Players: 1+ Player Game | Release Date: 03/18/02 | Genre: Sports
Visual Concepts, the same people responsible for the NFL 2K and NBA 2K series', brings you a wild and hard-hitting soccer game in Sega Soccer Slam. Although known and well established in the sports genre, Visual Concepts does a great job of putting together a game that is a far cry away from being a sports sim. The game draws you in with a healthy mix of modes, characters, and immersive arcade-style game-play.
Sega Soccer Slam consists of four modes. Exhibition works just as it does in any other sports games, allowing you to select from a variety of teams, opponents, stadiums, and weather conditions. The Tourney mode is a round robin played against five teams with the highest ranked team crowned champ at the end of the tournament. Practice mode takes you by the hand through 16 lessons, starting off with the basics and finishing off with more complex and advanced maneuvers. The meat of Sega Soccer Slam, however, lies in its Quest mode where you will play through 10 regular season games in order to qualify for the Playoff Challenge. The first five games are all played at home with a special challenge such as the shooting challenge, or the one-timer challenge after each game. A nice touch in Quest mode is the All-Star break where the MVP of your team is thrown in with other MVP's from the league and an All-Star Game is played. During the second half of the season you are sent off on five games against other teams in their respective stadiums. Once you make it to the Playoffs you will encounter two opponents before you can take home the coveted Continental Cup.
While in Quest mode your team earns money through victories or goals scored in the different challenges. This money, in turn, is used for purchasing unlockable items with special enhancements. In one team buying a pair of earrings will make a character run faster, while in another buying shin pads for your player allows him to steal with more ease. These items add to the replay value of the game. You'll often find yourself playing through Quest mode more than once with any given team in order to unlock all the goodies and see your players sport them on the field. Earnings can also be used to buy special team art depicting your team's players and stadiums. In addition, some of the art contains codes that can be used on the title screen. One code for example makes the soccer ball an eyeball while other codes give your players big heads or allows them to hit harder on the field.
The playing field in SSS is quite small, resembling an indoor soccer field. There are no out of bounds nor are there fouls to slow down the action. The only way to stop the clock is by scoring. The game is based on a points system. Points add up in a meter at the bottom of the screen as you perform certain moves. Passing and shooting earn you 10 points, protecting yourself gives you 15, and a deke, hit, or steal earns you 20. Combining any of these moves together multiplies your points, thus filling up your meter faster. The meter is used to give each team their own specific power-ups-- team Toxic goes radioactive with their power-ups and you can see the players bones radiating a healthy green glow as their speed, power, and shots get a boost while team El Fuego's characters spontaneously combust during their boosts. Team Volta powers-up with lightning and so on. You may also opt to save up your energy points and fill the power-up meter to execute a killer kick which sends your character flying high and slowing down the action Matrix-style in order to give you better accuracy during your killer shot. Slowing down the action as well are the spotlight shots. Although not as great as killer kicks, spotlight shots still offer a great deal of power and accuracy without depleting your meter.
Sega Soccer Slam is an all out goalfest. The goals bring the characters' personalities and attitudes to life with celebrations. Each player has several ways of celebrating and all of them are complimented by that players very own music. You'll know you've been sucked in when you end up despising some of the other characters for their celebrations (that is, of course, until you take control of that hated team and make their celebrating your own). Thankfully, you can skip the post-goal antics altogether if you like. The action speed and difficulty are fully customizable, allowing you to slow them down or speed them up according to your liking. Heightening the speed and difficulty allows for a smarter A.I. opponent. However, it's hard to keep up at times and easy to get smacked around when you make a break for a neutral ball and the computer decides to go after you and worry about the ball after you're laying face first on the grass.
Loading times in SSS are minimal mainly because the game isn't a real polygon pusher. However, the characters and their expressions are very detailed along with the great looking stadiums that are unlocked by completing the Quest mode. The fans in the stadiums are made up of polygons as well, adding to the whole ambience. Also nice looking is a number of particle effects that occur during ball collision with the goalies and boundaries. The sound is up to par with the graphics, as fans chant for their team or boo them when they feel the team isn't living up to their expectations. Voice acting is well presented through each character making you feel and see their emotions through different voice pitches and gestures.
The problems in this game are not many. My main gripe is that the game only has six teams to choose from (10 would've been great), and although each team is brimming with their own personality the goalies are all generic and indistinguishable if it wasn't for their team colors. Playing the game on the "expert" setting with the game speed at "fast" makes standing upright a true challenge. Although it has its faults, those faults do not weigh SSS down and the game is extremely enjoyable offering tons of fun. However, if you're a fan of games that are true to the sport, the type of soccer games that make you sit back and let things develop, you might have a hard time adapting to this fast paced and mostly offensive game. If that's the case you might consider renting SSS before buying it. Otherwise, this game will truly compliment your GameCube library.