Game: Super Kick-Off
Publisher: U.S. Gold / Anco
Format: Mega Drive (also available on: SNES, Game Gear, Master System, Game Boy)
Long before FIFA vs Pro Evo, the true battle in football gaming was between fans of Sensible Software’s Sensible/Sensible World of Soccer (and its precursor, Microprose Soccer) and Anco and Dino Dini’s Kick-Off series.
The Amiga version of Kick-Off 2 was pretty much the pinnacle of Dini’s games – it’s still played today, in an updated reverse-engineered form, by European groups of players who have annual tournaments – but despite its success on that platform, the combination of its threadbare graphics and insane difficulty curve meant that a pure port of it onto the popular home 16-bit consoles may have struggled to survive.
Hence, Super Kick-Off, a reworking of KO2 by developer Tiertex, which was released for the Sega Mega Drive, SNES, Game Boy and Game Gear/Master System. The Mega Drive version may not have been as satisfying to play for veterans of Dini’s games – it was slower, and also quite a bit easier with its chunkier players – but it was also comfortably the best-looking of any of the Kick Off games, adding loads in the way of detail and texture and confirming once again that the 16-bit era was the most golden for the look and feel of football games.
(As for my own take on which side of the war I support: nowadays I can clearly see that Sensi is the much better game, but I have an awful lot of residual affection for the Game Gear version of Super Kick-Off – which had incredibly simplified graphics compared to the 16-bit version, and shared some of the Amiga version’s extreme difficult, but which I spent many hours on as a kid.)