International Superstar soccer is created by Konami - one of premium software companies in the world. Konami have had a long history in the Nintendo world starting with the NES. Responsible for the Castlevania series, probably the greatest adventure/platform series of games ever. Also the Contra (Probotector) series and possibly the greatest sports game on the NES: the ice hockey game, Blades of Steel. There was also the outstanding basketball game, Double Dribble.
In the beginning
Most people would consider that ISS started on the Super Nintendo, but it really started life on the NES. A game called Konami Hyper Soccer came out it in the early 90s and was easily the best soccer game for the system. It featured a similar viewpoint, large sprites and excellent gameplay for the time. Due to having only two buttons on the NES's controller, the game was very simple but still very addictive. Commands were lob and pass when with the ball, and slide tackle and head when without it. When in, or just outside the box, the lob button became shoot enabling volleys, flying headers and bicycle kicks that were truly amazing for their time. The only real problem was that shots went where you were pointing so it forced you to be in certain positions to be on target. If Konami had had the fore-presence of having SNES-style shooting, plus had variable length lobs and passes depending on how long you pressed, then this game would have been perfect. Even so, and just like each new version that arrives, it played awesomely at the time and seemed perfect enough. But its legacy will always be that it introduced the famed Konami passing game that became the basis of the the first SNES game. Hyper Soccer was responsible for eating away much of my time and was up there with Blades of Steel, NES Open and Super Spike V'Ball (beach volleyball) as the system's best sports games.
Konami Hyper Soccer - the basis of the very first ISS game >>>
The 16-bit era and the first ISS
The very first ISS started out as Perfect Eleven in Japan in 1994. It was developed by Konami of Osaka (KCEO). The first football game to play like football. Up until then, games such as Sensi Soccer, Striker, Kick Off series and the Fifa series either played pinball football or relied on preset scoring methods conjured up through unrealistic gameplay.
Perfect Eleven was released in the western world as International Superstar Soccer to immediate critical acclaim. The main differences were the International teams instead of J-League teams, and severely reduced commentary. The ISS series also marked the successful move to a radar system that actually worked. Traditionally, gamers either had a good view of the field with tiny players, or had a closer view with better graphics. The balance was never quite right. Konami have provided both. Radars in games have not worked due to poor design and inadequate placement but Konami's large and well positioned implementation has opened the door for all football games to include one. But the most telling feature of the very first ISS was the passing game. My very first game was Switzerland vs Austria for some unknown reason and right from the kick-off it was pass, pass, pass, pass and pass; then another pass and so on. Unbelievable! It felt right from the start and it is the hallmark of all ISS games that have followed.
Late the following year, the sequel, Fighting Eleven was released (ISS Deluxe in the west). Other than the extra teams and commentary, the significant enhancement was in the defence and the incorporation of the 'jig' button and a wealth of additionally gameplay options. The defence differed in that the CPU team mates did not tackle the player and essentially just marked space. It was up to the player to select the defender and tackle. The 'jig' button was an outstanding feature and allowed you you take on the defence and the goalies to try and beat them. Personally this is the definitive version of the game so far.
ISS Deluxe - how can something look so simple yet play so great?
In early 1996, Sega's Megadrive/Genesis received Sega's first, and until now, only ISS game ever. It was essentially a straight port of the SNES ISS Deluxe, though done by another company, which unfortunately lost a bit in the translation. While a slight increase in speed made it more fluid and updated team parameters kept it current, small AI flaws in the defense when using man-marking, insanely tough goal keepers on level 5 and shooting "hot-spots" crept into it meaning much of the traditional ISS magic was lost. It was still the best MD football game ever; it was just a pity that the port was not more faithful. Still, it is the only ISS game so far that lets 8 players participate!
Enter the PlayStation
The PlayStation also got a dose soon after with Winning Eleven (Goal Storm in the Western world). It featured the obvious graphical enhancements but did not play as well as a 32bit upgrade should. This version was converted by another company and it showed. Eventually, PS owners got the real ISS Deluxe, in all its 16-bit glory. It was instantly hailed as the best soccer game on the PS, even with the likes Fifa97, which really was a disappointing sequel, and Actua Soccer. ISSD was so much more playable than the other games. It was the quintessential triumph of gameplay over graphics and presentation. Even when the minor upgrade of Winning Eleven 97 (Goal Storm 97) came at about the same time, ISSD was still king.
