Nintendo Pocket Football Club is a recently released digital only Nintendo eShop game based on the 2006 Game Boy Advance game called Calcio Bit. It is published by Nintendo and made by developers ParityBit who among Calcio Bit also made Derby Stallion Advance, Best Play Pro Yakyuu, Kyoutei Wars Mark 6 and Derby Stallion 64. With the 2014 Fifa World Cup starting soon did Nintendo Pocket Football Club come at just the right time after six years in development? or should you just spend your money on some Panini stickers?
Nintendo Pocket Football Club has gotten mixed reviews by gaming press but I feel that most of the reviews sell the game short. It may not be the most in-depth game ever when compared to other simulation games but it does provides a lot to do and plenty of character and charm to the sometimes cold and heartless game of football.
In Nintendo Pocket Football Club you play as your Nintendo Mii character who is given a job as a manager of a new bottom league team. As the team is new you get to choose where the team is situated, its name, its three-letter abbreviation, the teams three kits (home, away and keeper) and the teams logo and badge. This straight away sucks you into the game as any game where you can name characters or customise it in some way always make these games have more investment potential. Just look at games like UFO: Enemy Unknown, ISS Pro Evolution 2 and The Sims. You can also rename your players, change their shirt numbers and positions if you like to personalise them even further.
(Images from official Nintendo Pocket Football Club videos):
Once you have set up your team you are introduced to the various characters who help you manage your team and they teach you some of the basic mechanics of the game. Along with the external and/or internal manual provided with the game help a lot in making the experience seem simpler. You don’t need to read the manuals as the game provides enough tips as you play through the game. Only problem with the game seeming simple to understand is that it may make some feel the game is too easy or not very deep which isn’t true. The game mechanics are simple to understand and the game is easy to navigate and control but the overall game is hard to master which games like this should be.
Nintendo Pocket Football Club contains several modes, the main single player experience and its multiplayer mode. In single player you start at the lowest league and its your job to get promoted several times to get to the first and best league. While you are doing the main leagues several football cup competitions happen during the season that if you meet the requirements you can participate in. The leagues are: Beginner League (Football League Two), Advanced League (Football League One), Pro League 2 (Football League Championship) and Pro League 1 (Premier League). The cups are: Federation Cup (FA Cup), European challenge Cup (UEFA Champions League) and World Club Classic (FIFA World Cup). So as you can see there is plenty of matches and things to do in one season. The good thing is that you can play through several seasons. However as matches can take about ten minutes each will mean that one season could take several hours without even including the other activities involved within the game.
In multiplayer you can take your team and play against others online or locally to see who is the best. As the game is a management game these matches don’t happen like you might expect as they are basically run like the single player matches. You won’t be playing against live human opponents as the CPU will be controlling and making decisions for their team and yours unless you are playing locally against another person. You play against others by challenging their team to a match which the CPU will decide the outcome of both. You will still have to watch through the whole game but you won’t be able to make any tactical decisions which in some ways make the multiplayer mode the most enjoyable part of the game as you don’t have to worry about what is happening and can just enjoy and cheer your team on like a spectator.
You can also play against teams via StreetPass and SpotPass which very is a very good addition. For example recently I got the Spain national team to play against (I lost 0-7 and my goalie got injured and had to be replaced by my defender). I haven’t been able to beat them yet but playing teams you get via the Pass system is a good way to earn more training cards. There is also multiplayer tournaments which you can take part in at specific times which again is a good addition to the game. Finally if you are actively taking part in multiplayer matches it is a good idea to see the current world ranking and team pages on the specially made official Nintendo Pocket Football Club stats page.
While you are playing a match depending on certain situations and what is happening in the match you will earn training cards which you can give to your players to boost their stats. If you go to the training menu you can choose your tactics, your formation, positions, training regime and more. Training cards can be either used separately at a time or up to three can be used on one player. You can combo training cards into special cards that provide more stat benefits and are the best way to train your players. One player can only be trained once per week so it important not to just skip the few empty weeks when matches aren’t happening. However even if you don’t personally train your players they will still improve by playing matches and will do their own training every week.
The main mechanic of Nintendo Pocket Football Club is that as you are the manager of your team you can’t actually play on the pitch as your football team like some other football games allow you to. Instead you can set up your tactics, players and training before a match and when the match starts the CPU controls both teams. If you have let the CPU control both teams in a football game before then you will know what it is like. While the match is going on you can flick through several screens that show various information. The first screen shows the score, both teams stamina, cards and positions. The second screen is the bench where you can sub on players and change the positing of your players. The bench screen also allows you to warm up your players before they come on if you click on them. You can also leave the match if you click on the door behind the bench, however if you leave the match your team can not score anymore goals and your fans don’t like it very much. The third screen shows where all the players are running with colour showing which parts of the pitch are used most. The fourth screen shows more detailed stats on the match such as shots, fouls, cards, corners, goals and the like. The fifth and final screen is good as it shows results in real-time from other matches and allows you to check the current league table in real-time.
