Ganbare! Super Strikers is a title doomed by the same premise that makes it so remarkable. Enticed with the promise of an strategy role-playing game and football hybrid, I dove head first into the game before finding myself extremely underwhelmed. What I found was a game lacking the thrill of XCOM and the excitement of a football match. Nevertheless, there’s still fun to be had with the game.
This title opens strong with you being allowed to create your own custom character in a cartoony aesthetic. Picking qualities like droopy eyes and purple hair, I was immediately brought back to every 90s’ kid’s favorite series Backyard Baseball (at least if you were a child in America). It was simple fun for a simple time. Ganbare! Super Strikers moves past this simplicity by adding strategy tactics to its football game, similar to XCOM or Final Fantasy Tactics. It’s an interesting concept but falls flat as soon as it’s put into practice. With you and your opponent each having turns, you move the characters across the field hoping to gain control of the ball and shoot a goal into your opponent’s net. In the meantime you might intercept a pass between opposing players or dribble the ball past your opponent by means of a system that leverages both of the players’ points, with the successful offense or defense depending on who has the higher score.
It may seem complicated but it just really comes down to luck. Therein lies the problem. By crossing your fingers, hoping that you have the higher points as you move your character in boxes across the field before your turn ends, the excitement and thrill of a football match is completely obfuscated. Where’s the skill supposed to be used? Furthermore, a kid’s football match will never have the high stakes of rebelling against a successful alien invasion like in XCOM 2 or of a medieval fantasy war between two brooding factions in Final Fantasy Tactics. Intricately moving your playable characters so they aren’t stabbed or zapped before reaching your mission objective eliminates the boredom you might find in a slow moving game. A kid’s football match? Not so much.
The biggest misstep, however, is the truly awful visual design of Ganbare!. I looked beyond the bland menu to dive into the promising gameplay concept. As soon as I’d finished creating my custom character I felt this strong feeling of disbelief once I saw the characters on the field. The environment you move your characters in is so devoid of any personality or interesting aesthetic that I couldn’t remove this feeling from enrapturing my actual thought of the game: bland and uninteresting. The characters have next to no frames of animation so you really will move still characters among squares laid out on an insipid environment for every minute you spend playing the game outside of menus. When the characters of different ethnicities are given Japanese names and play for Japan’s national team, why couldn’t the game stick to an Japanese aesthetic? I believe there has been an attempt to infuse an anime style but it’s so noncommittal it may as well not be there at all. The football manga Captain Tsubasa has had videogame adaptations from the Super Famicom to the iPad. Could they not have taken some visual design cues from these titles, or even throw in a sci-fi or fantasy twist? It looks more like an educational game to teach children school subjects. With wearisome gameplay and no aesthetic there is little to nothing memorable about the game.
There are variations to be found in the gameplay, however small they may be. There are challenges found in each match, such as ensuring your opponents don’t score a goal or scoring a set amount yourself. Completing this will allow you to equip new items like better gloves or shin guards. Furthermore, you can learn abilities that will allow you to get a higher chance of scoring a goal or sending an opponent to sleep. There’s also a fair amount of modes to be found. I began with Story Mode and upon completion moved to Arcade Mode. There’s a solid amount of gameplay to found, whether you find the overall game worth playing or not.
Unfortunately, Ganbare! Super Strikers on Xbox One is it’s own worst enemy. I admire the development team’s ambition to create something new but unfortunately it doesn’t strike any of the right chords. As a big fan of strategy RPGs and football alike, I’m eager to see the developer make another attempt at this genre hybrid, or even another attempt at a new type of gameplay. As for the moment, however, I cannot recommend this title.