Moving to Substack

Hello,

If you’re on this site, hopefully it’s because you’re interested in my work and/or portfolio. I encourage you to look through the portfolio page to explore both of those things. If you’re here to check out new stories, you will need to head over to my Substack newsletter, where I’ll be posting full length, quality work every week. There will be a free option and eventually a paid option for said newsletter.

I look forward to you joining me over at Kicking the Globe, a newsletter which aims to tell the stories that deserve the front page, but are being ignored.

Thank you,

Dominic José Bisogno

Supporting Abroad – Sheffield Wednesday in the USA

It’s no secret that support from outside of a club’s immediate area, along with becoming quite common, has become more and more important to just about any club. Many fans from abroad are often assumed as only glory hunting for the top sides. This, however, simply isn’t the whole story. Therefore, I’ve decided to kick off a simple and straight forward series that looks to show individuals and supporters groups from around the world that promote the support of clubs that aren’t competing for champions league spots or league titles. This is Supporting Abroad.

This time around, I spoke with Owls Americas. The group manages the support for Sheffield Wednesday in North and South America and features a good bit of infrastructure, including a fully-functioning site and an online merchandise store. Sheffield Wednesday are currently in the EFL Championship, where they set in 14th as of the writing of this piece.


Q: When did your group take form? How has it grown since its initial founding?

A: Owls Americas was setup in 2017 as a way to bring all our American supporter groups together under one umbrella and to facilitate other fans in forming their own groups and finding people to watch the game with. We started with just 4-5 groups and now have 12 groups and a lot more reps in cities across the Americas.

Q: What are some of the key reasons you support Sheffield Wednesday? What has been your favorite part of being a supporter?

A: Myself (Paddy), i grew up in the area of Sheffield in the UK, so simply chose the best local team I could go and watch! Others in our group who weren’t born in the UK have found us through all sorts of means, maybe a love of Owls, a love of our american import John Harkes, a love of Sheffield music, or just because they liked our logo on FIFA!

Q: What are some challenges you face supporting Sheffield Wednesday, whether that be during games or outside of the 90 minutes?

A: The only challenges we face nowadays is the pain of watching a team going through a big transition! With iFollow we get to watch every minute of every game, so its much more accessible than it ever was to people outside of the UK. We’ve also got a few podcasts to listen to (including our own “Owls Americast”) so fans have a raft of info and knowledge available to them.

Q: If a person is considering supporting Sheffield Wednesday, what would be your pitch to win them over?

A: This club has a great tradition, great history, its a sleeping giant, if you get on board now no one will call you a Glory Chaser, you’re joining at the start of a(nother) new era. It’s always interesting, the fans are very welcoming, we have a fantastic group of fans here in the Americas and we love helping new fans get to know us better.

Q: What are some thoughts you have on the state of your current season? What are some things you hope or improve before the 20/21 season kicks off?

A: We were left in the lurch this season, after Steve Bruce left us a couple of weeks before the start, we felt betrayed. We had been playing well under him. We’ve brought in Monk who started well, but had a disastrous start to 2020, we are having a complete clear-out of players and building a squad with the right attitude. Next year will be making an entirely new squad gel and giving Garry Monk the chance to push us up the league. The best thing about the championship is that it’s so open, and you dont need to have all your ducks in order to finish top 6, although that would certainly help!!


Sheffield Wednesday are by all means a club with a chance at more than their current status and it’s encouraging to see they’ll have a vast range of passionate supporters around the globe when the time finally comes. Until then, they’ll have to work with championship ball.

Supporting Abroad – Huddersfield in the USA

It’s no secret that support from outside of a club’s immediate area, along with becoming quite common, has become more and more important to just about any club. Many fans from abroad are often assumed as only glory hunting for the top sides. This, however, simply isn’t the whole story. Therefore, I’ve decided to kick off a simple and straight forward series that looks to show individuals and supporters groups from around the world that promote the support of clubs that aren’t competing for champions league spots or league titles. This is Supporting Abroad.

Today’s article is on Huddersfield Town supporters in the United States. The club were in the Premier League most recently from 2017 to 2019 under the leadership of current Schalke 04 boss David Wagner. The West Yorkshire club, favorites of Sir Patrick Stewart, are most recently struggling in the bottom half of the EFL Championship.

The following Q&A with Mark and Chris of HTAFC in the USA, the official US supporters club network for Huddersfield Town. As you’ll see, supporting Huddersfield has proven a difficult passion, but a passion nonetheless.


