Normally, I’d write a full review but that is unlikely to happen soon. I bought Inazuma Eleven as part of Nintendo’s eShop sale and I even reach Chapter 4, but now that Xenoblade Chronicles X has come out, my full focus has shifted to my most anticipated title of the year. However, Inazuma Eleven is not too shabby even if there are some minor annoyances in gameplay.
To start off, Inazuma Eleven is a Soccer RPG developed by Level 5. The game is also primarily controlled by the stylus which is the best way to play but you may want to invest in a bigger stylus lest your hands cramp. When moving around the world, you can use the circle pad and buttons to move, which I often do, but once a battle or match starts, you need the stylus. In these modes, you draw lines for your team to follow and tap in order to pass or kick the ball. It is important though that you still use the circle pad to move the map so that you have a better view of your team. It’s the map aspect that makes me wonder if the game is better suited for the iPad but the stylus is pretty important.
Matches are the major battles. You have a full 11v11 match but these are also what progresses the story meaning you don’t always play to play soccer and you have a ton of cutscenes. The first few matches make it clear you can only succeed if you perform certain special moves. However, when you first start playing, it’s likely difficult to accomplish the one simple goal and failure means going through a lot of cutscenes again and pointless “gameplay”. This makes it annoying that you cannot save halfway through or the lack of checkpoints. However, once you get the hang of the gameplay, things start getting better.
Battles are the Random Encounters of this JRPG. They consist of either scoring the first goal or stealing the ball within a time limit in a 4v4 format. They occur fairly often and reward you with 2 currencies and experience if you win. However, if you lose or run away, you lose some of both currencies. On the plus side, winning one round can make up for losing 7. The problem I have with the battles format is that the AI is dumb. Your teammates tend to go where you can’t see them, meaning you have to constantly move the map while defending the ball somehow. The map is also fairly small as it’s a 4v4 but its width is no different. This is annoying because your teammates also like going along the edges instead of actually towards the goal. This means that even if you pass to them, you have to move them back in order to be in range of the goal. With the Steal the Ball, your goalie will keep running back to the goal instead of actually helping you, resulting in a 3v4. In Matches, the AI is better but it’s still long.
To help with the bad AI, you have the ability to pause the game and draw routes for your players to follow. This is perhaps the game's best Risk-Reward implementation as they will continue to follow those lines even if things don't go the way you expected. You can change the lines, but that will have to be in real time as you have to wait before you can use another "timeout". It is important to note that any time the action is paused that you can draw routes, this includes during action decisions and kickoffs. When you master using these opportunities, things get to be pretty fun.
The next annoyance would be the Special Moves cutscenes, they get tiresome after a while and I wish that there was a "Turn Off Animation" like in Fire Emblem. These special moves are also somewhat of a gamble as you don't know when your opponent will use one.
Anyways these were my quick and poorly written impressions. I actually have found myself wanting to keep playing even when my wrists hurt. I really enjoy playing soccer and found myself as a strategist when playing, so this game is almost a perfect match for me. If you want more information about the story, there's an anime with a few episodes on the eShop that appears to follow the game's plot pretty well. Enjoy!