It is a rags to riches story that awaits you in Nintendo Pocket Football Club, although not in the traditional sense. As a novice manager with dreams of leading a team to dizzying success, this isn’t the kind of ground that we normally find the Kyoto-based outfit treading.
Your newfound club, for which you can personalise their name, kit and emblem, are equally fuelled by their own ambition. They dream of winning what is known as “the treble”, reigning victorious across the Pro League 1, the Federation Cup, and the World Club Classic within a single season.
It is your unassuming Mii that is appointed as a rookie manager, suddenly empowered with all the decisions that can eventually lead your team from their fumbling days within the Beginner League, through to the glorious heights of the Pro League 1.
Your club’s fans will continually measure and react to your successes and failures, your backing rate fluctuating in response. If it falls too low you can risk being fired from your position, although it is relatively easy to maintain as long as you can balance out your wins and losses.
However, to drive your team upwards through the leagues wins will be all that matters. It is only the overall victor of the Beginners League that gains promotion, and it took me two seasons before even that was within my grasp.
As a simulation game, Nintendo Pocket Football Club largely finds itself revolving around three key areas: constructive training, carefully planned tactics to help your team keep one step ahead, and the matches themselves. Your Home Town is filled with an array of facilities that any budding manager will require, whether that be the Stadium where you play practice and league matches, the Club Office where you can scout for new players and submit transfer requests, the Federation to check scheduled fixtures or putting your players through their paces at the Team Camp to hone their footballing prowess.
Whilst your players will train together week-by-week of their own accord to marginally boost their statistics, it will be with Training Cards that you secure through analysing their weaknesses during matches that make the more significant difference. These can be combined in the hope that you will discover a secret combo that will propel their stats skyward, although it is here that Nintendo Pocket Football Club sprints into its first stumbling block. With no clear indication or strategy in approach as to which are compatible with one another, you’ll be fairly wasteful with your cards as you continually experiment. There’s no doubt that a concerted effort by players after launch will see a guide compiled of successful combos, but if you’re looking to achieve success solely on your own merits then this can easily frustrate. Once uncovered you retain the formula, but only the most persistent players will unearth all 125.
It is Nintendo Pocket Football Club‘s pixel art aesthetic that delights most, lending itself much to the game’s overriding appeal. Player animations aren’t necessarily the most sophisticated that have ever graced a handheld, but there’s a humorous Subbuteo-like nature to how everything plays out. Players playfully bouncing off one another when wrestling for the ball, or the way that they wiggle and wave their arms around for balance whenever tackled.
Matches themselves are split between regularly scheduled league games and practice matches or friendlies that you can play whenever you have a week off. These all serve to allow your Mii, as manager, to spot areas of improvement whilst observing errors made by your team, in turn rewarding you with the aforementioned Training Cards. It can be said that there is a disconnect here, players watching on in bemusement as their team skyrocket the ball toward goals, fail to maintain pace in chasing opponents, and carelessly lose possession. But then that’s what you’re here to change.
Team tactics, therefore, play an important role, players being able to mark the broader zones in which their team should keep within, whether they should prioritise attacking or defending, and if there are any particular players on the opposing team that should always be marked. It may seem superficial but can actually make all the difference especially in trickier matches.
Online play has a certain allure, Ranking Matches seeing you pitted against players across Europe or your country, as well as directly against those on your Friends List. Your team’s progress can be tracked through the official Stats page from launch, where you can also see how others are faring in their managing careers. Meanwhile, bumping into any other players in the real world will see you swap team data through StreetPass, which you can then challenge for extra Training Cards. SpotPass also allows you to directly receive such challengers, so there’s an additional opportunity there if activated.
Nintendo Pocket Football Club kicks into touch a solid enough experience that is sure to find many fans. It is a lack of ease in boosting your team to perfection that holds everything back, as well as the monotony of playing match after match with a lack of variance in between. Otherwise, this proves an enviable foundation for which to build from.