Review: Inazuma Eleven 3: Lightning Bolt
Posted 02 Mar 2014 at 13:03 by Mohamed Ali
Just falls short of the treble
More than three years after its original Japanese release, Inazuma Eleven 3 finally kicks-off on European shores. But like Inazuma Eleven 2 before it, the game comes in the form of multiple versions: Lighting Bolt, Bomb Blast, and the recently released Team Ogre Attacks. However, for this review we’ll only focus on Lightning Bolt/Bomb Blast. The only variations between these two titles are the version exclusive characters and the peripheral stories that take place in other national teams. However, there is a physical difference when it comes to the actual game itself. The first three titles in the main series were initially released on the Nintendo DS system in Japan, but for Europe it comes in the form of a Nintendo 3DS remake that was taken straight out of Inazuma Eleven 1･2･3!! Endou Mamoru Densetsu. A trilogy collection containing 3DS remakes of the first three games in the main series that was released back in December 2012 in Japan.
As far remakes go this is as bare-bones as it can get. The top screen of the 3DS system is left unexploited as it’s mainly used to display a map of your current location, play out special moves and show brief interactions between different characters on the screen (tackling, saving, scoring and celebrating) during football matches. But even then the only time that the 3D effect truly comes into play is during the brief special move sequences. The character voices are a bit clearer this time around, the cut-scenes have been slightly improved, the actual character models & special moves during gameplay have also been enriched. But it’s not all doom-and-gloom, there are some new additions this time around and these will be covered later on.
Putting the remake issues to a side for now, the game still manages to deliver that fresh and exciting RPG/Football hybrid gameplay and all that starts from the main campaign. The scope of the story has been dialled down this time round when compared to Blizzard & FireStorm before it. Mark Evans (Captain and Goalkeeper for Inazuma National) & Co. are now focusing on the FFI (Football Frontier International), a global youth football tournament; but before the team can even think about setting out on their quest to become world champions they must first compete for a place in the squad. For the most part, the story is pretty straight-forward but thankfully the game manages to keep things fresh with a few welcome twists along the way.
Some of the finest players that you’ve met in the previous games are available to join the squad and aid you on your journey. Enemies, old friends, and rivals are all vying for those precious few places and those who have played the previous titles will no doubt feel the nostalgia and excitement of meeting these bright and colourful characters once again. However, newcomers won’t be going in completely blind thanks to the use of summaries and flashbacks that briefly cover some of the main events in the previous games concerning these returning characters. On the other hand, this would not have been a problem at all had Level-5 decided to bring the collection to the West.
Selling the 3DS trilogy for the standard RRP would attract more new fans to the series compared to the standalone third instalment, especially when you consider how the first game was released three years ago in Europe on the Nintendo DS. So having the entire main series on one 3DS cartridge would no doubt represent the best possible chance for newcomers to experience the series. North America has an even stronger argument as they only just got their very first taste of Inazuma Eleven after February’s Nintendo Direct. Football (Soccer in the states and Canada) is now hitting new heights and continues to go from strength-to-strength when it comes to exposure, popularity, and accessibility. This is embodied at the grassroots level where young children of both genders are taking up the sport at a tremendous rate, and this goes hand-in-hand with Level-5’s target demographic. Deciding against the trilogy collection feels like a missed opportunity for Level-5.
When it comes to Inazuma Eleven you should be acquainted with the split gameplay style by now. In essence the main game is divided into two main parts; the role-playing side of the game and the ‘battles’ that take the form of a Football match. Outside of matches the player will visit many different locations by traversing the games’ simple world through Mark Evans and three of his team mates. The game provides you with three basic controls: using the stylus to guide the characters on the touchscreen, the traditional D-pad, or the circle pad. You can also change the camera angle slightly by using the L or R buttons and finally hold down the B button to run; all the while the map is being presented on the top screen showing the name of the area and your current location.
The developer keeps their gameplay design consistent throughout the main series and it’s no different for Inazuma Eleven 3. The overworld and the all the characters inside it are all sprite-based and there are more locations to explore and more objects to interact with this time around. The in-game presentation has also been slightly enhanced with sharper visuals and clearer text, but as a whole it remains mostly unchanged when compared to its predecessors. The simple and colourful images fit the music that plays in the background. The main tunes from the original soundtrack are kept and for a good reason too, they’re easy on your ears and really help in bringing the game’s atmosphere to life, and the overall audio quality has been amped up for the remake too.
You’ll find a variety of items scattered all over the world during the course of the game, so the more you explore the more you will discover. Some of these items will help you improve the base stats of your squad players by equipping them with different types of footballing gear and accessories. Recovery items are used to regenerate your player’s vital stats such as FP (Fitness Points) and TP (Technical Points). FP represents a players’ stamina and as a result the longer they play the lower it gets and consequently the slower they become. TP is used to perform the many different special moves in the game. They could be used for blocking a shot, deflecting the ball, catching the ball (Goalkeeper only), tackling the opposition to retrieve the ball, and finally scoring a goal.
