In 2012, I reviewed another recent Captain Tsubasa game, New Kick Off. Sadly, it became the lowest scoring game on this site at the time (now surpassed), despite (or maybe because of) me being such a big fan of the franchise. Thanks to this review and the comments below, though, I caught wind of an even newer Tsubasa game, and one truer to the good old classics by Tecmo – Tsukurou Dream Team (roughly translated as “Adjust Your Dream Team”), available online and for free on Nico Nico Douga, a Japanese YouTube-like video site that also features online games. Intrigued by the description and its supposed similarity to the gems of old, I registered and created my team, finding out there were indeed some things in common with Tecmo’s games.
Game: Captain Tsubasa – Tsukurou Dream Team
Developer: KLab Games
Original release: 2011
Tsukurou Dream Team is actually a nice throwback to the days of glory of the Captain Tsuabasa games on NES and SNES… Matches feel quite similar, the commands are similar, and of course, the familiar faces from the manga and anime are there. Still, keep in mind it doesn’t come THAT close. It’s a card game to some extent – at least in terms of selecting your players. Matches are much shorter, the AI is not nearly as good, and there are some weird glitches that keep it from feeling like a completely polished product. But it managed to win me over and get me to play through the scenario mode… That’s not too shabby.
All screenshot in the review have been taken by me. Also, if you want to play this game, and do not know Japanese, Shinji has written a pretty good guide on how to get started.
- Treat to Tsubasa fans with the multitude of characters and eras – you can truly create your own special team among countless options
- Nice throwback to the gameplay style of the Tecmo games, though far from perfectly executed
- Tedious stretches, especially training between matches
- Matches feel too short
ALL TOO FAMILIAR FOR FANS
Captain Tsubasa: Tsukurou Dream Team will be very familiar to fans of the manga and/or anime. The first scenario mode follows the familiar middle-school route, a nice throwback to the original 1983 anime series (and Shin Captain Tsubasa). The other two follow the World Youth route, which is split in two (first campaign ends with the Real Japan 7 match, and only in the second do you play the actual World Youth Cup national teams). This one will be familiar to people who saw Captain Tsubasa J.
The characters are also the ones seen in the manga and anime – plus your own created character, of course. The point of the game, as the title suggests, is building and improving your team. You can use absolutely anyone in the roster – from Tsubasa, Misaki and Hyuga to non-Japanese stars like Schneider, Santana and Natureza. I personally chose to use an all-Japanese team with Vlado, the player-character, being the only addition (and trusty centre forward ). We can’t really speak of character personalities in the scope of the game – it’s all matches, and no cutscenes or anything between them. Your knowledge of the manga and anime contains the characterisation you will project on your players.
ENGAGING, DESPITE ISSUES
Tsukurou Dream Team is the closest we’ve got to Tecmo’s Captain Tsubasa series’ gameplay style since Captain Tsubasa V back in 1994… It does come close, but it is not implemented nearly as precisely. While most of the gameplay aspects are present, there are also some glaring shortcomings like the flow of time, the lack of controlling players when in defence, and the sometimes outright chaotic movement of AI-controlled players. There are also some events that do not happen in a predictable manner, like going one-on-one with the goalkeeper. But let’s examine the details.
Before you even play a match, you will need to build your team. After you register, you name and customise the appearance of your character. Then, you name your team and choose their main and reserve uniforms. And then, you get your default players – a bunch of nobodies from the Captain Tsubasa world, plus three special ガッチャ (“Gacha”, Japanese way of saying “Gotcha!”) draws. Gachas are very important in the game, they simulate the toy capsules which are EVERYWHERE in Japan, and, in this game, that’s how you draw new player cards. So, you get those three in the beginning, and you can get some popular faces – I got Tsubasa, Matsuyama, and Sorimachi. All in their middle-school forms. Yeah, there are many, many forms of the same characters in the game.
You’ll get countless other gacha draws as you play on… And you’ll use them to build a better team. But gacha is not everything – you must also train the players you get, to improve their stats. Sadly, there is no learning new moves – all the players have already got their own set of special moves. And a middle-school Tsubasa has of course got different moves than a “World Youth” version of Tsubasa. You train players on a separate screen, and you can train defence, offence, passing, or teamwork. You spend one “play point” per day trained, and you get experience in exchange. Depending on what you chose to train, you either get 3 points of experience for your preferred positions, and 1 for the rest, or 2 for everyone if you chose teamwork (the most cost-efficient option). As a player reaches a certain number of experience points, they level up, and their stats increase. For your own player, you get to choose what stats to increase – offensive, defensive, or a balanced split. Your player can be a defender, midfielder or forward, but not goalkeeper.
The game wants to get you to pay real money to buy NicoNico points for cool gachas, but you can get plenty without even paying a dime. First, you get a “Normal” gacha draw every single day that you play, and then, via the “Login Stamp” scheme and special events that regularly pop up, you can get more draws, for special status (Gold, Platinum) players even. Those have higher initial stats than their regular (Bronze) counterparts. When you build your team, aside from players, you get to choose a formation. You learn new ones as you go along – I didn’t have my favourite 4-3-3 initially, for instance. Also, players have positions they can play in – and that sometimes changes with the version of the player. For instance, Tsubasa can usually be just a midfielder, but sometimes, he can also be a forward. It’s not that players can’t play in non-indicated positions… They just get a penalty and their stats get much lower.
