Comrade athletes, ready your joysticks!Forget upgraded technology and smoother graphics. When 2006 FIFA World Cup goes on sale here on Friday, it will lure Korean game players by giving them the chance to play the Korean team ― that is, the North Korean team.
Yup, that’s correct. The latest version in the FIFA series features, for the first time in soccer game history, the North Korean squad.
According to Electronics Arts Korea, the game was developed based on actual data about the players obtained exclusively from FIFA.
This is probably the first, if not the only, game developed in a Western country that does not depict North Koreans as targets. Most other games have relegated North Koreans to the role of terrorists, as can be seen in the first-person shooting games released last year, such as “Mercenaries,” “Ghost Recon 2,” and “Splinter Cell 3.” These games involved missions in which the players had to battle North Korean soldiers or infiltrate into the country. These games were banned in South Korea on the grounds that the subjects were too sensitive and that scenes of war on the Korean Peninsula might disturb people.
FIFA, however, has no hard feelings towards the North Koreans. In the game, the country’s players wear red uniforms with the North Korean flag on their left breast. Spectators far away in the crowd can be seen waving North Korean flags; before a game, the country’s national anthem is even rung out.
One particularly interesting feature is that South Koreans can “replay” the 1993 game between the two Koreas that was part of the preliminary matches for the World Cup. Players can play against the North Korean team on the South Korean side or play the North Korean team against the South Koreans. In the actual game, the South Koreans won 3-0, but history can always be rewritten digitally.
The 2006 FIFA World Cup includes 127 national teams, including the teams of countries that were left out in the previous 2002 version due to licensing problems, such as the Dutch and Japanese squads.
For its Korean release, the entire game has been dubbed into Korean. The real-life commentators Park Moon-sung and Kim Dong-yeon provide running conversations during games.
2006 FIFA World Cup is available on four platforms: PC (36,000 won, about $38), PS2 (45,000 won), Xbox360 (49,000 won), and PSP. The PSP version will be released in late May. The game can also be played online.
by Wohn Dong-hee