One of the most famous game modes in FIFA today was not created by the developers of the virtual football leader; we go to the end of the 20th century to discover the embryo that would end up creating the Be a Pro mode and allowing 22 players to play a game like real footballers do. That was Libero Grande.
I think there is no analysis of FIFA in which he does not always say the same thing: we cannot argue with EA that behind the four most famous letters of virtual football (as long as FIFA does not change its name, of course) there is always a very complete product. There are game options for any football fan, going through the most arcade game, the collection of virtual cards, management, the most street part of the sport or what concerns us today: face your virtual double alone or accompanied without controlling any other member of the team and using your skills with the ball to succeed or fail as a virtual pro. Do you know where the now so famous modality comes from?
The control of a single player has never been excessively common in football games. In fact, there are few games that gave importance to specific players on the pitch, limiting it more to team play than to individual expertise. Neo Geo’s Super Sidekicks did mark a star player who was the most versatile and valuable on the team by marking him with the ACE tag on top of the player; Taito’s Hat Trick Hero allowed you to choose your own captain before launching into the world championship, but it did let you control the other members of your squad. What was the most popular game that allowed the player to control only one team member? Free Great.
The most popular game that allowed to control only one player of the team? Libero Big.It was signed by Namco in 1997 in arcades, a scenario in which the firm was signed after successes in the Pac-Man or Tekken category. It shone with its own light in the 80s and 90s. As was the case with other major developers of the time, Namco also took its first steps with successful arcade soccer video games, signing works such as J-League Soccer V-Shoot, Prime Goal or World Kicks. Libero Grande played in another league and managed to gain a foothold in some arcades and enjoyed a certain popularity in its console conversions for presenting a game model that is unique and as attractive as that of put yourself in the shoes of a single team player.
The concept is very simple: you choose a captain, a selection and start playing. The original game, the arcade game, had the classic international championship game modality, with two preliminary matches, round of 16, quarters, semifinal and final. A defeat will bring with it the inevitable game over and loss of coins of the player if he wishes to continue his journey in the cup. Each of the captains had their own unique appearance and stats, so it was easy for players to find one in their avatars that suited their playstyle. The options they were wide like football itself: be a team player or a sucker roll Neymar.
Libero Grande in recreational games had a problem: the fact that everything did not depend on your expertise on the field of play provided some somewhat unfair situations in which our colleagues failed more than a fairground shotgun at critical moments, so everything ends up depending on our ability at the controls to pass the different rounds. Something that changed completely with the domestic edition of the game, which, removing the indiscriminate consumption of coins from the machine, changed the rhythm of the game for something more leisurely, fun and that It didn’t cost us an upset with each game lost.
It managed to carve out a niche for itself on the shelves of virtual football lovers around the worldThe game, although it did not enjoy the success of other imposing sagas of the moment such as FIFA or ISS Pro from EA Sports and Konami, respectively, did managed to carve out a niche for itself on the shelves of virtual football lovers from around the world, which earned him a second attempt in Japanese and European territory in 2000 with a sequel called Libero Grande International that expanded the concept and added new improvements and elements to the playable organization chart of Namco’s work, which never again added a new installment. The motives? Surely the disappearance of the Japanese publisher in the recreational territory and the growing confirmation of the PES and FIFA duopoly in the early 2000swhich has been extended in the last 20 years to become almost the only two football games that can be played today.
In 2007, FIFA would launch the Be a Pro mode that would allow us to play as a field player, something that PES would copy shortly after. If it already seemed amazing to us in Libero Grande to play with another friend controlling two players from the same team to create epic situations, imagine what the possibility of playing 11 friends on the same team meant for FIFA: practically the closest thing to playing soccer really. Something that EA Sports has popularized but that Namco thought long before.