Released in Japanese arcades last year, Libero Grande is Namco's attempt at giving the soccer genre a swift kick in the butt. Unlike other soccer games where you control the entire team, in Libero Grande you only control one member of the team. Basically, it's like playing "real" soccer. Based on Namco's System 12 hardware, Libero Grande has made a successful leap to Sony's home system. When choosing from one of the various modes (Arcade, International Cup, Exhibition and World League) you'll take the field along with the other members of your team. Viewed from a distinctly different view than the usual overhead perspective, in Libero Grande you actually feel like you're on the field.
The stadiums are well-constructed, and the whole game gives you an amazing feeling of depth, meaning that the stadium feels like a stadium. Of course, this wouldn't be a Namco game unless they were to add features exclusive to the home version. In addition to the normal one-player game, an additional player may join in for cooperative play via a vertical split screen. This actually works very well as you wait for your teammates to pass the ball to you, since the perspective gives you an effective view of the field. For soccer-game aficionados who wish to sharpen their skills, there is a mode called Challenge 9. Through various drills you are able to hone your penalty-kick shots, goal-scoring accuracy, ball-dribbling drills involving cones, etc. The only thing this game lacks is a FIFA license, but anyone with a hankering for a more "realistic" soccer game will be hard-pressed to do better than this.
Although Namco hasn't announced any plans to bring this one to the States, it would certainly be a refreshing change from the usual yearly updates to the more familiar franchises. At the very least, Libero Grande remains a compelling import purchase.