Yes, Sensible Soccer was a winner all right, debuting in the same year that the FA Premier League came into being. It provided a quick arcade blast of football pinball, putting it ahead of a thrusting forward line of past greats.
Indeed, Sensi, as it was affectionately called, played the 8-bit icons of Match Day and Emlyn Hughes International Soccer off the park, and it was even thought to have put a fair few balls past Dino Dini’s Kick Off on the Amiga.
Not bad for a title that eschewed realism and adopted a view that was not so much birds-eye but one seen from a plane at 30,000 feet. For Sensi sought and succeeded in capturing the essence of the beautiful game, and one of its key creators, Jon Hare, who followed up that success with the even better Sensible World of Soccer (SWOS) in 1994, is hoping his next venture will do it all over again.
RUNNING HIS SOCKS OFF
Many classics from yesteryear have been dusted down for a new audience as developers and publishers look to build upon once favourite franchises. Super Metroid from 1994 was revived eight years later as the Metroid Prime series, 1993’s Doom was given a 2016 reboot, and Shenmue III is appearing a mere 218 months after the second sequel.
Consoles have also enjoyed a revival. A new Atari VCS is in the works, Intellivision is returning some time next year, and Neo Geo (see ‘Retro News’ on page 116) is about to create a modern version of a console that everyone wanted but few could afford (games would set you back in excess of £200, and that was in 1991!).
But there’s no denying that soccer titles today are a whole different ball game. EA’s FIFA is the Real Madrid of football franchises, with 260 million copies sold so far. It has sparkling commentary, TV-style presentation, realistic players and stadia – all a far cry from Sensi, which stood on its own miniature feet (yet still had gamers on their toes).
With his new game, Sociable Soccer, Hare is at least hoping to make an impact, but it hasn’t proven easy so far. His journey has been akin to winning the Premiership, falling through the leagues and having to prove his worth again – success with Sensi appeared to count for little when an original punt for Sociable on Kickstarter in 2015 was pulled after £32,498 was pledged, an amount just over 10 per cent of his desired sum.
Undeterred, Hare took the game to Steam as an Early Access title, before finally getting enough backing from Chinese investors to unveil it on mobile. At the time of writing, he was hoping for a release this autumn, and it has become something of a must-win game. The legacy of Sensi weighs heavy.
“SWOS remains my proudest achievement in gaming to date. It was played by people all over the world, won many awards and made me the most money of all my games,” he tells us.
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