Sensible Soccer - A Retrospective across multiple formats

Sensible-Soccer-RetrospectiveSensible Soccer, arguably one of the most ported football games of all time from the humble Gameboy to the Atari Jaguar. Some conversions were good, some were bad, this article hits the back of the net with them all!

Sensi is as British as a Coca-Cola League 2 match on a cold November night played in driving rain somewhere up north, with no shelter from the elements and only a hot cup of tea and a warm chicken balti pie to keep you warm.

This legendary game was developed by Sensible Software hence the name Sensible Soccer. Sensible Software was spearheaded by two greats of the gaming industry, Jon Hare and Stoo Cambridge. Sensible Software was setup in 1986 in Chelmsford, Essex and started off designing games on the ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64 respectively. Early hits for Sensible Software included the now legendary Wizball, with a good mixture of shooting and clever puzzle elements revolving around colours, the game was worship in the gaming press.

Sensi was not Sensible Softwares first attempt at a football game. In 1989 Sensible Software started work on Microprose Soccer for the Commodore 64, the game was released on other systems but handled by different developers. Many of the key features that made Sensi a great game can be found and recognized in Microprose Soccer, for example, the ball 'sticks' to the players in a similar fashion to Sensi , the only was to tackle is with a slide tackle, the long pass ball animations look similar and the ball can be curled with an after-touch after taking a shot.

It is quiet apparent that Sensible Software did not call time on the project after Microprose Soccer was released and kept things ticking over and gradually developing into the game Sensible Soccer.

The game surfaced in 1992 to great acclaim, up till then most football games were stiff, slow and generally unpleasant to play. But Sensi broke this trend, with crisp passing, high speed end to end football action.

My first experience of this phenomenon was playing the demo version on my brothers Atari ST, even though the demo only featured the first-half of a game, I couldn't stop reloading the demo, just to get another fix of this game.

Whilst there has been many updates on the Sensi series, the epic Sensible World Of Soccer springs to mind, for this article I will be strictly be concentrating on the original Sensible Soccer title and it various ports through out the original series. Many ports have been linked together for easy and also due to the lack of differences in the ports.

It must also be noted the even though I refer to the game as Sensible Soccer, on various systems and ports it had slight differences in the title, for example on the Mega Drive it was called Sensible Soccer International Edition.

Amiga/Atari ST/PC-DOS

The three original systems that Sensi was released on. Overtime there was slight updates with the release of Sensible Soccer 92/93 and Sensible Soccer International Edition featuring player transfers and the additions of yellow and red cards, and also an on screen referee. I cannot really add much to the description and the legendary history that these games hold, just true classics. It should be noted that the Dos conversion was handled by Wave Software, who done a stellar job with it.

In my mind and the minds of others the Amiga will be the true home of Sensible Soccer, this was the original platform it was programmed for and also arguably the system most people associate the series with.

What made Sensible Soccer great was the sense of speed and game-play found within these hallowed floppy-disks. Not only did the Sensible Soccer offer a mind boggling amount of International and club teams but also how accurate the squads and kits were, this was truly a football game by football fans.

The most innovating aspect of Sensible Soccer was the ball dribbling, until Sensible Soccer was made, nearly all football games represented the skill of dribbling by the player kicking/knocking the ball in-front of them when they were near the ball.

What Sensible Software did was the 'stick' the ball the player, this enable the game the flow much better and also let the user, dribble the player around the opposition. What Sensible Software also did cleverly was to also let the player loose the ball when turning sharply or after running with the ball for too long to balance the game.

Thrilling encounters could be had with the CPU whilst battling it out for a place in the World Cup final, but more importantly the multi player aspect of this game is where the real fun was to be had. To this day multiplayer games are still host at special tournaments and retro events around the world, no other game has come close the rivaling the simplicity and competition found in two people playing this game. I bet nearly ever retro gamer has a story to tell involving a few mates, some beers and a few games of Sensi.

Nintendo Game Boy

I must admit I was pleasantly surprised with this conversion. One Christmas I passed up the opportunity to have this game as a present and instead chose to get Battletoads, whilst not a bad choice, in retrospect I wish I had opted for Sensi.

The monochrome Gameboy does an excellent job at recreating the look and feel of the original game, although being a little slow, all the elements are there from the off. The menus look and feel very familiar and offer Friendly, League and Cup competitions. With the options menu there is the ability to select National and Club teams, the national squad is made up with the usual big teams and the Club teams are far from official names, but Milan vs Manchester is fairly descriptive. Once you have selected the teams you can alter the formation and squad to varying degree, this has no actual effect on the game-play but it is a nice little touch.

In the transition from selecting the squad to the match, you are greeted with the familiar splash screen that is seen on all version of Sensi but this time in its black a white glory! The teams take to the field in their usual pre-match "v" line up before taking their formations ready for the kick-off.