<<< Winning Eleven 97 - sequel to the first 3D ISS game ever, Winning Eleven
But it's the Nintendo 64 that wows the world
Then, in 1996, Major A, the name KCEO now also goes by, brought out Perfect Striker in Japan on Nintendo's new N64 system. It was the first true upgrade from the SNES versions, and obviously, all in 3D. Other than the phenomenally improved graphics that wowed the world, the inclusion of the through-ball and the one-two to dedicated buttons was the major innovation which even worth wowed the world. Just ask anyone the first time they used the through-pass, and they will tell you. ISS 64 screenshot - wow! >>>
Of course, the fundamental principle of the passing game remained, even more so. With the searching-pass now employed, a pass will always go to a team-mate, even when facing the wrong way. You could over-ride this, however. Holding "R" whilst passsing would send the pass in the direction you were facing.
In mid 1997 Australia was first to get the western version - known as ISS 64 - and as you would expect, the ISS Realm was salivating with utter excitement and incredible emotion. I personally may have even shed a tear. This version had even better AI for the goalie and a few extra animations, but was essentially the same as the Japanese version.
Unfortunately, the PlayStation's version of this game was quite poor in comparison. It was the first game fully developed by Konami's Tokyo branch (KCET). ISS Pro had no search-pass and was simply not as fluid or playable as the N64 counterpart which made it very difficult to score. In retrospect, this may have been a plus considering that scoring was never problem on the N64, but low scoring was more the result of a poorer passing system and the somewhat cheating AI that was onto you far too quickly. In fact, ISS Pro felt very Fifa-ish, except with much better passing and response than that game. Also, all the famous ISS game-customisable options were missing, and worse, most PS reviews rated the horrific Fifa 97 as superior.
Late in 1997, Japan got a new N64 version; Jikkyio World Soccer 3. A mini sequel to ISS 64, it differed mainly in the selection of teams. The western ISS was certainly top-heavy in European nations (24 out of 36). Since the primary market was Europe, suppose this was fair enough. But it was disappointing personally not to see Australia and Canada included since those two countries are significant Nintendo territories. JWS3 did ditch some European teams and included Australia, Canada, extra South American teams and teams from the middle east. Considering Japan is in the Asian zone this was a good move. Hopefully these teams will be retained for the next version. There is also a 5% increase in the speed and the potency of the through-balls has been diminished with the goalies incredibly quick to come of their lines and gobble anything remotely nearby.
That leaves for ISS 64 part 2. Can it get any better? Yes it can. The ISS Realm feels the game does have a couple of flaws - albeit impernicous - that was not in ISS Deluxe. Checkout the reviews.
As the end of 1998 approaches, ISS 98, and its equivalent World Cup endorsed version in Japan, has just proven to be the best football game ever. The bugs and over-offensive nature of the ISS 64 are gone, and in its place is the most balanced, and playable football game ever. In almost two years, the artificial intelligence has been refined and enhanced to perfection. Not really the difficulty, but in the entire operation of the teams both in offence and defence. It really is a marvel and simply leaves all other contenders for dead.
ISS 98's stylish new menus >>>
It really makes a difference what some tighter controls and some decent teammate defensive AI can do. However, you can't please everyone and some have now lamented that ISS 98 is too hard to score and they much prefer ISS 64's free flowing high-scoring game! Also, the excitable commentary that went with ISS 64 is now replaced by a duller less-enthused commentator in Tony Gubba. Well known in the UK, his style seemingly reflects the more subdued nature of ISS 98. Whether you want excitement or realism, you now have a choice in both game and commentator.
There are many other extras too: 54 teams, including long-time missing, and the ISS Realm's home base, Australia; 10 stadia including 3 from France; a whole new range of defensive strategies along with 8 extra in-game ones that 6 can be used at an instant during the game; the ability to save settings on controller pak; and countless other stuff. Also, the game has full squads with, as distinct from the generic, fictious names of previous games, slightly mutated names of the real players (which can be edited) that seem as close as they can possibly get without displaying the names 100% faithfully. Nice to have, I suppose, but the ISS Realm will miss the likes of Holland's Koppers, Argentina's Fuerte, Japan's Hasimoto and Italy's Galfano who have lasted so long, with some, like Koppers, even undergoing colour changes. He started as Bergkamp and became Kluivert on N64. As always, the teams and players themselves are still 100% faithful replicas of real teams and ISS 98 has fully authentic team-strips (no, Fifa's are not fully authentic, despite the endorsement), and were first with variable height players. Flo from Norway is a giant whilst Hassler from Germany is tiny. Referees are now on the pitch, there are a billion new player antics, a vertical view and so much more. Presentation, playability and customable-wise, Konami has transcended even its own standards.
It's all Pro on the PlayStation
The PlayStation's version - also a World Cup licensed game - materialised in the west as ISS Pro 98. Much better than its predecessor, not quite as good as the N64's. It plays a tad slower, has less moves and far less in-game options. Even peripheral things like stadia and even the commentary is reduced - and it is a CD game! The pure ISS gameplay we all know and love is there though, and that is all that counts. These PlayStation games are actually developed by another branch of Konami, another R&D team known as KCET(okyo). The N64 versions are by Major A, or KCEO(saka). Inevitably, things are bound to be different and a few different approaches taken.
