It’s funny when a game from yesteryear pops into your head for seemingly no reason. Well, I say no reason, but actually there was one: I was reading about a game called New Star Soccer, the point of which is to guide a single player from his humble roots as a 16 year-old trainee to the excesses of international stardom.

Innovative as that sounds, there’s no such thing as an original idea in this business, and indeed, Footballer of the Year promised largely the same thing when it was released some 26 years ago. (Sidenote: yikes! I’m old).

The structure of the game was extremely simple: you’d start with a limited amount of money and a small number of ‘goal cards’ – the means by which you could involve yourself in matches. It worked like this: before each fixture, you’d be told how many chances in that game a single ‘goal card’ would offer you (between 1 and 3) and you’d have to decide whether you’d want to spend a precious goal card in order to play in that game.

The taking or squandering of opportunities was then relayed via a fairly simple arcade sequence which basically amounted to lining up a shot and beating the ‘keeper (although if you hesitated too long you could also get tackled). Scoring goals not only helped your team win matches but also boosted your own profile, increasing your chances of securing a transfer to a more glamorous club (although, curiously, you also had to pay for these yourself by buying a ‘transfer card’).

There were also off-the-field ‘incidents’ – usually involving drinking, gambling, or the law – which would crop up every so often.

It was desperately simple stuff, although no less compelling for it. Once upon a time, I was one of a group of pathetic youths gathered around a Spectrum on a rainy Saturday afternoon as we took it in turns to play matches, using our combined skills to guide our player towards the coveted FOTY title (I don’t think we ever succeeded, although we got close).

There was a sequel, although it killed the spontaneous fun of the original by forcing you to memorise the contents of team talks and other players’ movements to have any chance of success in the arcade sequences. It’s odd that the idea hasn’t been revisited much since – although several games have given you the chance to play as one player on the pitch rather than as the whole team, there hasn’t been much that’s focused entirely on the ‘player aims to become a superstar’ angle.

With the football release schedule limited to the annual FIFA/Pro Evo bunfight, it comes down to the indie scene to offer a fresh approach. I’ve only just discovered the charms of New Star Soccer, but from what I’ve seen so far, it takes the core idea of FOTY and drags it into the modern era with some success (more on which, soon, perhaps).

*P.S. The tag ‘8-bit memories’ suggests that I may well write in vague terms about 8-bit games again. Which I might. But I also might not.

**P.P.S. Screenshots are from the Amstrad CPC version. Just because my friend had a Spectrum doesn’t mean I don’t like colours. Plus, sod the Speccy/C64 debate, the CPC was the best, etc etc…