Q: When did your group take form? How has it grown since its initial founding?
A/M: Chris formed the USA Terriers Twitter account a few years ago. I started the Stateside Terriers Facebook page. When we reached the Premier League two years ago the club realized it had zero formal presence in the USA so adopted us as the “official” North American supporters group. We have over 100 Facebook members & over 700 Twitter followers, but I think that Chris bought some Twitter followers a few years ago. 

Q: What are some of the key reasons you support Huddersfield? What has been your favorite part of being a supporter? 
A/M: There are only two reasons to be a Town fan. 1. Born there. 2. Dad supported them. For me & Chris it’s both. The 2017 season for Town is as good as we will ever know. Staying up had some great moments – beating Man Utd, drawing at Chelsea to stay up, winning 3-0 in our first ever PL game – but there were way too many defensive games, trying to grind out a point (and failing) or nick 3 for it to be considered true fun. If we get promoted it won’t be as good as 2017 when the odds were totally stacked against us, but destiny was with us. That season was special. 

Q: What are some challenges you face supporting Huddersfield, whether that be during games or outside of the 90 minutes?
A/M: We’ve generally been somewhere between shit & average for all of my life, which is a challenge. That said, it’s a rare saeson that we haven’t had something to play for on the last day of the season & we are ridiculously successful in the play-oofs and penalty shootouts. I’d say the challenges we face as fans are pretty common for all teams outside the top six – media either ignores or patronizes us & we have no way to truly compete. All that just makes our moments of success all the sweeter.

Q: If a person is considering supporting Huddersfield, what would be your pitch to win them over?
A/M: In 2017 I convinced lots of Americans to follow us based on the fairytale we were living. Other than that it’s a pretty tough sell. 

Q: What are some thoughts you have on the state of your current season? What are some things you hope or improve before the 20/21 season kicks off?
A/M: It’s been a shambles from day one with one exception – the appointment of the Cowley brothers as manager(s). They should just about see us safe, but after that we need the biggest overhaul we’ve ever seen. how frustrating/ridiculous given that we just earned $300 million from the Premier League over two seasons. If we can back them sufficiently, we might have a shot at promotion. Maybe.

A/C: Worth noting we have a pretty incredible history; we won the top league (now called the premier league) three times in a row. Only Huddersfield, Man Utd, Arsenal and Liverpool have ever done that before (then its a big debate who is the biggest of those 4, but I think Town just edge it). We are a northern team, with working class roots. I try pitch it that way when I’m in the mid-west or Texas.


Huddersfield is one of many examples of clubs that, despite being outside of the top class teams, has managed to piece together a following outside of England. Their working class roots and underdog status, particularly in their brief years in the premier league, has earned the respect and passion we place at the core of active support. Needless to say, HTAFC in the USA provide a reminder that international support for a club can come in all shapes and sizes.

You Might Not Know – Football at the Island Games

IIGA logo, courtesy of the IIGA.

I’ve made an effort throughout the years to try and always leave room to learn about the lesser knowns in the world of football. I consider myself a fan of the underdogs, outcasts, and misunderstood. I’ve enjoyed keeping an eye on all sorts of tiers of football in all sorts of countries, whether that be amateur, low level professional, or even the likes of CONIFA, an organization which helps represent stateless and otherwise unrepresented communities on the pitch. That all being said, when I stumbled on to the Island Games, I was shocked at the utter lack of knowledge in my grasp.

The Island Games are a series of sporting events, first held in 1985, which feature a range of island nations competing in the sort of activities standard to multi-sport events like the Olympics. There’s swimming, gymnastics, archery, tennis, and even basketball on some occasions. The event which caught my eye, however, was the football. The Island Games, which are held every two years, have hosted football every iteration, except for 1987 and more recently in 2019. The latter was due to a lack of facilities in the host nation of Gilbralter.

What stood out to me the most about the football (both men’s and women’s) at the Island Games is that it sees FIFA and non-FIFA members ducking it out against one another. FIFA members like Bermuda and the Faroe Islands have managed success in the tournament, while Greenland, a CONIFA member, have reached the final twice (note: one final was reached prior to CONIFA membership was granted in 2016). Other teams, often independently operated or working within a local federation, have also found success. These include the Isle of Man, Ynys Môn, and the Isle of Wight. Other major European islands with FIFA recognition have either not taken part or left over time, including the likes of Iceland and Malta.

The 2006 FIFI Wild Cup Greenland squad. Photo courtesy of the XenonX3.