<<< Winning Eleven 3 World Cup - finally real names!
The most notable is the tackling which is more realistic in that the ball often rebounds away, rather than being either won or lost, as is the case in the black and white style of the N64 games. Controls are a tighter, and teammate defenders actively help out - especially with tackling - too. It makes for a more pure, realistic - and defensive - style of game with fewer shots on goal. It also means a bit more luck is involved in winning. This compares with the N64 which is full on action with countless shots at either end, with the goal-keepers mostly responsible for keeping the scores low, and the player having almost 100% control of all his actions and eventual outcome of the match.
Late in the year of 1998, Japanese PS fans got an updated ISS Pro 98 called Winning Eleven Final Edition. Other than J-League teams replacing the World Cup teams, the ISS Realm knows little else about this game.
ISS 98 in both forms seems virtually perfect, but things can be improved. Only peripheral stuff mind you, most significantly the N64 graphics and the PS options. With the N64's RAM pak becoming prominent, ISS 98 seemed to be just that few months too early to take advantage of it. The graphics are excellent, though, with ultra-smooth animation and giant flags everywhere, but the low-res graphics simply do not match the greatness of the gameplay especially in the zoomed-out modes. It would not surprise to see an ISS 99 - essentially an ISS 98 in hi-res mode if you will - though nothing has been rumoured yet. Other than some other niggles you can read about in the review of the game, ISS 98 is basically the perfect sports game ever, and I would be quite happy to live with it forever.
Real players first feature on a box for ISS 98 . PAL version here. Kopke replaced Ince for the rest of Europe; Valderama starred in different design for the American market
Not quite perfect after all
How things can change, a year later and N64 ISS 98's tackling has shown to be flawed somewhat. Mainly against top teams like Brazil and Germany, the black and white nature of the tackling system can you leave you winning the ball but having it re-stolen whilst you lie on the ground after a slide tackle, or have your opponent continually brush off your standing tackles - even with a posse of players surrounding the ball carrier. And Pro 98's less responsive controls and one-dimensional AI has the tendency to make the game somewhat predictable with goals coming from very similar situations. In fact, you almost rely on these avenues to score. All sports games develop these problems, and thankfully Pro 98's is only marginally afflicted, but it is still there. It appears both N64 and PS versions can borrow features from each other to truly make the best football game ever. The evolution is waiting to happen. Will we see it?
First, mid-to-late 1999 sees the much publicised release of the Japanese N64 sequel to the very first N64 ISS game - Perfect Striker 2. It is hoped that some of the grievances the ISS Realm has over ISS 98 is addressed. ISS 99 gets a confirmed release date, but, this turns out to be the Gameboy version. Sigh. Unfortunately, the actual N64 version is delayed for ages in the western world despite actual ISS 99 footage being shown at several gaming expos. During this time, it undergoes a metamorphosis in names from the obvious ISS 99, to an American inspired and fully licensed Major League Soccer 99, or 2000, then to ISS Millennium and ISS 2000. Reports from emails to the ISS Realm and various web sites show a new career mode where you develop a player almost Role-Playing-Game like, tighter controls, improved AI, added controls like manual tackle-evades instead of the previous auto ones, better defending, added weather and a multi-player mini league. The lack of multi-player tournaments on the N64 versions is a joke really. Pro 98 has them, and so for some so simple to include, so should the N64.
Time for an Evolution
While N64 owners await their next ISS game, early 2000 sees PS owners get the wonderfully titled game in ISS Pro Evolution, which is based on Japan's Winning Eleven 4. The evolution has arrived and is immediately acclaimed worldwide (except for the odd myopic US website) for its realism, animation and awesome AI. Local PS mags in Australia give it 10/10 or high 90s percentages - phenomenal for what is a minor sport in that country. And PS websites can't stop raving about it. I personally order it from overseas, and once played, so too the Argie Mentor - his first PS ISS game. No other PS ISS game has generated this sort of reaction. Other than the brilliant gameplay, it features many more tournaments, both single and multi player, a fabulous intro, and more in-game options that while no where near as vast as the N64's, is a marked improvement over Pro 98.
Later that year, the USA surprising gets Pro Evolution. Surprising, because a US specific version called ESPN MLS GameNight was supposedly their form of Evo. As it turns out, they get both. Barely a couple of months after Evo, GameNight arrives, but it is just not a re-packaged Evo either. It is a small upgrade with AI tweaks and seemingly based on Winning Eleven 2000 - a Japanese WE4 update. The only AI problem the ISS Realm felt was obvious and needed addressing was the supporting AI when going forward. Quite often runners would stop running just as you'd pass a through-ball to them. Other than that, the rest of the AI seemed rock solid. The rest of the world will get this game - eventually - to be called ISS Evolution 2.
