Ah, it’s that time of the year. What will you spend your pocket money/spare cash/textbook fee on? EA’s FIFA 13 or Konami’s PES 13? It’s no-brainer for Americans (the former) and Indonesians (the latter). For the rest of us, it’s no longer the question that the former is actually having some evolution while Pro Evolution Soccer is still yet stuck in 2005 – yet Indonesians (and probably Japanese) will keep telling you that “PES/Winning Eleven is about strategy and build-up. FIFA is just pass and shoot”. Or is it about the customization? Third world gaming market is full of hacked (um, patched) PES featuring local leagues (Indonesian, Malaysian, Tunisian, even Chinese perhaps with deliberate crest and shirts designs) and national teams. Those brewers are also offering ‘corrected’ team names (Merseyside Reds have become something of an affection for Liverpool fans) and updated transfers for a price cheaper than chips.
Like my old lecturers were 1970s Marxists who turned conservatives after the 80s and then turned into socialists or whatever moderate left after 9/11, I was also a FIFA man, then a PES guy, and now FIFA follower again. Of course, being a flip flop has its own history.
Electronic Arts was the American pioneer of soccer/football games. Yea, there might be Microsoft Soccer or whatever you remembered in the 80s, if you happen to be a North American. My parents thought that 8-bit console was a waste of money, while with PC, of course, you can use it for school and study. Yay. So I played Italy 90 by US Gold, which was actually a British software. Yeah. It featured real roster for World Cup Italy 90. At this time my favorite team was United States. Meola. Des Armstrong. John Harkes. Tab Ramos. Hmm…Eric Wynalda?
It’s easy to win the game. Counter slide tackle if a defender gets you, as the foul system is fickle (just like in real life). Approach the goal diagonally, hold space bar and release. You’ll score again and again. But it does not work with crap team like South Korea (I tried). Of course, that time I wouldn’t know about the official game for Sega Mega Drive/Genesis, which people say as weird since it has teams like Poland, Peru, and of course Japan.
Then Dad bought me Super Nintendo with FIFA International Soccer as the marquee. My first match, was, I still cannot believe it, Japan v Nigeria. Nigeria was the WEAKEST team in the game. I won 7-5. Played it on 29 inch tv in 16-bit glory was orgasmic, especially since I just knew the concept. The players were fictitious, some of the best stats were owned by players sporting the names of Extended Play Productions (now EA Canada) staff, a tradition that goes on to FIFA 97. The next year, my first English conversation with a native speaker was with a Gold Coast, Queensland, game shop staff on why didn’t EA make FIFA 95 for Super Nintendo.
Then, FIFA 96 for PC, still regarded as a classic. Featuring Malaysian League (I played Singapore because it’s my favorite holiday spot). Then the blocky and lifeless FIFA 97, when it’s easier to score with pass button when you’re facing the keeper as he’ll catch your shot. By this time Konami has released Winning Eleven, and the illegal copy of the Japanese/Asian version was widely available (we never, ever, have original PlayStation & PS2 discs here). So other guys in school played it since it’s Japanese and they liked Japanese stuff while I was into American stuff.
FIFA 98 had a good market here, because you can play Indonesia. Kurniawan Dwi Yulianto. Widodo C. Putro. Rocky Putiray. And on easy setting, you can make Indonesia to be the world champions. Being an obsessive compulsive at this point, I made the universal Road to France campaign, playing EVERY TEAM. Of course I couldn’t finish it. Still, Japan and South Korea ruled the competition. Maezono and Miura. Kim Byung-ji and Noh Jung-yoon. I didn’t care about your WE2. Don’t care about Jon Kabira screaming “Shuuto! and “Churuugoh!” That crap didn’t have Manchester United.
Then of course I bought World Cup 98, with the darndest AI that really wanted to fuck you up. You had to play dirty. Tackle, slide, shoot shoot from outside the goal. A game that can make you screaming “In your face, Iranian **********!” (yeah, I am deliberate with the example). O yeah, that’s the PS version. I played the PC version few years back and it wasn’t that hard. But strangely, I found Winning Eleven 3 Final Version in my vault. This is the ‘World Cup’ edition, featuring the official roster for France 98, while the licensed World Cup 98 naturally used the rosters of pre-June 1998, with EA’s own stats. So Japan’s deadliest forwards were Maezono and Okano instead of Miura and Lopes (hehe, Jo. Yeah, he’s really great in the game as well). Finally I finalized WE3 Final in college, where Japan was the Third Place, defeating Norway 2-0 (was that possible? Pedants alert).
FIFA 99. Check it out now. No, Winning Eleven doesn’t have that shit. Fatboy Slim and Crystal Method. It doesn’t have Manchester United, Real Madrid, and Juventus. Then FIFA 2000. No, I don’t care that some kids in Britain liked International Soccer Superstar much better than 2000. Coz 2000 has Major League Soccer. And Reel Big Fish’s
“Sell Out”. Gameplay wise, they were such frantic button mashers.
