International Superstar Soccer 98 (Nintendo 64) Review

By Adam Riley 21.03.2006 15

Review for International Superstar Soccer 98 on Nintendo 64

When you think about the big boys of the football world in terms of video gaming, the two names that spring to mind are that of Electronic Arts' FIFA series and Konami's Pro Evolution Soccer. However, back in the mid-to-late 1990s that was not the situation at all, as another Konami football franchise ruled the roost and battled FIFA for sales space. This was the International Superstar Soccer range, and Cubed3 takes a look at what many believe is the finest iteration…

The International Superstar Soccer series actually began in the arcade, but came to notoriety thanks to the brilliant Super Nintendo translation. The supremely improved ISS Deluxe followed this on the same Nintendo platform, before eventually being dumbed-down and ported to Sega's Mega Drive. With the advent of Nintendo 64, complete with giant leap in terms of technology, football fans feared for the worst when Electronic Arts' first time effort, FIFA 64, turned out to be a major disaster. Thankfully, though, Konami's in-house team Major A had been busy working on the next generation edition of ISS, aptly called ISS 64, which became an instant success across Europe. Meanwhile, its Sony half-brother, Pro Evolution Soccer, struggled due to its mediocrity...But how do you improve upon what is already a brilliant football experience? The follow-up, ISS '98 showed exactly how!

ISS 64 looked the part for the next generation right from the start, lifting itself above the mire that was FIFA’s debut, with its jerky motion and scary footballers. For the 1998 update, everything was notched up even more, to the point where players were starting to look extremely life-like in appearance. Players had a more solid feel to them than FIFA, and from the farther viewpoints, the smooth nature of their motion-captured movements (reportedly around 17,000 frames were captured!) made them appear all the more natural. Players could be seen shaking their arms and legs whilst warming up, looking upwards when the ball was coming toward them in the air, and the officials all acted appropriately to a degree not seen before. The only drawback has to be with the bland menu screens, which are simply functional rather than having that extra flair of the EA Sports series. However, when the rest of what is on offer is heads above FIFA, with grand stadia, impressive crowds and an amazing feeling of proper football atmosphere, it is hardly a sticking point.

Screenshot for International Superstar Soccer 98 on Nintendo 64

On the audio side, the cheesy Japanese ditties made a return and either drove people completely crazy or appealed in some strange way (as it did with me). But the emphasis was more on how the commentary from Tony Gubba was markedly improved over the previous version, giving a more rounded feel to the proceedings of each match. It did not quite live up to John Motson or Gary Lineaker standards, but it sure did make a significant difference when playing. Also, the special crowd cheering techniques that were borne of the SNES era were back, with great aplomb, giving the impression of actually being there in the stadium itself!

To start off with, the first thing that you notice with ISS98 is that Konami at this point still had yet to acquire the official licensing from FIFA. Therefore, all of the players had names that sounded slightly like their real life counterparts, but had to be spelt different to avoid legal action. Unfortunately this meant that football aficionados tended to turn their nose up at what was a game miles better than the actual licensed FIFA. However, ISS98 had far more on offer and played immaculately. Even by today's standards the selection of modes is extremely extensive, and the Scenario mode is something sorely missed from Konami's new football outings. The concept behind this particular favourite is that you are thrown in one of many real life score situations and must overturn the result. For instance, playing as Germany against England when already 5-1 down...It really brings such tense emotion to the table and stands out as a key aspect of the game as a whole, with each of the sixteen choices being superb to play through.

Screenshot for International Superstar Soccer 98 on Nintendo 64

Moving on from the exemplary original 64-bit outing may have seemed a difficult task, but the increased computer AI for both the players in general and especially the goalkeepers alone meant that the replayability level soared to new heights and the need for many other changes was not necessary. However, the inclusion of the vertical camera angle brought a classic Sensible Soccer feel, and the blinding effect of curling the ball could easily drive a friend crazy in multiplayer. However, thanks to the improved Artificial Intelligence, there was no scoring straight from corner kicks or dribbling the whole length of the pitch and scoring (as I used to do both on many an occasion, if playing four-player and losing, my mate would say 'Raz, do that thing where you go on a scoring rampage...'). Suddenly the ante had indeed been upped.

Players were able to select from a friendly match, taking part in the International Cup, taking a chance on the Penalty Kicks, trying their best at the World League or going into Training to hone already acquired skills or learn special tricks previously thought impossible. Shooting and dead balls also had been tweaked to perfection thanks to an improved arrow system. The original had a flat power arrow, but this new edition split the arrow in two, as you could lift it up to change the trajectory of the ball as well as the strength of the kick. Player control was far tighter and passing (with feet or heads), in addition, was much more accurate meaning that although the speed was not quite as fast as FIFA, games were always much more skilful and pleasing to partake in.