ESPN MLS Gamenight - the US version of ISS Evolution 2/WE 2000 >>>
Anyway, as the Evolution takes hold across the world, confirmation that the next N64 ISS game will officially be known as ISS 2000. It gets delayed and delayed, and finally gets released around October 2000 in Europe, South America and Australia. The US, somehow, managed to get it a couple of months earlier. It arrives about a year later than Perfect Striker 2, so no doubt has been tweaked further. With now around 100 teams, almost the entire world has some representation here. Unfortunately, the players' names are more mutated now and often difficult to recognise that way. You have to rely on their actual looks and actions - no problem for ISS's traditional brilliant representations of the real life players. The career mode is there from Perfect Striker 2; the multi-player mini league too. The mini league is fairly rudimentary, and is no where near enough compared to Evolution's leagues and tournaments. At least it is something. With these two new games, has ISS made the full evolution?
Simple answer is YES. Pro Evo is indeed the remarkable piece of software that the world's media has raved about. The game flows much better and the overall dynamism of the game, and especially goal scoring, is vastly improved. It finally gets an intro - a good one - too. Most of the more complex moves like one-twos, through passes and chip lobs are greatly enhanced and very effective. But not to the detriment of defending. In fact, it is still bloody hard to score, and most rewarding when you do. Along with the animation that have been taken to a new level, it is the tight, balanced, game that Pro Evo delivers that has the world in raptures. The only downers appear to be - and this is a perennial problem - the lack of game options that have featured in the Nintendo versions for years. Why? Well, maybe the game does not need it because it seems pretty much perfect at the moment. It is just all those Nintendo players used to them, miss them. At least Evo finally gets a 4-player mode.
Finally, the N64 gets its next - and final - ISS
For the N64, ISS 2000 has yet again improved on its predecessor, but not as much as Evo did over Pro 98, or even ISS 98 did over ISS 64. It does feature a RAM hi-res mode, but while it looks nice and sharp, sadly is too jerky to play. Fans are left with the customary slightly washed-out, yet superbly animated, graphics that typify previous N64 ISS games. The tackling system was where the game really needed to evolve, and it was tackled head on. As a tribute to the PS version's tackling, ISS 2000's is similar in that tackle outcomes are far more varied. And with ISS 2000 retaining its fluid, crisp, passing game, the requirement to pass and break down defences is even higher. There are less shots on goal, and more structured and varied play. AI has also been tweaked to help out, with teammates very quick to intercept any remotely optimistic through balls. You really have to make well judged decisions for medium to long range passes.
The new ISS 2000 menus. And an example of some of those wonderful options that Nintendo versions feature. Here, the pre-game handicapping screen. >>>
However, there seems to be one thing that ISS 2000 has that no other ISS game has had ever - bugs. I have had reports of the PAL (UK/some of Europe/Australia) versions gaming freezing on save screens. And in game, where I can vouch for it personally, the sound suddenly goes and then come your next dead ball situation, you can't kick the ball. This seems to only occur during tournaments, especially the European one, and only intially - the problem seems to actually go away! There is no other option than to reset. Sure, other games crash occasionally, but ISS 2000 crashes too frequently for it to be just an isolated problem and it seems unlikely that it will go away. The ISS Realm's suspicion is memory pak issues again. Both ISS 64 and ISS 98 had several functionality problems, including the game not recognising them and data being lost, especially with third-party paks, and it seems more troubles have surfaced. Those previous problems were generally only encountered initially, and ISS 2000 may also "work" the bugs away as it gets "accustomed" to the memory pak. Only once before has the ISS Realm ever experienced an actual ISS crash, though. That was an ISS 98 game where a late foul tackle and the ball going out of bounds simultaneously seem to confuse the program into what decision to make. Of other games, only the N64's Mario Kart is known to crash regularly. Even then, that is only about five crashes in four years for us.
Despite that minor hiccup, both platforms seem to have just about the best ISS possible for their system. Both games seem to be equally as good, yet both still retain their trademark flavour. Literally, it is just a matter of taste as to which you prefer. For the ISS Realm, you need both, plus a copy of ISS Deluxe. Yep, that old favourite still holds its own for balance, strategy, excitement and most importantly, fun. With the current systems lifespan approaching five or so years, it is really only presentation that holds them back against the impending "super" consoles' upcoming versions that are are not far away either.
ISS on the Gameboy and PC?
