Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Super Action Soccer, 1984

The Colecovision games console was much prized for its near-perfect arcade titles back in the early-1980s. With games like Donkey Kong Jr, Zaxxon and Q*Bert, you could be entertained by great graphics and top sounds in your own home just like the coin-operated classics.

Unfortunately when Super Action Soccer was published in 1984, little of that quality seemed to remain. Oh sure, the graphics were better than we’d seen in other games on other consoles... but only just.

Having booted up your Super Action Soccer cartridge (I wonder why it was never known as ‘SAS’, by the way?) you were quickly greeted by the sight of two teams lined up and ready to play. The players, for their part, looked like the symbols off a Gents toilet door - one team coloured light blue, the other in a shade of yellow we shall henceforth refer to as ‘Smoker’s handkerchief.’

As a quirky, digitised version of ‘March of the Toreadors’ from Bizet’s ‘Carmen’ plays out, our competitors take their positions and stand, frankly, like a bunch of camp convicts ligging around a prison courtyard. Luckily one isn't too distracted by that when play gets underway and we get to see the player animations which are quite smooth for their age. Even the ball has a shadow when it rises into the air - a nice touch, even if the bounce of the ball is a little unnatural.

From time to time, when the game deems fit, we're treated to a close-up of the action involving the player on the ball and his opposite number. These little cameos appear on the left of the screen and reveal a little more detail about the kits of the two teams. Sadly the white/yellow and blue/white teams were the only ones seen during every game, but it was reassuring to know that they were wearing contrasting coloured shorts when you saw them close up.

In a future echo of games such as Kick Off and Sensible Soccer, Super Action Soccer also offers a top-down map of the pitch showing where your players were during ‘close-up’ mode. There's also a basic clock that twitches nervously along with the match score to keep you fully briefed too.

Looking back at the left of the screen, however, there are good points and bad points to observe. On the plus side, we see tufts of grass rushing past while the players are running which helps to emphasise the feeling of movement. On the downside, our players seem to run with their shoulders hunched up around their ears as if they've left the coat-hangers in the back of their shirts.

Atmosphere-wise, there’s a constant hum from the crowd to accompany the gameplay and though it sounds like the interference you’d get on an old radio, it works well enough along with the other token blips and bleeps.

And it’s those basic sound effects that come into their own when some goalmouth action occurs. Here we get a full screen experience without twitching clocks or scoreboards. We get to see the goalkeeper shuffling around nervously in his goalmouth and, if you’re lucky, a striker ambling into the penalty area to unleash a shot. Once the ball’s left the striker’s foot and heading goalwards, there are a few breathless moments when the goalkeeper’s reaction is anticipated... but sadly it often ends with the goalie diving too early and allowing the ball to breeze past him.

If it’s any consolation, at least you get to see the net rippling when a goal’s scored. It’s just a shame there weren't a few more of those charming little effects in this game as it probably could have done with them. Super Action Soccer (renamed ‘Super Action Football’ for the European market) might have looked an exciting proposition back in the mid-80’s, but in reality it lacked any real zip or excitement. And all that on the console that brought us Donkey Kong Jr too. What a shame...


  1. Why only 7 players on each side?

    1. That, Graham, is something we'll probably never know...