Transitions: The Launch Games/End Games Blog

Posted on Jan 9th 2013 at 03:11:22 PM by (dsheinem)
Posted under launch game, end games, soccer, football, FIFA, PS1


I was quite happy to recently pick up FIFA Soccer 2005 for the PS1 for only about $9, which is about a third or so of what the game often goes for on eBay.  My primary interest in the game is that was the final game released in North America (and some other parts of the world) for the Sony Playstation.  As I am someone who likes focusing on games from both ends of the life of a console, I thought the purchase of this game would be an interesting opportunity to compare a game from a console's introduction - FIFA Soccer '96 [SLUS-00038]  - to a game from its end - FIFA Soccer 2005 [SLUS-01585].

FIFA Soccer '96 was not a PS1 launch game, but it definitely falls into the system's "launch window" as it released less than three weeks after the system's North American debut. By contrast, FIFA Soccer 2005 was one of less than a dozen games released in North America in all of 2004, most of which were other perennial sports titles (Madden, MLB, etc.).  FIFA 2005's October 2004 release was the last for the system in most of the Western Hemisphere.

Looking at the two games side by side provides an interesting window into how much had changed for Sony, EA, and the games industry in the lifespan of the Playstation 1.

There are a few very apparent differences before you even turn the games on, and they multiply as you get going...

Packaging and Labeling: FIFA Soccer '96 shipped in the clear, hard plastic longbox cases that characterized games for the first year or so on Sony's first gaming machine. FIFA 2005 shipped in the standard clear jewelcase.  The front of the box of '96 features the old "K-A" rating system, the 2005 game is ESRB rated "E for Everyone".  The difference in the quality of the graphic art production between the two is also quite stark - "By Extended Play Productions" is shooting out of the head of the featured player on the '96 version, the choppy/boxy artwork looks ill-conceived, and the randomly placed FIFA and "Virtual Stadium" labels really looks like someone's first foray into Photoshop.  By contrast, FIFA 2005 incorporates labels nicely, blends artistic elements and photos more naturally, and fits in with the standardized EA design that marked their games for a very long time. It is clear that they had learned a lot about attractive design in the period between covers...

1995 release on the left, 2004 release on the right.

The Back of the Box: Perhaps even more interesting than the front of each box is the back, where more important differences exist between what advertised in each game.  Most strikingly, the 2005 version places the Spanish description of features above the English description, indicating EA had discovered a large Spanish-speaking audience for the game in the years since the series' PS1 debut. There is no Spanish at all on the back of the FIFA Soccer '96 box.  The FIFA Soccer '96 box prominently emphasizes the motion capture technology that went into realizing inclusion of "all the moves of real soccer" as well as the move to "Real 3-D!", "high-res gameplay", "CD quality sound effects encoded by Dolby Surround Sound", "unlimited camera angles", and other aspects that assured potential buyers that they were purchasing a game that took full advantage of new, expensive hardware. By contrast, the only mention of aesthetics on the FIFA 2005 box is a line about "unrivaled player animations".   There are also some interesting differences in features: '96 boasts a feature of 3,800 players, 2005 boasts 6,000.  FFA '96 mentions capabilities for saving and for one to eight player gameplay without indicating how these features must be utilized.  FIFA 2005 explains via a long-ago standardized PS1 feature key that the game supports up to eight players via multi-tap, that the game needed 1-3 blocks of a memory card, and that it offered vibration and analog support (neither of which was an option for a game in 1995). 

Pre-Game: Upon booting up, FIFA '96 starts with several long FMV demo videos emphasizing the updated graphics and sound capabilities of a soccer game on the PS1.  After several minutes of this FMV, it switches to footage of gameplay between the US and Brazil, and  then repeats.  To get out of the loop and into the main menus you have to hit Start (though you are never prompted to do so).  I can imagine this running in attract mode at an Ames kiosk or some such, which I am sure was the plan. By contrast, FIFA 2005 goes straight to a splash screen prompting you to hit start to begin (while licensed music - also missing from the '96 version - plays in the background).  If you hit nothing for about a minute, random demo mode matches begin playing for several minutes at a time. For practicality I prefer the no-nonsense approach of the 2005 game, but there was clearly something special about the over the top intro videos in the early PS1 titles.

The in-game menus from '96 and 2005.

Pre-Game, Part 2 Once you are in the main game menus, the 2005 version of the game shows lots of expected improvement over the '96 entry. The Playstation controller buttons are prominently featured on each screen so you know what to do, the menu options (including team  and career management options) are expanded considerably, there are rankings for each team featured on the team selection screen (this was only seen in the post-selection, match loading screens on '96), there are uniform choices that can be made, team info and lineups can be viewed/adjusted and are then automatically previewed before the match, and the "broadcast-like" presentation going into the game is quite remarkable.  Other little interesting curiosities include the standard "X to select" in 2005 (it was "O" in '96, which threw me for a loop initially), the close relationship between the in-game menu and out-game menus in the latter version (which separated a lot of functions), and the prominence of "EA Sports" over any/all other logos and brands affiliated with the game (The "Virtual Stadium" was a big highlight of the post-menu intro to the '96 game, for example).

1995 release on the left, 2004 release on the right.

Gameplay: The casual observer would be forgiven for thinking that these two games are running on completely different systems.  The player models in the '96 version of the game are about half the size of those found in the 2005 edition, the amount of spoken play-by-play  is vastly improved in the 2005 version (as is its level of nuance and diversity), and the general look of the game is just dramatically improved. The latter version features instant replays, lacks some of the cheesy-if-charming goal celebration animations found in the '96 game, and is entirely devoid of any FMV of actual soccer.  More importantly, it controls beautifully with the analog controller, has many additional gameplay components that enhance both realism and fun (e.g. smart directional passing), and is just a joy to play even in 2013. That's not to say that the '96 entry is bad - it is in fact very good compared to the myriad 16-bit soccer titles that preceded it and the game does indeed represent some of the significant "leap" that it so prominently advertised on its box. That said, you still can have fun with either today, which more than anything is probably a tribute to the consistent quality of EA Sports' FIFA teams.

1995 release on the left, 2004 release on the right.

None of what I've noted is especially surprising, perhaps. The 2005 version of the game had the benefit of nine years of precedence on the hardware as well as several years of industry innovation into yet another console generation.  However, it is interesting to me to see exactly how far a single company was able to push a console over a very long period of time, how the marketing of the game itself has shifted significantly, and how much fun each game still is on its own merits, despite being so drastically different. Hopefully you found it interesting, too.


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Comments
 
Thanks!  I really enjoy these type of comparison articles.  It also fascinates me to look at how games develop and typically mature over time, even within a single system's 'lifespan.' 

Then there are those timeless classics that, due to art style and gameplay, never seem to really age.  For example, Super Mario World and Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island were released almost five years apart, from the beginning to the near end of the release spectrum of the SNES, and while SMW2:YI certainly spins all sorts of crazy late system tricks (i.e. Super FX 2 chipset and 'Morphmation') the original SMW has such charm in its design and excellent art direction and control that it doesn't suffer in comparison.  They simply feel like too great games in the same series.  My opinion, of course.

WipEout and WipEout 3 are other excellent examples of how far games in the same series developed during the Playstation era.  As much as I loved the original, after XL and 3, it's hard to go back, especially as far as controls are concerned.
 
Very cool article!! I hope you plan on doing more!!
 
It tripped me out to learn that EA had kept releasing games on the PS1 after the PS2 was released, but I didn't know they made it all the way to 2004!  Nearly to the release of the Xbox 360, fully two gaming generations past the PS1.

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