Before that, lets talk about other gaming formats around late 2000 that have yet to get ISS. First, the PC. With the internet evolved to a stage where gamers across the world can play each other, and with the current or imminent consoles unlikely to feature on-line play for at least another two years, a PC version of ISS would be most welcome. Unfortunately, it seems increasingly unlikely we will see it. Problem is, that Konami is a Japanese company, and in Japan, PC gaming is virtually non-existent. It would take a third party to port over an ISS game for us to ever see one on the PC. Not long ago, Microsoft seemed to have some sort of deal with Konami that would see ISS released on Sega's 128-bit Dreamcast, and on the PC, but that has fallen through. In fact, Konami officially announced that the ISS Dreamcast game was cancelled. And the PC version, was never officially announced anyway.
That leaves one major gaming platform left: the Gameboy. Konami of Nagoya (KCEN) is responsible for GB ISS games and the first came1998 for the then monochrome-only GB and provided a cut-down but easy-to-play version from the N64 whose search-passing and crisp tackling enabled a reasonable flowing game. However, with only shoot and pass available, the gameplay became very one- dimensional making it feel a bit like the NES's Hyper Soccer, but not even as good. However, many of the options were there and teams were based on N64 ISS 98's - as closest to real as you could without a license. ISS 99 came the following year with far more moves, in colour for the GB Color and seemingly, this time, cut down from the PS ISS games. While no search-pass, harder tackling in that possession is not often won, made it immediately less playable, compared to the previous GB game, the slower game speed, and extra moves probably made it more realistic. The lobs and backheels that are executed via double button taps and combo taps, certainly helped in more versatile and innovating gameplay. So too the fact you could now perform headers. However, the NES-styled shooting that shoots where you point, did limit it in that it forced you to shoot from set spots to be on target. Both versions only have auto-cursor change - which is a pain. Nor, understandably, due to system limitations, a radar. ISS 99 does have a 2-player mode through the link-up cable, though. However, freeing up one of the buttons for the cursor change, and assigning the relative tackle as a double-tap, or hold-tap, on the other button, would fix the cursor problem.
ISS 99, on the Gameboy Color. Wow? >>>
Naturally, to match an ISS 2000 for nearly all other formats, GBC got an ISS 2000 late in that year. At the time of writing, little is known about it but just like its PS and N64 counterparts, a merge of gameplay styles from the two previous GB ISS games could produce one hell of a game that truly captures the magic of ISS. While ISS and ISS 99 play a nice game of ISS that is actually quite good fun, there is too much missing, they are too restrictive, and are basically stuck in an 8-bit time warp when even the current game of that time - NES Hyper Soccer - is arguably better than both these late-90s developed games. Neither are the ISS we are familar with and it is hard to recommend them to ISS devotees for any reason other than novelty value. Still, the ISS GB games are by far the "best on the system" (where have heard that before?) and it bodes well for the Gameboy Advance version due shortly. With four buttons, many of the restrictions that the two-button GB imposed can be lifted to provide a more accurate representation of ISS, especially, control-wise. Of course, they should just release a portable SNES and then there would be no need to worry about other versions - stick with ISS Deluxe.
Next-generation game consoles arrive
The year 2000 saw the release of the PlayStation2. A 128-bit graphically powerhouse that is set to see almost photo-realistic ISS games. Unfortunately, its first game - Jikkyou World Soccer 2000, an upgrade of an N64 game mind you - was received relatively poorly, despite the excellent still shots. Frame rate suffered a bit, and often affected the gameplay. But the fact that the N64-styled gameplay had basically not been touched miffed some media. Probably more the loose controls and the buttered-fingered goal keepers was what caused some grievances. Whether these are new faults, or just N64/PS nuances, is unclear. The game is based on Perfect Striker 2 and features the career mode and most other options from that game. It's only extra feature is the real name players that are based on U23 or Olympic level players.
November of that year sees Europe and Austalia get PS2 and ISS - simply called, ISS - on launch, with the big news is that, for the first time in the western world, an ISS game has full A-international names. This is because Konami acquired the FIFPRO (global legal representatives for pro footballers) license. Whether that is enough to garner extra sales is debatable, but at least it adds some extra authenticity to the game. Reviews are again mixed, with the basic concensus being that the game could have and should have been much better. Gameplay-wise, it is certainly no better than current PS and N64 offerings, and in graphical terms, while a vast improvement, still has much room for improvement.
PS gets the same box art as its big brother raising the prospect that it is a port of the PS2 ISS, not the N64 ISS 2000 which PS2 ISS was upgraded from. Confused?
