An old sports title from an old console may not seem like a big deal to gamers these days, but FIFA '99 on the PSone does provide me with one particular memory from early 1999, a day that would heavily shape my interest in video games. I was 11 years old and had just come out of a near week long stay in hospital for a bout of ill health. My Mum offered to buy a game for me for my "bravery" during that week...bless her. I had a Nintendo 64 and a PlayStation (PSone) at the time, and thought about getting an N64 footie game as I was in the mood for that kind of game and wanted to expand my N64 gaming horizon. However when I scoped out the N64 shelves at my nearby Woolworths store, there's was not a lot to shout about. Only one football game (ISS 98) was on display, and it was out of stock. So I went to check out the PlayStation shelves where I found FIFA '99. I thought "Yeah, why not?" and picked it up.
When I stepped back from the video game shelves, the difference was night and day. The PlayStation: a tonne of games. Platforms, beat-'em-ups, action, adventure. The selection was huge, and most of them looked like high quality plays. The games were reasonably priced too. £30-35, some even nearer the £20 mark. And then the Nintendo 64: limited, only one or two appetizers (Super Mario 64 and Goldeneye), and what was on display commanded £50-60 price tags (mainly because it was a cartridge format console). My gaming future was clear. The PlayStation was the console I wanted to focus on, and it eventually became my all time favourite. To be fair to the N64, I'm trying to give it a better chance to impress me these days as a retro console. But for now, FIFA '99 - PSone.
The menu presentation was and still is neat and tidy. You can engage in single exhibition games, participate in numerous tournaments, or whip out a PlayStation Multitap and invite some friends over to decide football supremacy amongst yourselves. The selection of teams on offer is appetizingly large. There are English clubs like Manchester United and Arsenal, Spanish clubs like Barcelona and Real Madrid, and international teams to duke it out with like Brazil, France and the Netherlands. All the line ups from the teams playing in the top leagues were correct as of the 1998/99 season, so if you happen to support Hull City...sorry, you're out of luck!
Well not quite. There's an edit mode in FIFA `99 that allows you to change player names and appearances, and even change the colours and styles of some of the teams' kits, so in a way you could still create a Hull City at the expense of say...Coventry City? Hey, just an idea! All this menu surfing, team deciding and edit making can be done whilst listening to some really good music. The standout track by far is the adrenaline rush that is Rockafeller Skank by Fatboy Slim. There's a few other dance/trance tunes in there as well, all of them being so good you'd be willing to pause the game for a few minutes just to listen to them.
OK, time for some football action, and while the action takes place you're treated to some mostly decent commentary. Des Lynam does the informative introductions while John Motson provides solid realistic commentary that still holds up pretty well today. He'll express excitement when a goal is scored, and can usually identify the player in possession of the ball. If Ryan Giggs has the ball for example, John will say "Giggs", which is pretty impressive. John's sidekick in the commentary box varies from match to match. Mark Lawrenson is steady and informative, expressing approval for most of the goals scored and disapproval at red card-worthy tackles. That's the good news. The bad news is the other sidekick is Chris Waddle, the thorn in the side of the World Cup 98 team who has the same dialogue as Mark, but says it in a cringe worthy, have-to-rip-your-ears-off kind of way. You'll be glad when his matches are over.
The gameplay? Well even back in the day it wasn't the most realistic football title. That distinction went to ISS Pro 98. Here most passes will go to a teammate's foot without even needing to look in the player's direction, while scoring (on the easy mode at least) is so easy it's possible to get near double figures of goals even on the shortest of matches. Graphically the game is obviously outdated. The players look like they are wearing boots made out of Lego, while the fans in the stands look like nothing more than stained chip paper. There are a couple of small positives though. The advertising boards are crisp clear and easy to read, and as mentioned before the menus are tidy and easy to navigate.
FIFA '99 will forever remain a pivotal point in my gaming life -it was a game I certainly enjoyed playing back in the day- and that's why I've given it a somewhat generous 7 out of 10 score. However unless you're a retro footie game nut looking to collect every single title ever released, it's very difficult to recommend this one. Can we at least agree that this has been an interesting read?
I have all the FIFA titles now, 96, 97, 98, 99, 2000 and I am having 2001 for xmas, And basically all I want to say is that all the Fifa titles are absolutely top class football games, Each one just gets better and better, KEEP IT UP EA!
Fifa 99 isn't as good as Fifa 98, but is still a good game. Worth ... upwards, it is an essential game if your a Fifa fan like me. With more teams than any other Fifa game, making your own cup and league, is really good fun, when you play a game like Barcelona v Partizan Belgrade (and lose). The stats you get when in a league or cup are good. If you see this game under..., get it, you won't get it cheaper until Fifa 2002.