Retrospective: ISS 64

The attack warrants a second look.

Football! Eh? Don't we all love football! The way they kick it with their feet, the lovely round shape of the ball, the haircuts. It's a game of at least two halves. And have you seen when they score a goal? Gosh, everyone gets so excited about that. What a time.

OK, look, I have to admit something. That first paragraph - that's not really me. That was the result of hours researching the subject in an attempt to pass myself off as a connoisseur of the sport. But as convincing as it may have been, I can't keep it up. I know about as much about foot-to-ball as a gnat comprehends of string theory. Which is something I have in common with International Superstar Soccer 64.

Some of you may have noticed that the World Cup is taking place at the moment. Perhaps you'll have heard it mentioned on the television, read an article about it in a newspaper, or been outside with your eyes open.

As the entire county drapes itself in the brutal flag of the English crusades, apparently in the belief that this peculiar display of faux-patriotism in their cul-de-sac will have a significant impact upon the success of a team of players on another continent, this sporting event dominates all senses. (Yes, things even smell of the World Cup.)

For those of us who don't suddenly develop an interest in a sport that we otherwise find tedious, just because it's played on an international scale, there is no escape. It is omnipresent, and not to care is to be a pariah, hounded from towns like a paedophile wolf.

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Excuse the crazy shadows. These are taken using an emulator, which can't quite cope with those 1997 graphics.

So by opting to write about a football videogame I realise I'm not exactly helping. But during this time when football is as loud and monotonous as the vuvuzelas that accompany it, I found it interesting to recall the one time I've enjoyed the sport. And that was university days playing ISS 64 with my housemates.

I loved playing it. And while I've played various incarnations of the FIFA series over the years, none has ever brought me a great deal of pleasure. There was something about Konami's cartoon creation that seemed to evade concerns about realism, and instead focus on being an arcade game. In other words, I didn't necessarily lose every game I played.

I've returned to it this week, having found a copy for the N64 that has mysteriously appeared beneath my television. (Theory: If you put enough old consoles in one cupboard - Dreamcast, Megadrive, PSX, GameCube, and Xbox - eventually an N64 will manifest.) And I really couldn't be much more pleased to discover it's even more bee-in-a-tumble-drier insane than I remembered.

ISS 64 seems to have about as tight a grip on the rules of football as I do. I'm aware of the basics, I can even take a good stab at what the offside rule is. (For those who don't know, it goes something like: "If there are three men stood within seven metres of the opposing goal line, when the goalie is touching his knees, then a ball kicked in an arch of more than 55 degrees has to bounce twice before a player can run faster than 10mph.")

I know that you're only allowed to kick another player in the face if the referee isn't watching, and that if you lose possession of the ball in a tackle you must collapse to the ground, rolling back and forth, holding your shin and crying. A rough outline of the game. And ISS 64 knows this.

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