So the initial PS2 ISS games are somewhat of a disappointment, and seemingly a rushed job of graphically upgrading an N64 game. However, Winning Eleven 5 (Evo3) has been announced for the PS2 and is due early/mid 2001. The extra time should see at least a completely fully optimised version of the game. And being a successor to a PS game, the PS2 reviewers will be more familiar with the gameplay and can judge it more accurately.
The first ISS on a 128-bit system - JWS/ISS 2000 on the PS2. This graphical upgrade of the N64's ISS 2000 looks great, but has a poor framerate and loose controls.
The PlayStation's still alive
Before that, the JWS 2000/ISS 2000 ports are not over yet. It is announced that the original PS will now get a copy to be titled ISS, seemingly a port of the PS2 big brother. Why? Who knows. With the WE4/Evo upgrade that Japan and the USA received, and Evo 2 slated for a March 2001 release, plus now a port of an the N64 based PS2 game scheduled for late 2000, maybe Konami are still not entirely happy with Pro Evolution? Or maybe they just want PS gamers to get a taste of the different N64 version? Maybe they are just money hungry? We will wait and see how all these new ISS games pan out. It will be interesting to see how the PS's stiffer controller and the system's rawer, less feature packed, processing power affect the control of ISS 2000. Providing it is a direct port of the N64 game and not the poorly conceived and received PS2 version, by tempering the N64 versions' over-fluidity whilst retaining its brilliant passing, wealth of moves and options, it could be one superb game and just about the best ISS game ever.
Of the next-generation systems, the ISS Realm feels that the extra power will only make the games look better. Gameplay-wise, ISS is as good as it can get with the current system's processing power not inhibiting the gameplay one bit. Time will tell, but chances are, ISS will surprise us again.
PlayStation has the best of both worlds
It's late 2001, and the ISS Realm manages to get a hold of that mystical PS port of the N64's ISS 2000. And you know what? It plays a great game. The fluidity and action packed gameplay has been transferred perfectly. The PS controller, in the end, made little difference to the controls. In fact, it's a pretty much a perfect conversion. Any self-respecting PS owner should add it to their collection and feel smug that while they have the N64's best, N64 owners won't be getting the PS's best.
Who'd have thought? A conversion of an N64 ISS on the PlayStation. This is ISS 2000 - in PS colours!
Gameboy Advance ISS disappoints
That back-to-roots ISS name appears yet again, this time on Nintendo's latest handheld system, the Gameboy Advance. It is very much similar to the Super Nintendo's ISS Deluxe, but with two less buttons, and some poor implementation of the existing ones, the controls are awkward. Made even worst by the fact that the standing and slide tackles are on the shoot and pass button respectively, yet every other ISS game ever invented as seen the opposite. Why? Besides those glaring faults, the gameplay itself has not been perfectly restored as there's no control over strength of passes and lobs - they always go the same distance. Its plus is that the commentary is excellent for a cartridge game, most teams have real player names, and the graphics are as good as the original. ISS2 will no doubt be the one to watch.
ISS on the Gameboy Advance: captures the feel; needs more development.
Pro Evolution Soccer arrives
The big releases still keep coming at the end of the year 2001. The first real PS2 ISS game - the sequel to the Evolution games the fans loved and cherished on the original PS - arrives in the form of Pro Evolution Soccer. A brand extension seemingly away from the traditional ISS that's been seen for years on the Nintendo systems, probably to avoid confusion. PES comes to Europe and Australia as a slightly updated version to its Japanese original, Winning Eleven 5. WE5 had received rave reviews (well, what PS ISS games haven't in recent years?), so the western market was eager for its arrival. While many media and fans rejoiced in what seemed an outstanding evolution of the PS Evolution games, there's also those that felt the changes made it even harder to score in the game. While some moves were added (like variable sprint speeds), some moves, notably the more elaborate passes like one-twos, were unnecessarily tampered with, almost to the point of obsolescence. That's hardly an endorsement to those that felt the PS Evolution games were already on the too low-a-scoring side. In saying that, though, it does make scoring goals all the more satisfying. But is that a result of pent-up frustration being released or to actual gameplay appreciation? The jury is still out.
That was PES, and it even finds its way as a port on it the ubiquitous PS. But for American PS2 owners, PES never made it there. Instead, they received a conversion of WE5 called ESPN MLS Extra Time. According to websites and several ISS Realm readers, those that converted the game somehow lost the WE5/PES feel in the translation. The game was converted by the Konami team based in Honolulu, Hawaii. It's difficult to postulate, but maybe they tried tampering with the gameplay so as to appeal more to US gamers not conditioned to the intricacies of the world game, when all that had to be done was to replace teams and commentary.
