Guilty Party – Retro Redress
Crime – Dominating European Club Soccer on Easy and Medium, but being too much of a wuss to play the game on Hard difficulty
Redress – Win the European Club and World Club Cup on Hard difficulty in one attempt.
I loved European Club Soccer as a kid. To me, it was one of the best football games of the ‘pre FIFA’ era, back when football games were more about arcade gameplay than realistic features. The aim of the European Club Soccer was to win the European Cup and then the World Club Cup, competitions I won several times, but only on Easy or Medium difficulty. Whenever, I moved the difficulty up to Hard, a crushing defeat would send me rushing back to the easier difficulty settings.
Well, now it’s time to redress this wrong; I’m going to try and conquer European Club Soccer once and for all…by defeating it on it’s toughest difficulty level. No passwords either, I’m gonna try and beat this bad boy in one go.
First things first, I’ve got to pick a team. I’m an Everton fan, so I’m going with the Toffees. I’m not sure if this is a sensible decision or not, but they are my team and I’m sticking with them. Of the 170 teams in the game, I imagine Everton are pretty decent. European Club Soccer came out in 1992 after our 80’s glory years but before our 90’s lull….so we might not be too bad. My first job is to go into the kit editor and change the home kit socks to white as Everton should always play in white socks, always. The kit editor on European Club Soccer is an excellent touch and one that was a novelty at the time. It’s a shame that the game doesn’t let you add stripes or hoops, but as an Everton fan that’s not an issue to me.
After sorting the kit out, it’s time to play some ‘pre-season friendlies’. I haven’t played this game in over twenty years and could probably do with some practice. So I decide to play two ‘friendlies’ before beginning my European Cup challenge. Two defeats later (5-0 and 5-3 to Mechlen and Panathinaikos respectively) and I’ve managed to convince myself that I’m warmed up and ready to go for glory. It’s difficult to concentrate on glory though when Everton’s No.10 is Wayne Campbell. Wayne’s World is one of my favourite films so it’s great to have Wayne up front along with dour veteran Scottish striker Peter MacDonald. That’s one of the reasons I love European Club Soccer – the charm of giving the fake players a backstory. No.11 Gary Reid is the local lad with all the skill in the world, but no discipline, Steve Sutton is the ‘never say die’ centre half who would take a bullet for the club and Brian Sutton is the goalkeeper who is prone to mistakes, but is popular in the dressing room. Sad as it sounds, I’m well acquainted with the ‘fake’ Everton team from this game and am fond of all of them. Apart from Sutton, who I blame for 75% of the goals we concede.
The first round pits Everton against AEK Athens, which after the 5-3 defeat to fellow Greeks Panathinaikos, isn’t encouraging. However I score first, a nice volley from outside the box. In typical Everton fashion though, the lead doesn’t last long and AEK Athens equalise with a cracking goal, in off the upright. Second half sees AEK score two soft goals, the second of which literally goes through Brian Sutton and into the goal. I’m facing a 3-1 deficit in the away leg, unless I score three goals in the remainder of the half….which I somehow manage, courtesy of three headers. The first headed goal is bizarre as the AEK Athens keeper practically throws the ball at Peter MacDonald’s head, a chance the experienced Scot can’t miss. Generally, goalkeeper throws on European Club Soccer are a potential disaster, so it’s nice to see the CPU suffers just as much I do every time Brian Sutton attempts a throw. The third headed goal prompts jubilant scenes in the Retro Redress living room…I’ve actually beaten the CPU on Hard for the first time ever!
