A pretty weird dream…

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If you had a Dreamcast back in the day, just occasionally you had to get your fun wherever you could.

This was certainly true of football games on Sega’s sleek little white box – EA did not support the console whatsoever so no FIFA (mind you, it wasn’t that great a period for it so no big loss). As for Konami… well, they did release stuff on the DC – I have a copy of ESPN International Track & Field sitting on my shelf. There were also the likes of The Grinch, Nightmare Creatures II, Silent Scope and a bunch of Japan-only Dance Dance Revolution titles. Problem was – no ISS. Most of us on that side of the divide would have been more than happy with more-or-less straight conversions of the PS1 versions. Alas, it was not to be.

So then – what choice did you have? Early releases included a vanilla port of Virtua Striker 2: a great showcase for what the Dreamcast could do graphically and fun for a while but shallow as a puddle and frustrating as hell as you continually end up with eight men and bemoan the lack of a run button.

UEFA Striker – the latest in a long line of Striker games from Rage Software. It’s pretty decent but it lacks that certain magic that separates the good from the great. Also blighted by the presence of Jonathan Pearce and “Big” Ron “Race Relations” Atkinson.

Later on we ended up lumbered with European Super League – a lumpen, uninspired effort with a set piece system that was like patting your head and rubbing your tummy at the same time. While trying to solve a Rubik’s Cube. With your nose.

Finally there was 90 Minutes. A game that the phrase “shit on a stick football” could have been invented for. You’ll swear your controller is broken. In fact you’ll just swear.

Hang on… what about the Worldwide Soccer titles?

I’m getting to that.

Back in the days of the Saturn, Sega bestowed on us the really rather good SWWS ’97 and ’98. Slick, easy to get into and just all-round bloody good fun. It seemed natural that this franchise would be carried over to their new wonderbox.

And so it proved, only it wasn’t that straightforward. Instead of developing the sequels in-house, they were given to Silicon Dreams – an Oxfordshire studio with a proven track record in football games. They were the team behind the likes of Olympic Soccer and World League Soccer for the PlayStation and Saturn. Later games in the WLS series would be plastered with the fizzog of everyone’s favourite horse-fancying, chopper-flying personality vacuum Michael Owen and also appeared on the PC and Nintendo 64.

With that solid (if unspectacular) pedigree, it was hardly the worst decision Sega made. Then again, chopping off all their own limbs wouldn’t have been the worst decision Sega made in the Dreamcast era.

Let’s just say that the SWWS releases on the DC had their problems. Both 2000 and Euro Edition suffered from inconsistent frame rates, players running through each other and most unfortunate of all, a bug that caused some black players to end up with white heads and vice versa.

After that, you could understand why Sega would lose faith in the series. However, this was not to be the end of Silicon Dreams’ efforts on the console.

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Finally.

At this moment in time (2000, in case you were wondering) the UEFA license was held by Infogrames, one of the few third-party publishers still supporting the already struggling DC. They wanted to capitalise on the relative success of UEFA Striker with a follow-up. Rage were busy re-tooling the engine they used for that game, having just secured the right to use the likeness of one Mr. David Beckham.

As it was, Infogrames gave the job to… you guessed it.

But there must have been something in the water in Banbury at the turn of the millennium as what they came up with was perhaps the most unhinged football title before Red Card came along.

UEFA Dream Soccer is – to put it mildly – fucking mental.

Let’s get the more conventional stuff out of the way first. If you choose the Traditional mode, it’s just like Silicon Dreams’ previous titles only with most of the bugs fixed. Licenses do not stretch to names – Liverpool’s front two are Owinn and Hescee (or something to that effect).

Slightly more unusually though a very welcome inclusion is that of women’s teams. This is most likely a direct consequence of having to change their N64 Michael Owen game for the American market so that it now starred Mia Hamm.

Now we’re starting to get to the slightly more loonball stuff. Select Arcade mode and you’ll get a couple of options that would be more fitting to something like Tekken. Survival mode – just keep winning and going for a high score. Bonus points awarded for goals, stringing X amount of passes together and deductions for foul play.

Time Attack is all-or-nothing first goal wins. Score with your first shot and a match can finish in seconds.

But even they aren’t the most “shove pencils up your nostrils and say wibble” bits. That comes when you fiddle with the game options a bit. Set the shot power and aftertouch to maximum and turn intelligent shooting on and watch as your players make Hot Shot Hamish look like a Sunday league clogger. The goals you can score are ludicrous.

I have VHS evidence somewhere of my left back scoring a 45-yard overhead kick that swerved almost out of the stadium before finding the back of the net at such a speed that I wouldn’t have been surprised if the ball immediately turned into a pile of ash.

It’s not really something words can convey though, you really have to see it in action for yourself… or actually play it, of course.

Ultimately UEFA Dream Soccer is an interesting experiment. No doubt it’s worth trying if only to see a lurching centre-back suddenly walloping in a rainbow kick from his own half at Mach 547. Alas, as a football game it falls down on so many other areas.

Passing is a crap shoot, winning headers is practically impossible and as for tackling? Forget it.

Shame really.

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