As the year 2002 kicks into gear, the next big ISS release is scheduled to be ISS2 - the sequel to the ordinary ISS game that appeared first in the PS2's life. Being their second outing on the system, obviously Konami's Osaka team is expected to put out a faultless game, but more importantly, to be an actual improvement of the N64's ISS 2000, which ISS failed to achieve. The game is scheduled for a May release on all the contemporary systems: PS2, Gamecube and the XBox. In fact, for those latter systems, ISS2 will be their first ISS game.
Two distinct brands as the sequels keep coming
Interestingly, Konami have now totally separated the two flavours of ISS and created two distinct brands. The ISS name stays with the original SNES inspired series developed by the Osaka team, whilst the Tokyo Konami branch's ISS Pro/Evolution games have now become Pro Evolution Soccer. The ISS Realm has always favoured the ISS series, primarily because that's what we grew up with, but also the games have been more fun. There's always been the suspicion that hardware limitations of the PS have restricted the Pro Evo games' potential. But in this super console era of the PS2, Gamecube and XBox, a level playing field is now set or a fair competition.
However, ISS2 came and went, literally, which made three ISS/PES games the ISS Realm has totally skipped. Of course, while some of us did not even have a PS2 or GC at the time, facts are, had the games received rave reviews, there'd have been a hardware purchase. So while reviews were quite positive towards ISS2 compared with ISS, there were still small problems with the game. In the USA, MLS Extra Time came and went too, as all Konami developers continue to struggle with the latest hardware. In despair, the ISS Realm writes a feature on what it wants in the Perfect ISS game as it holds out for the next candidate to be the saviour for the latest consoles. Winning Eleven 6 arrives in Japan mid-year to great reviews, which raises hopes that Pro Evolution Soccer 2, scheduled for late 2002, will be the game that finally delivers a true ISS/PES experience on this latest console era.
The latest entry to this current console era - the XBox - receives it's first ISS game >>>
PES2 - the new champion for the ISS Realm
And talk about an experience. Anyone that's read the ISS Realm's PES2 review no doubt realises how much the ISS Realm loves this game. It's the first PS Pro/Evo game to knock off the Nintendo ISS games as the ISS Realm's universal favourite. Amazingly, it answers just about every request mentioned in that Perfect ISS game feature. I say "just about" because there are a few things that still can be changed or included to improve the game. Also, after six months of play, some of the minor problems noted seem more glaring now, and really need attention.
<<< The amazing PES2 - the greatest ISS/PES game ever!
Now, for those unaware, Konami staggers their releases between Japan and the West by several months. Typically this time is used to tweak the games for the next market. So while PES2 was tweaked from Winning Eleven 6, Japan actually received a tweaked version of PES2 known as World Soccer WE6 Final Evolution in late 2002. Note that there's actually two forms of Winning Eleven: the J-League (their domestic league) version and the World Soccer (national teams) version. This is prefixed into the title as J-League Winning Eleven or World Soccer Winning Eleven, but most simply refer to them by their by their derivitive name of Winning Eleven.
Anyway, usually it's the World Soccer version that gets the update, hence the full title of WS WE6 Final Evolution - phew! Now, what this means is that many of PES2's problems may already have been corrected in those latter WE6 games. However, what was most notable about this game was that it was released on the Nintendo Gamecube. Traditionally Winning Eleven games have been the sole domain of the PlayStation systems, and it's the first time the series has seen light on another platform. Thankfully, even with the GC's different controller, the game plays just as faithfully as it's PS2 counterpart.
USA finally gets their PES, but...
Remarkably, while Asia had four Winning Elevens and Europe two PESs, the USA had yet to receive any. However, this all changed when WE6 Final Evo was released in the Americas in March 2003. But instead of the PES name used in other parts of the West, their version was called (World Soccer) Winning Eleven 6 International. Only released on the PS2, the game marks the first time the Winning Eleven brand name has been used outside Asia. While it could just be because the game is an actual Winning Eleven game and not a PES game, it's more likely that Konami are not entirely happy with the PES brand name in an immature footballing market like the USA. With the dropping of the ISS prefix in the title, PES has lost any association at being international - both the game and the sport itself - and this could be something Konami is keen to convey. That problem does not exist in football-mad Europe because they are savvy enough to make discerning purchases.
With the PES brand set in Europe, unfortunately, WE 6 International won't be released there at all, not even in a "PES 2.5" variant. They'll just have to wait for PES3 for the next real update.
That game will be based on Winning Eleven 7, scheduled for a July release in Japan, which is shaping to be a landmark game. The current WE formula is correct right now, and only needs tweaking, but there's fear that Konami could make a full blown brand new game, or one with too many new ideas, which could conceivably introduce new problems. That's not want PES2 fans want right now - PES2 still has room for improvement. And whatever the outcome for WE7 and the PES3 follow up, hopefully it hits the GC and Xbox too. Although, with sales so poor, and no announcements to the contrary, it seems unlikely. Curious considering the poorer selling ISS series manages to cover all formats.
