Emilio Butragueño ¡Fútbol! review

Regardless of my Portuguese nationality, I love football (soccer to ya bloody Yankees!). And of course, I was over-enjoyed when Portugal won the European Cup last year!

I also like football videogames (although I do struggle with modern titles) and my introduction to the genre was through a Spanish football computer game, Emilio Butragueño ¡Fútbol!

Emilio Butragueño ¡Fútbol! (also known as Buitre) was developed by Topo Soft (kind of, read below) and published by Erbe Software (in Spain) and by Ocean (outside of Spain). It was originally released in 1987 for Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum and DOS. It was re-released a year later for Commodore 64 and MSX.

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I don’t know if the kid on the right is surprised or scared.

But perhaps more interesting than the game itself, it’s the story of its development and how it came to be:

Both Topo Soft and Dinamic (another Spanish developer) were after Real Madrid football player Emilio Butragueño, in order to license his name for a football computer game. Dinamic apparently had a verbal agreement with Butragueño for 1 million pesetas (Spain’s former currency, which equals to 6010.12 Euros), but Topo Soft with the help of their distributor, Erbe, managed to sway Butragueño away with 10 million pesetas (60101.16 Euros)!

But the story doesn’t end there. Three of Topo Soft’s main designers were unsatisfied with the company, so they form a new company called Animagic and did a unofficial port of Tehkan World Cup outside of Topo Soft’s working schedule (so it wouldn’t get claimed by Topo Soft) and sold it back to Topo Soft under Animagic’s brand. That’s why Animagic’s name appears in the Amstrad CPC’s version. But all other versions were ported by Topo Soft.

But let’s get back to the game, starting with the cover:

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Is he playing against Italy?

As you can see, that’s Emilio Butragueño himself in the corner and in the main image using the red kit. And you must be asking: “if Butragueño played in Real Madrid, why isn’t he wearing its traditional white kit?” Well, apparently Topo Soft decided to use an alternative kit as not to alienate non-Real Madrid fans, but I bet it was so that Topo Soft wouldn’t be forced to pay royalties to Real Madrid. And that’s not the Spanish National Team’s kit either.

But enough talk and let’s boot this sucker, shall we?

As you can see, the game starts with a very bad rendition of the box cover, without any title whatsoever, just the company’s logo. And then we get to the menu in Spanish. Fortunately, this is basically the only Spanish you’ll find in the game, so non-Spanish speaking gamers can play it.

In the main menu screen, you can choose between 1 or 2 players game, the duration of the match between 10, 20 or 30 minutes and the difficulty level between 2 options. You can’t choose which team to control, with player 1 always controlling the white team and player 2 or the CPU controlling the red team. In the other versions, it was possible to choose between both teams.

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Actually the white team looks more like Germany

And then you start the match and although you can’t see the teams’ names, it’s safe to assume that the white team is supposed to be Real Madrid but I have no idea who the red team is supposed to be. One could say it’s Real Madrid’s main rivals, Barcelona FC, but their jerseys are red AND blue. Was there a Spanish team using a full red kit back then? Anyway, just imagine a football team with traditional red kits, like Liverpool FC or something.

Because it’s a sports game, I highly recommend the use of a gamepad or joystick over the keyboard. The controls feel somewhat stiff, and because you can only control a player at a time, it’s easy to get confused which player you’re controlling, even with the flashing prompts. Also, there’s only 1 button for shooting and that’s what you’ll end up doing while in possession of the ball, since you can only shoot the ball high and nothing else. While not in possession of the ball, you can tackle other players for it, but be careful not to commit fouls (as you know, two yellow cards or one red card equals expulsion). Also apparently the match ends if any of teams scores 10 goals, but I haven’t seen it so far.

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GOOOOOOOAAAAALLL! Too bad it was from the other team

The CGA graphics leave a lot to be desired in comparison with the other versions (even the ZX Spectrum version with less colors looks better!), but the animations aren’t that bad. The bottom of the screen with the score, time and the overhead football pitch serve their purpose, but they could have been a bit smaller in order to make the top screen bigger. The sprites also serve their purpose, despite being seen through an overhead perspective.

And apart from the average sound effects, there’s no music whatsoever. Not even a title theme!

With the lack of choice between teams and just two difficulty levels, there isn’t a lot of replay value. It’s good for a quick match with a friend without the hassle of going between several options and menus, but little else.

