Considering how Sports Interactive seem to have finally cracked how to make great Football Manager games for handheld devices, it is perhaps fitting that Nintendo have pulled out a football management sim of their own this year. Nintendo Pocket Football Club is highly entertaining, well-packaged and affordably priced, a salivating triple-threat that pays off big-time.
It makes zero intention to be the authentic simulation some people may want on the 3DS, but it doesn’t have to be that at all. What it lacks in authenticity it more than makes up for in character, something Nintendo are very good at injecting into their games. Nintendo Pocket Football Club is brimming with charm, a both vibrant and colourful entity that ultimately makes watching guys running around kicking a ball very enjoyable.
Simple Yet Effective
Where Sports Interactive have focused on stripping down its intensive core mode to create something fundamentally straightforward, Nintendo have built their football management game with simplicity in mind from the ground up. Pocket Football rewards more for less and is more tactful and gentle in its approach to dishing out critique for poor performances on the manager’s part.
When in a match, there is little you can do to influence the outcome. Tweaking beforehand is kept to a minimum pre-match, never mind during it, so you’re left free to watch the game and focus on whether your predictive decision-making paid off and what you can do next time. Post-match, you’re rewarded with training cards that let you work towards levelling up your players, or watch any replays saved to analyse – on a base level – what your players are doing right or wrong.
Will To Succeed
Your job relies on wins and winning keeps up your percentage approval rating. If it drops too low, you’re out of a job; but as long as you make the right choices in the right matches, you can work on building a strong team that will ultimately win you some silverware. Players are ranked in several ways, from their kicking ability to their willpower. It becomes increasingly important to match these skills with each opponent’s style of play and skill level.
Willpower affects a player’s ability to play well away from home, so for example if a keeper’s jumping ability is low, they may not make saves other keepers might reach. When you also consider that players have what appear to be personalities in-match tricks and audacious shots are attempted frequently, for instance – there are many variables that can affect the outcome of a match. Pocket Football has a surprising amount of depth when it comes to match simulation and those behind the game seem to understand the unpredictable nature of football along with the influence of individual personalities on the way football matches play out.
As you progress through your career, building your team and club, beginning to establish a reputation, you find Pocket Football increasing hard to put down. Each match is over within ten minutes and seasons are somewhat brief overall, but the game quickly gets you invested in the success of the club. The game has its own personality, one hard to walk away from. You begin to care a lot for what you’re building and that’s integral to creating an effective football management simulation. Nintendo seem to have understood this and it shows; Pocket Football didn’t need to be substantial for that to shine through.
Given how similar it feels to several Kairosoft titles, Nintendo Pocket Football Club feels oddly refreshing. It certainly won’t rival Football Manager Classic, but it will go some way towards appeasing people with a 3DS who may be feeling left out and have been looking for a strong football-themed game to arrive on the platform. It’s a beautiful game.