Other than, perhaps, the racing game, there's no game genre so set in stone, so lacking in innovation as the sports game, which survives (and from a market standpoint, thrives) simply by modest tech updates and new player stats on a yearly basis. And there are really only two kinds of sports games; ones that simulate matches in vibrant 3D, and ones that simulate team management in a spreadsheet dressed up with a few graphics.
Which is why Simon Read's New Star Soccer series, of which this is the fourth, is so brilliant; Simon Read is doing something nobody else does. New Star Soccer is a life sim in which you control the life and career of a footballer.
You play matches, of course, moving your character about the field, while AI controls both the opposing team and your team-mates -- but what you do between games is at least as important as your in-game performance. You need to improve your skills, suck up to your boss, keep your team-mates happy (or they'll get pissed off and won't pass to you), find a girlfriend and perhaps get married, spend time with family and friends. It's almost more Kudos than Madden.
It's also vast, far richer and more detailed than most indie games; you can start in almost any league on the planet, from soccer powerhouses like Italy and Brazil to pathetic little pipsqueak countries like Montenegro or the United States. The game contains league information about dozens of countries, and tracks games between teams you aren't playing as well as the ones you are, including support for relegation; because this takes processing time, you usually set up the game so that only one or a handful of nations are tracked, but in principle, you can have the entire world of soccer being simulated in the game's background.
One interesting aspect of the game is that it doesn't fit neatly either into the "character skill" or "player skill" category; your character does have skills, which both training and in-game performance can affect, and which affect how you do on the field, but in addition, you are moving and choosing when to kick or pass and so on. Thus, actual performance in a match is a mix between your character's abilities and your own mastery of the interface. Although if you don't want to bother, you don't have to; you can simply have matches resolved by the same algorithms that control unplayed teams, and concentrate on the game's life-sim aspect.
What's improved in New Star Soccer 4 over version 3 is far superior graphics. We're obviously not talking current-gen console-level graphics, but 3 was at about NES level; 4 is about at early Playstation, with fairly low-poly 3D characters and the ability to control camera angle (only through settings and not on the fly, unfortunately). As our readers know, I generally reject the notion that graphic quality is particularly important in judging the merit of a game, but if you like this game, you will wind up spending many hours with it, and improved aesthetics in this context certainly improve the experience. (The game also has a nicely bouncy samba score with enough variety in tunes that it doesn't quickly pall.)
In our review of 3, we said that your only excuses for not playing this game were either that you're a Murrican who doesn't give a rats ass about futbol, or that the primitive graphics put you off. You no longer have the latter excuse, at any event.