Review: Mario Strikers: Battle League could be the game of the summer

Mario is doing his best
Enlarge / Mario makes his best “sports anime” impression.

When it comes to sports video games, I think the crazier they are, the better. If I want a game that accurately and authentically captures every detail of a real sport, I just go out and play that sport myself, or maybe watch some pros do the same. In a virtual version, I would like to see the sport enhanced with features that would be impossible on a real field.

Similar to its predecessors Mario Strikers: Battle League fulfills this video game sports fantasy quite well and offers what essentially that is Super Mario Kart Version of simplified football. And while the game has some balancing issues (particularly in single player), it’s overall a frenetic and fun approach to the sport that could easily sustain a strong online multiplayer community.

The more things change

If you played the original Super Mario Striker on the GameCube or the 2007 sequel on the Wii, here you have the basics. While the game is ostensibly a four-on-four soccer game (with no chance of the ball going wide), most of the time it more closely resembles a crushing, long-drawn racquet.

You’ll find yourself constantly charging at nearby opponents to knock them down and get the ball or prevent a pass with no yellow or red card in sight. Then on offense you have to constantly be ready with a quick reflex dodge or look for an open pass in order not to lose the ball in a similar brawl.

Despite the full contact changes from real soccer, this is still a game of careful positioning. On offense you need to push forward for a charged, centered shot without overexerting yourself and let defense come back with a quick break. On defense, you have to be careful not to put yourself out of position to block a pass or a powerful shot by tackling the ball carrier. fight leagueThe lob passes from open up the field a bit in the third dimension too, allowing you to sail the ball over tight defenses and set up a good shot that’s easier to get past the computer-controlled goalie.

Please more sports games with huge items on the field.
Enlarge / Please more sports games with huge items on the field.

Mario Kart-style items like seashells, banana peels, and bombs are still in play here; They are effective on offense to create much-needed space, or on defense to quickly stop an attack. These items now come in crates that are randomly thrown onto the field, sometimes requiring you to pause a game and run out of your way to pick them up. The game also balances itself a bit by providing the losing team with item boxes that only they can pick up during a match.

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