As stated previously this conversion does lack the blistering speed of the other formats but does offer a great game of Sensi, the A and B buttons are used for, passing, shooting,heading and slide tackling. The passing is crisp and precise, the ball arcs with a glorious curve when shot and the AI is superb, a special mention must also go to the audio quality of the Gameboy version, very atmospheric.

The only criticism I can launch at the game, is that no matter what teams you select you will always end up with the same match, one lighter team, one darker team and no defining attributes to distinguish the teams and players apart.

With all the above considered this is clearly the best hand-held port of Sensi , unlike the GameGear port, which we shall look at next.

Sega Game Gear

Whilst the Gameboy did an excellent job an recreating the feel and AI of the original game, but slightly lacking the speed. The Game Gear conversion handled by Eurocom, had all the speed but none of the feel of Sensi.

The menus are very true to the original game in terms of colour and designed and also bests the Gameboy version by offering 'Speical' competitions, mostly European football competitions, but from here it is all down hill.

The team selections are nearly exact to the Gameboy conversion apart from they offer a few more teams.  Again you have the ability to alter formations and squads but once the teams have been selected, it has no bearing on the match engine.

Once the game starts you are greeted with a spectacular looking pitch and player animations. The controls are responsive, again with one button for passing and another for shooting. What really lets this game down is the terrible AI, I lost track of the amount of times I saw the keeper standing to one side of the goal and watching the ball dribble past them into the net. The players look elongated and scrawny, with none of the usual Sensi charm ,the audio is generally poor and adds nothing to the atmosphere.

In conclusion, despite having all the looks and speed this conversion completely misses the point of Sensible Soccer , great game-play.

Atari Jaguar/Amiga CD32/Sega CD

The Atari Jaguar and Amiga CD32 conversions have been lumped together due to their almost exact enhancements upon the game compared to other versions. The Sega CD version is very close to the Atari Jaguar and Amiga CD32 versions but just lacking a little bit of graphical polish, but the rest of the features are there.

I see these conversions as the stepping stones towards the development of Sensible World Of Soccer, the pinnacle of the Sensi series. The graphics are a lot clearer and colorful compared to other formats, the crowd and other audio is far more enhanced, the game is faster with better dribbling, replays look better and in general feels very similar to SWOS.

It is very clear from these conversions that Sensible Software squeezed ever ounce of extra power from these early CD-ROM based consoles, and was testing ideas and features that would eventually make it into SWOS.

Acorn Archimedes

Unfortunately I could not locate any information or a game to test of this version. I imagine that it would have been very similar to the Atari ST and Dos conversions. This is another conversion I have never heard of and would welcome some information on it.

Sega Megadrive/Nintendo SNES

To be honest, there is very little to say about these conversions as they are almost exactly the same. Both versions are close to the Amiga original and offer some slight graphical tweaks, for example the word 'Goal!' flashes up when a goal is scored.

The controls and game-play is slick as ever and has a very good range of competitions, teams and replay value.

The SNES version does offer a battery backup which is handy for team editing and saving, a feature I feel would have been handy in the Megadrive conversion. Due to this I say the SNES slightly beats the Megadrive version.

The Megadrive version was later used for a 'plug and play' TV console version, where the game was built into a Megadrive styled controller that plugs straight into a TV.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Sensible Soccer has been converted and updated across a great mass of consoles and systems, all offering a good game of football in comparison to their rivals. It can be quiet clearly evident that a football game built on a solid foundation of quality game-play and easy game mechanics can work well no matter what system it is ported to, if handled correctly (Bet Eurocom wish they took this advice!)


Last Updated ( 07 December 2010 )  

Ed Hale

Tall Handsome Male Seeks.....Ooops sorry wrong type of description. For the majority of the world who do not know me already, I am a seasoned Championship Manager addict who grew up on a diet of Amiga and PC classics. Have had flirtations with console and handheld gaming but always return to the warm comfort of the PC for a good time. Have occasionally done some writing for RetroCollect but always seem to find something new and shiny to distract myself, a legion of loyal subjects and praises might persuade me to keep churning out new content.

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Comments 

(Link to this comment) nokgod 2010-12-11 19:43
Good work Ed. I always had a soft spot for Sensi...but my bro in law was always an ANCO Kick Off fan.

Takes me back to those bedroom tournaments......Sensi round mine and Kick Off 2 round his. What a hard life we had...lol
(Link to this comment) Lord_Santa 2011-02-05 20:31
I'd love to hear your thoughts on Sensible Soccer 2006 for the Xbox as well
and even-though I do love me some Sensi from time-to-time, I am and always will be a Kick Off 2 fan in the end
(Link to this comment) oldgamerz 2016-11-28 02:45
I love the midi soundtrack playing in the SNES/MegaDrive video. I think it would be fun to find a copy of either just for a go at it. :-)
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