Then I went to Australia and bought FIFA 2001, now with K-League and the easiness of performing bicycle kicks. The next year, FIFA 2002. Played Indonesia again in road to Korea/Japan, with the tunes of Ministry of Sound. I made a multicultural Indonesian team (being in college, in Australia, with now Chinese New Year and anything Chinese legal in Indonesia) composed of several Chinese players and they went to Korea/Japan after a dramatic 3-2 ET victory over Portugal.
But the next year, with the Asian World Cup itself in place, I went after everything Japanese and shunned the American crap. Maybe it’s W. Maybe it’s Utada Hikaru on the cover of Time. Maybe it’s Chemistry at the opening of World Cup 2002 with “Let’s Get Together Now”. Maybe, maybe it’s FIFA 2003 that does not feature Japan – although it has a.mia (I still don’t know who she is). So it’s Pro Evolution Soccer 2, with again, official roster of World Cup 2002. Yes, you cannot choose a side when two player-controlled teams meet each other, but it’s much better than the dramatic World Cup 2002 where you can only control one team and has minimalist user interface, compared to the website outlook of FIFA 2002.
I enjoyed FIFA 2003 as Seol Ki-hyeon had a good season in Manchester United as the second striker behind Ruud van Nistelrooy, and Lee Young-pyo was an able holding midfielder in Barcelona. But FIFA 2004 felt too distant for me, while at the same time club league is still not an item with PES 3/Winning Eleven 7 International.
That changed in 2004. Pro Evolution Soccer 4 has Japan, leagues, and Adidas Roteiro. Screw the EPL, let’s play PSV Eindhoven! And Kubo in Bayern Munich! Next year, I ignored the lauded FIFA 06 and went for Henry v Terry in Pro Evolution Soccer 5. Let’s recreate FIFA Confederations Cup 2005! Actually I was surprised by the minimalist opening video, compared to the dramatic, anime-esque openings of PES 4 & 3.
Then, World Cup 2006. I bought World Cup 2006 – disappointed that Asia only had final group stage so Japan only faced North Korea, Iran, and Bahrain, not India and Singapore. Went through the final tournament with random teams, and Seiichiro Maki became the hero as he scored the tournament-winning goal against Holland. That’s all. Before leaving Australia, I bought the Australian edition of PES 6 with John Aloisi on the cover, mercifully celebrating his goal against Uruguay in 2005 rather than against Japan in 2006, and I played the proper Germany 06 tournament.
Still, I didn’t keep in touch with FIFA. Because with Winning Eleven 2008 I could play the 2007 AFC Asian Cup. But Jesus the presentation has become unbearably sucks. And it’s depressing that J. League is never featured outside the Japanese market, while one can play K-League and A-League with any edition of FIFA.
Then after swearing off football games for the next year, I bought FIFA 10 with PlayStation 3. Because the hacking off of PES in PS2 really put me off. It doesn’t feel Japanese anymore. It’s so…third world. I was back in groove with Shunsuke Nakamura replacing Cristiano Ronaldo as Manchester United’s right midfielder, in rivalry with Bayern Munich’s sub Park Ji-sung. And yeah, there’s K-League, A-League, and MLS.
I really craved for WE 10: Samurai Blue. But then EA gave me a better thing – World Cup 2010, with all the teams, all the players. Republic of Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Canada. All the players – Choi Tae-uk, Shinji Kagawa, Chan Siu Ki, Brian Ching, and Issey Nakajima-Farran. And in the final tournament, there’s the fans – Japanese and Korean girls showing their midriffs, although as not that hot as the legendary Korean chick.
Then FIFA 11 with customizable soundtrack. Goodbye weird Euro electronica and Aussie indie-hip hop collaboration, hello 2NE1 and Tokyo Jihen! Yep, I loaded FIFA 11 with “Try to Follow Me” and Kaela Kimura’s “Ring a Ding Dong”.
Then for the first time since…2003? I bought the two games. FIFA 12 and Pro Evolution Soccer 12. Because with the latter, I could play 2011 AFC Asian Cup. And I was lucky to get the one with Japanese commentary by Jon Kabira and Hiroshi Nanami. Still, strangely I could not play when two of my controlled teams meet each other, like in PES 4. No such problem with FIFA 12 (the theme song, as you can guess, is 2NE1’s “I am the Best”).
FIFA 13 is said as FIFA 12 with terrible Nike & Umbro jerseys (Lotto is never good in the first place) and slightly improved Kagawa. That’s all. On the other hand, PES 13 looks like zombie and is another testimony of the decline of Japanese gaming industry – and of Japan in general (except football). And no J. League outside Japanese edition, while FIFA now includes Saudi Pro League (yay, Yoo Byung-soo!). Really Konami, why with all this stupidity? In this age of Gangnam Style, can Japanese business still making excuse “We don’t think it will sell well in the overseas market?”