With a certainty generally saved for Ubisoft titles, a new entry in the Inazuma franchise seems to be appearing every year, with this latest game pushing the series ever further into the realms of fantasy and science fiction. In this new entry you’ll find time travel, mystical spirit armour and extracting abilities from dinosaurs all coming into play and while it’s not like the series has ever been particularly grounded, it’s safe to say that this is the craziest one yet.
Returning hero Arion Sherwind is dismayed to find that everybody’s memory of football has been erased, by the manipulative time agent Alpha, whose mission is to create a new timeline without football in it. Alpha is the agent of the El Dorado council who are looking to eradicate a strain of advanced humans, called Hyper-Evolved Children. Their genome sprang from football, thus making it the target of the influential council’s plans.
In a wonderful jump of logic, despite their wish to erase football they’re still using it as the means of destroying the past, as being beaten at your own game causes the greatest amount of despair, and how else would you shoehorn in the actual football games the Inazuma series is known for?
For once it’s a stretch for the series, where in previous games random battles would come from people wanting to join your team, whereas now you’re jumped by people who say ‘”football disgusts me”, before taking you on in a game of football. It doesn’t quite work this time out, especially when they then want to join your team, though you may be too busy enjoying yourself to notice.
You travel about in the snappily named Inazuma Time Machine Bus, with a somewhat up-tight robot teddy-bear called Wonderbot at the wheel, as you try to ensure that Alpha doesn’t complete his mission of erasing football. Wonderbot’s general outlook makes him seem like he’s on vacation from the Persona series rather than Inazuma which was pleasantly surprising, and ultimately adds to the general zaniness on show in this entry.
Some changes have been made to how the game plays out in-match. While the traditional stylus-controlled football remains intact, now when you meet another player on the pitch you’re able to choose whether you go left or right, which if you pick the same direction as your opponent then switches into the duel system from previous games. However, if you choose the opposite direction you can now simply leave your adversary in the dust, or he’ll do the same to you. It’s a mechanic that makes sense, and adds another layer to each match, though your success rate against the computer seems overly generous.
An advanced version of your summoned Fighting Spirit makes an appearance alongside the standard version in the shape of the Armourfied Fighting Spirit, which allows you to don spirit-powered armour that decks you out like a Power Ranger and allows you to use a range of extra special moves.
Along with that is a new method of gaining special abilities called ‘minimaxing ‘ where you imbue a character with the aura of another person or creature. The first example of this sees Fei taking on the aura of a T-Rex, which once again opens up an array of different moves, and as you progress the ability becomes integral to your team’s success.
Overall both options add extra complexity to each match, though the abilities are extremely powerful and can make some of the encounters seem a touch too easy. It’s all graphically rewarding mind you, with spirits, glowing armour and various creatures making each use a joy to behold, alongside their new special moves. Whether it’s ultimately all a little bit empty though may depend on your general ability to play the game, and whether you’re going to be drawn in by the world and all its oddities.
A further addition is the advance gauge which appears in story matches, requiring you to fill the gauge by playing well in order to advance the story. Successful passes, scoring goals and maintaining possession will fill it quicker, though if you don’t manage to fill the gauge in the allotted time you’ll be shown the Game Over screen. Again, it’s a nice incentive to play your best, and to feel more in control of events, though on occasion it does feel like you’re simply being ferried along.
It seems like the creativity that went into the story may have dried up by the time they got to the character names, from goalkeepers called Hotel and Uniform to the nefarious Chairman Argos who is orchestrating it all. It’s a curious piece of mundanity amongst the excessive vibrancy that permeates the rest of the game.
The game continues in the strong comedic vein that its predecessors followed, and whilst it is often just a bit silly it also genuinely had me laughing out loud as well. The new Inalink app which all the Raimon players have access to is often hilarious, with conversations building in real time as if they’re ongoing. One of my favourites saw Wonderbot – or Clark von Wunderbar to give him his full name – the robotic teddy bear, being talked out of a toy shop by the Raimon players as he tried to strike up a conversation with the teddy bears inside. These snippets of conversation help flesh out some of the character’s back-stories as well as their motivations which definitely increases your affection for them.
Alongside the humour, there are some genuinely touching moments, as reasserting the original timeline also has the side-effect of making some people worse off. During these sections we’re treated to more gentle music, as well as a few well made animated cut-scenes that command your attention and really hammer home the emotion.
Visually, the game uses the same 3D engine as the previous duo of Inazuma titles, and bears similarities to Pokémon X and Y. The animated cut-scenes continue to make a huge difference to the quality of the storytelling, as does the voice-work, which is always solid and energetic. Overall visual performance is good, though there are hints of stuttering during some of the matches, particularly when entering a duel with another player, or when activating some of the more graphically intense special moves. It certainly doesn’t detract from the game mind you.
Inazuma Eleven GO 2: Chrono Stone will likely delight and enthral Inazuma fans, particularly with the new additions to the in-match gameplay, alongside its crazy plot, and the returning characters. However, some of the changes are not necessarily for the better, making parts of the game seem too easy, and the plot makes some traditional elements of Inazuma such as random encounters seem out of place.