Retro Review: Sega Soccer Slam

It was the year 2002 and Sega as a 1st party platform holder was no more. Instead, the house that Alex Kidd built (and was subsequently evicted from in favor of a potbellied rodent) was trying to establish itself as a 3rd party developer producing games for the Nintendo Gamecube, Sony Playstation 2, and Microsoft Xbox. Sega Soccer Slam was one of the early games of 3rd party era-Sega and it has largely been forgotten. Has this game’s descent into obscurity been unfair? Or was Sega Soccer Slam just not what gamers wanted to get their kicks?

Sega Soccer Slam is an arcade style soccer game. Matches are short, only three minutes by default. The teams are small, three players to a side. The action is fast. I have never before played a soccergame with so little time spent dribbling from side of the pitch to the other. In Sega Soccer Slam you will literally spend more time shooting the ball than you will spend running after it.

The game also rewards players who put time into the story mode. Yes, there is a story mode. It is absurd, but in a good way. You take control of one player of a team of three and follow them through a season of soccer, buying upgrades like weapons, magical towels, and jet packs to improve your performance. The players are all wacky and zany which gives the game the character it needs, given the generic nature of any sports title.

Sega Soccer Slam is also a rarity in how much control it gives the player over the experience. The camera angle, speed of the clock, difficulty and any other thing you can think to alter about the game can all be changed on the fly. Also there is a dedicated ‘punch’ button. That makes it better than all the realistic soccer games in the world to me.

Unfortunately, if there is one thing that Sega Soccer Slam lacks, it is a reason to play it for more than a few minutes.

There are simply more compelling ‘wacky sports’ games out there, retro or otherwise. Sega Soccer Slam was developed back in 2002. Sega had just left the console market and was only beginning to establish itself as a third party developer. It is reasonable to assume that Sega had not yet realized that the key to staying relevant was nurturing their stable of strong, recognizable mascots. When you are the platform holder, you can get away with quirky random titles that seemingly have no connection to anything else. Nintendo does it all the time and mad bank is made. Sega Soccer Slam is an example of Sega doing business as usual – a year after the ‘business’ closed shop.

If Sega had been able to predict the success of games like Mario Super Strikers or Sega-All Stars Tennis and had incorporated the characters and themes that people associate with the Sega brand, Sega Soccer Slam would have been a much more enticing game. Sega Soccer Slam’s quirky cast of random ethnic stereotypes will get a smile (or maybe offend) and the game play is solid but the overall package is simply forgettable.

Sega Soccer Slam is a great game if you can pick it up for cheap. You will be certain to get a few fun minutes of quirky gameplay but mostly Sega Soccer Slam is there to sit on your shelf as a small, obscure symbol of your Sega street cred.

Even with good execution, Sega Soccer Slam was still a flawed concept. For that, the game gets a C+.

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