I’ve probably played the various Mario Tennis games more than any other video game in existence, and definitely dabbled in the Mario Golf games, but to be honest, I don’t think I’ve played a lot of the Mario Strikers games, which is why I was really excited to go hands-on with Mario Strikers: Battle League.
Coming off of Nintendo Switch Sports, I was keen to see how this shaped up in comparison to the Soccer within that compilation, and I quickly realised this was not at all similar. Whilst Nintendo Switch Sports soccer is easy to pickup and play, Mario Strikers: Battle League is extremely complex, with controls similar to FIFA, but even but with added unpredictability, craziness and trick shots. The game is easy to pickup and play, but to master, you really need to learn each skill in isolation, which is why the game has a complex training mode that I got to play through.
The game is 5 on 5 with your team made up of four main characters from the Mario franchise and a generic goalie. At its core, this is a soccer game that is about keeping the ball away from the other team, but the main difference is obviously the fact that there are literally no fouls, making this the most brutal Mario game I’ve ever seen, and there’s also items straight from the Mario Kart franchise such as green and red shells, Bob-ombs, Mushrooms, Bananas and the Star and obviously these change things up quite dramatically.
From what I understand, the core gameplay is similar to that of the last two Mario games with some new introductions. One of these is the Team Tackle, which allows you to tackle your own team mate into your opposition, so that you can launch a last ditch effort to stop a goal, and there’s Hyper Strikes, which are activated by getting a Super Smash Bros like orb on the battlefield. You’ll then need to take a shot from your offensive half of the field, and then you’ll get the ability to time two arrows between two bars. If you time it perfectly, you’ll launch a hyper strike that can’t be stopped by your opponent, but if your strike is imperfect, your opponent will get a quick time event in order to stop it.
One of the best things about the hyper strikes are watching the different character animations, which are full of personality and perfectly sum up not only how much personality is in this game, but also just how damn good it looks. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that this is one of the best looking Nintendo Switch games.
I have some concerns that the hyper strikes might get a bit repetitive, but I think they’ll hopefully keep things interesting, particular as people get better at timing the shots. As a whole, once I got in the groove of actually working out the controls, and learning advance skills such as perfect, pass perfect tackles and through balls etc, I could see that there’s a lot of depth here that will hopefully lend to the online portion of the game being really active, particularly because there’s online divisions similar to that of FIFA.
Whilst each characters have their own attributes, for instance Bowser and Donkey Kong might be stronger and better at tackling whilst Peach might be faster, there’s a brand new gear feature that allows you to unlock and equip different gear that slightly plays with the attributes of each characters, so you can turn Bowser into a slightly faster player, whilst maybe losing a little bit of his power. I don’t suspect it’ll change things too crazily, but it’ll hopefully mean that you can get your team setup exactly how you want it.
I feel like Mario Strikers: Battle League just continues Nintendo’s recent streak of really looking at its franchises and thinking about how they can not only make them a little bit more mature, but also giving them more depth, both with online modes, but also just from a gameplay point of view. Mario Strikers: Battle League will still be a tonne of fun for casual gatherings, but I like that I can now see the potential for hardcore gamers who really want to take the time to master each skill.