Speaking of ISS, that brand - in the form of ISS3 - will have it's chance to reclaim the undisputed title as best football game ever. Not only that, but in a first for any Konami football game, the game will appear on the Personal Computer! Rumour is that it will deliver a long overdue online capability. If that is the case, the game maybe a worthwhile purchase simply for that feature alone.
ISS is dead... and in heaven
14 May 2010
ISS3 did come, and go just as quick. It had the most brilliant control scheme ever and the superb attacking AI as is standard with the ISS brand. Unfortunately, it was all a bit clunky, most notably stupid decisions like the shoulder buttons needed to be fully depressed (talking about the Gamecube's analogue buttons) to activate commands, and the response from the control stick was so sluggish in movement. Check the reviews section.
...so, does PES keep the spirit of ISS breathing?
No. From PES2 came the dreadful PES3, that introduced randomness and downright cheating in the game. I sold mine almost as soon as a I bought it. It goes down as probably the worst game in the series ever simply because of the high standard and that much better is expected.
PES4 saw the brand redeem itself. Or, should we say, was a proper sequel to PES2. This version is marked as the best of the series by the ISS Realm.
From PES5, the series began its inexorable drive backwards and decline, and also the final PES game reviewed at the ISS Realm. The randomness returned. They regard this as "realism". As the ethos of the ISS Realm states about soccer games, a 10 minute video soccer game should represent 10 minutes of highlights from an actual match, not a 10 minute segment. With that, add ridiculously sensitive shooting, players unable to control the ball, players unable to pass accurate. This randomness element just destroys the game. It's not fun, and doubtful that it's even realistic.
PES changed their numbering system to represent the year. This began with PES 2006. I purchased this game many months after release in a bargain bin. Mostly out of hope than optimism. It's just getting worse. The German Mentor bought the X360 version later on. I warned him time and time again that PES 2006 was rubbish. He found out the difficult way. So did I when I had an inquisitive play, if I need any further confirmation.
A new king is crowned.... FIFA!
If there was any doubt ISS is dead and PES is dead, then this is it. FIFA World Cup 2006 on the Gamecube proved to be the game. That's right, FIFA. The once nasty, horrible game that played the nastiest and most horrible game, with horror controls and cheap goals, it was terrible. I'd bought FIFA World Cup games in the past simply for the World Cup. WC98 was decent, WC2002 was rubbish. That one was only purchased years later from a bargain bin. Anticipation and sense of time was WC2006 that I thought that, surely, EA must have learnt something over the years. The first pleasant surprise that the controls were just as PES/WE. Second, dumb EAisms like rapid-pressing the run button for running speed was replaced by ISSisms like simply holding the button down. This game was more ISS than almost any other game before it. I was so impressed that I gobbled up FIFA07 on the Gamecube when it unexpected arrived. That traded some of the accessible arcade feel of WC06 for a touch more realism, all without spoiling the excellent groundwork built into WC06.
Wii, PS3, X360 and beyond...
That concludes the history of ISS. ISS is long gone, PES just spirals into decline further and further, and the ISS Mentors are firmly into the Fifa camp now, as is most of the world and critical media. As latecomers to the PS3, the ISS Mentors bypassed the early PES and Fifa games on this generation, knowing that they would take time to settle. The acclaimed FIFA10 became the German Mentor's first soccer game on this generation of systems, while myself, the Dutch Mentor, obviously bought the World Cup 2010 edition. I just can't betray my ISS roots with all the international teams. International football is my heart and the heart of the ISS Realm.
As for WC2010 and FIFA10, both games are as good as commonly stated, with WC2010 edging FIFA10 in the gameplay department. It's not the difference seen between action-packed WC2006 and more simulation Fifa07, it's just a refined version, a bit more snappier and with any slight niggles ironed out.
Oh, wait, is there a late resurrection?
On a visit to Tokyo in June 2008, I stumbled upon Winning Eleven for the Gameboy Advance. It's as "ISS" as any PES game and probably the logical successor to ISS Deluxe ever seen out there. It's also more fun than probably any of the PES/WE games. Remarkable for a game that's restricted to the reduced button setup of the GBA and published as far back as 2002. More interestingly, earlier in this history page, I lament that "ISS" on the GBA disappoints. Could this be the same game and now my perception has changed? Regardless, the ISS Realm will endeavour to post a short review of this game as its final review. That's appropriate as the ISS Realm should end on spirit of ISS just as it formed on the spirit of ISS.
International Superstar Soccer is dead, long lie International Superstar Soccer