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PSP Video Game Review: Eyeshield 21 Portable Edition (アイシールド21 Portable Edition)

 

“Eyeshield 21 Portable Edition” tries to be different from other football video games by focusing on football training mini-games and while fun at first, the game is primarily for those who want to focus on managing the team and building a player’s attributes through these mini-games.

TITLE: Eyeshield 21 Portable Edition

PUBLISHED BY: KONAMI

CONSOLE: Sony PSP

RELEASE DATE: 2006

In Japan, American football may not be too popular compared to the international futbol (soccer), but there are a few high schools that have football teams and the NFL does have a game played in Japan, helping to spread the game’s popularity.

But in 2002, writer Riichiro Inagaki and illustrator Yusuke Murata introduced American football to a broader audience through their manga “Eyeshield 21″ which has been featured on the very popular Weekly Shonen Jump, has led to several videogames and also a 145-episode anime series which lasted from 2o05-2008.

“Eyeshield 21″ revolves around a young teenager named Sena Kobayakawa who has passed his entrance exams at his local high school, Deimon Private Senior High School. The school where his childhood friend Mamori Anezaki attends. Both Sena and Mamori are close because all throughout his life, Sena has been bullied and Mamori has been there to protect him.

Living his life as a gopher for other friends, Sena hasn’t had any true friends until he meets the devil-looking Yoichi Hiruma and the very huge Ryokan Kurita who try to get Sena to join their football team.

Of course, Sena doesn’t know how to play football but being the new kid at school, once again, he gets bullied but this time, the huge Kurita ends up taking care of them. Out for revenge, the bullies start to pick on Sena once again but Sena is sick and tired of getting beaten up and when they go after him, he demonstrates a skill which he has had for a long time, speed. Because Sena has lived his life running away, he is very quick and immediately, Hiruma wants to utilize him on the Deimon High School Devil Bats football team.

Sena just wants to become a team manager but Hiruma wants Sena to be the team’s running back. And because Hiruma wants to make sure that no one can steal him for their high school, he plans on a disguise that no one but he, Sena and Kurita will know and that is putting an eyeshield on a football helmet and giving Sena a #21 jersey and the nickname “Eyeshield 21″.

Now the three are determined to find more players to join the Devil Bats and getting closer to their goal into making it to the high school football tournament championship round.

The main characters of “Eyeshield 21″ are:

  • Sena Kobayakawa – The main character. Short, shy and clumsy. Sena has been bullied throughout his life and now wants to stand up for himself. Especially since he has made friends on the Deimon High School football team. So, outside of football, he is seen as the manager, but when he’s on the football field and disguised as Eyeshield 21, he is a running back that dazzles the audience and his teammates with his impressive speed.
  • Mamori Anezaki – Sena’s childhood friend and a girl who has always protected him when he was getting bullied. Scared that Sena is hanging out with Hiruma and team, she decides to become a manager of the team alongside with him and oblivious that Sena is disguised as Eyeshield 21.
  • Yoichi Hiruma – The captain and quarterback with devlish looks and is always up to something that is typically up to no good. Either gaining intel on people at school, taking care of his devil dog Cerberus or trying to make his football team better by pushing them (and taunting them with his machine gun).
  • Ryokan Kurita – Despite his huge size and being a great lineman, he is also shy, soft spoken and kind. Also, loves to eat a lot!
  • Tarao Raimon (Monta) – Had dreams of becoming a baseball player but when the Deimon High School baseball teams kicks him off, the football team utilizes his fantastic catching skills and makes him a wide receiver. Has a monkey-like appearance.
  • The Ha-Ha Brothers – Bullies who are constantly tormenting Sena, the members consider of Kazuki Jumonji, Koji Kuroki and Shozo Togano. Hiruma blackmails them into joining the football team. At first they want nothing to do with the team but now they realize that they are becoming better people and tougher individuals.
  • Manabu Yukimitsu – Known for his balding head and a student that has always been focused on cram schools because of his strict mother, Yukimitsu wants to prove himself that he can do more than just study and wants to become a member of the Deimon Devil Bats and will do all he can despite not being an athlete. He may lack athletic skill like the others but he is very smart.
  • Daikichi Komusbi – A linemen and a short, stocky member who looks up to Kurita as a mentor. Although short, he is strong and has dedicated will power.
  • Natsuhiko Taki – A man who loves to dance and thinks he can do anything by himself. He is the brother of Suzuna and tried to become an American football player, now he is a tight end for the Devil Bats.
  • Tetsuo Ishimaru – Although not a main member focused on in the series, he does pop up once in awhile as the second running back and a member from the track team.
  • Yohei Satake and Kenta Yamaoka – Members of the basketball team who are blackmailed by Hiruma to become wide receivers and linebackers for the team.
  • Suzuna Taki – The sister of Natsuhiko and often rollerblading. She works as part-time reporter and is also the cheerleading captain for the Devil Bats.
  • Cerberus – Hiruma’s ferocious dog that likes to bite people. Used for training on the football players who try to run their fastest away from the dog in order to avoid being bitten. Cerberus has a large appetite.

