Nintendo Pocket Football Club was one of my highlights on the 3DS and it’s about time we got a sequel to ParityBit’s simple football management sim on the Switch.
Yes, I’m well aware that Football Manager Touch is available on the Switch, with its real-world players, teams, and leagues, but it lacks the Nintendo charm and more simplistic touch of Pocket Football Club that makes it better for casual players and those who are put off by the serious nature of Football Manager. While the 3DS download game wasn’t perfect, a new Nintendo Pocket Football Club on Switch could build upon its foundations and give us budding armchair managers the chance to prove to everyone that our tactical know-how isn’t just Twitter talk. Move aside Mauricio Pochettino, Pep Guardiola, and Antonio Conte, it’s our time to helm the dugout. And hopefully, this time, North America could get in on the action, too.
Where Football Manager gives you licenses, screen after screen of statistics, and full tactical control over what happens on and off the pitch, Nintendo Pocket Football Club gave us cutesy graphics, training cards, and fake players. Who needs licenses when you have legendary players like De Koning, Sorokin, and, er, Turov? Pocket Football Club is a bright and breezy alternative to the spreadsheets, depth, and licenses of Football Manager that’s lacking in some areas of tactical acuteness but more than makes up for it with bucket-loads of charm.
Nintendo Pocket Football Club gave players a taste of what’s available in other football management sims without overloading you with stats and pages. It’s a far friendlier game that lets players pick their formation, sign and sell players, train your squad with collected training cards, choose up to three players to mark, pick playing zones (with movable lines), and playing style (Balanced Play, Defend and Wait for Chances, and Always Try to Score). There’s a fair amount to wrap your head around, but it’s missing tonnes of the tactical options of its peers. A Switch sequel would need to address a number of issues, like any good sequel should.
It’s not much fun watching your team slowly get decimated or slowly demolish their opposition. A fast-forward option is a must in a potential sequel.
The match-day gameplay is Pocket Football Club's biggest stumbling block. First things first, this hypothetical Switch sequel would have to let players edit their team’s playing zones, playing style, and which opposition players are being marked at any time during a match. On 3DS, you could only change such things when making a substitution or at half-time once a match was being played. This was a baffling design choice, even if things were meant to stay simple.
An argument can be made for more tactical options in general. Nintendo and ParityBit would be wise to keep it light, though — otherwise, you might as well buy Football Manager. A couple of upgrades would be nice, however. An increase in marking options could be an option for the development team to target. Choosing which of your players should mark which of your opponents would be a worthwhile addition as the 3DS Pocket Football Club allows other players in far too often when you choose to mark the opposition’s star striker. Man-to-man marking options could address this issue.
Proper named player positions and types could be another upgrade, as well. You can already work out which of your squad should play where thanks to their stats and somewhat obtuse earned player type titles, but making it easier to see whether a player is a good fit for defensive midfield or a playmaker, for example, could keep things simple. These are smaller changes that could add to the game without making it too difficult to parse for a more casual football management audience. That cute retro style is an approachable, friendly face for a genre that, from the outside at least, can look incredibly dry to the average player, even football fans. Like the best games do, the charm of the original art style could be used as a gateway to a little more complexity.
One of the more contentious issues surrounding Pocket Football Club, however, and one that needs addressing was that you couldn’t sim or even fast-forward matches; you had to watch each and every game in its entirety (around ten minutes apiece). This was an intentional design choice by the game’s designer Hiroyuki Sonobe. As stated in our review of the game “his aim was to replicate the same excitement that a proper soccer match provides, making every tackle, run, and attempt on goal seem even more exciting.”
It worked. You should, though, be able to fast-forward matches—at any time—just as you can in Football Manager. It’s not much fun watching your team slowly get decimated or slowly demolish their opposition. A fast-forward option is a must in a potential sequel.
After adding to the gameplay, Nintendo needs to look at the game’s aforementioned aesthetics. Building on the fantastic charm found in the 3DS game’s graphics and presentation would be swell. The matches played on 3DS look great with the 3D slider turned up, but are a little flat when played in 2D thanks to the bland pitch and stadium design. To make up for the lost depth (and to make the most out of the boost in hardware), the proposed Switch sequel should look more like the 3DS game’s fantastic art and box design — can you imagine something akin to Octopath Traveler's '2DHD' look? Seeing those plastic-looking toy-like chunky 3D sprites running around a Subbuteo-esque pitch in HD would be awesome and only add to the game’s already excellent sense of retro style.
While Nintendo Pocket Football Club is a fun game with enough depth to keep you playing for dozens of hours, there’s no doubting that a Switch sequel could improve upon its formula and ooze even more style. Building on its infectious charm and colourful presentation, Pocket Football Club on Switch could add more layers to the game’s tactical nous and be more than an HD reskin. Tactical shifts on-the-fly and the ability to fast-forward matches are must-have upgrades. There is more than enough room for competing football management sims on the Switch and it’s about time Nintendo brought us back to its more easily digested and colourful approach to football management.