New Star Games Retro Bowl and Retro Goal
Image: Nintendo Life / New Star Games

Earlier this year we became enamoured by Retro Bowl, a simple, addictive American football game inspired by '90s arcade classics from the team behind the hugely popular 'New Star' mobile series. While it may have been New Star Soccer which brought the team at New Star Games to our attention in the first place, the Switch port of Retro Bowl cemented our love for its arcade-inflected gameplay and clear appreciation of classic gaming.

It was therefore with much anticipation that we heard of the team's plans to release a football (or 'soccer,' if you will) follow-up title, Retro Goal, on Switch this month — just in time for the World Cup, no less. Having previously played the title in its original mobile form, we were excited to see what New Star Games would do to ensure that the Switch port maintained all the retro joy of the original while updating things to work for its new console home.

With these thoughts in mind, we were able to ask the founder of New Star Games, Simon Read, some questions on all things Retro Goal. We covered a range of topics, including the video game inspiration behind the series, the challenges of bringing a mobile game to Switch, and what could still be in store for the studio. Enjoy!

Nintendo Life: We had a great time with Retro Bowl on Switch. What was it about that game that made you want to make the leap to console?

Simon Read, New Star Games founder: The success of Retro Bowl on mobile was a huge surprise but one feature that many players asked for was gamepad controls. After implementing Bluetooth controller support it made sense to look towards a console release. Of course, the revered Tecmo Bowl on NES was a huge inspiration for Retro Bowl so it felt right to target a Nintendo console.

Being a British company, how does it feel to come back to this version of football after spending time invested in the American variety with Retro Bowl? Was there anything you learned from Bowl that informed Goal’s design in some way?

Absolutely. We hit upon a balance of gameplay and team management in Retro Bowl that really worked. So the plan was to translate that from gridiron to football.

I’m constantly looking to old sports games for inspiration

The simplicity and accessibility of Retro Bowl is perhaps its greatest strength. In what ways have you streamlined the beautiful game in Retro Goal?

In a similar way to Retro Bowl, and this goes right back to my early New Star Soccer games, you only take control of the attacking phases of the game. Of course defending is a major part of any sport but is generally less fun to play, so the idea was to skip through those defensive sequences as quickly as possible, relying on your team building and management skills to determine defensive outcomes.

There is a step up in tactics from New Star Soccer to the likes of Retro Goal. Do you think arcade-style football games could have done with more tactics back in the ‘90s? What made you want to layer those elements in here?

I’m constantly looking to old sports games for inspiration and whilst gameplay might still hold up today there is often a distinct lack of depth. So yes, for all my games I like to have simple, engaging gameplay but with tactical and role-playing elements not typically associated with sports games.

Retro Goal
Image: New Star Games

The mobile version makes great use of touchscreen controls. What were the challenges of bringing this to Switch, and did the Joy-Cons prove to be beneficial in their addition?

I definitely prefer to play with Joy-Cons now and right from the off it was clear that physical controls improved the game — it was just a matter of tweaking and iterating the feel. We also wanted to ensure that the game could be played on the NES controllers for Switch, so figuring out the best control scheme was a challenge, but those are the sorts of puzzles I enjoy about game design. You can still use the touchscreen controls too.

Graphically there were a lot of '90s games that wowed you with screenshots but turned out to play terribly!

Aside from adding in Joy-Con support, are there any other changes that you were keen to make for the Switch?

One thing that stood out when playing with Joy-Cons was that the gameplay action was too slow and needed speeding up to feel more like an arcade football game. One thing we’ve done is include an option for people to choose their preferred game speed. Also having multiple buttons allowed us to use individual buttons for low/high passes, knocking the ball forwards, and so on. The controls have certainly been designed with the Switch in mind, it’s not just a quick and simple port over from mobile.

You say that the game is ‘inspired by the most beloved football games of the 16-bit era,’ what games were you playing in this era and were there any titles in particular that you looked at when developing Retro Goal?

One of my favourite football games (actually from the 8-bit era!) was Emlyn Hughes International Soccer. For its time it had an incredible range of passing which I wanted to recapture in Retro Goal. Graphically there were a lot of '90s games that wowed you with screenshots but turned out to play terribly! Still, games like Man Utd Europe and Kick Off 3: European Challenge did provide inspiration for the art style at least.

Now that you have three Switch ports under your belt, are there any other of your previous games that you’d like to see come to the console?

I don’t think any of our other existing games will come to Switch but our future games certainly will be. Next year should be very exciting.

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.

Thanks to Simon for taking the time to talk to us about Retro Goal. The game is now open for pre-orders on the eShop with a nice 60% discount for those who decide to get in before kick off on 24th November.