GAMEPLAY:

The following Japanese import game will work on a US Sony PSP.

As for gameplay, this is where “Eyeshield 21 Portable Edition” differs from the Nintendo DS “Eyeshield 21” game.

In the Sony PSP version of the game, the emphasis is on training and management versus playing an actual football game (which you do on the DS version). You can think of this version of the “Eyeshield 21 Portable Edition” as more of a game featuring many mini-games which are literally training-related mini-games.

The game follows the anime TV series and manga (with slight differences). The game features a season and each week you play a game and each day, you train. You play as the Deimon High School Devil Bats and everyone trains in passing, rushing, catching, strength and stamina tests.

For example:

As Yoichi, for the passing mini-game tests you throw the ball according to the buttons shown on screen. If you see triangle, you press triangle, if you see square, you press square.

For Monta, his catch game is similar to the old school bomberman video game. In this case, you use the should L and R buttons to catch the footballs and avoid the bombs that Yoichi is throwing at you.

For Sena, you can practice your running as the screen tells you to move up, left, right or down and occasionally showcasing two buttons in combination with directional and button hits.

For Kurita, you need to bench press a certain amount of weights, a certain time before the clock expires.

There are so many of these mini-type games that you can also test other players. One game has you trying to run backwards before the time expires, another one is an insanely tough but possible 40-meter dash in which you keep hitting the buttons (ala Track & Field) as quickly as possible, then there is a Stop & Go mini-game where you need to rush as fast as you can and timing your stops.

These are just a handful of the mini-games featured in “Eyeshield 21 Portable Edition”. And with each mini-game, you can level up that player’s attribute, as well as the entire team’s attributes.

Attributes that you will need to boost each player is their: Stamina, Kick Force, Tackle Force, Power Force, Top Speed Force, etc.

But of course, as you continue to get better, as does your opponents, so you need to make sure you move the training up to higher levels and of course, the mini-games get harder and harder.

And then comes game time. The Devil Bats takes on an opposing football team and for each move that your opponent makes, you counter it with a technique which then goes to another mini-game (that has nothing to do with the actual football game) that has an effect on the player during the football game. You can watch the game and if you win, it will follow the storyline of the anime series, if you fail, you can play the game over.

CONTROLS:

Controls are fairly easy for the game and fortunately, the game is not going to hurt your fingers such as “Track & Field” type game on the portable console. I will say though, that if you are using a PSP-3000, there were times that during certain mini-games, I accidentally shut the PSP off because I accidentally moved the power button up to turn off with the bottom of my index finger. I’ll have to test this on my PSP-1000 to see if this happens as well. But for the most part, “Eyeshield 21 Portable Edition” is easy to play.

GRAPHICS:

Graphics are on par with a lot of games for the Sony PSP especially for a game released in 2006. While the game features a lot of the anime-style character designs and does feature good renders of the players, mostly everything is closeup. Don’t expect anything magnificent (as you will mostly see dirt or sky and opponents) but for this game and for the character design, everything does work.

AUDIO:

The game does feature audio from the voice talent (using the seiyuu for the anime series) of the characters of the anime series. There is a good amount of spoken dialogue and if you can’t understand Japanese, you can just click the button to skip. But this is not a full-audio game, a lot of type to go through and I found myself skipping over it most of the time.

