In sports games, there is a clear split between two different groups. One group of games does their best to simulate a sport, whereas the other group takes the sport and changes it in an obvious manner. This latter group is widely referred to as the arcade-style sports games, and Sega Soccer Slam definitely falls into this category, and for the most part it works. By using fewer players, Sega allows for greater detail being attached to each player, as well as other numerous touches, including almost entirely polygonal crowdsa very welcome sight in a sports game.
Soccer Slam really stands apart from other arcade-style sports games by going just a bit farther than other similar titles do. Generally, an arcade-style game mainly changes the rules of the game itself. Soccer Slam also makes a big change in the artistic department, using physically exaggerated players with appropriately cartoon personalities. In this case, letting go of even the appearance of a simulation gives Soccer Slam a very playful and visually attractive style that fits the zany gameplay perfectly.
The real meat of the game is the Quest mode, where you can guide a team to global domination while gathering items that increase the stats of your players. Its quite fun, although only having 6 different teams means that the replay value is somewhat limited. Aside from Quest mode, youre allowed to play friendlies and tournaments, but you can tell that most of the work went into Quest.
One disappointing aspect of Soccer Slam is the occasional bugs that crop up during play. Characters will sometimes get stuck in a single frame of animation, leading them to dribble the ball while appearing completely frozen, and will remain that way until an action button is pressed. Sometimes the players will get stuck inside the goals, which can get particularly annoying when that player is the goalie as that all but guarantees a goal if the other team shoots.
Although its less of a bug and more like a gripe, the animations for when the characters kick the ball seem particularly unrealistic. More often than not, a player will take a shot off the outside of his foot when the angle would suggest that a regular shot off their instep would be easier to pull off and probably more effective.
Another gripe would be the fact that although Soccer Slam is very arcade-y in terms of gameplay, that there are areas that are left a bit too pedestrian. For example, there are the different soccer fields. There are three generic stadiums, plus special unlockable fields for each team. Although each of the stadiums has unique art that make them stand out from one another, there are no changes that actually affect gameplay. It would have been nice to have differently shaped fields, fields with obstacles, or at least surfaces that caused the ball to act differently. As it is, its nice having new eye-candy, but considering youre playing wacky soccer, it would have been nice to have the game be a bit wackier in places.
Overall, Soccer Slam is an entertaining game. Even upon having completed Quest mode with a couple teams, I was perfectly willing to try and run through the game with the other teams, unlocking items for the different players and gaining the special stadiums. Its definitely a bright spot in the canon of arcade sports titles so far and one of the better titles available for the GameCube.
Disclaimer: This review is based on the GameCube version of the game.