Academy of Champions (Wii) - Review by Chris



When it comes to football games, there are really only two big games to choose from. Both EA and Konami have the genre pretty much tied up with their FIFA and Pro Evolution Soccer games respectively. But that doesn't mean that others haven't had a go at creating a more arcade-y style game. Even Nintendo has had a go with their Mario Strikers series of games, which was significant for them in showcasing the WiFi connection of the Wii shortly after its launch. So Ubisoft have taken it upon themselves to have a go at the genre, this time bringing in big name Pele being brought in to push the title. But is it overkill for the genre?


Academy of Champions Soccer quickly sets itself apart from the bigger football titles on the market. It is an arcade-y take on the genre, with there being more of a focus on tight and focused action rather than 90 minutes of varying degrees of entertainment. The game foregoes the usual options of a season or championship mode in exchange for a fleshed out and lengthy story mode. It's here where you'll pick a character to play as, with this selection being dumbed down to a simple choice of 'boy' or 'girl', and start your life at Pele's Academy of Champions, working your way up from the bottom to being the best team. It's your usual rags to riches story with little spin to make it interesting but the story does take a backseat for the most part. As you progress, you'll have to go through 3 lessons at the academy each day, with these either taking the form of mini-games to improve the skills of your character or the members of your team or recruitment drives to improve your team as a whole or matches, after which you'll get a certain amount of experience points depending on how well you did and these can then be used to purchase new attributes for your team or to improve their skill ratings in one of 4 key areas. After a set number of days, you will have to take part in a proper match against one of the many other teams within the academy and victory is needed here in order to be able to progress. It makes for an enjoyable experience although the skill improving mini-games could have perhaps been made more interesting but that's generally only the main downside to an otherwise well put together story mode that will have you taking on copious amounts of teams made up of characters specific to this game or of characters from many of Ubisoft's other games, which will be unlocked as you delve further into the game.

Outside of the story mode, you have a quick play option for up to 2 players, which is a shame as having more non-computer controlled players would have been nice given how mediocre the game's AI is in helping you out in the matches. For example, at several points you'll be running in on goal with no one in support and having to dodge your way through all five of the opposition before getting off a shot. The same issue occurs when you have to defend and the game's AI results your team mates being miles away from the ball and being generally unhelpful. It's not game ruining but it is very disappointing especially given that the game is actually fun and this does detract from that feeling somewhat. And finally you have the option to play through the various skill mini-games that you've unlocked and played in the story mode again but it's very unlikely that you'll opt to play these as they're very simplistic and you'll rather get stuck into the more action oriented game.

The actual football you'll play in, aside from the AI issues, is actually rather fun. It's very tight and action focused so you'll constantly have to dodge incoming tackles and watch for your opponents winding up their talent option, which is similar to the special shots in Mario Strikers Charged albeit here you'll waggle the Wii-mote when your talent bar is filled and pull of a special shot. This talent bar, however, plays a bigger role in the game than that as it is used up for dodging when attacking and for sprinting when in defence so you'll have to watch and work out when the best time to use it is. It's certainly not as realistic as FIFA or Pro Evolution Soccer but it never sets out to be and in the end, it turns out to be a much more enjoyable game than the aforementioned games because of this.


The game offers you a couple of control options, all of which utilise the Wii-mote. You can choose to use the Wii-mote on its own; in a horizontal position but the overall feel is off as the d-pad doesn't give you as much control over your players as you'd want. The best option is to play with the Nunchuk connected as it gives you enough control over the proceedings. There are issues though, such as obscure button choices for certain actions. For example, you'll need to use the C button to switch players and the A button to tackle and these are two choices that may confuse people as they would have benefited from other button choices. There is a small amount of gesturing required, for carrying out your talent shots and for navigating the menus and it works fine, although the pointer controls could have done with some more work. The MotionPlus add-on is supported, as is the Balance Board, but the former brings very little to the actual game and the latter is merely used once in a mini-game.


Ubisoft deserve credit for the visuals they've created. Having foregone many of the staples of the genre, they've created a very stylised look that is exceedingly pleasant on the eye, if lacking a bit in the detail department but this is a very small point. The characters carry an exaggerated look to them that is reminiscent of Sega's own Sega Soccer Slam games and are animated extremely well. Many of Ubisoft's staple characters show up and look fantastic. The Rabbids keep their trademark quirkiness while the likes of Altair, the Prince and Sam Fisher have been rendered superbly. The pitches are themed depending on who it is you are playing and while there aren't a huge number of them, what is there is good and you'll see small changes to the background scenery as the match goes on and goals are scored in keeping with the whole surreal presentation and gameplay.


The music hasn't taken a frontline position in the development as it would in the likes of FIFA, so don't go expecting licensed tracks from bands around the world. Instead, what you get is done amicably and fits well with the overall style, creating the ambience necessary to facilitate you in the menus and during gameplay.

Final comments

Academy of Champions Soccer is a surprising title to be honest. After the showing at E3, you would be remise in thinking it was going to merely be a cash-in attempt on behalf of Ubisoft to get some money off of the Pele name. But this has proven not to be the case as the game is a very enjoyable experience that will no doubt make players come back time and again, either for the lengthy story mode or to see the various Ubisoft cameos take to the pitch. It obviously can't compete with the bigger football games but is definitely deserving of your attention if you've grown tired of the constant yearly updates from those two.

Pro: Great visual style, lengthy and fulfilling story mode, tight and action packed football
Con: Skill mini-games will quickly become monotonous, AI issues pull the fun factor back a bit, is rather basic in its gameplay
Final score: 6.8


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Boxart of Academy of Champions (Wii)
Platform: Wii
Genre: Sports
Developer: Ubisoft Vancouver
Publisher: Ubisoft