Bottom line: While the multiplayer in Mario Strikers: Battle League is great at its core, the single-player and online content really fumbles the score.
High-risk Hyper Strikes
No Career Mode
Confusing multiplayer restrictions
No Strikers Club at launch
Lackluster character roster
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Mario is officially a plumber but has also somehow managed to become a parkour master with fantastic platforming skills, obtain a medical degree and a drag racing license, and master several sports. Essentially, Mario is the cousin who seems to be perfect at everything; the one your parents just can't stop keep comparing you to. It's difficult to be mad at him for it, though, because every spin-off game fitted with that Mario flair is super charming.
Mario Strikers: Battle League is the third game in the Mario Strikers series, which sees Mario and various Mushroom Kingdom characters duke it out in the age-old game of soccer, or association football. Each team features four Mushroom Kingdom fielders with their own strengths and weaknesses, and the goalkeeper, played by a CPU, Boom Boom, that can't be controlled by the player. While these games are smaller and shorter than the traditional soccer match, you'll still have to work on basic dribbling, passing, and shooting the ball into the goal. Mario Strikers: Battle League hits the mark with the basics, but the omission of crucial content has got me giving it a yellow card.
Disclaimer: This review was made possible by a copy of the game purchased by iMore.
Mario Strikers: Battle League: What's good
This is my first Mario Strikers game, and I must say that the gameplay mechanics definitely leave a great impression. I only watch soccer casually with family, so I was initially worried that I'd be bombarded with technical jargon that I wasn't familiar with. On the contrary, this game is super welcoming to fans both new and old, even if you're unfamiliar with any aspect of the century-old game that inspired it. This game feels great to play, and I felt much more prepared heading into it after playing the Free Kick demo, which offers training and a now discontinued online play component. Each face button offers a unique action like shooting or passing that's easy to execute, with more advanced techniques attached to them for veteran players. As far as the base gameplay goes, I'm thoroughly impressed.
|Category||Mario Strikers: Battle League|
|Title||Mario Strikers: Battle League|
|Game Size||3 GB|
|Play Time||10 hours|
It's not a Mario sports game if it isn't centered around a huge gimmick, and this time around it's the Hyper Strike. A Strike Orb, similar to the Smash Balls found in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate will appear on the field after some time. Whichever team hits it first will glow in its respective jersey color for 20 seconds, during which they need to attempt a charged shot. Depending on how well the player does in a quick time event (QTE), they can execute a dramatic Hyper Strike which is illustrated by a cutscene unique to each character. If the shot is successful, that team scores two points instead of the one earned through scoring a regular goal.
I found myself tense and sweating as I raced across the field to get each Strike Orb for my team, using items and (admittedly) aggressive tactics to get the ball and find an opening to shoot. At the same time, I quickly learned that it's important to keep a level head during the QTE to execute a perfect Hyper Strike that won't be blocked. If the other team manages to pull one off, another QTE appears where I can frantically try to block the ball. I think the inclusion of Hyper Strikes incites a perfect balance of tension and skill that doesn't break the game entirely.
Sports is all about performance and camaraderie, which is here in droves. Each time a goal is scored or a team wins, a cutscene plays of the characters responsible as they either do a victory cheer or show their frustration. Peach waves to the crowd, Luigi does a little happy dance, and Yoshi rolls around on the ball before striking a criminally cute pose. I love how much personality is crammed into these animations, and it allows you to bask in your team's victories as you make them. They even feature whatever gear your current players are wearing, which shows just how much care was put into this often overlooked aspect of the game.
Mario Strikers: Battle League: What's not good
Mario sports games are no strangers to story modes and single-player content. Both Mario Tennis Aces and Mario Golf: Super Rush featured a story mode for solo players to engage in after their friends went home at the end of an intense multiplayer session. However, a Story or Career Mode is nowhere to be found in Mario Strikers: Battle League.
The only thing resembling a single-player or offline mode is the cup tournaments, which let up to four players on a single console team up and engage in an elimination-style tournament against CPU teams. Each team focuses on a different stat found in the players, like Strength, Speed, and Technique, getting more difficult as players progress. I found it was a good place to brush up my skills in shooting and passing, as well as an opportunity to practice more advanced techniques found in the training tutorial. Unfortunately, it felt a bit hollow and repetitive, with nothing but coins and one last tournament being a reward for beating each Cup. I wanted to gain experience as a player, perhaps unlock exclusive gear, just something to feel like I'd progressed somehow.
Pivoting back to multiplayer, it feels like figuring out how many players can actually play in each game mode is exhausting. Playing in Quick Battle on one console allows for up to eight players in a match, with both goalkeepers being controlled by the CPU, Boom Boom. Should be easy and consistent across other modes, right? After all, every game you play will have eight players in it, so it shouldn't be a problem!
Except it is. While gameplay on a single console supports up to eight players, playing with multiple consoles only allows up to two players per console, meaning two full teams would need to bring four Nintendo Switch systems together. This goes for both local wireless and online play in Quick Battle. On the other hand, Cup Battles allow up to four players per console to create one team with which to compete against the CPU team. The rules here seem arbitrary, and I wonder whether the online play was difficult for the developers to implement.
Along with the new gameplay gimmick comes the new Strikers Club, where players can form their own soccer club and compete against others to climb in the ranks. Once again, clubs can have multiple members, but only two members are allowed to engage in online matches at a time. Whether four players can play for their club at once on different systems is not something I was able to test, due to how the Strikers Club works. Clubs can compete within a week-long season, which is followed by a week of off-season time. You cannot join any clubs during a season, so the game is currently in off-season during launch as players purchase the game and join teams. This means that at launch, nobody is able to use this advertised feature of the game as intended. While I cannot pass negative judgment on gameplay I can't access, the fact that I cannot access it in the first place is annoying, to say the least.
Another irksome aspect: Listen, I love Yoshi as much as the next gal — but I wish I had more than 10 players to choose from. The last iteration in this series, Mario Strikers Charged, had twelve "main" characters and eight "sidekicks" to build a five-player team, reducing how repetitive teams look when playing locally and online. Dataminers have hinted at up to 10 additional characters being added post-launch, but on the other hand, the majority of games tend to be at their most popular shortly after launch. Companies need to find a balance, sure, but I wonder how many players will be turned off by the initial minuscule roster and not bother returning, even when it expands.
Mario Strikers: Battle League: Should you play it?
Mario Strikers: Battle League is definitely sure-footed in its tactics and the content that is available is extremely fun to play. The gameplay itself is solid, and the Hyper Strikes are a great way of turning the tides of a match while not being too overpowered. However, it misses the mark when it comes to single-player content, its character roster, and the overly complicated rules for teaming up with friends. If you're someone who mostly plays games solo or online, I'd pass on this iteration until new content releases down the line. If you have a dedicated group to play with locally or as a part of the Strikers Club, this offers a decent amount of content for you to enjoy.