Calciobit: Pocket Soccer League (to be localised in Europe as Nintendo Pocket Football Club) is the 3DS sequel to the 2006 Game Boy Advance football simulation game Calciobit and once again developed by ParityBit (who have also developed Derby Stallion and er, little else). I shall preface this review and state that the score is not necessarily finalised until the said localisation reaches fruition due to the difficulties often found in the relentless Japanese language subscreens and my not wanting to do this incredibly charming title a disservice.
Beginning with a wealth of options in choosing your Mii (I absolutely love Mii themed games), team name, region (I am on Awashima Island!), strip and logo etc. All have a number of sub-options. An English team name is available but limited to eight characters (still more than my Animal Crossing island - my team is called FCBRIBRI), logos include a cool werewolf, a skull, an SS S and several less National Socialist looking ones (I chose a cute dragon!) before the game begins properly.
And this is the actual scary part. A deluge of Japanese text options with four accompanying pictures (three players [formation], the pitch [whether to play defensive or offensive], a strip [uniform select] and a whistle [match time!]). I found translating http://japanjapanjan.web.fc2.com/ to be somewhat of a help in at least starting off as beginners should prepare for a drubbing which may sound incredibly daunting but the feeling when you score your first goal, let alone your first victory, is incredibly overwhelming.
I was also overwhelmed by the whole graphical style, not in technical prowess as the game doesn’t look too dissimilar from the GBA original but more-so in the amazing character sprites and fantastic art style throughout the overall superb presentation. The colours are also crisp with the 3D effect being absolutely everything that I want from a 3DS game: not too in-your-face but subtly presenting a tremendous amount of depth without ever annoying the player.
Gameplay-wise it’s worth emphasising that Calciobit is indeed a simulation game and that matches (45 minutes for practice matches and 90 for actual matches - although neither played in real time!) consist of you just staring at twenty two sprite characters. The circle pad controls the camera with the bottom screen enabling you (the manager!) to change formation, make substitutions etc on the bottom screen. Even the most ardent football simulation fan may find this an endurance test after several matches although the whole presentation somewhat make this more palatable.
In-between match days there are a number of other options available with special training cards to use on specific players (this and practice matches are both essential and effectively constitute the games ‘grinding’ with the cards also increasing the players RPG-like stats), a transfer market, all the initial options (team name, logo etc), change formation and tactics etc, view statistics, a replay mode (yes, you can record matches!), an online mode and what I hope is a save option (my original game didn’t save and this time around I’ve just closed my lid mid-game either side of charging!).
Overall Pocket Soccer League walks a fine line between both potentially alienating football fans with its simulation and simulation fans with the emphasis on ‘cute’ as opposed to ‘real’. The non-fast-forwardable matches may further alienate others yet with the amazing aesthetics and potential for dozens of hours of gameplay (I’m only just approaching my first dozen!); Calciobit could perhaps become one of the most non-assuming classics on the 3DS, although those owning both a Japanese and European 3DS are best advised to wait for the localisation (whereupon I’ll update the score accordingly).