junior_ain's Pro Evolution Soccer 2009 (Wii) review

A solid entry, even though needing some tweaks and improvements.

Pro Evolution Soccer for the Wii might be one of the very few examples on when a franchise actually fitted better on the Nintendo's console than the others. As we can see, not by much tweaking, more because of convenience; and, of course, a couple of great ideas here and some other quite good ones there, some are still raw and need improvement, but the overall product ended being fine, and pretty satisfying.

You won't find a soccer game that handles better than this one, you may find a better looking one, that's not hard. After all, this game isn't anything spectacular, to tell the truth, it's very far from that. While other consoles still have high definition which could very well serve as a little makeup, the graphics overall, with high definition of not, aren't good. As you may already know, the Wii doesn't support high definition, and the poor 480p doesn't cut a deal. The game doesn't sound that good either, not that it really matters because a soccer game doesn't need a soundtrack, all it needs is a commentator and a background sound looking like the white noise from your TV without a channel signal on to serve as cheering. That's all it takes for the perfect soccer experience, this game serves you just right with that, but it's still nothing to be proud of, nothing that leaves you breathless or at least thinking soccer games sound had just been reinvented. Actually I don't have a problem with that.

The presentation for a Wii game sure isn't what most Wii owners are waiting for in a game. Yes, lately not even first-party releases are that polished, this game sure isn't either. But what makes this game shine isn't graphical power -- what the Wii sadly doesn't have -- nor is the sound -- which a soccer game doesn't primarily require. What makes this a better choice over the other consoles' releases are the controls. Hard to believe since most third-parties just try to cash-in a little more over the large Wii installed base releasing underwhelming ports, not caring much for the tools they have at hand to make the game really noteworthy using the motion controls. This case might be the black sheep of the cash-ins, which is good, as far as we consumers are concerned. But not without some flaws. For instance, when you're suffering a swift counter-attack, you have to use what you have up front to neutralize, not what's coming back to the defensive field. Sometimes, opposite players start running fast in direction of your goal and some of your players even get out of the way for the guy, if they were out there marking some other players maybe it would be at least acceptable, but no, sometimes they just do it for some laughs, I suppose. Come on, kindness never killed anyone.

Of course, it still needs tweaking, and with the amazing strategy from Capcom -- and many other developers, most notably EA games -- to bring us a new game every year with minor changes just because there's always someone to buy it, and better, there's always someone who bought the previous and wants the updated version. More like need it. You know sports fanatics, sometimes not even fanatics, just enthusiasts, they can't look at a 2010 version at some store and not buy it, after all, he only has the 2009 version, god forbid that. But truthfully, the system does work great here, the overall idea is awesome, and if it keeps evolving the way I think it should this game only tends to get better and better, and there's a lot of spaces for improvements. You have more than one way to control it, the way I find most amusing, and presumably the way most people will play, is the nunchuk plus wiimote version. The game was just made for that, it almost screams for that, and to get the most out of this unique version you better choose this one. You can move the player both with the analog stick and by pointing some place on the screen using the motion control, but the thing is, you won't choose which one best fits you, you'll basically play both ways at the same time, and that works perfectly fine. The analog stick takes care of more precise dribbling, it is slightly slower but when you reach the goal area you'll find lots of use for that extra precision when dribbling, especially when using the wiimote feels somewhat awkward. With the Wiimote you'll mainly move when there's a lot of spaces, these controls aren't very tight to keep a player running and carrying a ball by his feet while many other players are around and close, ready to take the ball out of you and rush in direction of your goal.

Well, the real star for this way of playing is the passing system. It works greatly. You don't even have to stop, while moving a player using the analog stick you can simply point to whatever place you want the ball to go and the player will make sure the ball gets there. It sometimes can be a little tricky only because the cpu has a somewhat strange AI system where it positions whatever player it has around in the middle of both of your players; your players won't try to do that, sadly. You can choose between a ground pass or an air pass, by just single or double pressing the button. It's especially interesting to rush towards the backline and cross the ball exactly in the place you want to do it, and you can be sure that some player will try to reach the ball, if he'll succeed at it before a defender or not is another story. To shoot you also have two ways, you can either shake the nunchuk or point where you want the player to shoot. I find that it's easier to shoot by waving the nunchuk, the intensity and height of the shoot will be established by the game anyway. When you don't have the ball all it's left for your to do is recover it as fast as you can, to do that you have a button to put pressure on the player with the ball to try recovering it, you have more not-so-subtle ways to do this too but they often end up in fouls and yellow/red cards, more for the desperate situations.

For a soccer game it has quite a lot of game modes, and that's pretty good. You can have regular matches with no big aspirations whenever you want. You have an online system, as well as split-screen multiplayer up to 4 players. But this game also lets you try one of the most important soccer championship in the world, the UEFA Champions League. Just pick the Champions League, choose your favorite team and start the game. There's also a game mode that's really interesting called Champions Road, where you start playing in cheap leagues with a small-time team, by winning and climbing your way you'll have the opportunity to acquire players from the opposing teams you've just faced and use them on yours; you have your own training center where you'll be able to buy new facilities and improve your reputation allowing better players to be acquired. It's also nice that in Champions Road you play in several leagues around the world, with the respective regional teams; from the leagues won you'll earn cash and new supporters for your team . Speaking about regional teams brings us to another touchy subject, the number of them. This game should have a lot more teams than it has, some regions -- outside Europe -- have several other teams that are insanely deserving to appear in the game, while others not so much did make it into the game, it's something I'll never be able to understand, a serious research should be made by the development team into teams all over the world, and more licenses should be acquired. I know it's not easy, but that would make the game so much better, and that's one more point to improve, and improve hard. Here's something else to improve, the actual port of all the menus in the game, some of them are poorly calibrated and it's a pain to navigate through them, the analog stick is just too much sensible.

If you simply want to play a regional cup or some other league you are able to, there may not be all leagues in the world but we can pretty much deal with that for now. In Master League you have the opportunity to build a team from scratch and start developing players and making transfers; you can choose, or make, stuff like the emblem of your team, the name, etc. Maybe a good choice for those who didn't find their loved teams in the game is to make the exact same emblem of his team and start changing the name of the players of some high-class team to the names of the absent team, not an easy and quick job I must tell. Before you try everything this game has to offer you need to learn the basics, and the more advanced tricks as well; after all, this one differs quite a lot from other soccer games. To do that there has been implanted a nice tutorial system that will certainly come in handy at the beginning, and who knows, maybe even after many hours into the game. It teaches many techniques that are primordial for you success, and some you'll only expect to use when you get more experienced or when the right opportunity happens to appear in front of you.

There you go, a nice soccer game, you won't find a better one these days, of course that only lasts a year before a new updated version comes out of the oven, hot and fresh, maybe not as fresh as we would have wanted though. The in-game controls are well calibrated and works great overall, even though some little tweaks should be made here and there, which won't stop you from having fun. The presentation is as good as it gets for a Wii soccer game, as much as the graphical department should be better taken care of, it doesn't disappoint. The game modes will keep you busy for a while, with some of them being pretty interesting. In the end, this is a prime example on how the Wii should be used for third-party games, and not just that, how the Wii should be used at all. Gameplay mechanics perfectly adapted for the motion controller. If you're a fan of soccer do not let this opportunity pass.

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