IS IT USER-FRIENDLY FOR NON-JAPANESE READING PLAYERS

Yes, the game is very easy and you can figure out the mini-games by trial and error. There are some mini-games during a matchup that requires you to decide what you want your player on offense or defense to do. Again, this is trial and error but if you can read katakana and know what is catch, what is run, what is block, it helps but it isn’t necessary.

I have been a big fan of sports-based anime and in Japan a lot of their sports manga and anime are big hits. From the soccer-driven series “Captain Tsubasa”, the basketball series “Slam Dunk”, the baseball series “Touch”, the tennis series “Tennis no Oujisama” (Prince of Tennis) and many of them have this underdog vs. the better team type of mentality and this extends to the video game versions of these anime and manga series.

Yes, there is a banality when it comes to sports genre video games based on anime series but there is often this side of supernatural element that an athlete has. A super kick, a special tennis serving or hitting ability and with “Eyeshield 21″, what makes the series so exciting is that every team has its special individuals with unique talents. But when it comes to the Deimon Devil Bats (the protagonist team), these guys are like a group of misfits put together in hopes to accomplishing their goal of making it to the Christmas Bowl. But they are surely talented. Sena (Eyeshield 21) has this special ability of his running and in this latest volume, he hones that talent and makes himself even better. We also see new characters pop up and joins the team and definitely see how everyone works together, faces adversity together as a team.

But the question is, do you feel that sense of competition like you would get when playing a sports game (ala EA Sports video games). There are some games that capture the anime/manga series well by showcasing a characters special abilities, for example, like certain Prince of Tennis video games.

And as for “Eyeshield 21 Portable Edition”, this is where you are either going to love or hate this game.

This video game is pretty much a mini-game compilation and all the mini-games revolve around training. There are football matches in which your Deimon Devil Bats will go against teams such as the Ojou White Knights, the Sokukaku Chameleons, the Seibu Wild Gunmans, the Taiyou Sphinx and other teams and yes, you do go against them in matches but not like other football video games. These games are simulated and during some points in the match, on offense or defense, you must decide what you want to do. On defense, want to go after the quarterback, go for an interception? On offense, want to pass, want to run?

You have no physical control of the characters like typical football video games. If you select pass, you will then get a mini-game where Monta must catch the ball (a ball is thrown and you hit the shoulder L & R buttons to time the catching of the ball) or for Sena (Eyeshield 21), using the directional buttons as a button is screened quickly and you must press that button right afterward. On defense, your player may be going for an interception and you must go through a maze running backwards and controlling the player (directions are inverted) or pumping up Kurita by doing some sit-ups.

So, you don’t exactly play a real videogame football match ala Madden or even Tecmo Bowl. You don’t control the destiny of your team if they are going to win or lose because it follows the anime series story. The only thing you have control during a match is certain player’s decisions on what to do during a play and if you do it right, it goes according to what you see with the anime series. Fail, you can play that part over again.

“Eyeshield 21 Portable Edition” is a collection of mini-games that requires good decision-making and management, nothing more and nothing less. If this doesn’t excite you, it’s not a game for you. But if you are a fan of the series, because you know how the characters are, you want to play the mini-games for the fun of it and challenge them.

And while I did enjoy the game, I’m going to tell you the truth and say that I am happy I didn’t spend a lot of money on it several years ago when it was like $55. I got this for a pretty cheap price from Japan ($17 which is pretty cheap ala import). Otherwise, if I did spend a lot, not knowing what the game was about, I would have been disappointed.

But even though it’s a collection of football training mini-games, if anything, part of the delight of playing this game is because I enjoy the anime series so much. You really have to enjoy the series to enjoy this game.

For those who are not exactly big fans of the series, it’s up to you if you mind the game being about management and mini-games and if you are a die-hard fan, I’m sure you’re going to buy it regardless.

Otherwise, if you are wanting a true football video game experience, “Eyeshield 21 Portable Edition” is not for you. If you want a better “Eyeshield 21” game, go for the PS2 or DS version.


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