Review: Sega Pocket Club Manager16 Oct 2018 0
Review: Sega Pocket Club Manager
Released 27 Sep 2018
Sega Pocket Club Manager brings the long-running Japanese Let’s Make a Professional Soccer Club series to mobile devices for the first time. The game describes itself as a casual football role-playing game but, in truth, it doesn’t stray too far from the traditional sports management sim template. This is hardly surprising when you realise that the Football Manager engine powers the game. This also means that there is certainly a lot more going on behind the scenes than the bright and breezy presentation would initially have you believe.
Everything that you would expect from a football management game is present and correct, from setting up your team to developing your stadium. The way that the game drip-feeds new features as the first season progresses, ensures that players new to the sports management genre will not be overwhelmed. There is a rather ingenious combo system, which means that choosing a formation and style and then slotting players with suitable skills into the appropriate position will trigger performance bonuses. It’s a system that works really well and will have you jiggling your formations and players in order to get the best bonus. A player’s affinity to play well in different positions is shown by a simple colour coded system, which makes team selection straightforward. There is also an option to switch on automatic team selection, with the focus either on player levels or team combos.
A player’s level is initially capped at level 30. You can increase this level cap by giving a player some special training as long as you have the appropriate training regime items. Once a player reaches level 50 the only way to improve their abilities further is to promote them by increasing their star rating, this also requires some hard-to-acquire items. Special training and player promotion may give players the opportunity to learn new skills, but it also causes them to reset to level one, which does feel rather harsh, not to mention unrealistic. The best way around this is to send the player abroad for some intensive training.
The real jewel in the crown is Sega Pocket Club Manager’s eye-catching graphical depiction of matches. The easily recognisable big-headed chibi-style players are a real delight. Their dynamic animations and spectacular goals will have you glued to the screen. Every time a player’s special skill triggers, the effect is obvious and immensely satisfying. Admittedly, there are a lot of games to get through and the novelty eventually wears a bit thin. In which case you can elect to watch just the highlights or switch to an overhead quick view mode. However, for those crucial matches, there is nothing better than watching the match in its entirety, throwing up your arms in exasperation as a pass goes astray, or indulging in your very own match celebration when your team slots home a last-minute winner.
Unfortunately, all of this positivity is somewhat tainted by the unnecessarily complicated use of a plethora of game currencies. Things start off reasonably enough with the two chief currencies being club funds and golden balls. Club funds are chiefly earned through sponsorship and ticket sales and can be used to purchase new players, items and stadium developments. Golden balls are awarded for achievements or can be brought in bulk by spending real money. Their main use is to purchase premier scout packs, which improves your chances of scouting new highly skilled players. Otherwise, you will be stuck with your standard scout, who is fine initially, but will not cut the mustard as you rise through the ranks. Whilst we are looking at spending real cash I should mention the passes. Some of these represent a significant investment, ranging in price from £7.99 to £23.99. In addition to providing a steady stream of golden balls, these passes make your progress easier by boosting experience or match income by 50%.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t stop there, as even more currencies are available. Coins are awarded as a consolation prize when your premium scout finds duplicate players. These coins can be put towards the cost of special star players. There are rings, which help with special training and player promotion; these are earned by competing against other player-controlled teams in arena matches. Then there are the mysterious AP and BP points, which put time constraints on how many arena and league matches you can play before they refresh.
I found that during my first full season I was able to win the division with relative ease without spending a penny. After this, the chief barrier to progress is going to be amassing enough golden balls to employ a premier scout or having the club funds available to acquire decent players. The passes offer a big advantage but don’t feel essential.
Sega Pocket Club Manager has a different feel to western style football management games. Japanese sensibilities ensure that players apologise for being booked or even injured. The game doesn’t adhere to typical structures; one season you may be competing in Europe and the next in Africa. Or, you may find your team breaking off from a league campaign to take part in a mini cup competition. The game lacks the licensing agreements of bigger rivals, but although team names have changed, the FIFPro and Japanese National Player Licenses means that there will still be plenty of familiar faces. Overall, everything feels upbeat and positive compared to more serious games where the fans are miserable, the players arguing and the board constantly on the verge of giving you your marching orders.
Sega Pocket Club Manager certainly has a lot to admire, inevitably marred by the convoluted currency system. Some will miss the finer details and omnipotent control of more complex simulations. Yet, if you want a management game that doesn’t take itself too seriously, but still has enough depth to remaining interesting, then this is certainly worth trying. Even if you hate the idea of buying success rather than earning it I would still recommend trying the game for a season or two.