The second leg sees an overconfident Everton throw away a two goal lead and just about escape Greece with a 2-2 draw, sneaking into the second round 6-5 on aggregate. My English ‘long ball’ tactics (i.e. chip the ball up to either Wayne or MacDonald with C and hope they can head/volley it into the net) aren’t particularly skillful, especially compared to the CPU’s excellent dribbling and long range shooting ability. It’s the only way I can play European Club Soccer though – the game doesn’t lend itself well to flowing football. European Club Soccer doesn’t really play like real football you see, it’s very much a case of ‘kick and rush’. Players tend to watch play unless the ball is near them. There is no interaction with team mates either – no passing moves or great set pieces, just get the ball and head towards the goal. I do enjoy playing European Club Soccer, but having spent the last few years on FIFA and Pro Evo, it feels very dated. However, the appeal of European Club Soccer isn’t the gameplay, it’s the wide selection of teams, classic European Cup format and brilliant soundtrack. I’d argue the soundtrack might have some of the best original songs on a sports game ever, you’d be hard pressed to find any song that screams ‘early 90’s football’ as much as European Club Soccer’s musical selection.
Second round and Everton have been drawn against Malaga. I’m not sure how good Malaga were in the early 90’s, but I reckon Everton should be better than them. Naturally this sort of thinking leads to me throwing away a two goal lead in the second half. 2-2 isn’t a bad result, but I can’t help thinking I should have ‘made the tie safe’ as they say. Luckily, I’m able to score a routine 3-0 home win in the second leg, thanks to my Sam Allardyce style long ball tactics. Constantly chipping the ball forward for my big strikers to head goalward is both easier and more effective than passing and moving.
Quarter Finals see Everton draw the mighty Aarau from Switzerland, a team I have never heard of before. I win a tense away leg 3-1, thanks to two second half goals from, you guessed it, headers. I’m feeling confident for the home leg…which is a big mistake. The unfancied Swiss team storm to a superb 2-0 lead and frankly I’m lucky it’s only 2-0. Brian Sutton is throwing the ball out to opposition players, my defenders are wandering around in a daze and I’m panicking. My tactic of launching the ball forward does pay off though as cagey veteran Peter MacDonald is able to volley a weak shot that trickles under the Aarau keeper on the stroke of half time. A nail biting second half sees me hang on to a 2-1 deficit that gives an 4-3 aggregate score in Everton’s favour. We’re through to the semi finals, but it’s unconvincing.
The semi final draw gives me Shamrock Rovers, who I am sure are the weakest team left in the competition. The other semi final is Bayern Munich vs Celtic, so I’m hoping for a Celtic win. I have a feeling Bayern will be a nightmare to play against. I quite like this format of the old European Cup that the game uses – unlike the modern Champions League every games counts and I’m finding it a tense experience.
Onto the Semi Final….Shamrock Rovers have decided that they aren’t the weakest team left in the competition and feel the best way to prove that is to go 3-0 up in 12 minutes. I manage to pull the score back to 3-3 before both keepers gift goals to each team. I expect this from Brian Sutton…I’ve always tolerated his mistakes when I play European Club Soccer, but if this was FIFA and I could change keeper, I’d have dropped him years ago. A 4-4 score means there is still everything to play for.
Problem is, I’m not confident at all. Whereas the comeback against AEK Athens was a joyous experience, the comeback against Shamrock felt like a fluke. I know the game had me beat and I was lucky to escape with a draw. Shamrock start like a house on fire and I’m chasing the game from the off. However once Shamrock make it 4-2 with 20 minutes to go, I know it’s over. The dream is dead and I have failed to beat European Club Soccer once again. I make it 4-3 with a few minutes left, but Shamrock Rovers instantly make it 5-3, to crush my hopes of European Cup glory with a big ‘Do not pass go’ stamp. Naturally, I blame Brian Sutton for all nine goals over the two legs…
Verdict – I wasn’t able to redress my wrongs against European Club Soccer. I’m a flat track bully when it comes to the game; good at the easier difficulty levels, but wanting at the top level. I did enjoy playing European Club Soccer again though. It’s not much of a football game, but the nostalgia and presentation make it a worthwhile experience. I’m sure I’ll try this challenge again one day. Maybe if I can find a way of replacing Brian Sutton…..