What can definitely be said for Inazuma Eleven 3 is that not too much has changed as far as gameplay mechanics go. It will be very familiar territory for series fans, as they explore various regions of Japan, recruiting players to build the ultimate football team (of which there are now over 2,000 distinctive players) and progressing the very light-hearted story that perhaps doesn't stick out as over-the-top as the one in Inazuma Eleven 2.
The same can be said for the mini four-a-side football battles that play out in random encounters as players wander each screen, and of course the 11 vs. 11 full-scale story matches, where the Touch Screen is put to full use to deliver fast-paced and tactical action, where characters can pull off all kinds of crazy special moves. For newcomers, getting the most practical use out of every available option during battles can be a little overwhelming, and it can often be a fiddly affair when characters don't always seem to do what is asked, but the numerous tutorials help to make it as simple as possible. As with playing the sport in real life, practice makes perfect, and so long as the time is put in, Inazuma Eleven 3 continues to offer one of the most original battle systems in an RPG.
The star of the show is, as usual, expert goalkeeper Mark Evans, captain of Inazuma Japan, whose team now has the task of becoming world champions. Naturally, there's more to the story than is initially presented, as it begins to take a whacky twist right out of the Japanese RPG textbook, and despite not being as ridiculous as the invading aliens of the second game, this is still an adventure that will keep fans occupied until the end.
Although the game is rather light on the voice acting, the written localisation is handled impressively well, where all manner of British regional dialects are portrayed by the characters. Even though it makes little sense when these are Japanese players living in Japan and playing for the Japanese national team, it is refreshing to see the translation team offering a degree of personality to each character by using various accents that many players of the game will be able to relate to.
As with the previous game, Inazuma Eleven 3 is split into two versions - Bomb Blast and Lightning Bolt - which, like the Pokémon series, feature subtle differences between the games, but offer the ability to recruit players unique to each one. Between friends that own the varying titles, players are able to trade with each other in order to improve their squads, and of course battle in matches to see whose team is best.
Disappointingly, Inazuma Eleven 3 makes extremely little use of the enhanced power and capabilities of the Nintendo 3DS. It was absolutely the correct choice to bring the title to this system in Europe, but there's no denying that it looks and sounds like a DS game. It can be forgiven, if only to say that fans of the series can now enjoy this title over here, but it is unfortunate all the same. Hopefully the next game will be able to really push the series forward and, at the same time, try to bring something different to the pitch to save it from growing too predictable.