To have FIFA, CONIFA, and otherwise run football associations agreeing to consistently meet on the pitch in a competitive nature, in addition to giving otherwise poorly represented areas to host said events, is minor miracle. There is, it should be noted, a clear focus on a certain area of world. All current members have a direct connection to Europe, either by being in Europe or by being a territory of a European nation. The only example breaking this rule is Prince Edward Island, who took part in various activities from 1991 to 2007. Prince Edward Island is a province of Canada, which, while certainly still holding close ties to the UK, is obviously not in Europe.

Another issue in this otherwise surprisingly bright situation is that even more involved FIFA members have not always participated. The last to play were Gibraltar in 2015, with Bermuda not taking part since winning gold in 2013. There is a slight Asterix for that disengagement, however. Because football was not played at the 2019 Island Games (due to a lack of available pitches), a separate tournament was played in Wales, titled the 2019 Inter Games Football tournament. The tournament allowed teams to not go completely inactive and featured a development squad from Gilbraltar.

Along the way, the Island Games have seen a share of proper professionals, particularly via the presence of FIFA-recognized sides like Gibraltar and Bermuda. Rai Simons and Tyrell Burgess, who’ve played for the likes of Chesterfield and the Vancouver Whitecaps respectively, both showed for Bermuda. Liam Walker, who’s had stints at the likes of Portsmouth and Notts County, did his time for Gibraltar. Alexander Weckström, who’s played the for likes of prominent Finnish club IFK Mariehamn, represented the Åland Islands.

The Isle of Man senior squad line up during the 2019 Inter Games Football Tournament. Photo courtesy of Paul Hatton.

All of this to say, the Island Games are just one the many tournaments outside of the upper echelons of the game that football fans should be keeping on eye on. I was deeply unfamiliar with the tournament until recently, a situation I immediately felt the need to help prevent. The Island Games, along with similar tournaments in other portions of the world and other global tournaments, are yet another part of the puzzle. Support local, support the underdog, support the underrepresented. In the end, however fits you best, support the game.

A document explaining all by-laws for football at the Island Games can be found and explored here. The International Island Games Association (IIGA)’s contact information can be found here.

Retrospective64 – 1080 Snowboarding

The Nintendo 64 was my first console. It’s many cartridges, trident-like controller, and countless classics were the foundation for my video game experience. As quarantines and isolations continue to keep many, including me, at home, I’ve decided to look through my catalogue of N64 games and explore how they’ve stood, or fallen to, the test of time.

1080 Snowboarding is, if nothing else, a blizzard of nostalgia. The 1998 release was one of many sports games released for the N64 throughout its run, but few had the sense of personality 1080 brought. For those utterly unfamiliar, 1080 Snowboarding is a snowboard racing game, in which you try to complete a snowboarding course. Different game options pit you against a fellow snowboarder a timer, but the core of the gameplay experience is the trick system.

1080 Snowboarding’s North American cover. Courtesy of Nintendo.

Tricks, essential for earning points in the game which are useful for certain game modes and otherwise just fun to attempt, are done through a variety of button and joystick maneuvers. All tricks require you to be in the air, through the jump function or otherwise, and require a pretty well timed execution. I frequently found my tricks not being registered in time to even start their animation before I hit the ground. This, I suspect, is also in part due to the age of my controller and its joystick.

To give you an idea, here’s a series of trick commands, all following a jump via the A button:

Shifty – hold joystick to left, B

Tail Grab – hold joystick down, B

360° Open Air – press right bumper, swing joystick around in complete circle starting from the top, can turn joystick right or left to turn in the respective direction

The most fun, and brutally dated part of this game is the music. Nagata is a legendary composer for countless Nintendo projects, but 1080 is one of his few works that feel pretty stuck to its time. Tunes like “Vacant Lives” and “Work Your Body” aren’t just memorable, they feel like they must’ve been songs outside of the game. They do, however, sound intensely 90’s, in a way that real 90’s music doesn’t even sound, and sort of don’t match the expectations I’d normally have for an in-house Nintendo soundtrack. It’s fun to hear, but it never even courts the iconic nature of many other franchises’ soundscapes.

There are five man character options for this game. You pick your character before starting a series of races or a one off race depending on the mode you choose. You will also then choose your board and footing style. Those five characters are Kensuke Kimachi, Dion Blaster, Rob Haywood, Akari Hayami, and Ricky Winterborn. Three additional characters (Ice Man, Gold Boarder, and The Panda) are unlockable through a series of challenges or controller manipulation.

Different characters have different stats that suit certain challenges more. You do get the sense when playing each character that they are capable of different things, though planning that out for each course can sometimes be more work than a kid trying to play a snowboarding game is interested in. I typically choose Kensuke Kimachi or Rob Haywood, who are both just quite balanced.

