while giving an amazing atmosphere.

    Now that it is available in every territory there is no excuse to not play it! :)

    • Aoshi00

      I thought this game is finally being released in the US too? I don’t see any listing from Amazon or Best Buy for some reason :(

      • British_Otaku

        It is a digital release on the 3DS.
        A portion of the 3DS compilation remake of Inazuma Eleven 1, 2 (two versions) and 3 (three versions) which were all originally DS games in Japan.

        • Aoshi00

          tks that’s why.. digital only, thought it was strange lol. cool, I might get it from e-shop later, too bad no physical though :(

          • British_Otaku

            You could import the UK DS version of Inazuma Eleven but the British voice work is pretty awful on top of how the interface is buffed up for the 3DS remake…

            I wish I could play the NA IE1 ( ), though I really want the names to be restored to normal and/or dual audio.

          • Aoshi00

            That’s too bad, otherwise you could import the US ver too.. yeah, better get the updated 3DS ver instead of older DS ver now. It’s not very often a title gets 2 ver of Eng dub, American and British right, since this got localized in Europe first.. Layton’s another one.. Truth is I tried the Inazuma Eleven demo a long time ago and wasn’t too interested in it. I might give this a try later. My love for soccer has waned over the years lol.. still, I don’t like full games like this or Dual Destinies being digital only.. I know it’s a limited market, but still..

            Right now I’m busy w/ Drakengard 3.. the DLCs are nice, but I feel that 600 yen is a bit much, and these backstories really should’ve been part of the game.. DLC should be extra, a game shouldn’t depend on novella, manga, or DLC chapters to fill in the holes.. Nier was just perfect as it is..

          • GH56734

            In this particular case, other than the extremely minor 3DS bonuses (mainly only the 3D effect, and some models/portraits) and the Layton team…
            this version is the inferior one, compared to the DS PAL IE1 release (as that one used the IE2 engine, while this one still uses the old IE1 JP engine). It’s the same as the JP IE1 release but that means it lacks the DS PAL enhancements.

            The main bonus included here would be the Layton team, released for the first time ever outside Japan, as it had to be cut from the DS IE1 PAL release due to engine constraints

          • Aoshi00

            Thanks. yeah, I was just curious about a physical US release, never thought it would get localized here at all since soccer is not big. I would’ve imported the Jpn ver before if I was interested or the 3DS compilation, but they were so many games and version before like Pokemon. I still have the Jpn/US ver of Layton 4-6 on backlog *.*; I haven’t imported any EU games before though.. I really haven’t played that much soccer sim/RPG since Captain Tsubasa for Famicom.

          • GH56734

            I’d recommend the recent Captain Tsubasa DS game by Konami if you liked the SNES installments, but that one was localized for all five-minus-one main European languages *except* English. If you know either FR/GE/SP/IT or want to practice, go for it.

          • Aoshi00

            I don’t really keep track of the recent spinoffs in recent years, I mainly liked the elementary and middle school parts of the anime. I heard the DS game wasn’t that good compared to the NES games. That’s okay, I can only read Jpn, can’t read the other European languages, tried w/ Lost Odyssey lol..

          • GH56734

            You can expect from the DS Tsubasa the same gameplay from the fifth Super Famicom game (which is by itself quite controversial).

          • British_Otaku

            I’ve only played a bit of 3DS IE1 and a lot of IEGO Big Bang’s demo. What are the differences between the DS IE1 and IE2 as far as the engine and content?

            I don’t really follow how missing out on a team makes for a better version, unless that mechanics or engine change between the two is pretty huge.

          • GH56734

            It is very huge after all: it’s the second game, with just the events swapped.
            Thus TP costs, level-up stats and caps, balancing, AI, team management little details, better touch controls during matches, and the wazas… also, it goes without saying the models/animations/graphics too had a huge upgrade (but then again so did the 3DS version despite being otherwise IE1JP) are stuff distancing it from IE1JP .
            With an Action Replay, you could even unlock the rest of IE2’s items/moves in the Pal IE1.

            That aside, while being otherwise the same as IE2JP, IE2PAL added some minor interface enhancements from the third game.