The main control over the match you have is by checking the various screens and making sure you respond to how the game is going. The main way you can do this is by either substituting on players or waiting for half-time as both of these situations allow you change your teams tactics such as how aggressive you want to be, where to concentrate your players on the pitch and who to mark. Now this aspect of the game is where most people will complain as it doesn’t really allow you full control over your team, for example you can’t change your formation complete and quickly on the fly. I would agree with these people as it would be good if you had more control over your team while a match is going on but once you except that the game is designed to be played as a more sweeping stroke game than a stop start one then you will get over it quite quickly. As a fan of Sensible World of Soccer 96-97 and similar games It would be great if Nintendo Pocket Football Club was more like those but you could argue that this Nintendo 3DS game gets to what makes football great and that is the spectacle of the action and the attachment to one team and its players.
While Nintendo Pocket Football Club sound design isnt the best in terms of music, its in-game sound effects are well done and bring all the sounds you would expect from a real life match such as the crowd reacting to whats happening on the pitch and the sounds of boots hitting the ball, all the way to the well done rebound noises.
If you happened to of played the Japan only Calcio Bit then you will instantly recognise almost every aspect of Nintendo Pocket Football Club as the Nintendo 3DS version is basically an improved port of it. This could be seen as bad and lazy but it is good to finally be able play the game. The game has a similar art style but has been improved greatly and looks good. Most changes between the two versions aren’t noticeable at first glance as they are more background based changes. Just as better AI and improved gameplay.
From Iwata Asks “So it’s not just the performance of individual players, but the character of the entire team that you can see, and this makes watching matches even more fun than it was in the previous title”.
The games look and play style is very similar to Sensible Soccer which is a big compliment to the game as the Sensible Soccer franchise has some of the best football games ever made. Each player looks and behaves different with various characteristics and this is what makes the game special. Each character responds and reacts different depending on their stats, how they have been trained and their personality. This means you can really customise how you want your team to play. Do you want a really fast wingers? strong forwards? or slow defenders? well you can do all that and more.
Nintendo Pocket Football Club biggest selling point is that it is a great game for anyone who loves watching or playing real life football. Instead of having to worry about spread sheets and hundred of variables and stats you can just enjoy watching a great game of football. You don’t have to know everything about the sport to really enjoy it and the game is easy to learn.
I would recommend people buy and play Nintendo Pocket Football Club as it’s a great game for a portable platform and their isn’t much else like it out there however there are at least five main problems with the game, some of which I have already mentioned:
Firstly while I got the game when it was on sale it is now £13.49 and while that isn’t much the game has DLC which cost around £1 to £2 each and are arguably essential if you want to have an easier and more fun time in the game. This is because while using the Pass system is good way to get training cards the DLC teams you can buy offer easy ways of getting certain cards.
For example the DLC Goalie Gurus which costs £1.39 “give your keeper a real workout, keep the scoreline low and net some Training Cards to improve your goalie’s jumping! You can play against this team after completing three seasons.”
Together all the DLC so far costs about £15 so while its good the game isn’t full price buying all the DLC would make the game around the same price of a normal Nintendo 3DS game which leaves me feeling uneasy about it. They should either sell the game as a whole package for the reduced price or full price. I guess their monetizing system is mostly fair to attract new people to buy the game but anyone who is serious about Nintendo Pocket Football Club will probably end up buying all the DLC anyway and therefore might feel cheated.
Secondly the lack of team and match control will probably put most die-hard football management fans off the game and it may be too simple for the casual crowd. However I feel its in the middle but It won’t satisfy everyone.
Thirdly there isn’t an exhibition type mode where you and a friend or CPU can choose any team and just play a one-off match which is a shame. It also seems odd that the developers didn’t include a way so people can just play a match where you can control the players. The CPU does it so it shouldn’t have been much of a stretch to allow you people to do play the match even if only in a one-off type mode. If they did this Nintendo Pocket Football Club would have been a more full and enjoyable product.
The fourth problem with the game is that you can’t edit the existing teams, sure its a licensing thing but even the Sensible Soccer and Pro Evolution Soccer games let you edit the teams to be more authentic. Again this wouldn’t have been a hard thing to add, it’s not like they had to allow you to edit player stats or allow you to customise their faces but that would have been good too.
The fifth and final problem with Nintendo Pocket Football Club is that you can’t play the game for long periods of time as it becomes too tiring after a while which may seem odd as the game demands a big time investment. If you play the game in short bursts or while doing others things then the game is exponentially more enjoyable.
Overall then Nintendo Pocket Football Club is a good and simple football management game but with hidden depth that will likely keep fans of football management and sport games playing for months if not years (in short bursts). If you like the Sensible Soccer games and love watching the beautiful game then Nintendo Pocket Football Club is arguable one of the best football games in years and easily one of the best on a portable console. However get Sensible World of Soccer 96-97 if you are not sure that Nintendo Pocket Football Club is your type of game as Sensible World of Soccer 96-97 costs only $5.99 after all and is still great to this day.
If you happen to come up against my team which is called Ravenhold (currently in the Advanced League) go easy on the old folks, they are hungry for glory but have a long way to go to become champions.
My Other Nintendo Pocket Football Club posts:
My Other Scrambled Thoughts: