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Title: World Soccer Finals
Developer: Leland Corporation
Publisher: Leland Corporation
Release Dates: 1990 (North America)
Platform: Arcade
ESRB Rating: N/A
Players: 1-4

World Soccer Finals

Leland Corporation produced several arcade games in the late 1980's and early 1990 's, with its most successful release being the well-regarded Ironman Ivan Stewart's Super Off-Road, which was eventually ported to the NES, Sega Master System, Genesis, Super Nintendo, Game Boy, and even Atari Lynx. One of its other offerings was a slighty quirky and occasionally annoying but fun game called World Soccer Finals.

World Soccer Finals puts players into soccer's world championship tournament, not called the World Cup because 1) the format is different and 2) that would have cost money. Instead, World Soccer Finals pits sixteen nations against each other in a single-elimination tournament, and allows players to take one of those teams all the way to the championship. Alternatively, up to four players can compete in a single match.

Gameplay scrolls vertically, and the players are small enough that blind passes off- screen are rarely required. Games are two minutes and thirty seconds long, though the game adds 10 seconds to the clock whenever the player scores. The player can keep playing without paying more money as long as he wins, all the way until he wins the championship.

Kick That Ball! Flail at that Shot!

The gameplay in World Soccer Finals is relatively simple (and sometimes frustrating), but the system usually works well. On offense, players can kick the ball either high or low in 8 directions. Thankfully, if the player has a teammate in the general direction of the kick, the kick will be directed to the player and not just in the cardinal direction the player pressed. Players can kick the ball along the ground or in the air, and both kicks have their purposes (low kicks make for faster passes and shots, but high kicks will bypass defenders, allowing for rapid pushes up the field or escapes from danger.) World Soccer Finals has a swift pace, and under the right circumstances, the ball can go from one team's goalkeeper into the other net in a matter of seconds with some accurate passing. Passing is by far the most important skill to master in this game, as the computer defenders will have a hard time keeping up with their men, and several quick passes in front of the opponent's goal will leave players open to score easy goals.

The frustrating part of the gameplay comes on defense. There is no reliable way to choose which defender to control, and this can lead to the computer tearing through to the player's goal. Any defender can perform a slide tackle and take down the opposing ballcarrier, but then the player must pray that one of his own players gets to the ball before the computer does, or else the player has gained nothing. Goalkeeping is similarly frustrating, as the only chance for the player to save goals with the keeper is to charge out as far as possible and try to cut off shots, which leads to easy goals when the computer decides to pass the ball around a couple more times before shooting. The computer can even angle its shots in ways that players can only dream of. In other words, World Soccer Finals proves that the best defense is a good offense.

Strategy is limited to choosing a formation. Games are nine-a-side (including the goalkeeper) and all the players have the same abilities, though players will stick to their positions when the computer is controlling them (which can be frustrating on offense, as bringing the ball up the field with defenders cripples players' defense, while tracking back on defense with a forward hurts the ensuing attack.)

You Like Saving Your Stats? You Like Coming Back for More?
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Leland's games may be the first to track a player's stats across gaming sessions through the use of the player's initials and birthdays (they certainly predates NBA Jam and its system by a few years.) World Soccer Finals tracks a player's wins, losses, draws, goals for, goals against, championships won, and salary (which is a meaningless monetary measure of the player's success, as there are no "extras" to be bought with the money.)

Where Can I Find This Wonderful Game?

Being an arcade game, units may pop up at auctions from time to time. MAME plays it perfectly.

Final Thoughts

World Soccer Finals shines for its stat-tracking and quick gameplay, but frustrates with its sloppy defensive controls. Few soccer games I have ever played, though, have offered the ability to execute a precision passing offense so easily. In many soccer games, passing is a synonym for "giving up possession", but World Soccer Finals's ball-control system is well thought out and implemented. World Soccer Finals is not the best soccer game ever made, but its innovations make it a noteworthy entrant into the genre.

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