      • It’s a downloadable title on the Nintendo eShop. Picked it up last week, it’s really fun :)

        • Aoshi00

          oh, no wonder lol, I would check it out later :)

  • Tsurugi

    Inazuma Eleven is amazing, and the games are epic, now I want the Inazuma Eleven 2

    • GH56734

      Import the PAL DS version(s). DS is region free.
      Unless you want the 3DS upgrade (from the Endo Mamoru Legend 3DS compilation, the one this version of IE1 3DS -and the IE3 European versions- was taken from), which is still JP-only atm (but just aesthetic upgrades, not much you’re missing :P)

      • Tsurugi

        I already played ( imported the DS version) but they will not release the Inazuma Eleven GO! (the ones I’m really look foward to) before all Inazuma Eleven Classic =D

        • GH56734

          Doesn’t Inazuma Eleven 3 the Ogre (released just a few days in Europe before this IE1 port) have some characters from GO?
          Probably an 2015 PAL release?

          • Tsurugi

            Inazuma Eleven 3 The Ogre is focused on endo’s gradson canon and endo, doesn´t appear any GO! characters( I don´t know if you ask me that), probably Europe will get GO! first so I might buy a PAL 3DS

  • Invisbin

    This game had to be the most over the top v soccer game ever. It’s great. Spoilers for a special move : There’s a move called Breakthrough which the character passes the enemy the ball towards his chest then just about round house kicks the ball harder into your chest making you fly back. The special moves in this game are phenomenal

  • notentirelythere

    Anyone who decides to pick this up should come to terms with the fact that this game is purposefully really difficult for the first 2 hours or so, and until skills open up you’re not playing the full game.
    Oh, also, feel free to look up the what’s-what on stats and maneuvers in guides/wikis. The game never explains how to tap-pass, which I think is a pretty essential technique for something they’d want you to stumble on. There’s other stuff like that in there. Crazy enjoyable game, though.

  • EtroAnime

    So if I really like Soccer/Football I should really like this game, it has my interest but right now I am playing Bravely Default, I don’t know if I can juggle both. I just purchased a 3DS XL two weeks ago and gosh it has so many RPGs but I have so little time. :(

    • British_Otaku

      Potentially, you could REALLY like this game, as a Brit, I was indoctrinated into at least pretending to support a team and like football at school. I wouldn’t say I would ever play a FIFA/Pro Evo game for an extended amount of time, but the demo of Inazuma Eleven GO! Big Bang/Supernova (consider it “Inazuma Eleven 6”) has eaten up a huge amount of time.

      I’m not so sure that people who like the sport would enjoy this unless they are willing to accept a completely new universe without attachment to the brands and teams they love, a ton of anime tropes and an RPG focus.

      On whether you should get this now? Wait, till you finish Bravely Default first, even if you forget about this game, you will be sure to hear about it again when the sequels get pushed and they step up their game considerably. I still need to finish Bravely Default myself, just got the full team of four and going to save the king.

  • Learii

    I don’t like sport games but I still buy this game

  • leingod

    Well, that doesn’t sound crazy at all… I enjoy the heck out of games like Mario Golf / Tennis and Hot Shots (also Golf and Tennis) … and I don’t really care much about either sport.

  • Kumiko Akimoto

    People use the 3d on games?

  • H_Floyd

    The game’s music is by Yasunori Mitsuda (Chrono Trigger/Cross, Xenogears, Xenosaga 1, Soma Bringer, Sands of Destruction, etc.)

  • E.T.993

    I’ll probably buy it…just to skip the entire plot and for the gameplay. LEVEL-5 have great writing skills, yet they used NOTHING.I watched 3 episodes of the anime only to realise how much of a piece of crap it is and give up.However, I’ll still buy it.

    • British_Otaku

      I would say you need to give the show more time, as a bunch of cool guys here recommended it to me, but you should just go for the game as it is the source material and the work in the purest form… >_> Or something.

      I don’t expect it to be a clever story of intrigue from the get go (there are six main series games and the most recent ones have kingdoms, aliens and time travel like any RPG so it could get better or just more silly), it sorta opens with a simple tale of one guy liking football, friends don’t care as much, find more friends to make a good team and hope to win. I assume it grows.

  • Mugiwara

    “A Soccer Game For People That Don’t Care About Soccer.”

    Well, that’s me. :D

  • Brandonmkii

    The only thing stopping me from supporting it is how European it became in localization. After watching a lot of the anime and playing the undubbed/edited DS versions, I just can’t do it, I think.

  • CirnoLakes

    The only thing I know about Inazuma Eleven, is that it’s apparently a shotacon paradise.

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