I’m a big fan of Mario Sports games, but Mario Strikers is the one that has eluded me, until this iteration in Mario Strikers: Battle League Football. Similar to the other sports titles, it’s a game that’s big on local multiplayer but has an even bigger reliance on the online community it hopes to build.
At its core, Mario Strikers: Battle League is a very competent soccer game that features teams of five (one being the goalie). The game is easy to pickup and play, albeit frantic, but a lot actually goes into mastering it, with perfect passes and shots playing a big part, and through balls also being an option to totally control where you’re passing the ball.
Without all the Mario craziness, this could be compared to the likes of FIFA Street, but the Mario items that have been introduced, such as the Red Shell and Bob-omb ensure that there’s literally never a dull moment in the four minute matches. Whilst literally anything goes including the ability to tackle any opponent even when they don’t have the ball, Nintendo has been clever in awarding the opposing team with items if they’re unfairly tackled without the ball. If you go too overboard, a star will be awarded to that team which is pretty much a free passage to the goal.
Another big part of this game are Hyper Strikes, which in the earlier stages, feel like an automatic passage to a two point goal. Every now and then a Super Smash Bros like orb will appear on the field and the first team to touch it will have a small amount of time to enact a Hyper Strike quick time event in their own goal. If you stop the marker within two spots, you’ll get an instant two point goal. If your timing is off, the opponent will have to mash a button to stop it from going in.
In the earlier stages, where the CPU was quite easy, I felt the Hyper Strikes got really repetitive, but once you were playing against more aggressive opponents and online opponents, the Hyper Strikes became nearly impossible to pull off, requiring immense strategy to even get the time to be able to shoot your shot, and that’s a good thing as they felt a lot less gimmicky and more strategy based.
Initially, I’ll admit that I felt overwhelmed by everything going on in Strikers, but as time went on, and I progressively played better opponents in the Cup Battles, I realised that the items and Hyper Strikes actually play really well into the strategy and go a long way to dictating whether you want to play hugely offensively (even without the ball) which will result in your opponent getting massive amounts of items, or if you really just want to play the most direct path to the goal in a more traditional soccer style.
My only critique at the craziness that ensues is that it can be hard at times to tell where the ball is and also to determine in the moment which of the players are actually on your team. I think once things get really serious online, this could decide matches which could be a problem, but hopefully Nintendo work to make players more visible.
One thing that can’t be understated is just how much personality this game has. Every character has so many different win/loss/goal scoring animations and everything from smashing your opponent into the wall to the charming noises they make as they pass the ball is just so wonderful.
Just like with other recent Nintendo games such as Nintendo Switch Sports and Mario Tennis Aces, the days of unlocking things locally is near non-existent in Nintendo games and that’s very much the same here. Beyond the cups that can be played locally (which don’t really provide any unlocks), you’ll want to take your game online into the Strikers Club.
Now admittedly, all of my online games ran flawlessly so far, but they were just online quick battles with other reviewers and I haven’t had a chance to experience Strikers Club yet. I kind of like the idea but worry that it’s a very “Nintendo” execution. At first glance, I thought it was very similar to FIFA’s seasons with divisions, and it is that on the surface, but instead of having your own progession, you seem to be tied to a club with up to 20 other players, who can either be friends or complete randoms. Your movement across divisions is tied to your entire clubs success, so for instance you’ll want to be playing with the maximum amount of people in your club as it’s based on how many games have been won across your entire club.
I think the idea is cool, but I feel that when I’m playing online in a ranked type mode, I don’t really want other people’s performance dictating how I go, in a game that can be played solo. I really do like to see Nintendo trying out new things in the online space though, and I didn’t have a single hiccup in any of my online matches beside the odd frame drop.
Customisation is a big part of Mario Strikers: Battle League. Unlocking parts allows you to change your characters attributes, so you might turn Bowser into a more agile player than he initially is, or you might give Toad less speed but make him a better shooter. It’s a nice addition, but feels more about cosmetics than anything else which is totally fine.
Super Mario: Strikers Battle League got more fun as I put more time into it. It feels just right in terms of being basic enough that anyone can pick up but still really requiring skill and having a lot of depth. It feels like Nintendo is still discovering how to navigate creating a game that is both a great single player experience whilst also providing depth online, but things are definitely improving with every release.
Mario Strikers: Battle League is a fun time that is easy enough for anybody to pickup and play but still with enough depth to mean it should keep players engaged for a long period of time. It's a little lacking in the single player department, but it's doing some interesting things in the online space to make up for it.
Huge Amounts Of Personality
A Bunch Of Fun When You Get All The Mechanics Down