The Beautiful Games: International Superstar Soccer Deluxe (1995)

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Game: International Superstar Soccer Deluxe
Publisher: Konami
Released: 1995
Format: SNES (also available on: Mega Drive, PlayStation)
Also known as: Jikkyou World Soccer 2: Fighting Eleven (Japan)

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At the height of the PES vs FIFA rivalry in the early-mid 2000s, the common observation was that Konami’s games played a better game of football, while EA’s were better-looking. This held true to an extent (at least until PES started to play like shite as well), but when the two companies were first putting out competing football games – during the 16-bit era – I don’t think it’s unreasonable to suggest that Konami’s ISS series was the better-looking and better-playing of the two.

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True, the original FIFA earned widespread plaudits for its colourful graphics (certainly far more than for its playability), and was flashy and lush in an obvious kind of way. But there’s just something hugely appealing about the look of the SNES ISS games (visually, both 1994’s ISS and the Deluxe sequel are quite similar – but we’re concentrating on the latter here, as under the hood it’s by several orders of magnitude an improved game playing experience), which manage to balance quite well a distinctly “computer game”-looking feel while still having excellent player animation and atmosphere.

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It’s notable, too, that while the original FIFA premiered an isometric viewpoint that was seen as exciting and original at the time, ISS sticks to a more traditional, “broadcast”-style side-on view. This was a layout that the FIFA games themselves would very quickly adopt, as it became apparent that it was by far the best way to play.

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Of course, just as in the modern era FIFA dominates all comers in the sales charts, so was the case back in the ’90s – while popular in Japan, ISS never took off in quite the same way in Europe. Although loved by purists – and considered worthy enough to get a belated PS1 conversion in early 1997 – it wasn’t really until Pro Evolution Soccer 2 or thereabouts that Konami’s series was seen by the wider public as a genuine challenger to EA.


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