Plataforma: Atari 2600
Otros Nombres: Championship Soccer, Soccer.
Control: Joystick de 1 botón
Atari ids still enjoying the huge success of its Atari VCS videogame console (the original name of the Atari 2600) entering the 80’s decade. Constantly new titles reach the market created by the company.
Warner Communications, the company owner of Atari, also owned the football association teamNew York Cosmos, and very likely still a working relationship with a former player of that club, and considered one of the best footballers of all-time: Pelé.
With all those elements at reach, they try to merchandise a football association videogame with the player’s name included in the title. The final product was an interesting videogame at the time.
The videogame features basic concepts of football association, at the same time, taking a lot of freedom with other aspects, just like other sports videogame at the time. Offering a bird’s view of the field, this looks more like a foozball table than a soccer field.
This is important, because in two-player matches the game implements concepts of limits, meaning the “ball” (which looks more like a square) can leave the field either to the side of the field, of besides the goal, in one-player matches this does not happen. Actually this brings the game closer to the Indoor Soccer which popularity was starting to grow, because the ball bounces from the limits, which can be used to take advantage at any point in the game.
The control scheme is quite easy. With the stick the videoplayer can move the virtual footballers maintaining a triangle formation of one player at the front and two at the back. However, every one of them can control the squared ball, as soon as touching it. With the fire button it can pass or shoot, being the time pressing the button how far will travel the ball, also affecting the trajectory with the stick. This, surprisingly, allows for quick passing at teammates trying to fool the rival. But it’s almost mandatory to shoot at the rival goal diagonally, because a vertical straight shot will surely land at the goalkeeper.
With that said, in two-player mode, there can be throw-ins and corner kicks, executed by an invisible teammate. In corner kicks there was a funny scheme, because it starts prerssing the button, the boxed ball travels a distance with a 45 degree path, and when the button is released, it suddenly turns horizontally towards the rival goal, and then can be kicked with a well positioned virtual footballer. I know, it’s surreal, but funny. Forget instant replays after a goal is scored, after a goal, the screen turns black with a few “fireworks”.
Other feature is the goalkeeper, because it’s positioned slightly behind the goal line and can’t get out of there. So I will describe when a goal counts in the score. The ball not only has to pass through the goal line, but also slightly pass the goalkeeper. This can be a bit disorienting at first. I’m curious as how this system will count or not the famous England goal at the final match of the FIFA World Cup in 1966.
The videogame allows to adjust 3 features of the matches: duration, AI skill and goal size (applying permutations, there are 27 different variations, either for one or two players). The simplest AI skill is probably designed for really younger videoplayers, my guess is to avoid too much frustration at first. But if you want more challenge, select the other AI levels AND with small goals. Look in the manual to see the modes implemented by variation.
Finally, there is a strange situtation regarding the videogame’s title. When it appeared at the market, neither the title or the box art featured Pelé, but it appeared in a sorta-kind of seal. The following year appeared in both title and boxart (wearing a suspiciously similar uniform of the Cosmos). Probably this was due to legal situtations regarding the use of the player’s name in merchandising (back then, the complications licensing sports videogames were present).If you’re curious you can see the image here.
Before arriving at the home console market, Atari manufactured videogames for arcades. That year, also appeared a version for arcade, but lacking the relation to Pelé. I don’t know why it was considered for home consoles, but not for arcade. The perspective of the videogame changes a bit, because now it’s horizontal.
An interesting feature is that the same formation is maintined with two players forward and two at the back. The videogame used a trackball controller quite popular at the time in sports videogames.
Sadly, with the emulators at my disposal it’s impossible to play the videogame as it should be with the trackballs, but I see it’s possible from 1 to 4 players to play. Meaning two human players against other two simultaneously. That must have been total chaos at the time.
This videogame was an interesing approach to this sport, ant according to what I have found, probably it was the first videogame using the name of an athlete in the title to merchandise it.
I find the variations of the games adecquate enough. I suggest to start playing the vidogame with medium AI skill, medium goal size and short duration. Because longer one-player matches feels a bit long.
I was pleasantly surprised that even at medium skill, the videogame offers a nice challenge, in case you think that for being an early 80’s game can be easy. And between two players, it can become a fast and furious match.
Sport Icon designed by Smashicons of FlatIcon licensed by CC 3.0 BY.
Console Icons taken from Retroarch.
Boxart images taken from the Atarimania site.