From unknowns, to rising stars.

No one gave Akiba Aces a chance. And honestly, who in their right mind would? After all, this was a team of hapless no hopers; a rag tag bunch of below average players, struggling to stay relevant in the fast-moving world of professional football. Fan support was dwindling, the dried-out pitch was barely fit for purpose, and the notion of top division football was an unobtainable, almost cruel dream.

Yes, Akiba Aces needed a miracle. And remarkably, they got one…

Fresh out of coaching school, a determined young manager arrived on the scene with radical new ideas and a bold new vision. His impact was immediate.

A new home and away strip was designed; a striking duet of blue and yellow for home games, and the imposing combination of red and white for away. The club’s flag was drastically overhauled, emblazoned with a fearsome lightning bolt which boldly implied: “we are Akiba Aces, we dare to dream.”

Promotion Power-Up

Further changes continued to sweep the club behind the scenes. Training became paramount, formations were changed, and astute signings boosted the squad. But, even though progress was clearly  being made off the pitch, the results on it were dismal as before. Akiba Aces slumped to a woeful record of losing every friendly and practice match available; a deeply worrying state of affairs. Was this new manager really all he made out to be?

In came Nielsen, a multi-talented striker from the division above, hungry for first-team opportunities. A wiley centre-back named Zimmerman also joined the fray – his wealth of experience proved crucial in shoring up Akiba Aces’ leaky defence. Tactical zones were experimented with, the formation reworked – suddenly Akiba Aces were powering their way to the next division, gaining promotion in their new manager’s very first season. A miracle indeed.

But things only got harder from there on out. The games came thick and fast, injuries ravaged the squad and the talent of the opposition was, at times, terrifying. Nevertheless, Akiba Aces knuckled down, refused to let go of their pride and gave their absolute all in every single game. Training sessions were refined, new players were considered, promotion would follow the very next season. Incredible.

nintendo pocket football club goal

Oh, oh oh, the sweetest thing.

Unfortunately, the stakes would be raised once again. Players of far greater ability ripped Akiba Aces to shreds, battering the fans belief with huge victories, and in turn, condemned the team to three seasons of pain and suffering as Akiba Aces languished in mid-table mediocrity. Questions were being asked of the manager – the fans’ perspectives had changed.

But what doesn’t kill you (or relegate you, in this case) only makes you stronger, and the boys in blue in yellow clinched promotion in a nail-biting playoff game via a penalty shoot out. They’d only gone and done it… Akiba Aces were in the top division!

Miniature Heroes

Nintendo Pocket Football Club (or NPFC for short) is a micro-sized management sim with an enormous amount of charm and character. Personally, it’s one of the most entertaining downloadable games I’ve ever played, and one which I’ve invested an embarrassingly large amount of time into. If you’re a football fan, or if you just enjoy watching the odd game, NPFC has a lot to offer.

As you’ve probably guessed, NPFC is all about leading a team of nobodies to the top of the football summit. Your Mii is the manager, and its up to you to create your team’s strip, their flag, buy and sell players, get the tactics right and train them in between matches. You have a backing rating from fans, so there’s always a constant incentive to perform well or risk their wrath.

Nintendo Pocket Football Club yellow card

Play firm, but fair.

Tactics, a large part of any management sim, are broken into stock and editable formations; you can change your team’s positioning on the field (or their zone as its called), who you’d like to man mark and naturally, perform substitutions. But that’s really all there is to it. It’s a bare bones proposition when compared to the beefier banquet that Football Manager offers. But NPFC isn’t about fiddling with the nitty gritty. It’s all about spectating the beautiful game. Or in NPFC’s case, the adorable game.

Going For Goal

Whenever a match takes place in NPFC you are required to watch every kick, tackle and goal (even if they are all for the opposition). There’s no skipping or player participation other than substitutions and the half-time team talk – and that might be a turn off for some. But don’t let that put you off because the real saviour of this forced spectatorship is that NPFC recreates a real-life game of football (lasting 5 minutes or so) that rivals what we’ve witnessed at this year’s World Cup. Strap yourself in for some incredible goals, sublime skills and pixel crushing tackles, all bolstered by the unpredictability that has become accustomed with the sport of football.

NPFC recreates a real-life game of football that rivals what we’ve witnessed at this year’s World Cup.

Honestly, no two matches feel the same in NPFC – and I’ve ploughed over 30 hours into it. Even though some games are admittedly dead rubbers, I always found myself compelled to keep an eye on the action; to see who was performing well and whether my latest tweak was coming to fruition. But also because of the game’s glorious presentation and graphical style.

The way players move around the field is a grin-inducing joy to behold. Each team is made up of pint-sized, pixelated characters, each of whom are around 3 foot tall and 2 foot wide. They’ll bounce of each other like bumper cars as they challenge for the ball, squirm around on the lush turf when caught by a bad challenge, give the opposition the eye as they play a no-look pass, and even perform famous celebrations when they nab a goal to send the crowd into raptures. It really is an entertaining spectacle.

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Speaking of the crowd, your band of die-hard supporters will cheer and exclaim every goal you score or concede, even passing comment on your substitutions. It’s a lovely little touch, especially when you’ve overcome greater opposition to the delight of your pirouetting fans (yes, they pirouette!). You can even save your favourite matches or goals, too – a feature which I personally love.

Get Your Cards Out

So you’ve got your tactics down, you’ve dabbled in the transfer market, and you’re enjoying watching your team whether they win or lose (preferably win). But what else is there? Why training, of course!

I never grew tired of my Mii shouting out his damning verdict on the players’ display.

NPFC’s training comes with an awesome card-capturing twist. Instead of just setting your men on arbitrary drills like in other games, NPFC makes the training process a far deeper and rewarding prospect by introducing Training Cards. You collect Training Cards by playing practice games and league fixtures. During the game, your manager Mii will yell out harsh criticism at your team, questioning their mindset, physicality, shooting or tackling for example. It’s a great way of alerting you to what cards you’ve earned during a game, and surprisingly, I never grew tired of my Mii shouting out his damning verdict on the players’ display.

C-C-C-Combo Maker!

Once you’ve gather a couple of cards you can apply them to a particular player in training. Each player has letter-graded stats, with E being the worst and S being the best, which shows a players’ ability in a particular skill – whether it’s stamina, jumping or technique. Using the Training Cards, you have to figure out which cards benefit which skills. For example, a running card may improve stamina, sprinting and willpower, while a weight-training card may improve strength, jumping and kicking.

You can also combine up to three cards to create special combo cards. Combo cards provide a significant boost to certain skills, and are the key to unlocking flair moves and celebrations. All the combinations are hidden, so you really have to consider whether you want to risk discovering a new combo card, or maximise the one’s you already have. In that respect each card carries with it a certain risk and reward, and determining which card to use, and when, is the key to efficiently training your players. Keep in mind that if you run out of training cards, your players won’t be able to train!

Manage Mii Now

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