Switch version tested
Review code provided
If you’ve ever seen the satirical animation Drawn Together, you might be familiar with Link parody Xandir P. Wifflebottom. While his catchphrase was “I’m on a never-ending quest to save my girlfriend!”, mine would be slightly tweaked to “I’m on a never-ending quest to find the ultimate football game”. Ganbare! Super Strikers is my next stop.
To save you the keystrokes, football is loosely translated as ‘soccer’ in some parts of the world. From my stance as a purist, whenever I mention football, I mean ‘football’ (a.k.a. soccer). You’d think FIFA would be up there, but I lost interest in the franchise – not because it’s bad, it’s just same old same old. To give an indication on the scale, I hold Virtua Striker quite high up as well as the Pro Evolution Soccer series, but the version I used to play was Winning Eleven. Mix up those two games a bit, and that’s the style I’m searching for on the Switch.
Imagine my surprise when Ganbare! Super Strikers has an RPG element. Granted, it’s not Baldur’s Gate or Championship Manager, but you take control of a squad and build their presence in the league. The presentation is very welcoming, and ‘fun’ and this element put me off. Not because I’m a cynic, but I do like my football games, despite not being that interested in real-life matches so much. My first impression was Ganbare! Super Strikers was not taking the game seriously and a bit of a gimmick. The first step on the path to persuasion was the character creation section; create a character, team and head for victory in the story mode – now it hooked me.
Regrettably, there weren’t any options to give my player a beard, but as a newcomer to Two Beard Gaming, I was able to pay my respects by having the team colours and wearing them proud. There are two main modes to begin with: Story and Arcade for quick play type games. Following your character creation, you’re welcomed by a character named Takao who gives you the background information, their aspirations (reaching the world cup), and general feedback on how to play the game. A tutorial, then. While this is going on in text format, the most irritating soundtrack plays on repeat, so I muted that before going any further.
Unlike the incredibly difficult concept of football (get more goals than the other team), Ganbare! Super Strikers gives you objectives to meet. The more you complete, the better the rewards and your character will level up. A star system represents them; achieve the objective and the stars light up. Whether or not you’re a completionist, you do need to play each match in sequence so that you can unlock the next. At first, the control system seemed a bit counter-intuitive as you have to use the analogue sticks to bring up a cursor, select a player, then scroll through available actions with ZL or ZR. There is a HUD at the bottom of the screen that shows your character level and in the bottom centre the success rate of a pass, dribble or if you want to punt it from the halfway line (good luck with that!).
Much like the classic RPG, all actions are similar to rolling a die. The higher the points, the more success you’ll have. For example, when taking a shot at the goal, you need to make sure that your shot power is higher than the goal keeper’s save. You don’t have direct control of this but hope for the best, but the chances of success are related to your level and the individual player’s ability. Need to improve your chances? Complete more objectives! But it wouldn’t be an RPG-type game if there weren’t any special abilities, right? As with Super Mario Strikers before it, your players have special powers to enhance their performance (no doping tests required) and the likelihood of success. Even better, these abilities don’t get labelled with ‘power shot’ but names such as ‘ice pass’. If the opponent marking you gets in the way, not only do they have the humiliation of you getting the ball past them, but they turn to ice and miss a couple of turns. Cool.
The introduction of levelling up a character through completing objectives is an excellent one. If I were to decide to pick up Ganbare! Super Strikers via the eShop, I may have honestly skipped past this title as watching the game as a spectator, i.e. the trailer, it doesn’t lure you in. However, putting up a squad and having the option to grind for better stats and gear (items such as new boots can improve your tackle – hee hee!), is such a winning formula. The levelling system is split into two: XP is for boosting passive stats, and TP (training points) is for active stats, a.k.a. your special abilities. Interestingly, if you attempt to grind by playing lower-level teams, your XP won’t increase – adding the incentive to keep pushing forward at a more balanced level.
There aren’t any licenced teams or players in Ganbare! Super Strikers, they are all random Japanese names and don’t represent any teams from the J-League either. Not that it matters. My football knowledge is pretty good, circa 20 years ago, but in a game like this, it doesn’t matter so much. Ganbare! Super Strikers breaks the rules a bit by introducing a turn-based system to a genre that is often fast-paced. I’m not going to go on record to say this is a unique take on the sport in existence, as I’m sure that’s some obscure title out there, I just haven’t played it nor can remember it.
In terms of presentation, it’s an interesting one. As brought up earlier, watching the trailer for this title made me want to pass (dad pun there for you. You’re welcome). However, once you get stuck in, the graphics resemble a typical retro title, and you soon realise that it’s unimportant. The same too with the tempo of the game. While there is a minute timer for each action, the typical flow of a football game doesn’t feel sluggish in any way, and you could argue that it encourages a bit more a strategic style of play. You can’t substitute players or changing your formation on the fly; you have to wait until half time for that. Still, positioning your players or holding back on that special ability to unleash it in the last few minutes to turn the game on its head is a lot of fun. Just don’t expect me to say anything kind about the music. While typing this paragraph, I almost lobbed the Switch across the room with the constant soundtrack – aarrggghhh!!! But, if that’s the worst part of the game, that’s not a bad thing, surely?
Ganbare! Super Strikers doesn’t knock any other titles off the podium in the exhaustive quest to find a decent football title on the Switch, but it certainly sprints past the halfway line, breaks down the defence and hovers around the goal line. Worth a look if you could be persuaded to take a gamble with turn-based play, but be advised that this is a solo effort and you can’t play against a friend. A bit of a rarity that, and possibly one of the main reasons I like football games so much.
Ganbare! Super Strikers works as a solo effort and will keep you out of mischief for a while. At least until you’ve levelled your team up and won the World Cup. Ganbare! (good luck!).
TBG Score: 7/10
Platform: Steam, PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo Switch
Release Date: 28/02/2020
No. of Players: 1
Category: Sports, RPG
Developer: Rese Games
Publisher: Ratalaika Games
Download link: eShop