With the Wii instalment of FIFA 08 leaving us extremely impressed indeed, we had particularly high hopes for the Nintendo DS version here at NintendoLife. Although the franchise has come in for some harsh criticism over the years, things certainly seem to be improving and choosing between FIFA and fellow genre leader Pro Evolution Soccer is becoming an increasingly hard task.
Unlike the Wii, the Nintendo DS has already experienced a few FIFA titles. To be brutally honest they have struggled to carry over the good work displayed in the home console editions, largely because of the modest nature of the hardware. FIFA 08 doesn’t do a great deal to buck this unfortunate trend, although everything moves along nicely and the players exhibit some neat animation. Given the humble power of Nintendo’s portable console it probably looks as good as one can reasonably expect.
Sadly, the gameplay hasn’t really advanced a great deal. The key issue is that the DS doesn’t really lend itself to fast paced footie titles. Gone are the days when you could get away with just having shoot and pass buttons; modern football titles showcase a plethora of tricks and moves such as through-balls, one-twos and dummy shots – not to mention different running speeds. Fitting all of these commands into the PS2 pad is hard enough, but the rather more modest control setup of the DS creates even more problems. Many moves are accessed via button combinations and while it at least gives you the option to play with the flare of Ronaldinho, it’s hardly what could be described as an elegant solution.
Touch screen control – a feature that is rapidly losing its appeal when it’s shoehorned into games that don’t really need it, if we’re being honest – is utilized for free kicks and penalties. Neither represents a particularly successful use of the system and having to pull your stylus out of its dock midway through a heated game quickly becomes a tiresome inconvenience.
Thankfully FIFA 08 triumphs in other areas. Official licensing is as strong and comprehensive as it’s always been, with literally hundreds of teams represented. It may not seem like a big deal but having the proper team badges, kits and player rosters really does add a considerable amount of authenticity to proceedings. Obviously there are some slight differences due to the fact that some players have since moved onto other teams, but hardcore football stattos will no doubt forgive these unavoidable inaccuracies.
Like so many other EA-published DS sports titles FIFA 08 comes complete with online play, which is both stable and thankfully lag-free. It’s taken a while to get here but it seems we have finally arrived in the promised land of online DS gaming, and one can only hope more games feature such connectivity.
It’s an improvement over last year’s offering but FIFA 08 still doesn’t quite succeed in bringing the thrill of the home versions to Nintendo’s popular portable. It will still sell by the bucket load regardless, but one can only hope that someone can create a soccer title that plays to the strengths of the DS rather than trying to make it do things it simply wasn’t built for. Ironically, EA has already done this with the ‘Family Play’ option on the Wii version of FIFA 08 – perhaps a similar system can be incorporated into the inevitable FIFA 09 DS?