So finally, how do matches themselves work? First, you make your team (and sorry, you can’t have more than one version of the same player on it) , choose your strength (power, technique or speed), and assign special move points. After the match starts, you play using the mouse – you click on the small pitch to choose in which direction to move or pass. The commands and everything are very similar to the Tecmo games. When you’re in possession, you can shoot, pass, dribble or do a one-two if a teammate is nearby. When facing an opponent who has the ball, you can tackle, try to intercept a pass, or block a shot. It’s about predicting what your opponent does – while on the ball, you want to pass if they’re doing a tackle; while in defence, you want to block when they shoot. Of course, stats are also important (each of the moves above have a stat, plus general stats like stamina, power, speed, technique), and sometimes you’ll lose the ball to a tackle even if you’ve chosen to pass – opponent just had too high a tackle stat in comparison to your pass and/or they threw high dice.
In the penalty area, you can do an aerial shot (header or volley), you can pass, let the ball through, or trap it and go forward on the ground. Defenders can try to clear, cut a pass, or follow (counters trapping). That said, there is much, much less penalty-area play in this game than in Tecmo’s games. It has to do with the much faster flow of time, I suppose, but not only. Players just tend not to gather nearly as much in the boxes. This brings me to a major flow in the game – the sometimes inadequate movement of players who do not have the ball. Often you’ll notice your defenders running somewhere… certainly not at the player with the ball. You can’t even control a defender like you could in Captain Tsubasa games since II… If a shot reaches the goalkeeper, you can try to punch or catch (many goalkeepers also have special techniques, of course).
There’s not much time in a match, you can end one in 10-15 minutes at most. Time just flows much faster than in the Tecmo games. There is no Guts system, either. You can do as many normal moves as you want (not that there is enough time to even get tired if there were Guts!), and the special moves spend points you can only assign before a match and before its second half. You can assign 10 points at most, and special moves usually take 2 points, with the most powerful ones taking 4-5. Your player’s special shot only takes one (but is not insanely powerful). Halftime is the only time you can make substitutions, too… Sadly, you cannot make any changes in the team while the match is ongoing – a vast disadvantage in comparison to the Tecmo games. If a match ends in a draw, it’s immediate penalty kicks, no extra time.
Unfortunately, you can’t play scenario mode matches in succession – after each match, there is a “waiting time” until the next one… These days you need to wait pass by training, and you spend a play point per day. By the end of the game, waiting time gets ridiculous – 200-250 days. So, if you don’t log in more than once a day, you’ll wait quite a while to play your next match. Well, there are always the Stamina Drinks, which recover 10 play points each, and are easy to come by. Aside from the scenario mode, you can also play countless matches against human opponents if you so desire… Though that’s not really true, as you’re only playing against an AI-controlled replica of the human opponent’s team. So sadly no fierce 2-player battles like in Captain Tsubasa III and later…
NOT MUCH MORE THAN A FLASH GAME
Visually, Tsukurou Dream Team is nothing to write home about… It’s a flash game. The interface consists simply of large rectangular buttons (they’re now on a second, cooler version of the interface – the old one had an even more boring colour scheme). The in-match character models are quite basic, there are maybe 3 body types (small, average, big), and all the normal moves are the same between players. Special moves should be the vastly varying ones, if the Tecmo games are any indication. Not completely true here, though… I find lots of elements repeating between different special moves. There are certainly much more moves than in any Tecmo game – after all, this is the whole history of Captain Tsubasa in a single game, as opposed to a particular period. And there are some pretty cool and flashy ones, but they’re the minority. One thing’s really cool – certain special shots, when they go in, end spectacularly, with the ball making a hole in a stadium wall (after ripping the net, of course), or flying high up in the sky. That’s cool.
The soundtrack is also quite mediocre. I think they changed the match themes not long after I started playing (or are they different between the scenarios? I’m not sure)… The previous ones were better. But fortunately, the first “own team” theme – the best in the whole game, in my opinion, not to mention somewhat similar to the old soundtracks, is uploaded on YouTube, and here it is, for your enjoyment!
FLAWED, BUT WORTH IT
Captain Tsubasa: Tsukurou Dream Team tries to be like the glorious Tecmo Captain Tsubasa games… And kinda fails. There are many shortcomings in comparison, the sped up flow of time, and the sometimes irrational movement of AI-controlled players being the worst offenders. But we should cut this social, flash game some slack. What it offers is enough to keep a Tsubasa fan satisfied and playing for a while (I would know, I’ve been playing it for almost 3 years now). The fact that you can play and get cards from all the different Tsubasa arcs makes it quite cool. You can really build your dream team of Tsubasa characters – the versions you like most, too! And the gameplay is still nostalgically similar to the Tecmo gems… Enough to keep me playing. I recommend it to all Tsubasa fans, and also people generally interested what a football/soccer RPG could be like (though Captain Tsubasa II is a much better option for them).