When Atari released it Atari 2600 console it had to include sports videogames. But usually the available for this console, being either from Atari or from other publishers, were considered inferior to the ones from other consoles like Intellivision. So Atari decides to produce new and improved sports titles, so there came the Realsports line for the Atari 2600 and 5200 consoles, with mixed results. In some cases they were practically the same design with slight changes between both consoles. It looked like the one of Football Association, known as Soccer in United States, was one of them, because some of the “features” of both games were common to both consoles.
Plataform: Atari 2600
Also Known As: Football – RealSports Soccer, Super Soccer (distributed by Digivision)
The game provides an horizontal perspective of a football field, unlike the previous Atari game. In this title THREE virtual footballers play per team. The players looks somewhat big according to the field, also there is not a clear distinction of the goals,and the ball can get out of the field.
All virtual footballers are contained in three vertical areas, and cannot change area vertically. But horizontally, they have total freedom to move… maybe, too much as we’ll later explain. The joystick can control the virtual footballer with a slightly different color from the others in the same team, and with the fire button is able to change to another “teammate” (well, it’s quickly, there are only two). Also, the button is used to shoot toward the goal (or I must write, the zone where it’s supposed to be) or pass the ball, including self-passing. The videogame is closer to a more realistic version of Indoor Soccer instead of Football Association.
You’ll see, the game had a feature activated by the difficulty switches of the console: if a player without the ball goes to the border of the screen, appears at the other side. It’s true, it “teleports” that gives the videogame a really funny touch. Taking the screen at the right as example, if the blue virtual footballer keeps going right, it will appear at the far left of the screen. This easies making self-passes, or easier deffending your goal. Take into account that the AI can use it too, although it does at a really low frequency. In my hometown a friend of mine had this cartridge, so in his home the “teleportation” worked. But not in the house of my parents, until we found the difference were the difficulty switches.
The duration of the match can go from 5 to 9 minutes, depending on the game mode. The AI can play with 3 different difficult setting, where the AI can play more or less skillfully. We highly recommend playing with the “teleport” active, otherwise the game can become a bit dumb. Actually, there are different versions of the game, the first ones had this feature available, so probably it was a prototype rushed into production. Fortunately it’s easy to distinguis this version, because when you turn on the videogame, a music tune is heard; if instead of that a whistle is heard, it does not have the “teleport”.
The port for the Atari next console appears to have been programed in 1982, this can be seen during the title screen appears as Soccer and not as RealSports Soccer, which it appears in the product box. I think this port was developed prior to the launch of the Atari 2600 one.
After finally playing it with an emulator which allows me to play it closer to the real experiencie of using the unique controller of the Atari 5200, I think it was one of the first videogames developed for the playform, due to the convolluted control schema. Even to include an overlay to use in the controller to help remember some commands.
I’ll do my best to describe the control schema: with a button you can shoot to the goal, while using the other to pass the ball to a teammate. The numeric keys allow to control the height of the show when pressing 1, 2 or 3, which translate to fly ball, medium or in the ground. The other numeric keys allows to select a teammate. So there are only 6 players per team apparently.
It’s possible to set at the beginning of a game the duration and difficulty. The graphics are really good and the sideview of the field is awesome. The game is quite funny when you manage to map the control schema to the different buttons of a modern gamepad.
The videogame is easy to play, and once accustomed to the “teleport”, it becomes quite funny. One of the best sports titles available for the Atari 2600 (of course, there was not much of a competition) and recommended to play in times of football fever, like during FIFA World Cup.
Console Icons taken from Retroarch.
Boxart image of both 2600 and 5200 ports, and overlay taken from AtariAge