Tuesday 22 January 2013

Nintendo World Cup, 1990

We're delighted to say that Matthew Wassell is back in the Attic, and this time he's reliving a football computer game in glorious technicolour...

With it being yet another snowy afternoon in deepest Norfolk, my thoughts turn to the joys and heat of summer and in particular, the World Cup. Released in 1990 for the NES and Game Boy, Nintendo World Cup aimed to bring the excitement and glamour of the world’s most popular football tournament to the monochrome, handheld screen and having received it as a present from my grandmother 22 years and five World Cups ago, I've decided to try it out once more but this time on my trusty and significantly more modern, Gameboy Advance SP.

Predictably, the 1-player game consists of guiding your team to glory by winning the gleaming trophy, so obviously the first task is to pick your squad and you have thirteen (bizarrely!) nations to choose from, including many of the usual suspects, such as France, Spain, England, Italy, Brazil and Argentina, through to the never-to-be-seen again USSR and popular game selling countries such as the USA and Japan.

Before the match can begin, however, there are a few tactical decisions to make. The game is a 6-a-side affair but there are no FIFA-style licences here so each player is defined solely by a single, Brazilian style forename for their country (picking the USSR for the novelty factor, my players included Pyotr, Pavel and my favourite, Boris).

Attacking strategy consists of either passing the ball or to “use dribble” as Nintendo World Cup puts it. I opt for the former, mainly because the team has only one midfielder and I don’t want any fancy ball-playing from him whilst I toil up front! Finally, the game then asks whether my team mates should shoot – either frequently or not at all. Not being a complete ego-maniac, I graciously allow my team mates to get in on the act and shoot for themselves.

For my first match, I'm drawn against the might of 1990's Cameroon. In Gameboy Advance SP colour, the graphics are generally more than acceptable with white line markings set out nicely against a two-tone green pitch (although there are other surfaces such as Dirt and Ice to pick from). The downside, though, is that both teams are made up of very pink, very chunky players who look more inclined to enjoy a good punch-up in a pub car park than a football match. And one of those players is me!

Yes, for unlike a lot of football games old and new, you control just the one player whilst the Game Boy controls the others. This can take a bit of getting used to and in my first game, I spend most of my time attempting to control the other players, not realising that virtual me is in fact running into a corner flag for 90% of the match. By pressing either the A or B buttons though, you can order your players to pass, tackle or shoot depending on the circumstances, giving you a bit of control. They usually obey, but getting your one player into position to receive a pass, for example, can be the hardest thing and often the ball will be simply crossed from one side of the pitch to the other over your head repeatedly, like a game of piggy in the middle!

There are no offsides and no fouls either, which just adds to the sense that this isn't so much a football match as a Royal Rumble in disguise. Players can be tackled, shoved and knocked out with a particularly hard shot on goal so it’s not for the faint hearted. Ah, but it harks back to a time when men were men! Each team also has five super shots that, as well as decimating any opposition player in their way, are particularly difficult for the goalkeeper to stop, usually resulting in a goal. In fact, this is pretty much the only way I can score.

Whilst the gameplay isn't too bad and I do recommend Nintendo World Cup generally for any retro fans, without doubt the worst aspect has to be the music. From the minute it loads, a pseudo 8-bit rock number begins and can only be silenced by turning down the volume on the Game Boy completely (unless I’ve missed a setting somewhere). It gets immensely annoying and only after one half of the first match at that! It’s a shame because there are some decent whistle, player and crowd effects to be heard deep beneath the dreadful tunes.

I lose to Cameroon. The dream is over. But as with all football games, another tournament is just around the corner, though perhaps this time I’ll ask my players to dribble more and never shoot. That must have been the problem! There is also a 2-player VS option but as that can only be played with another Game Boy linked up via a cable, it looks like I’ll be playing Cameroon until I either eventually beat them or throw the game out of the window... the music made me do it, honestly!


While you're trying to work out whether to believe him or not, let us pass on our thanks once again to Matthew for his latest post and if you want to read more of Matthew's reminiscences, follow the links below.

Meantime, if you recall a special football computer game that occupied much of your time when you were younger, why not write about it and send your words to us like Matthew did? Just drop us a line to admin [at] thefootballattic [dot] com and we'll do the rest!

Other posts by Matthew Wassell:


  1. I actually remember playing this game, but it was another version, one for the NES if I am not mistaken.

    1. Hi Miguel... I think you're right - Nintendo did make a version of this game for the NES. What was it like to play?