When it comes to simulating football, or soccer, in a digital format, it can’t be argued that both Fifa and Pro Evolution are the highest tiers within their league. However, for all the skill and excitement that these two games offer, none of them ever truly match the strategic or tactical elements of the beautiful game. Sure, certain formations are better than others, but in terms of these two games, individual player skill usually determines the score. In many ways, it’s difficult, impossible even, to be able to replicate this fully when it comes to EA or Konami’s games, but there are ways that these tactics can be captured with other games; something that has been utilised to good effect in Ganbare! Super Strikers as it plays for position on the Nintendo Switch.
Developed by Rese Games, with publishing through Ratalaika Games, this soccer simulation uses a turn-based system to replicate the strategic and tactical elements of football. Much like a turn-based role-playing game, Ganbare! Super Striker uses a grid system that determines movement and placement, a skill point system that calculates odds and outcomes and a levelling system to make your team stronger with every game they play. It’s a system that works really well within the premise of playing football. Each match is played by individually moving each player around the pitch, as well as performing passes, tackles and shots. Once every movement or task is taken by a specific team, the match time decreases by one minute until the half-time or full-time whistle is reached.
This system of movement allows you to position defenders, cover midfielders and take attacking positions with strikers. I was really surprised with just how well the whole system works, making forward runs, utilising the offside trap or surrounding players to make sure your team is strategically placed. When two opposing players are adjacent to each other, a series of moves can come into play, depending on whether you are attacking or defending. Dribbling, tackling and shooting are all options you can take when faced with an opponent. During these encounters, a skill-based formula of stats comes into play. The higher your skill number in a particular move, the better chance you have of pulling it off. However, should your opponents figure beat yours, then the chances are you’ll lose the ball. It also works on the premise of defenders are poor at shooting, but strong in tackling, midfielders are strong dribblers, whilst strikers excel at shooting, but are weak at tackling.
It’s very similar to a dice-rolling mechanic, meaning you need to be mindful of who your opponent is, what position you are currently playing in and what you can do with the ball once the move has been completed. There are many influences that can determine the fate of the ball or your chance of successfully pulling off a move. Thankfully, the game does a terrific job of highlighting your percentage chances of failure and success, the individual stats of each player involved and the statistical movement of the ball. By this, I mean that whatever value you have when you start with the ball, with each square of the grid that the ball passes over when it is kicked, its initial value decreases by ten. This in essence means that the long-ball can be easily intercepted or long-shots have more chance of being saved.
As well as a roster of normal moves, each player can also learn a series of special moves. These can have a game-changing effect on each match with the ability to poison, freeze or even kill any opposing player who comes into contact with the ball once the move has been unleashed. In terms of this, the game doesn’t follow a realistic setting when it comes to football. You’ll be penalised for being offside, but poison the opposing team! Yeah, that’s fine. However, whereby certain stats are displayed to allow for on-the-fly planning and strategic decision-making, the opposing teams special abilities aren’t so easily labelled; often creating a tense game of cat-and-mouse on the pitch.
Each player can make a total of two moves per turn. You can move twice, or move and tackle, tackle and pass or move and shoot. Whatever the shape of the game demands, you can usually find a way to protect the ball, cover a defender or striker or play the ball to a safe or threatening position. However, become too reliant on just one player, then their skill point levels begin to diminish and once used up, that player’s stats are severely weakened until the end of the half. Should this occur though, you can also make substitutions to help keep the team at full strength. Whatever position you find yourself within any given match, the beauty of this game lies in its simplicity of execution. Everything is easily distinguishable and presented in a way that promotes an ease of play. However, it also contains a depth that keeps the game interesting at all times, as well as a host of options and long-term playability to ensure that this game remains firmly positioned within your Switch’s memory.
There are two modes of play available: Story and Arcade. Within the campaign of the story mode, you get to create and fully customise your own team. Names, crests, badges and kits are all fully customisable as you take part within a series of matches on a path to glory within the World Cup. Played over a series of fourteen 7v7 matches, you must first prove your worth in the first seven games of the National Cup, before taking a predetermined selection of players and a national squad through the remaining seven games of a World Cup. Each match you play also comes with a pre-requisite number of objectives. These can range from winning the game, keeping a clean sheet and activating a special move. Should you complete these objectives, then you are rewarded with items that can used within your team, from shin-pads that add to your defensive levels to boots that award a special move.
Arcade mode opens up a further set of options, from quick matches to tournaments and league play. You can also play a variety of matches that are based on 7v7, 8v8 and 11v11; adding further to the challenges, style of play and tactical elements of each game. When you add to this the XP levelling of your players, special move abilities and tactical options available to you, there’s a wealth of play time that keeps the game going over the long-term. Due to the nature of its mechanics though, this is more of a slow-paced game of football than you may be more accustomed too, but that doesn’t make it any less playable. Previous releases of this game on the Steam and Playstation platforms also came with a number of bugs. However, no matter how many times I tried to replicate the conditions that caused these bugs, I never found any of them within this Switch version of the game. Whether these bugs are still present remains to be seen, but in my experience, I never encountered anything game breaking.
Overall, Ganbare! Super Strikers offers a good alternative to the big kickers of footballing simulations within video gaming. Its slower pace and turn-based mechanics fits in well with the tactical and strategic elements of its sport and, ultimately, produces a very satisfying game of football. Despite its friendly presentation and easy-to-learn gameplay, there’s a wealth of depth and options that will be sure to satisfy any fan of strategic or football games. With a host of cup, tournament and league options, plus a campaign component, there’s more than enough content to keep this game running over the long-term; even more so with the game’s ability to be able to be played locally for up to two players. Ultimately, this is a game where two teams shine through: playability and gameplay, and in those two terms, this is simply a game that shoots and then scores.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to email@example.com.
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Ganbare! Super Strikers Review
Gameplay - 8/10
Graphics - 8/10
Sound - 8/10
Replay Value - 8/10
Ganbare! Super Strikers shoots and scores in this turn-based, tactical game of two halves.