Leicester City (in 2016) and Manchester City (in 2018) are two recent Premiership-winning teams that went about their footballing business in completely different ways, and there's a neat parallel to be drawn here with New Star Manager and Football Manager 2019 Touch. Both are ostensibly playing the same Switch football management game, and both are capable of swallowing whole evenings in one gulp. Yet when you get down to the mechanics of play, the two games could scarcely be more different to one another.
If Football Manager is all about painstaking detail and replicating the minutiae of real-life football management, then New Star Manager is a joyful, loose approximation of the beautiful game. While the former wants you to wallow in reams of text and pore over stats like a deranged accountant, the latter feeds you bite-sized morsels of light busywork and thrillingly tactile matches.
All of the teams and player names in New Star Manager are fictional, and rendered in a simplistically stylised fashion that befits its mobile origins. But don't let the 'M' word put you off; this is an engrossing and thoroughly rewarding experience that could potentially keep you entertained for as long as your typical JRPG.
In between matches, New Star Manager almost plays out like some kind of card-based strategy game, as you build your deck/team and swap in player cards according to their health and ability stats. Do you play your star player up front again, or give the fitter, hungrier understudy a chance in the name of squad harmony? Do you dare use a skill-boosting training card on the eve of a big match when you know full well it will leave the player panting by half time?
Building your club from the ground up in New Star Manager also incorporates casual city builder elements, as dinky training grounds and scouting offices pop up with their attendant wait timers and virtual currency requirements. Turn those frowns upside down, for there are no pay-to-win elements here; swift progress can be made if you come up with the goods on the pitch.
And it's on the pitch that New Star Manager really comes into its own. Each match feeds you a highlights package of attacking moments, not unlike Football Manager. But you're no passive observer here. Rather, You must directly intervene in each clip, drawing out runs into space, weighting through balls just so, and applying the appropriate direction and lift to shots.
Interestingly, this plays out very differently depending on how you choose to use the Switch. In docked more, or with the Joy-Con fully employed, these snippets of live action control much like a simplified take on FIFA. You can dribble by combining the left stick and ZR, dictate the runs of teammates with the right stick, shoot with Y, pass with B, and so on. It's never as fluid as EA's popular footy game, of course, and playing New Star Soccer in this way highlights the match engine's low-fi limitations. Crude as it is, though, there's also something undeniably engaging about this phase-based approach.
Playing in handheld mode also enables you to use an all-touch control system, which is actually much closer to the game's mobile origins. Playing the game in this fashion, we found that dribbling was more awkward and shooting a little less nailed-on, but it also massively expands the scope for audacious belters from distance. The difference in feel and rhythm is really quite stark.
While we're generally quite happy with the way the game has made the transition to Switch, there are a few quality of life issues. The game seems quite unstable in its current form, with several crashes occurring within as many hours. We also noticed a fair few performance stutters, which is a little disconcerting for such a technically simple game that is accustomed to playing on relatively modest smartphone hardware.
The sense that New Star Soccer isn't quite at is best here on Switch is something it has in common with Football Manager 2019 Touch, in fact. But so is the sense that for all its technical snags, it remains a nigh-on essential purchase for Switch-owning footy fanatics.
It's not at its absolute best on Switch, but New Star Manager still provides the deeply tactile Yang to Football Manager 2019 Touch's stat-heavy Ying. It plays a more intuitive and portable game of tactical footy than its illustrious rival, and it also packs a lot more depth than its basic presentation might suggest.