The game is pretty enjoyable visually. The characters are all clearly different from one another and look pretty good for the time, as do the range of environments. While all are in the end essentially a trail of snow, they still feel individual and play around with different scenery and time of day quite well. The subtle effects your board or hand has on the snow is also a nice touch that adds a little more realism to a video game that can otherwise feel very very video gamey.

1080 Snowboarding was never going to challenge the more essential Nintendo 64 classics for my time. I’ll always rather play a more story driven and detailed game. That being said, replaying a few courses and exploring the trick menu again has provided a needed reminder that this game is one of the most straight forward fun options you can get for the N64.

If you’re just starting a 64 collection, there’s games you should get before this one, but it still deserves a spot on the list. While racing game fans will likely pick Mario Kart, or F-Zero X, over it (and they should), those looking for a game where they can mix time trials and races with a complex range of tricks and interesting courses will find a comforting home. 7/10

Retrospective64 – F-Zero-X

The Nintendo 64 was my first console. It’s many cartridges, trident-like controller, and countless classics were the foundation for my video game experience. As quarantines and isolations continue to keep many, including me, at home, I’ve decided to look through my catalogue of N64 games and explore how they’ve stood, or fallen to, the test of time.

If I had to explain F-Zero X in just a few words, it’d be that it’s the “this ain’t your dad’s ___” of racing games. While other N64 classics, like Mario Kart 64, provide a night of family fun on the race track, this 1998 entry in the F-Zero franchise is as close to edgy as you’ll get from an in-house Nintendo game.

The game has excellent world building and builds on everything teased by its SNES predecessor. Each pilot and vehicle is unique and the vast major have proven memorable even when I go a good while without playing the game. I can easily recall drivers like Pico, Octoman, Bio Rex off the top of my head and of course the game features Captain Falcon, who’s Smash Bros.’ fame is larger than that of this franchise. The vehicles stand out equally. Like its driver, the Wild Goose was always a favorite of mine, but the Blood Hawk, Fire Stingray, and Red Gazelle are equally iconic.

F-Zero X advertisement art. Photo courtesy of Nintendo.

Much like Star Fox 64, this is generally a game that clearly knew how it wanted to look. The tracks themselves mirror this as much as the characters, with the likes of Mute City and Big Blue providing unforgettable racing experiences. It goes beyond the literal track though, the pixelated world around the tracks provides a look into a dangerous, dystopian world that echoes the edgy appearances of the pilots, all of which look worthy of an appearance in a Star Wars cantina or Jabba’s Palace. Like many Nintendo games of the time, F-Zero X is as fun to explore and exist in as it is to race through.

The game’s soundtrack was composed by Taro Bando and Hajime Wakai, who both provide a gritty series of rock anthems for the dark and stormy franchise. The music is toned down during the actual races, a reasonable choice given the chaos that ensues in almost every play through, but it’s present enough to help you feel like your at the center of something great. It’s a soundtrack that distances itself from the usual fun tracks we associate with 90’s Nintendo but that’s another aspect of why the game is so memorable. Not to repeat myself, but, this ain’t your dad’s Nintendo game.

The game is quite straight forward. The A button manages your thrust, while the joystick steers your vehicle. After you complete the first lap of any race, you’ll receive a boost ability that drains your shields every time you use it. That can be triggered by pressing B. The right bumper and Z buttons trigger an attacking move to your right and left respectively. Pressing both together causes you to spin and deal more damage to nearby vehicles, though attacking in general can slow you down.

There are four main modes for the game. The first is the GP, which is one of five race sets. These sets are the Jack, Queen, King, Joker, and X GP’s, with the last two being unlocked after certain achievements. There are also three difficulties: Novice, Standard, Expert, and Master.

The other three modes are Time Attack, Death Race, and VS. Time Attack has you complete a three lap track by yourself (a ghost competitor is optional) in an attempt to finish as fast as possible. Death Race has you go on to a special track in which you and the other 29 vehicles race endlessly until only one remains. It’s more or less a death match mode and certainly matches the film franchise it takes its name from. VS is the multiplayer mode of the game and sees you face off against up to three other players. All in all, F-Zero X has all the modes you’d expect. The combination of the GP’s, Time Attack, and Death Race provide enough to keep the player entertained for quite awhile, even for those like myself that don’t love racing games by default.

