I was drawn to Nintendo Pocket Football Club on 3DS (or NPFC so as not to wear out my keyboard) the same way I was drawn to its Japan-only predecessor, Game Boy Advance game Calciobit: I really like the art style.
More iffy photos of the screens I’m afraid. I should write about some PS Vita games, you can save screenshots directly on the system and transfer them easily onto PC and they look lovely and everything… Ahem. This is the main menu; the buildings on the bottom screen represent things like training, play a match, manage the team etc.
The meat of NPFC is a light form of football management. During actual games, your interaction is limited to substituting tired players and changing team tactics. Off the pitch, you can train your players using cards that you earn during the matches. Managerial commentary from your Mii will pop up at random points, each opinion coming with an associated training. “The lads look knackered, best get them doing some Running training”, he paraphrased. Each training boosts one or several of seven stats that make up the skills of each player.
Skills include kicking, speed, toughness, and are each ranked from E to S depending on how good the player is.
While there is plenty of training you can give, it can often feel like you’re piddling into a rather stiff breeze. Skills are slow to level, and the minimal interaction during matches can leave you feeling irritatingly distanced from your team. What does capture you though is seeing your players in action. Goal celebrations are utterly charming acted out by these chunky stylised pixels, and I’ve found myself grumbling impotently as my players make bad decisions or the ball pings off the opponent’s crossbar, or delightedly mouthing praise for good passing and deft runs. Though it takes some time, you will start to see personality in the randomised sprites in the way they play and how they act with each other. If you were looking for a cutesy Football Manager, NPFC probably isn’t for you as it’s nowhere near that deep. It is however fairly perfect for someone like me, somewhat aware of football and not inherently dismissive of it, but also not a big football fan. A flipping casual football watcher.
I chose to name my team for a real life one that I was involved with some years ago: a small community startup called New Age Revolutions, playing in grey and red with a gear wheel for a logo. Purportedly this was to represent the industrial heritage of the area (the revolutions of the gear and such). Really it came from the chairman being quite into Che Guevara at the time. I was the club secretary officially, but despite our various titles we were just a bunch of teenaged mates who thought it’d be cool to give the whole thing a shot. I only attended one match, the first New Age Revolutions played. We lost, 30 odd-to-1. Though my memory might be generous thinking we even scored once. We were astoundingly shit by any standard, and the team quickly fizzled out after that.
Back of the net! You can save replays of favourite games or goals for later perusal (hence why this picture looks even blurrier, it’s of a video).
My digital Revolutions (just Revolutions, due to a character limit on naming your team) aren’t quite that bad, but we have yet to win a game. To date, we have scored three goals total and our best result is a 1-all draw. I got my star forward injured two weeks before the first match of the beginner’s league by playing him too hard in a friendly we lost. One of a series of losses incidentally that has seen my manager approval rating amongst the fans tumble like my surname was Moyes. I’m paying 600 coins for a middling goalkeeper who hasn’t seen game time in over a month, my defence is full of players on the downturn of their careers, and my second half performances are routinely shocking. I have been thinking perhaps it was a bad omen to use the name.
There are positives. I recently moved defender Vink into the midfield, where his wide skill range and pro-active play style are better suited. I’ve also started playing the team in a 3-5-2 formation, which is really taking advantage of the strength and depth I’ve got in midfield. While he is currently injured, Jung is a solid forward (he’s scored two of the club’s three entire goals). Hermann, who I hastily signed to fill the gap up front, has turned out to be a better player than fellow forward Alonso, so when Jung is back on his feet I’m looking forward to seeing what he and Hermann can do together (Alonso can drink Lucozade on the bench and like it). Happily, we’re also not at the bottom of the league table, which means there may still be hope for us this season.
Pictured: not bottom of the league. NAR is my club, the New Age Revolutions. Also we’re highlighted in red, so this explanation isn’t really necessary.
This could be the beginning of a successful dynasty, or it could crash and burn like the real Revolutions. Stay tuned to see whether the team secure a victory any time soon, or if I’m turfed out for being a crap manager with only the most general of footballistic knowledge.