As is the norm in most RPGs, you will also be faced with frequent random battles and Inazuma Eleven is no different in this department. Four of your characters face off against four CPU-controlled challengers. These matches are brief, objective-based affairs that normally require you to either score the first goal or retrieve the ball in the set amount of time. The stylus and touch screen take centre stage here as you guide your players to victory. Use the D-pad/the four face buttons (depending on your dominant hand) to pan the camera across the pitch to plan your attacks. This can only be accomplished thanks to the pace of the gameplay. Lastly you can give your team a brief power-up by holding the L/R button and by the same token your challengers can use this feature too. While the touch screen focuses on all the action the top screen displays the match objective, remaining time, team names, and score.
The full-on 11-versus-11 matches is where the game truly shines. You find these lengthy contests at important points in the story (typically towards the end of a chapter). Pick your first team eleven and then a formation that suits their abilities or your game plan. Occasionally the story will force your hand by omitting specific players from selection or imposing certain situations into the match itself e.g. your opponent scoring the first goal. It may look daunting at first but they all serve a purpose and at times it even adds to the tension of the match and gives you a platform to express your skills. Furthermore, Inazuma Eleven 3 brings in a new way to bolster your attacks during football matches through the use of shot chains. Instead of using a single players’ special move, you can link up a series of special attacks with nearby players and unleash an overwhelming strike onto your opponent’s defences.
Of course winning these matches progresses the story but aside from that, victory in both types of matches (4-a-side random battles and 11-a-side matches) gives you experience points that go towards levelling up all your players including those currently not playing in the match. Prestige points can be used for special training to improve a players’ stat. Different special training locations focus on specific stats so keep a look out for the areas you’re interested in, and if you don’t need to invest in special training then you can also exchange Prestige points for items. Additionally, you are also awarded with item drops after winning a match, although they don’t come around very often.
Saying that there are a lot of different characters is an understatement, but the fact that the majority of them can be recruited is undeniably impressive. There are a number of methods that you can use to enlist players to boot. The first of which depend on the amount of friendship points you have. Friendship points are awarded to you after winning football matches, the more matches you win, the higher the overall value and the more likely that one of your opponents will approach you after the game and ask to join your team (only after you win a random match). From there you are given the option to recruit them or not, and their base stats are shown on the top screen to support your decision making. Players can also be recruited via the Capsule Machines scattered throughout the game by inserting different coloured tokens. Other methods include the Videophone & Connection Map both accessible using the Inazuma Bus.
Characters and items can also be acquired through SpotPass; this is done by selecting the “Download from Nintendo Network” option under the “Connect” button from the main menu. You’ll also receive notifications of these updates provided that SpotPass has been activated for your game. Traditional routes are also available to you through trading. You can wirelessly connect to your friends locally and swap characters with them. Moreover you can take on other players’ teams so long as StreetPass has been activated. You can name your team, change their kit, add a description, pick your players, and finally send them out. On the contrary if StreetPass isn’t to your liking then you can always play with your friends via local communication in standard matches, or team up with them to take on the Extra Competition Route.
Inazuma Eleven 3: Lightning Bolt offers a lot of what you will have seen in the previous titles. It's a shame it wasn't released as a whole trilogy as it was in Japan and despite the fact that it arrived on the 3DS, it doesn't feel like much progression was made. If Level-5 decides to bring Inazuma Eleven GO to Europe, then the 3DS will finally get the Inazuma experience it was always meant to have.
N-Europe Final Verdict
If you’ve played the previous games in the series then Inazuma Eleven 3 feels more of the same. Nonetheless the game doesn’t fail in giving you a lengthy yet endearing adventure from start to finish and a whole host of extras on the side. It’s a great game that clearly wasn’t meant to arrive on its own, especially when you consider how weak it feels as a remake. The story takes some time to really kick-off, and it may not be as out-of-this-world as its predecessor but it’s an enjoyable experience for all ages thanks to the sheer quality of gameplay and in-depth features that’s echoed by the lengthy manual. Inazuma Eleven 3: Lightning Bolt & Bomb Blast gets our approval.
The strategic touch-based gameplay is as fresh and addicting as ever.
Packed to the brim with detail providing you with a fleshed-out experience.
20hr+ main story and other extras will keep you entertained throughout.
You can recruit over 2200 characters and fully customise your own team.
Barely any changes/improvements for a remake.
Held back by its DS roots. Doesn’t make enough use of the 3DS’ capabilities.
Would have made more sense to bring the trilogy collection over instead of one part.