There are few N64 games I remember as fondly as F-Zero X. It’s one of those games that makes you feel like you’re in an exciting, dangerous world and gives you endless reasons to come back. I’ve played through each cup with dozens of different pilots over the years, always finding new challenges along the way and always coming back to the game when I find myself plugging the N64 back in.

If you love some old school dystopian sci-fi, racing, or seeing the edgier side of Nintendo in the 90’s, this is really the perfect game to get you started. 8/10

Four Unforgettable Matches

Allianz Field. Image courtesy of Minnesota United.

Photo courtesy of Minnesota United.

With the beautiful game in a constant state of change, writing about football has been an interesting pass time over the course of 2020. While I usually aim for larger articles looking to investigate a story, I’ve also decided post the occasional blog post while I seek out other projects. The following is one of those blog posts.

In search of a way to write about football while there’s no football being played, I’ve decided to take on a little thought exercise and write about five football matches I’ve attended that stand out as unforgettable moments for me. They’re listed in no particular order and each one has a special place in my heart.

Minnesota United host Portland Timbers (2019) – US Open Cup Semi-Finals

Played on August 7th, my birthday, this match was a historic one for Minnesota United in its MLS era. The club, after two years of struggling in the league, making virtually no progress in the domestic cup, and calling a college (American) football stadium home, had suddenly made a deep run in the USOC. Hosted at Allianz Field, the club’s beautiful new stadium, the semi-final against the Portland Timbers was the last key to qualifying for the final, which would be hosted in Atlanta.

Having attended only a few matches at Allianz that year, I had yet to see Minnesota win at home. The stakes were a little extra high this time around, for a few reasons: It was my birthday and I’d made a trip to see the game, the result would have a major effect on the team’s season, and (in addition to my parents being there) I had brought my girlfriend to see her first ever professional live match of football.

Darwin Quintero scored a penalty to give us the lead, before Brian Fernández equalized right before halftime. A long ball and glorious strike from Mason Toye would hand Minnesota the lead in the 64th minute and the scoreline would go unchanged for the rest of the match.

After singing wonderwall, we left the stadium and I was able to bask in an amazing day of football. I’d watched Minnesota United win one of their biggest-ever matches, and was able to share the experience with my parents and girlfriend along the way.

Duluth FC at AFC Ann Arbor (2018) – NPSL Midwest Region Final

2018 was the first of my two years working with Duluth FC as a staff writer and part of the travel staff. That year was a long journey of ups and downs. I had my car break down on an away day, saw us got a hard point on the road, a victorious three, and sometimes none. The staff were all volunteers for the club, so the long trips and work were all out of passion more than anything else. We qualified for the playoffs in our last regular season game against Med City and were then sent off to drive two vans from Duluth, MN to Ann Arbor, MI.

The ten hour trip was a long, entertaining, and strange one, but we finally arrived at our hotel the day before the first match. We would play a semi-final for the region the next day. If we won, we’d play in the final the day after. We beat Minneapolis City 2-1 in AET and logged a night of sleep before the big day.

Julian Villegas takes on an AFC Ann Arbor player in the Midwest final. Photo courtesy of Alex Ganeev.

The match against Ann Arbor in the final was a crazy one, ending 3-3 after 90 minutes with Kyle Farrar, Ryan Tyrer, and Joe Watt scoring for Duluth. AET resulted in chances but no goals, leading to a penalty shootout. Alberto Ciroi saved two penalties to put us a winning position if Liam Moore scored his. He did. The not-playing players and staff (including me) had lined up at the sideline with arms around each other for the entire affair. When Liam’s goal went in, we (and the players on the pitch) went insane.

It was one of the most fun nights of my life. We took pictures with the trophy, got our medals, and prepared for a long journey back home (and an eventual trip to Miami for the national semi-final). I’d enjoyed a lot of soccer games in my life, but this was the first time it felt like I’d been a part of something big. That was special.

Minnesota United host Real Salt Lake (2017) – First Win in MLS Regular Season

The 2017 season was a rough one for Minnesota United, especially early on. Countless matches ended in steep defeats and the club was holding tightly on to the occasional draw for signs of hope. Having attended the first home game, a horrible loss, I trekked back to the Twin Cities with the help of my dad to see the second home game against RSL.

The match started tough, with Luke Mulholland scoring for RSL just four minutes in. For many fans, it seemed like the same old same old was on the way. My dad and me stayed hopeful and our hopes were repaid in the 16th minute when Kevin Molino equalized. It was 1-1 at the half but over the last 45 minutes, Christian Ramirez would score twice and Johan Venegas would add a fourth to give Minnesota an eventual 4-2 win.

