EA Sports' swan song to the American Saturn and Sega
As an excellent feature found in 95% if EA Sports' games (Road Rash, Rugby 2004 and some others being an exception), the auto-play feature is great, especially for soccer fans. Sometimes I just can't find a good match on FSC or ESPN, so I allow this game to substitute as a game. Though outdated by today's roster (for instance, David Beckham is off the English national team, and plays for Los Angeles instead of Manchester United today while in this game he's in England and on MU's team) the game has many pluses besides the trademarked auto-play. It's a vast improvement over FIFA 97 on any system and isn't far off from the PlayStation, N-64 and Windows 95 versions. The control is tight, and the sounds are in Dolby, the music rocks, the videos are dynamic and the commentary is excellent. In fact, if the game gets boring, the commentators talk about other things, even mentioning going to make some tea.
The music deserves mention of it's own, making up for that crappy FIFA 97 stuff. Real people like Blur and their Song 2 plus others makes it a fun atmosphere to play in. Not since Road Rash on 3DO has a game been this groovy. If you just let the game sit on the options menu, the songs will cycle through. It's worth it.
Since the 1 MB RAM or 4 MB RAM expansion cards for Saturn were never released in the US, the graphics are muddy and simple (like Genesis 32X simple BTW) and details are at a low. In the Telecam, isn't doesn't look so bad, but other cameras really show the bad graphics off. The goalies' nets are stiff like a pole, so, combined with the Super FX Chip graphics' style, it looks like just stiff, white lines, while other versions of this game has the nets move like a real soccer game. Also, the foul and win animations, plus other emotional reactions, are cut entirely. No doubt not having enough Saturn system RAM is a factor. There aren't any crowd animations either, which I recall seeing definately on the Win95 version, and I think is at least in the the N64 version. Also, the video is heavily codec'd in Cinepak I think, because it doesn't do full-frame video, but like 85% screen, and the way the colors look to me in the video looks like Cinepak, which I used recently in a video experiment. This leads to drab video. While the framerate is smooth like regular video, the Cinepak and cropping hurt the video presentations. Lastly in the bad, the control configs are awkward and learning it is somewhat a chore. Too many different configs (8) contribute to this. Lastly lastly in the bad, the saving. Many Saturns get their memory card pins burned out (every Sega made Saturn I might add, and I've owned plenty), meaning those Memory Cards for sale/were sold by InterAct, Sega, and Naki won't work, let alone those 4-in-ones. That doesn't mean who can't access those cards for the other features, or even use their card memory as an access hard drive of sorts, it's just limiting the saving options in the actual game to just two slots. If you have a Saturn that with a working memory card slot, enjoy saving as much as you want. But like other EA titles on Saturn (SimCity 2000, Madden 98), these greedy, selfish files that are the size of the planet Jupiter are annoying for gamers who like lots of saved games. I know it's not as bad as the saving situation on the N64 games (takes up the whole 123 pages of space), but still, right? I guess the PlayStation versions are lucky, but it's still 2 blocks per game. Argh! Learn to optimize, EA! (Yes, EA games still eat memory today.)
The Bottom Line
Don't dwell on the negatives I point out, this game on Saturn IS excellent! Own a Saturn, get all of the EA Sports 98 series on it. It really shows that Saturn was a very decent system. Just not in America.