We've reached a point in Kairosoft's output where a pattern begins to form. On one side are Game Dev Story [$3.99 / Lite] and Grand Prix Story [$3.99 / Lite], games mostly about teams and what they can achieve. On the other side are five other titles that are more about building the perfect environment, be it mall, town, school, or hot spring. Their newest release, Pocket League Story [$2.99] falls squarely in column A. This time, you're creating the perfect soccer team, and you won't need spreadsheets or a love of soccer to enjoy yourself.

I'd go so far as to say that Pocket League Story is the most approachable game Kairosoft has put out on iOS to date. There are a few tricks to min-maxing the game, but if you do exactly what it tells you to do you'll be fine. For the spreadsheet geeks among us it may be too straightforward, but ultimately this is the perfect game to serve as an introduction to Kairosoft's catalog, or for anyone who loves their games but gets hung up on lists of combos and other arcana.

As manager of a soccer team, you're responsible for pretty much everything your team does, right down to the strategies they use on the field. The only thing that's out of your hands is how they play in the moment, and even there you have some input.

You're given control over hiring and firing players, arguably the most important part of the game. You might love your starting team, with their bright-eyed eagerness, but they're terrible. Just atrocious. They'll get you through the first few games, but your priority is to court better talent. Think Game Dev Story's talent pool, but vaster and more costly. You can really customize your team down to the last detail.

Building your team is an ongoing process, one you'll handle alongside training your players. You earn research points both on the field and off, and you can use those to improve your players stats, build up a fan base, and unlock new content. There is a bit of a building sim tucked in as you set up training facilities, but it's really low key. Most of your time off the field will be spent managing numbers, choosing basic coaching strategies and courting players, sponsors and fans.

On the field, things get a bit weirder. Like Grand Prix Story's races, Pocket League Story's matches mostly play themselves. You pick lines and formations in advance, and basic passing technique during the game. You can also fiddle with your strategy at halftime and trigger auras here or there, but your players are mostly on their own.

So you're left spectating a lot of the time. There's a huge selection of matches and league tournaments to work through in the eight years you're given, but they all boil down to the same thing: watch as your players win or lose. Games can take three or four minutes, and Pocket League soccer just isn't that stimulating a spectator sport after a few hours.

This is a misstep, for sure, because it takes players out of that non-stop, always-something-on-the-go mentality that Game Dev Story so perfected. It's much easier to put this game down than any of Kairosoft's other titles - not that that's necessarily the worst thing for those of us with other things to do.

Whether you'll enjoy Pocket League Story depends a lot on where you're coming from. Aside from a few issues some of our forum users with older devices have run into, this is probably the cleanest Kairosoft game yet. The translation is good, the tutorial explanations are clear and nothing's left to muddling through foreign cultural references. So it's easy to get into, and lays out all the traditional sim fun in a very manageable way.

But it's also quite shallow, with neither the complexity of a proper football simulator or the depth of most of Kairosoft's other games. If the meta-game of keeping spreadsheets and consulting FAQs is your thing, give this one a pass. But if it's the first Kairosoft title you're considering or you're okay with a streamlined experience, I can recommend Pocket League Story wholeheartedly.

  • http://twitter.com/Sephi_Toderas Paul Toderas

    If you loved the Grand P one you will love this too! I love it :)

  • http://twitter.com/AdamNspain Adam Spain

    Are you kidding me older device bugs? I got a 4s and once you finish 1 play through the game break by moving players off the map not allowing you to progress, only fix is reinstall which wipes all save.

    • http://fromonesurvivortoanother.tumblr.com Chungyen Chang

      Yeah, the bugs are not limited only to older devices. On all retina devices (ipod 4g, iphone 4, iphone 4s) the game refuses to move on the second play through.

      Kairosoft has been extremely silent about these problems, despite many people asking them to fix it...

      • Anonymous

        I think they need to hire a publicist that knows both Japanese and English.  It's my belief that they're not very active or open about their projects and such in Japan either. I don't follow many gaming news sources in Japanese but it's kind of odd when even a magazine like Famitsu (that's usually on top of everything) rarely picks up on info until a day before or after a game's out.

  • Andrew Lane

    I like the music!  Haha, currently my favorite Kairosoft music is Grand Prix Story, from the main menu and final garage.  Favorite Kairosoft game is Pocket Academy.

    I wish they'd make a zoo or theme park one!  I feel like they could do one properly.

  • Anonymous

    This game is a lot like Grand Prix Story only even less challenging. Easily the least difficult Kairosoft game IMO, but that's not necessarily such a bad thing. I'm having a lot of fun with this one.

  • Anonymous

    Uh ... what? "[C]leanest Kairosoft game yet?"  As Adam mentioned, this game suffers from the dreadful bug of the game never progressing (you're stuck forever replaying the first 3 Cups and Amateur League tournament) on subsequent playthroughs.  As well, the game retains all unlock flags for sponsors, building placements, and treats all team candidates you've previously recruited in the first game as people you just kicked off the roster where their convincing rate will start at 50%.

    It's actually quite sickening that Kairosoft would release the game like this.  What happened to quality assurance and bug testing?  Maybe releasing 3 games in the span of 4 weeks took a toll on them?  If that's the case, they should NEVER do this again. Quality over quantity all the way.

  • Cameron Stark

    No problems on my iPhone 4 so far. Fantastic game, one of my favorite Kairosoft games for sure.

    • http://fromonesurvivortoanother.tumblr.com Chungyen Chang

      have fun on the second play through! :)

  • daniel so

    i didnt feel the game was shallow at all. Because you can visually see the strengths and weaknesses of the players, you can adjust your lineups and player accordingly. Also, players affect each other dynamically; ie if my midfielder can't hold his ground against the opposing player and falls, then my defender has to move up to guard him.. but then the FW that DF was supposed to be defending now has a clear lane for a goal. Sometimes even the smallest changes like switching a midfielder's position from wing to center makes all the difference. 

  • Anonymous

    i love those games from kairo !!!

  • Anonymous

    im gonna try this one ... gamedevstory was so addictive

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_EN4B7WAIPLP76MFCFFPK3DWMIA VJ

    i think they should go back and play their game dev story, there's a debugging phase before they release a game.

  • Anonymous

    Enjoying this one but after 2 seasons, I've pretty well maxed things (and unlocked players/coaches).

    Still hoping I haven't hit "end game" yet.

    6 months or so later, I still can't get GPS mastered, though you carry over less from Game to game in that.

Pocket League Story Reviewed by Nissa Campbell on . Rating: 4