Singing wonderwall for the first time in MLS, the entire stadium was alive with pride and passion for their club. The season may have started horribly, but that win against RSL was a sign of the progress to come. It was a special night for the club and a special night for me.

Duluth FC at Miami FC (2018) – NPSL National Semi-Finals

Having won the regional final, Duluth FC now needed to travel to Miami for the national semi-finals to face former NASL members Miami FC. The team flew there this time around, arriving the day before our match, the first time the club had made the final stage of the NPSL playoffs.

The team trained at the field the day before the match, earning an absolute sweat storm along the way. This warranted a trip to a laundry mat, which I took on. In all honesty, it was a bit of a fish out of water situation.

We finally reached the match, having explored a few places to eat and South Beach, and faced off against the essentially-professional Miami FC. Issues with power to our locker room and a lack of materials promised by the hosts led to a slow warm up, while I stood out front giving tickets to various Duluth fans attending for the club and/or players they had connections to.

Eventually the game kicked off, with me now operating as the photographer due to our usual photographer, Alex Ganeev, not being able to come with the team. Using a camera rented from my college’s media lab, I did my best to take photos of the action while Duluth faced Miami. The match ended 3-0, with the hosts proving too good for our band of amateur all-stars. There was pride in the result, however, because we had made it this far. It was an important lesson in the value of a loss and three days of travel, preparation, and football that I’ll never forget.

Retrospective64 – Starfox 64

The Nintendo 64 was my first console. It’s many cartridges, trident-like controller, and countless classics were the foundation for my video game experience. As quarantines and isolations continue to keep many, including me, at home, I’ve decided to look through my catalogue of N64 games and explore how they’ve stood, or fallen to, the test of time.

Only a handful of games challenge Star Fox 64 for the top tiers of N64 legendary status. Released in 1997, the game built on the foundations of the original SNES title with a vast new range of graphical capabilities and continued focus on quality world building and sound design.

The game sees you take control of the Star Fox team through its leader, Fox McCloud. At your side are Slippy Toad, Falco Lombardi, and Peppy Hare. ROB64/NUS64 provides team management from the team’s flagship and offers supplies and hints throughout the game. Your mission, given to you by General Pepper, is to destroy the evil interplanetary mad scientist Andross. You do so by making your way through the system, planet to planet, destroying his minions.

The box cover of Star Fox 64. Courtesy of Nintendo.

The majority of the game has you traverse through the map in a sort of straight line, killing enemies as they come, though a handful of maps see you fight in a more three dimensional space, circling one central target.

Star Fox 64, and the entire franchise, is a masterclass in world building. Just like its compatriots in the Super Mario and Legend of Zelda franchises, Star Fox oozes with well, Star Fox. You barely need to leave the menu and opening animations to get a grasp on the futuristic, gritty world you’re diving into. With every planet, you learn more about this strange universe of 80’s science-fi combined with a world of sentient animals. Every type of ship, tank, and robot has extreme detail and can frequently be identified from far away. Your own ship, the Arwing, is exquisitely designed and looks like it could fit perfectly into any top science fiction universe.

That quality of design is added to by a great cast of characters, both visually and audibly, who all stand out as well though out and developed. Each voice is unique and perfectly cartoonish, something shown by the meme-like power of Peppy’s one liners (i.e. “Do a barrel roll!”).

Both Hajime Wakai and Koji Kondo are collaborated on the soundtrack for Star Fox 64 and both knocked it out of the park with the job of creating a soundscape that both reflects the subtle horror of the countless monsters and obstacles you face in the void of space and the proud passion of Fox Team as they achieve victory mission after mission. The Star Fox Theme, the spine of the soundtrack, is a plane and simple classic from this era and one that lives in other Star Fox games along with the Super Smash Bros. franchise.

All in all, one of Star Fox 64‘s biggest accomplishments is creating such a consistent and strong series of images and sounds to immerse players in a world they may well be brand new to.

The controls for the game are relatively simple. The C buttons, along with the joystick, give you all the basic managements of your vehicle, including steering, braking, and boosting. The right bumper and Z button provide you some of your more fancy moves, including the famous barrel roll maneuver. The A button fires your main attack, while the B button launches the bombs you can collect. If you can handle a N64 controller, you can handle these controls. I hadn’t played the game in years prior to doing so for this review and got back into it instantly.

The game’s upgrade system, which is per planet, is quite straight forward. You can collect silver rings to regain health. Gold rings do the same, but when you collect three you will receive an armor upgrade which can prove vital in boss battles, which are the centerpiece of the campaign. You can also pick up laser upgrades which improve your main weapon. There is also a wing repair item and a 1-Up item.

