As a millennial Brit, I grew up on football (soccer). Whether it was watching live footie on TV, kicking a ball around in the garden, or playing FIFA, like most young boys of my generation, I was obsessed. I started out with FIFA Road to World Cup ’98 and have purchased at least half of the FIFA titles since then, but I always had a penchant for the arcade titles. The FIFA Street and Mario Strikers series are still among my favourite arcade sports games and, like many, I’m dying for a current gen Mario Strikers entry. So, when I saw Super Kickers League, I was excited by an attempt to revitalize the series on the Switch. Does it earn its place among the arcade greats, or is this is a cheap knockoff? Read on to find out.
When you first boot up the game, you’ll only have access to Teams Mode, where you select a captain and get assigned two, generic-looking lackeys. It doesn’t quite have the same charm as picking Mario and having a team of red and white Toads take to the field alongside you, but this is the simplest mode of Super Kicker’s League. It’s likely just intended to introduce beginners to the gameplay mechanics, and you’d be excused for choosing to play the other modes. Once you’ve beaten the easiest cup, which just requires you to win 4 matches, you’ll be able to customise your team with 3 unique players in Kickers Mode. To refer back to the Mario Strikers analogy, think of this like filling your team with 3 captains instead of 1 captain and some minions. There’s also a Retro Mode that you’ll unlock later, which changes the camera angle and adds a pixelated ‘retro’ filter.
The controls are fairly simple, though the button layout is a little confusing. A is shoot, which I feel is universally the pass button for every other football game, arcade or not. B is your regular pass and Y is the lofted pass, both of which seem to either snap perfectly to your teammate’s feet or go incredibly wayward. There’s also the usual sprint button on R and a “dribble” button on L that will cause your player to juggle the ball or perform a quick skill to beat an opponent. Defensively, you have a slide and sort of headbutt charge, both of which can dispossess an opponent or send them flying if timed correctly.
Overall, the controls are simple enough, but their execution is a little rough around the edges – everything from passing to shooting, to tackling feels a little imprecise. I think the big issue though, is the lack of a minimap – this means that it’s very difficult to play a pass to an ally offscreen, because you’re never really sure where they are, and your AI teammates aren’t inclined to make clever runs. This regularly led to me losing possession, so more often than not, I’d just run into space and shoot. This is a viable option from all kinds of angles as you can hold the shoot button to fire off a stronger shot that’s more likely to score, especially if you’ve built up your charge meter by completing successful passes.
Finally, you can also press X – whether you’re in possession of the ball or not – to activate your character’s special ability. These range from summoning a UFO that abducts a nearby opponent, to becoming a bovine Beyblade – no, I’m not joking, you literally spin a cow around at a high speed for a few seconds, stunning any opponents that get in range. These abilities turn the wacky comic relief up to 11, and will no doubt have young gamers in stitches.
Ultimately, that’s where I see Super Kickers League succeeding. The bright colours and simple controls feel like they were intended for a younger audience, and with the option of up to 6-person local multiplayer, I can definitely see this being a hit at a kid’s birthday party. It’s absolutely great for casual multiplayer mayhem, but I think it could quickly devolve into cheap strategies. I’ve already found a few ways of beating the system, and I can imagine some players using them as a crutch – like that one friend who spams Kirby’s down-B when you play Smash Bros., you know who you are.
I did reach out to developers and I’m happy to report that they’re working on a patch to “improve the gameplay, make it faster paced and fix some game issues”, which is great news. It’s clear that Xaloc Studios have put a lot of heart into Super Kickers League and want it to be in a state they can be fully proud of.
Audio, Visuals & Performance
The audio is serviceable for a sports title but it’s not exactly a genre known for pioneering great audio quality. What I will say is it’s nice that different pitches have their own music, but some of these will start to get on your nerves when playing a cup as they end up looping for 15 minutes or so.
They all have their own theme and visual flair which is nice to see – for instance, a match played on a farm has timber lazily nailed together for goals, and the street pitch has graffiti peppered around. As I mentioned before, this is quite a visually striking game, with bright colours and sharp graphics. It runs very well in handheld mode which is good for backseat car journeys and will look great in docked mode, too.
At £13.49 GBP or $14.99 USD, I think the price matches up well with the genre and audience. There’s a slew of good couch co-op games at the $15-$20 mark, and this fills the niche of an arcade football game that fellow fans of the Mario Strikers series have been clamoring for. There are achievements to unlock and you’ll need to play for a few hours to unlock all the modes, cups, and leagues anyway, though the curve of unlocks could definitely be smoother. It feels like a bit of a grind which isn’t what most players want from a sports title, so it’s hard to recommend as a single player title.
It’s also great to see a “reverse Switch tax” for once – the PS4 version of the game is slightly more expensive at £14.99 in the UK, and they only have a 4 player co-op, making Super Kickers League feel like it was designed for the Switch.
Fun arcade mayhem
6-player couch co-op
Decent value for money
Unlocking everything takes a while
Easy to cheese