Academy of Champions: Soccer Review

The Wii, by its very nature, is designed for families and children. While some games offer the “hardcore” experience, others seem too thrown together to be worth any type of game time. Because of this, Wii games that may actually be enjoyed by a lot of people are passed over simply because they are on a system that has a lot of bad shovelware associated with it.

Such is the case with Academy of Champions, the new soccer game published by Ubisoft. I found myself enjoying the light-hearted, fantasy-inspired tale, which is basically Harry Potter with soccer balls. The academy is run by soccer legend Pele, and Mia Hamm makes a guest appearance as well. The premise is simple: create your player, recruit other players, build a team, and win soccer games. As you play through the single-player story mode, a surprisingly deep experience point system allows you to customize each player as you see fit. Want the team captain to share the ball? Increase his passing skill. Want your goalie to be more about speed to the ball than finesse? Focus on his quickness. The experience points add a layer of sophisitication to what otherwise is a fun, simple game of soccer.

The controls are very simple: A passes or tackles, B shoots, C switches characters, and Z dodges or sprints.  When the momentum meter at the top is filled, shaking the Wii remote will enable a special shot on goal that, for me, was successful 7 out of 10 times. Not automatic, but helpful enough to be considered. The complexity lies in the pace of the game, as it can sometimes be hard to remember which button you want to press when two defenders are quickly bearing down on you. The gameplay is smooth and fast, each game being only 4 minutes long, but the goals can rack up quickly. My main issue involves passing to teammates: there is an arrow underneath your character letting you know in which direction they are, but since it is not a full field view, you cannot see where the defenders are. Unless your teammate is right next to you, you’re going to get intercepted a lot. This can be frustrating, as what seems to be an open man in front of the goal can quickly become a 2-on-1 the other way, and that pass wouldn’t have happened if I had seen the defender.

Graphically, the game will appeal to anyone who has ever watched a cartoon. The colors are bright, the faces are bold, and the backgrounds are beautiful. However, the cartoonish feel of the game does go a bit overboard at times, specifically with Pele himself. I don’t recall his head being shaped like the bottle from I Dream of Jeannie. The soundtrack shares the traits of the graphics, as light, bouncy tunes follow you through the course of the game. However, the character “voices” are, a la Animal Crossing and The Sims, all gibberish, which can be annoying and distracting in the midst of a match.

There is a ton of content to be unlocked through the story mode, starting with equipment that will improve the team and eventually leading to more players, including many famous faces from Ubisoft’s library. Players can enlist the help of Altair from Assassin’s Creed, the Prince form Prince of Persia, Rayman and his Raving Rabbids, and even Sam Fisher from Splinter Cell. The multiplayer 5-on-5 mode allows two frieds to lock up in frantic soccer action, much like Mario Strikers Charged, but without the bells and whistles (see: multi-goals).

All in all, Academy of Champions was a refreshing surprise: a game that I had virtually no hope for turned into an enjoyable Wii experience, something that is becoming more and more rare these days (unless the game is made by Nintendo). If you’re a soccer fan, or if you’re looking for something to play with your kids, Academy of Champions will not steer you wrong, as its fast-paced, cartoony presentation will entertain any and all ages.


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Author: Jason Fanelli View all posts by
Jason lives and breathes gaming. Legend tells that he taught himself to read using Wheel of Fortune Family Edition on the NES. He's been covering this industry for three years, all with the Node, and you can see his ugly mug once a week on Hot Off The Grill.

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