One of Star Fox 64‘s best aspects, especially looking back, is the player’s ability to unlock secondary paths, new missions, and alternative bosses. These opportunities are spread across the game and allow for a brand new experience every run. This is especially useful for a game which is relatively easy to finish in an hour or so.

The hidden bosses and planets tend to bring an increased difficulty, but also a brand new wave of experiences and even a few new characters. While its gameplay may be more like a three dimensional cousin of the classic vertical scrolling shooter, it’s detailed personalization feels almost like an RPG of sorts.

Star Fox 64 is an absolute classic, something you shouldn’t need me to tell you. It’s aged remarkably well and is still an engaging futuristic shooter even in 2020. The design, on all ends, is impeccable and iconic and you’ll find that revisiting its countless enemies, allies, bosses, and maps is a welcome journey down memory lane. 9/10

Retrospective64 – World Cup 98

The Nintendo 64 was my first console. It’s many cartridges, trident-like controller, and countless classics were the foundation for my video game experience. As quarantines and isolations continue to keep many, including me, at home, I’ve decided to look through my catalogue of N64 games and explore how they’ve stood, or fallen to, the test of time.

Box cover for World Cup 98. Courtesy of EA Canada.

Note: To prepare for this, I played through the World Cup 98 campaign, which reconstructs the group stage and knockout stage of the tournament, with Romania. I chose Romania above all because they were a medium ranked team and provided a nice challenge. I’m happy to say that I took them all the way and won the final 1-0 over England.

World Cup 98 is, to put it simply, a wonderful slice of nostalgia. While modern FIFA players may find themselves horrified by its lacking mechanics and pixelated look, I can’t help but think of countless experiences playing the game with family, friends, and just myself over the years. The game was made by EA Canada and is one of the few games I’ll be discussing on here that isn’t made by Nintendo or a company closely affiliated with Nintendo.

Despite feeling quite different from EA’s more modern interpretations of the beautiful game, a lot of the basic controls are still there. The joystick of course directs motion. The A and B buttons give your basic passing, tackling, and shooting. The C buttons provide a range of tactics, including sliding tackles, through passes, and purposeful fouls. All in all, it’s a slightly more complicated and spread out version of the FIFA controls you use today.

Overall, it’s really the physics, not the mechanics, that differentiate the games. There’s a strange feeling to how the ball moves in this game and every time you took a shot on goal it seems like the game has decided every attempt has to look like a screamer, with even the most basic shot rocketing across the screen. The passes can be a bit frustrating to target and often a slight error in how your facing will result in a ball being cannoned across the pitch to a random opponent. This isn’t helped by the camera being quite close to the player with the ball, instead of a more zoomed out look as we often see now. I like the intimacy of the zoom in, but it does make it harder to navigate the pitch.

I, as much as I love this game, have to also mention that there’s a sort of delay in many of the commands that means you’ll often think you’ve planned out a great run and shot, only for the player to dribble it a few feet further because you pressed B too late and the keeper just comes and grabs it.

(music/sound) The sounds of this game aren’t all that different from most modern football games, in fact the crowd cheering sounds oddly similar. The menu has a nice tune but otherwise it’s pretty straight forward. The one bright light, albeit a strange one, is the inclusion of Chumbawamba’s hit(?) “Tubthumping” as the intro song. In comparison to the repetitive pop tracks that populate most games of the genre now, it’s a welcome risk, even if the song isn’t your (my) cup of tea.

If nothing else, World Cup 98 is a great bit of nostalgia. You can relive a great World Cup of the past on an already old school console and even get to play as some classic players. Playing it for this reminded me of the endless fun I had with it as a child, including goofing around with a friend to see how many players we could get red cards by slide tackling the head ref.

If you’re looking for a great football game, this probably isn’t it. It’s not especially realistic and frankly is probably more work than just picking up a modern alternative. That being said, if you have it or love yourself some nostalgia and have money on hand, I would highly encourage you to consider giving it a shot.

In a footballing world that’s more and more about clean new modern marketing, it’s nice to just enjoy a slap stick version of the game with some pixelated all-stars. It’s nice to remember when football was just a game played between some kids, that’s a memory football fans shouldn’t let themselves forget. 7/10

Fariñez to RC Lens – Why It’s Exciting

With the beautiful game in a constant state of change, writing about football has been an interesting pass time over the course of 2020. While I usually aim for larger articles looking to investigate a story, I’ve also decided post the occasional blog post while I seek out other projects. The following is one of those blog posts.

