World (Cup) In Motion: Looking Back At WORLD CUP ITALIA '90 - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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World (Cup) In Motion: Looking Back At WORLD CUP ITALIA '90

Chris Morley is playing for England (Eng-Ger-Land)!
Having kicked off our retrospectives of all officially licensed Fifa World Cup video games with a look back at the 1986 World Cup Carnival, time to swap South America for Europe and the 1990 tournament which spawned the New Order England World Cup anthem, paraphrased in the titling of our series here.

Released by Sega for the Mega Drive in 1990 and Master System in 1991, World Cup Italia '90 had its origins within an arcade game released in September 1989. World Championship Soccer ran on Sega's Mega-Tech arcade cabinet system, and when Sega secured the official license from Fifa for Italia '90 they quickly got to work porting it to their newly released Sega Genesis/Mega Drive. Given that it was developed long-before the actual tournament, and some of the qualifying games had not yet been played,  many of the playable countries in the video game are not being the same as those who actually participated.
However, the Master System version of World Cup Italia '90 was an entirely newly developed game, and one which contained all the officially qualified teams (excluding the Republic of Ireland), plus a replicated group stage draw of the parent competition, which still holds the record for lowest goals scored per game! An average of just 2.2 saw Italia 90 criticised for overly negative tactics and the last World Cup to feature two points for a victory, in what was hoped would reward an increased focus on attack.

But what of its video game tie-in? As the brilliantly titled Balls would recall...
“The first thing you notice are the graphics. World Cup Italia 90 actually looks decent for a game that was made in 1990. The pitch looks like a football pitch, the top-down view is a little strange but probably was the best option, and the players do sort of resemble football players, so no complaints there.”

A massive step up from World Cup Carnival, we might think? And the control system was endearingly simple into the bargain.
“The game-play is where World Cup Italia 90 really got to show its charm. It was bare bones at its finest, 'A' is shoot regardless of where you are on the pitch and 'B' is pass which is literally just a hoofed long ball in the general direction of your players.”
Add to that there was no room for any referees as the game's attitude to fouls seems to be positively encouraging you to unleash your inner hard man in a manner not seen subsequently until the release of 2002s Red Card which took it somewhere far beyond what most would even recognise as conventional football! (Making it all the better for a future look back as part of this series)
Back to the 8-bit/16-bit world though, and Elite Gamer actually makes the surprising if retrospectively quite true point that...
“Italia’ 90 did at least do a decent job at capturing the tedious route-one football that made up most of the 1990 FIFA World Cup. “
It was in the actual Italia 90 that the tired old tabloid cliché of England not being much good from the penalty spot was born following a semi-final defeat to West Germany. The Mega Drive version flipped to a face-on aspect for penalties. The outcome was often as slapdash as the rest of the controls, but it did mean you could pretend you were Gazza with tears streaming down your reddened face...
England made it to the third-place play-offs in the actual tournament, yet having gone so far in Italia 90 they would not even qualify for the next World Cup! Rather USA '94 offered the bizarre spectacle of Diana Ross missing a penalty during its opening ceremony - no tears streaming down her face though.

In the years between, to prolong the shelf-life of the video game, the Mega Drive version of Italia 90 was renamed to Sega Soccer, and the Master System version was released internationally as Super Futebol II.

Next time we will be look back at World Cup USA '94 from US Gold, a last hurrah pre-EA Sports acquiring of the World Cup licence.

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