Friday, May 13, 2016

How to succeed in Pocket Card Jockey without really trying (or, here's what you should do if you suck at this quirky 3DS eShop title)

I've put over 50 hours into Pocket Card Jockey so far, and I previously put more than 60 hours into its Japanese counterpart, so I guess you could say I know this strange 3DS offering pretty well.

That’s not to suggest I'm some sort of Solitiba (that's the game's Japanese title) expert, mind you. Still, I’ve won more races than I’ve lost in during my 75-plus-hour playthrough, and I’ve also nabbed trophies at the majority of the title’s premier-level G1 events. As such, I’m OK with saying I’ve developed a better-than-adequate understanding of Pocket Card Jockey since I first booted up the Japanese version of the game three years ago.

If you've only just begun this digital oddity, or if you're a veteran of it in terms of playtime but not in results, I think you’ll find this post full of what I consider to be some of the most important Pocket Card Jockey tips and tricks helpful.


Practice really does make perfect--None of the advice that follows will make a lick of difference if you're rarely able to complete Pocket Card Jockey's solitaire rounds. So, if you suck at golf solitaire, do one or both of these things: restart your game and go through its opening tutorial as many times as is needed for you to feel comfortable with its oft-confusing components. Or, take advantage of the training mode that’s accessible via the main menu screen. I actually put a few minutes into the latter every time I boot up this Game Freak-made title—both to warm me up a bit and to give myself the best possible chance of winning a bunch of races once I transition to the real deal.

Focus from the word go--At the beginning of a race (during the "Start Solitaire" phase), keep a close eye on the cards that fall from the top of the screen. Specifically, do your best to not lose sight of the card that contains five blue spheres. Then, aim for it to get the best possible start—which in the case of Pocket Card Jockey means kicking things off with as much "Unity Power" as you can. That said, don't dally. It’s better to choose a less desirable card (one with fewer than five spheres on it) and earn a less impressive start than it is to not choose one at all and face a miserable start from which you and your foal probably won’t be able to recover.


Know when to stick to your comfort zone and when to stray from it--When I first published this post a couple of weeks ago, I suggested ignoring the advice shared in the game's tutorial, which posits that players should do their best to stick to Comfort Zone Lv. 3 while on the racetrack. I said that because although aiming for Comfort Zone Lv. 3 can pay off dearly (you enter the invincible-esque “Super Unity” mode by successfully clearing the solitaire tableau), it also can cause you and your trusty steed to quickly crash and burn. Why? The solitaire rounds within Comfort Zone Lv. 3 are the toughest to complete (those in Comfort Zone Lv. 1 are the easiest), and if you leave too many cards on the table, so to speak, you risk finding yourself atop a runaway horse. As a result, I initially thought it was best to stay within Comfort Zone Lv. 2 as much as possible due to the fact that the solitaire hands there are more difficult than those in Comfort Zone Lv. 1 but are more lenient than those in Comfort Zone Lv. 3. Later, I amended that recommendation to "somewhere between 50 and 75 percent of the time."

My current opinion on the matter is that you should aim for Comfort Zone Lv. 3 as often as you're able--as long as your solitaire skills are up to snuff. Doing so lets you rapidly build up your "Energy" meter and also allows you to suck up as many special item cards as possible--both of which play an important role in winning races. If you have a hard time clearing the solitaire tableaus in Comfort Zone Lv. 3, though, avoid this strategy. Instead, try this: move into Comfort Zone Lv. 3 while on the straightaways, and transition into Comfort Zone Lv. 2 whenever you start to round a corner.


Don't put the card before the horse--During a race, grab as many of the horseshoe and lightbulb cards as you can--they're the only way to level-up your horse and increase its speed, strength and skills, after all--but don't go crazy. Sometimes they're enticingly placed in positions (within the jagged red-orange-yellow portions of the track) that will leave you vulnerable—aka, hit you with a "turning loss"—while rounding a bend. Speaking of that fiery curtain that descends onto the field every few rounds, feel free to venture onto it after you clear a hand of solitaire while in Comfort Zone Lv. 2 or 3, as this is the only time you can do so without being penalized.

Boost or bust--One of the keys to winning Pocket Card Jockey's tougher races is to pick up at least one of the boost cards (the ones with a blue flame in the center) as you gallop around the track. They provide you with some additional oomph during the home stretch and can be the difference between coming in first and missing out on it by a nose. A related piece of advice here: use your boost cards as soon as possible on the straightaway. Just make sure the no other horses are in your way before you hit the associated button, as although these cards are supposed to let you push them out of the way, they don't do it 100 percent of the time in my experience.


Boxes are for video games, not jockeys and ponies--Just before the homestretch, make sure your horse is in a position that makes it unlikely it’ll get boxed in by its competitors. Usually this means moving it to a higher spot on the track (as opposed to hugging the inside edge). Being surrounded by other steeds isn’t such a big deal if you manage to snag one or two of the above-mentioned boost cards that pop up each race, as they help you break through such bottlenecks. Fail to grab one, though, and you can kiss the current race goodbye if you find yourself tied up.

I can't believe I'm suggesting this, but save your spending cash for the $10,000 puzzle pieces--Early on, it makes sense to spend some of your winnings on the items--carrots, gloves, riding crops--sold at Chirp's Happy Horses shop. They can give you the edge you need to place in those initial races. Later on, though, Chirp's prices go through the roof. Should you still buy one of the above-mentioned products when they cost $10,000 or even $30,000? Not in my opinion. Instead, I suggest saving up your dough until you have enough to buy one or more puzzle pieces. Without spoiling anything, they'll end up providing you with bigger boosts than the above-mentioned accessories ever will. At least, that is, until you complete all of Pocket Card Jockey's puzzles. Once you do that, stop buying pieces and blow your hard-earned cash on carrots, gloves and the like, especially before you're tossed into one of the title's G1 races.


Just breed--Although it's possible to take one of the game's generic steeds and turn it into one that runs away with the King's Gate trophy, that's far more likely to happen if you spend some time breeding your best stallions and mares. Don't just randomly pair up two of them, though; choose two that have similar characteristics and peak times, have won a ton of races or have the best stats and skills. They will produce the most powerful foals. Also, keep your eye out for offspring who have one, two or three stars in their bios. These fillies and colts are the strongest, so include them in the equation whenever possible.

This ain't no place for ageist jockeys--I've read quite a few comments on line that recommend passing on Pocket Card Jockey's mature mode and instead focusing on its growth mode. I disagree. A lot of good can be gained from the former, even if it doesn't help you level-up your current undulate. First, it allows you to win more money that can be blown on the pricey puzzle pieces mentioned above. Second, it lets you win more races. In particular, it lets you bolster your collection of GI trophies--and that's what you need to do if you want your horses to retire champions. Which you do want, of course, as the easiest way to produce the best Pocket Card Jockey companions is to breed champions after they've been sent to the farm.

Are any of you also enjoying--or at least playing--Pocket Card Jockey? If so, please let me know in the comments section below if you agree or disagree any of the pointers I've shared above. Also feel free to share your own tips and tricks related to this 3DS game.

See also: previous Solitiba and Pocket Card Jockey posts

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