Recent news has revealed a very exciting move for la Vinotinto’s top goalkeeper, Wuilker Fariñez. The Caracas-born keeper joined Millonarios in 2018, following his heroics throughout the 2017 U20 World Cup and a series of senior team appearances, immediately announcing himself to the Colombian game. He made his debut in a pair of appearances against Atlético Nacional in the Superliga Colombiana, which he won. 

Since then, he’s been a constant face in the Millonarios lineup, in addition to Venezuela’s. The 22 year old’s roots in Caracas should not be forgotten. He played with Caracas FC at the youth and senior levels, making his name early in FutVe as a shot stopper. Further details on his skills can be seen in the Solovenex montage below.

Now, however, Fariñez is set to finally show his skills in Europe with the announcement of a move to RC Lens, who were promoted to Ligue 1 in the 2019-20 season. Lens were in second place with 53 points in Ligue 2 when French football chose to end their seasons early due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They return to the top tier of France after being relegated down to Ligue 2 in the 2014-15 season. The club had the least losses in Ligue 2 after 28 games with five, three less than first place Lorient.

Fariñez move marks yet another key figure from the 2017 U20 World Cup run being rewarded for their efforts, as he joins the likes of Yangel Herrera, Samuel Sosa, Sergio Córdova, and Adalberto Peñaranda in the ranks of Europe. Fariñez has been rumored for quite some time with connections to Europe, with many wondering why he was still in Colombia despite already being one of la Vinotinto’s most important players.

Lens supporters showing their passion. Photo courtesy of RC Lens.

All of this being said, I’d like to look through the potentials of this move and give my thoughts on what it could mean for Fariñez.

For better or for worse, there is a certain status given to playing in certain parts of the world. Colombia, and certainly Venezuela, do not fit into that view of the great leagues of the world. These days even Brazil and Argentina struggle to stay high on that list for some, especially those unfamiliar with South America.

Wuilker Fariñez is, and has been for some time, one of Venezuela’s biggest talents. We have good forwards. We have good midfielders. We have good defenders. We have a supernatural goalkeeper. You cannot train reflexes like those shown in Fariñez’ various famous triple saves, like the one against Atlético Nacional in the above highlight reel. There is rarely game where la Vinotinto are not saved and improved by his presence and it’s easy to understand how the 22 year old is an automatic addition to the starting eleven.

The stats are not unkind either. In his 22 appearances for la Vinotinto, he’s kept eleven clean sheets. His defensive record expands to the Copa Liberatdores and Copa Sudamericana, where he’s shined for both Millonarios and Caracas. All in all, Fariñez has almost 200 professional club appearances between his two homes, impressing at both.

Despite the obvious talent, Fariñez’ lack of European adventures has left his career seeming less eventful in comparison to his many compatriots. How do outfield players still finding their footing manage to find homes in Germany, Spain, and England while an obvious star waits in the wings?

Now he’s finally off to France, seemingly with first team Ligue 1 football in his grasp. It’s a major jump for the Venezuelan spider and likely to prove a challenge. He’ll have to contend with the top clubs of France for points, and likely survival. PSG, Lyon, and Marseille are, to be frank, an utterly different animal compared to most of what Fariñez has faced at the club level. As part of a newly promoted club, the Venezuelan keeper will be asked to take on a huge task. That said, I think there’s no better challenge for a player who has been underestimated and undervalued for so long.

Improved quality of opposition and a vast new world of coaches, teammates, and influences would have a major impact on any player. For someone like Fariñez, who is already a starlet at 22, they could be the key to greatness.

With the remainder of their offseason work still unclear, it’d be fair to say Lens shouldn’t be expected to finish especially high on the Ligue 1 table, though given their strong Ligue 2 season and their apparent intelligence in finding strong hidden gems in the offseason, I’m beginning to feel they’re set to avoid relegation back to Ligue 2. One decent season with Lens could do wonders for Fariñez’ stock in the transfer market. I believe that “decent” season is very much in the cards. I expect Fariñez to impress, especially in the context of a young keeper making his European debut, and I expect that Lens will manage to lock in Ligue 1 football for the 2021-22 season.

This move, one which almost happened a year ago, will prove a vital step in the career of one of the most important active Venezuelan footballers today. It will be the year that Wuilker Fariñez man stops existing only in the bubble of South American football writers and fans. It will be the year he joins the likes of Herrera, Rincón, Chancellor, Osorio, and Machís as ambassadors of Venezuelan quality in Europe. Folks, it’s going to be quite the year.

I might be wrong, but probably not.