Mario – How does he have time to save Princess, the Galaxy, tame Donkey Kong, win kart races, throw parties, and even play baseball? Even all that isn’t enough for him. He’s now once again dusted off the Football shirt. People who need plumbing will need to wait, while we play Mario Strikers: Battle League Football!
Mario Strikers: Battle League Football is the latest in the Mario Strikers series. It started its life way back in the GameCube era and is the 3rd title in the series. Developed by Next Level Games, it aims to put that all too familiar family-friendly Mario twist into the good old game of football (soccer for you overseas types).
Since 2007, fans of Mario Strikers have been chomping at the bit to see Mario hitting the field with friends and enemies. Seeing Mario and company kicking the ball around and throwing out taunts with reckless abandon has been missed. Now with the advances in the internet, Mario Strikers: Battle League aims to take the game worldwide.
I won’t bore you dear reader with the ins and outs of Football, mainly because a lot of the rules don’t apply in the Mushroom Kingdom. That and I don’t follow the sport and can’t explain what “Offside” even means! Luckily that doesn’t stop me here.
Up the Hammer Bros
Teams of 4 made up of Mario, friends, and enemies such as Peach, Luigi, Bowser, and even Waluigi aim to kick a football into the other team’s net. The team with the most points wins. That’s about all you need to know from the rules of ball meets foot.
Through the game’s expansive tutorial led by charming robot Fútbol you’re taught the controls. They’re simple for the most part. Two types of passes, a button to shoot, click L to switch characters, and dodge with R. Add in a stamina-limited dash and of course a use item button. What Mario game would it be without items to add to the chaos?
The controls change somewhat when you don’t have possession of the ball replacing an overhead pass for a tackle. It’s all really easy to pick up and the tutorial gives you ample opportunity to get used to the scheme before you hit the pitch.
The intricacies lie within the button timings. Press pass at the right time and it goes faster or shots have a better chance. Timing helps with that kind of thing. To do the more successful tackles and super shots you’re also required to charge the move by holding its button-down.
Hyper Shots are locked behind an orb you can pick up during the match. This charges all 4 of your team members, meaning that any of your players can take the shot. While on your opponent’s side of the pitch and powered up, you hold the shoot button down, and if not interrupted a timing mini-game where you have to stop an arrow at the right part of a meter appears. Successfully manage this and you stand to earn 2 points for just one goal! Fail and it could be a complete miss.
Items are represented here in the same way they are in Mario Kart. Shells can be fired across the grounds either in a straight line for the green variant or home in on your nearest player with the red. Star offers tackling immunity and Bananas can be slipped on. All the chaos of Mario Kart is here contained on the pitch with equally as pleasing results.
The goalies are A.I. controlled, so the only time you need to worry about them is when a Hyper Shot is taken against you and you have to try and hammer the A button to save the shot. Your team can also be A.I. controlled or controlled by up to 4 players, but when playing solo you’ll control one character and switch to others on the fly by pressing L. The character currently being controlled has a handy number floating above them.
The game is brilliantly balanced. If someone abuses tackle on you, the game awards you items to help tip the balance. Character weight is taken into account, so you don’t often see Toad outrunning Bowser and tackling the living daylights out of the Koopa Trooper King.
I said often because a new addition to Mario Strikers: Battle League Football is the inclusion of “Gear”. You can buy this using the coins you win or are awarded for taking part in matches.
Gear allows you to change characters’ visuals alongside their stats. Maybe you like Toad but want him to have the power of Donkey Kong? Buying Gear can make that a reality. This not only adds a decent bit of customization and replayability to the package but also leans into that slightly chaotic nature too.
In terms of game modes, Mario Strikers: Battle League Football offers a standard versus mode, a run-of-the-mill Cup Tournament mode where you can win trophies that convert to coins, and finally the Strikers Club which I’ll touch on soon.
He’s ‘avin a laugh!
The lack of Single Player content is quite sad considering Mario Golf recently had quite a decent bit of content as did Mario Tennis. Instead, you’re left with very little outside of the actual football matches if you’re not interested in the online side of things.
Strikers Club allows you to make your football club. You can design the football kit and customize the football stadium, then take the fight online with your friends to prove who has the best football skills. If you create the club then you have the most sway in how things look, whereas if you join a club you and the other members have to vote.
While it’s still very early in the title’s life, the online works brilliantly. It’s a load of fun if you can get a few friends together and build towards a successful football career. There seems to be a good bit of focus on this particular element, so I would imagine Nintendo will update this section regularly.
Sadly the above mode is locked behind playing online which also ties it behind paying to play online. It’s a shame the developers didn’t make a similar mode for the single-player offline experience, and instead just kept with barebones cup battles as this mode has a lot of potential.
The Beautiful Game
Visually it’s a Nintendo title so you know what to expect. It’s colorful, it’s fun, it’s smooth and it just oozes family appeal. Plus it runs like a dream either docked or handheld!
The chaotic nature of the game is never once crippled by frame rate issues, even when half the pitch is being blown up and several players are currently being electrocuted on the fence surrounding the pitch.
When you hit the Hyper Shot, you get a brilliant cutscene that transitions into a comic drawing effect. It looks amazing, but also makes me yearn for a filter where the whole game looks like that!
Sound effects are as charming and over the top, as one would expect from the Mario series of games. I’d especially like to point out the soundtrack, which presents some absolutely outstanding remixes of classic Mario tunes. They’ve had me humming them for the last few days!
Mario Strikers: Battle League Football is a brilliant, arcade-style sports game that has a little too much on the online side of things making the single-player practically anemic. The online is lots of fun, especially with friends but for less social gamers or younger children, there isn’t a whole lot of content to do once you’ve collected every cup.
Solid fun gameplay, outstanding performance, and those timeless Nintendo visuals make Mario Strikers: Battle League Football yet another fun Nintendo Switch exclusive title that can convert the masses to pick up and play sports. Even the ones like myself that detest the source game it comes from!
MARIO STRIKERS: BATTLE LEAGUE FOOTBALL IS RECOMMENDED
Many thanks go to Nintendo for a Nintendo Switch review code for this title.
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Pride of utopia & greatest thing ever, I found the One Piece, Collected the Dragon Balls & won the Mortal Kombat Tournament in one night, it was quiet for me that night! Follow me on Twitter @powahdunk