Such is the current state of play on the Switch, it feels as though there is more competition for the title of best tactical, role-playing football game than there is for actual football simulators. Although it’s a travesty that no one has sought to take on EA and its FIFA series, attention has now been drawn towards a new wave of football games.
Ganbare! Super Strikers is a creative and inventive take on the ‘beautiful game’ and, if not for the recent release of Football, Tactics and Glory, it would have been as unique a title as they come. Billed as a tactical RPG all about football, Ganbare! sees you rise up the ranks of the footballing world, with subtle and not-so-subtle nods to the RPG genre evident throughout.
In either 7v7 or 11v11 matches, you take turns against AI opposition to move your players and advance on goal to score. You can either pass, dribble, or shoot, and each time you do, the skillset of the player is taken into consideration to determine how successful the action will be. If an opposition player is in the way, stats will be compared to see who the victor is. Possession may change hands or a tackle may be dodged, and the virtual clock runs down with each move taken.
It is likely that fans of tactical RPGs will be more at home here than football fans themselves. With only two possible moves for each player during a turn, the fast-paced action associated with football is missing from kick-off. What’s left is a strategic and slow game that focuses more on levelling up, status effects, and special abilities than it does on scoring a 35-yard screamer from midfield.
Levelling up your players is almost reminiscent of the RPG grind that fans love and loathe in equal measure. After each game, XP is calculated and players increase their stats, unlock equipment, and develop new abilities – that’s the aforementioned subtle nod to more traditional RPGs. The not-so-subtle nod is the special abilities that make little to no sense on a football pitch.
One such example is the ‘Ice Tackle.’ If a player performs this move, the player on the receiving end turns to ice and is unavailable for the next turn. This doesn’t fit the context, and it would have been possible to develop the football narrative further simply by changing the status effect to something like ‘injured’ instead. There are pockets where this has been done, for example, equipping shin pads as an accessory to improve the stats of a player, but the game is definitely missing the immersion that sports fans crave.
These special abilities prove to be the biggest stumbling block to an otherwise accessible game. They’re also inescapable: each match in the story mode pits you against a team where a player has a special ability which often feels overpowered, unavoidable, and more reliant on luck than skill.
The anime aesthetics are serviceable and could well be an indicator not to take Ganbare! too seriously as a sporting simulator. The visuals also mirror the gameplay itself: engaging on the surface but lacking the depth required for players to invest the hours that the sports genre usually demands. It is unfortunate that Ganbare! Super Strikers doesn’t have the stamina to deliver; the idea is a promising one, but a lack of realism, variety and pace relegate this one to the sidelines.
Ganbare! Super Strikers £9.99
Ganbare! Super Strikers lacks the elements that can make a sports game great and it lacks the depth of a good tactical RPG. There is potential in this unlikely mash-up of genres, but the balance hasn’t been struck here.