Mario Strikers Review: As much as anyone else, I appreciate the realism and attention to detail in a FIFA game, but there are times when you simply want to swallow the soccer ball, release it as an egg, and bounce the egg downfield till it hatches and flies past the goalie.
The Mario Strikers series, and Mario Strikers: Battle League, in particular, are known for their hilariously absurd moments, and that one is no different.
You can’t ask for much more than trying to outmaneuver your pals and score a goal while engaging in a worrying amount of cartoon violence with no referee in sight, yet I did both simultaneously. Although very little has changed in the fifteen years since Nintendo released the final Mario Strikers, the concept of outrageous mayhem and intense competition still works astonishingly well.
Two teams of four players each compete to kick, throw, headbutt, or butt-stomp a soccer ball into the opposing team’s goal in Mario’s twisted version of the sport, which bears just the slightest similarity to the real-world sport it is based on.
The idea is straightforward and easy to grasp in a matter of seconds, but what’s astonishing is how challenging it can get as your ability and drive to succeed increase. You can become a master on the pitch by honing your power shots, understanding how to time your dodges, and figuring out how to employ on-field item pickups to your greatest advantage.
After a few hours of practice, it starts to resemble a fine-tuned fighting game where every move has a natural counter and every battle turns into a test of your reflexes and ability to discern your opponents’ intents. At first glance, the game appears to be a minigame you might find in Mario Party, but the level of balance and depth is delightfully unexpected.
Mario Strikers Battle League Screenshots
The ability to tackle rival players to the ground at any time and render them immobile for several seconds is a nice illustration of that balance. If you’re playing against a very unpleasant team, that might seem pretty poisonous, and you might even have the dreadful sensation of being tackled repeatedly even when you don’t have the ball.
However, this situation offers a brilliant countermeasure: tackling a player who is not directly in front of the ball gives that team a free item to utilize right away. If the adversary is being particularly dishonest, they may even provide you with weapons such as a bob-omb that can be thrown back at them or an invincibility star that can give you control of the battlefield for a while.
You must master both the fundamentals of soccer, such as passing, shooting, tackling, and handling the ball, as well as the art of using goods and your character’s special skills and stats, in order to become a Battle League champion.
Even if it’s hilarious to hurl a turtle shell in someone’s face, the fundamentals are still crucial for putting the ball in the net.
For instance, learning to dodge at precisely the right moment gives you a momentary speed boost afterward, whereas perfect timing when charging up your tackles or shots at the goalie makes them more effective—both of which can be very useful in getting past your opponent’s defenses—makes them more effective.
Mario Strikers Review
You’ll be able to accomplish a lot in the heat of this foot battle depending on the players you’ve chosen for your team. Toad, for instance, is quite quick, but you also need to charge up all of your tackles if you want to have any chance of being able to take the ball away from someone as strong as Bowser.
On the other side, if you play as Donkey Kong, you’ll be a face-slapping machine but also a lot slower. If a character doesn’t act exactly how you want them to, you can even use the gold you’ve amassed through playing to buy gear that will boost their numbers so that they are stronger in the areas you value while making them poorer in others.
It was very satisfying to be able to modify my Mario to become a goalkeeper’s worst nightmare with a maxed Technique stat to curve my shots around them.
It was also very amusing to equip my Toad with a full loadout of strength-enhancing equipment so he could easily take on some of the chunkiest enemies. Additionally, the equipment actually alters how each character appears, and dressing Rosalina up to seem like she came straight out of Tron is just fantastic.
The Hyper Strike, a special ultimate power that enables you to perform an utterly crazy maneuver to win points, is the second key distinction between characters. These can be triggered by picking up a floating orb that spawns on the field and range from Rosalina literally kicking the ball into space till it crashes back down to the field to Wario smashing the ball with his stinking butt.
Peach is one of my favorites because she utilizes her charm to get the opposing goaltender to fall in love with her, which causes the goalie to unintentionally toss the ball into his own net.
To activate one of these techniques, you must clear the area of enemy defenders so that you can charge your ability and perform a brief quick-time event to carry out the action. You not only get to see a sick cutscene unfold but pulling one off earns your team two points.
Mario Strikers Trailer
All of this is a lot of fun, but very little in Battle League departs significantly from what has come before in the franchise.
There are fewer characters than in the past (only 10 in total), which seems like a strange move given that not only are all the key mechanics largely identical to its predecessors on the Gamecube and Wii.
Additionally, there are no other game kinds save the default one you play in each mode’s story mode or campaign. Overall, the product is quite basic, despite the fact that it is very replayable.
The primary offline option is referred to as Cup Battles, where you engage your team in a standard and fairly quick tournament against computer-controlled opponents with a trophy up for grabs if you can defeat the adversary. Before playing with friends or in online matches, these tournaments are a great way to learn the ropes and hone your skills.
However, they offer few surprises and only minor differences between each of the cups you can enter into—typically just different AI teams that use slightly modified strategies and items from each other.
The good news is that some of the later cups provide significantly higher difficulty for those seeking a greater battle against the AI, but I wish each tournament offered a wider range of options.
Part brutal brawler, part skillful soccer game, Mario Strikers: Battle League is almost always a delight to play. There won’t be many surprises for you if you’ve played any of the series’ other games, and the lack of characters and game types is undoubtedly disappointing.
However, what is present is very enjoyable and replayable. The brief time I’ve spent in the online mode has also left an impression on me. It paves the way for a ranked playlist that I’m eager to get to the top of.