Screenshot for International Superstar Soccer 98 on Nintendo 64

But all is lost if you do not bother to use the various tactical formations to your advantage. The extensive player management options open up the game to those who play with radically differing styles. For example, if you are someone who likes catching the opposition Off Side, the stick on that particular pre-set for the appropriate response from players. More conservative? Then opt for 'defensive' instead. Exact player positions can be altered as well, along with formation and line-up, as would be expected. However, rather than leaving you to change at will, the player emotions come into effect, leaving gamers with a tough call on whether to play the less skilful, but livelier player or take the risk of your star man not performing as well as expected due to feeling down. ISS 98 is a special game that will always live on in the hearts of N64 owners the world over thanks to its attention to detail, clever tricks and extensive options...

With gameplay as good as this, proving to be ridiculously addictive, just as Pro Evolution Soccer is today, plus the six various modes to play around with and sixty four teams to choose from, nine stadia to play on, four weather conditions, choice of time of day, as well as the option of multiplayer with up to three friends, ISS '98 is a triumph in the longevity stakes. Gamers growing tired of the main game can always play around with the Create-a-Player mode as well, extending the game even more, even bringing teams up to their real life status. Value for money? More than definitely! Try beating the game on the fifth difficulty level to claim the right to be an ISS master...

Screenshot for International Superstar Soccer 98 on Nintendo 64

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

This was the final true piece of genius from Major A before its rival internal team pushed Pro Evolution Soccer up to the dizzy heights it has reached now. ISS '98 was far and away to most perfect arcade football simulation throughout the whole Nintendo 64 generation and still remains a damn fine footy experience today.


Major A







C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  10/10 (1 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   


I still love this game, just wish the ISS series hadn't gone so downhill with the advent of the GameCube...

Great review Raz! Oh, wait... :read:

Hehe! :alien:

Adam Riley [ Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited ]
Watch Adam on the BBC! | K-Pop Korner FB Page | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

I remember nearly buying this, but got castlevania instead. Nice review raz.
(last screen doesn't work)

It's going to be shit and you jolly well know it.

Can't understand why anyone likes this actually...i found it to be unplayable, thought it was awful...still have it, never play it, I prefer Konami's Pro Evo series on the PS1-2...wish they'd bring that out on a Nintendo system...

I loved INTERNATIONAL SUPERSTAR SOCCER 64 i havent played ISS 98 though but i loved ISS 64 awsome game, i still reckon it better then Pro Evo or FIFA :P

I see all these people insulting the Nintendo corporation because of the lack of mature content. Yet there is something about Nintendo (at least their games) that strikes a certain unadulterated feeling of joy!!!  Pokemon Y - 1048-9263-5562

I_H, I think there was a cult following for the PES games on the PSone, but I couldn't stand them. In my eyes PES took off with the PS2 and ISS died with the GC...

Adam Riley [ Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited ]
Watch Adam on the BBC! | K-Pop Korner FB Page | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

I dunno Raz, I mostly found it annoying when my players always ended up doin bicycle kicks instead of headers..the control wasn't intuitive I felt, whereas Pro Evo just clicked with me - it felt perfect, i could actually focus on the game rather than fume at the controls...

To each his own I suppose, but ISS just didn't do it for me...

Will go give it another go now though, just to see if I might think differently now that i'm a more experienced gamer...will update my thoughts on it a bit later then...

I still haven't played this, and its pretty expensive secnd hand. I may pick up the remake when I get my Xbox.
What about Virtual Console download? It was published by THQ afterall and so MS might not have asmuch of a stranglehold.

Nice review, I read it yesterday Smilie

It's going to be shit and you jolly well know it.

this game was hilairious definatly pick it up

Just 2 games left to get before I'm happy with my N64 game collection - this and Banjo Tooie. Hope to get it on the virtual console download thing...but will Microsoft allow it? Hmm...

Hahaha.. I own all of Rare's last hurrahs, including Conker and Banjo Tooie.

Oddly enough, I never actually bought Banjo Kazooie, despite finishing it twice on a friend's cart... I still plan to buy it, almost 5 years later!

I'm sorry, but this game was next to unplayable. I point to this game as the start of the fall of Rare.

I dont believe rare madae a bad n64 game, this was such a funny game, and I thought the ontrol system worked extremely well. and come on how great was the giant poo and the lobby scenes. multiplayer was fun too

Visit this great Forum:

Nintendo HQ

Best 64 game ever, Mines still in mint condition with box and all.

I dont think RARE made a bad n64 game.....well if i had to be picky it would be either blast corps or Jet Force Gemini but seriously that is nit-picking.

people tend to judge DK64 as the worst game RARE made on the N64 but i heavily disagree with that.
Nice review, i heavily reccomend a purchase of this game. I heard the XBOX re-hash aint all that

will this be avaible to download on the VC?

the main criticism of the xbox version is that apparently its censored - quite a lot.

I tried tp play the xbox mp levels (offline) and they were confusing, and i didnt find it as enjoyable as i found the mp on the n64.

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