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Corner kick.

However, because the game had the name of a very famous football player at the time, apparently it sold more then 100.000 copies, which encouraged Topo Soft to develop a sequel in 1989, which was only released for Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum and MSX.

I don’t recommend this game mainly because it was quickly overshadowed by a true classic of the genre, Kick-Off, from which all other football games built upon afterwards. But that’s a review for another day…

So, did you enjoy the review and/or the game? Like and leave your comments below and tell me what your favorite football games are.

Next time, we’ll go under the sea. Till then, keep on playing (football and otherwise)!

Low Blow review

When designing a game heavily based in a classic title and it doesn’t have its own proper identity, it runs the risk of being considered a clone or rip-off. Today, we’ll take a look at one such game and decide if it’s a rip-off or not.

Low Blow is a boxing game developed by Synergistic Software and published in 1990 by Electronic Arts (before they became the Eldritch Abomination we know nowadays) for DOS.

And we’ll begin by looking at the cover:

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*bell sound*

I don’t mind using photos in covers as long it looks good and conveys the proper idea of what the game is all about. And in this particular case, it does! How? Well, a boxer being hit below the belt in the cover of a boxing game conveys the notion that this is not an ordinary boxing title.

Here, take a look for yourself:

The title screen is just a cartoon version of the box cover, reinforcing the idea of a non-realistic game and the title theme (composed by the legendary Rob Hubbard) is quite good.

The menu screen shows our 2 selectable boxers: Frankie (with the white shorts) and Hollywood (with the red shorts). Think of them as the Ken and Ryu of the boxing games!

You can either play against a friend 1-on-1 or choose either Frankie or Hollywood and challenge 7 other boxers for the World Championship belt.

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Something tells me he isn’t talking about hygiene.

The AI boxers are all cartoonish versions of famous boxers and each one harder than the former.

Before each match, you can see your opponents’ stats and profile and you’ll also have the choice to train, where you’ll learn the necessary combination to defeat your opponent.

All matches occur in the same boxing arena, called the EA Palace. The game’s graphics are quite colourful (despite being in EGA) and all the characters, ranging from the boxers to the announcer, the referee and even the audience, are all well detailed.

Although the keyboard controls are quite responsive, I recommend the use of a gamepad. The controls are quite simple: the directional pad (or keypad) for movement and defence and 2 buttons for punching; one for jabs, the other for crosses and both simultaneously for uppercuts.

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Is that Mikhail Gorbachev on the top right?

The game uses a 3rd person view but the controls feel kind of isometric. Still, they’re easy to learn and master. The hit detection, however, isn’t always perfect, especially if the boxers are very close to each other, but positioned in a weird angle.

In the bottom screen, you’ll see 2 bars for each boxer. The green bar is the health bar and once fully depleted, the boxer goes down for a possible KO. Every time a boxer gets up, his health bar gets smaller and after 3 recoveries, if a boxer goes down again, it’s an automatic KO.

The yellow bar is the stamina bar. It depletes with each punch and when fully depleted, the boxer can’t throw punches (but you can still move and defend yourself) until it replenishes in time.

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WMDs! Get your WMDs here!

And just like the title says, any boxer can throw low blows, which are hilarious to see if connected. However, since it’s an illegal move, if you are caught doing it 3 times, you’ll be automatically disqualified. You have to be patient and observant to know the perfect time to throw these and not be caught. However, your opponent can also throw low blows (each boxer has its own characteristic low blow) and they never get caught!

If you decide to play fair, the game can get somewhat hard during the later stages but if you decide to cheat combined with the lack of difficulty levels and the infinite continues, the game then becomes too easy.

With just 7 opponents, the game isn’t big and depending on your skill, you’ll finish it in no time.

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How come the newspaper is always of the same day? Are all the fights scheduled for one night?

Low Blow is obviously inspired by Punch Out, down to the cartoonish looks and humour, but it tries to be its own game with its own identity and to a certain degree, it succeeds. If you want to play a funny little boxing game and don’t have a Nintendo console, then try this one! You can even play it in your browser here.

Low Blow aged more or less well and although it’s eclipsed by better boxing games, it’s still fun to play every now and then. Give it a shot!

And that’s it for now! Join us next time when we’ll take a look at a game based on a famous franchise geared towards children. Till then, keep on playing.