Nintendo Pocket Football Club
Though I consider myself a fan of management sims, until now I’ve never given a full football management game a proper try (my closest experience was with Pro Evolution Soccer‘s Master League mode). When Nintendo announced that Calciobit, a previously Japan-exclusive portable series belonging to the genre, was coming to Europe as Nintendo Pocket Football Club this seemed like the perfect opportunity to rectify that.
Complimenting the pocket-sized 3DS platform, NPFC restrains itself in many ways when compared to PC contemporaries like Football Manager. It eschews any and all elements of micromanagement, leaving the focus on the core values of football management. Training, transfers, formations, strategies – all the meat and potatoes aspects of the genre are present and correct just without the surrounding detritus.
This ‘wheat from the chaff’ approach works really well, bringing the addictive aspects of the genre to the fore yet increasing the pick up and play appeal. It’s the type of game you can break out on the commute for a quick 10 minute match or play for hours on end at home. Given the largely hands-off nature of matches and the leisurely pace of the core campaign, it’s also a fine game to have running in the background while doing other things. In short, it’s a fantastic fit for the 3DS.
If NPFC does end up getting its hooks into you there’s a whole lot of value to be had here. I’ve spent almost twenty four solid hours with it and I’ve yet to be promoted to the big leagues nor had the chance to win the treble (which the game tells me is the ultimate goal). Given said targets and my progress so far, I can see a whole playthrough lasting at least double that amount of time for most players.
And that’s without dipping into the multiplayer side of things. Not only can you put your team head to head with other players’ locally and via StreetPass collection but also via ranked matches online. If you end up taking this competitive side seriously either with friends or the online leaderboards there’s exponentially more hours of enjoyment to be had.
One of my only complaints with NPFC is that it’s pacing could be punchier. Yes, a title primarily comprised of menu commands and watching an endless number of matches is always going to be slow-going to some extent but a few small tweaks could’ve made things a little more silky smooth.
For instance, improving your players’ stats through the training card system (which is the thing you’ll be doing most besides watching matches) could have felt more speedy and slick had the relevant system and menus been better organised. It also would’ve been nice to be able skip or fast forward matches, particularly unimportant ones like training and friendly games.
As is the case with most of Nintendo’s digital offerings, NPFC is arguably priced a little too high. Normally retailing for £13.49 on the eShop (it’s not available in boxed retail form as it was in Japan), this is the sort of price you’d expect a beefy indie game on PC or home console to be, not a modest portable title. As a launch promotion Nintendo are offering it for £10.79 until May 1st so if you’re planning on picking it up you’d be wise to do so before then.
Despite the price tag, the overall quality of the experience plus its potential play value means you probably won’t come away feeling short-changed. Whether you’re a first timer or a veteran when it comes to the genre, this distilled football management experience is ultimately a winner. Back of the net.