The newest game in the Mario Strikers franchise is available now. And while I don’t have access to it, I did get a chance to play the online demo that was active several days ago. This First Play article is based on that, but I honestly feel my opinions wouldn’t be that different from the full version that is now released.
Mario Strikers Battle League is the sequel to the Wii’s Mario Strikers Charged. Before jumping in I had decided to play a few matches in the original Mario Strikers to refresh my memory on the gameplay basics and overall feel of the games.
Based on the few matches I was able to play in Battle League, I feel it’s definitely closer to the original GameCube game than the sequel on Wii. There’s no stage hazards anymore, for example. There is a gimmick about choosing one half of the stadium while your rival chooses the other side, but this has absolutely no effect on the actual gameplay. It’s just a cosmetic thing. And this is probably for the best because the developers have actually made the game more chaotic than before. The only hazard is the electric wall around the field which hurts any character that gets pushed against it.
The game also felt slower overall compared to the previous games. The focus on passing the ball from Charged is gone as well. But the biggest difference is that there’s no sidekicks. This means that your team is formed by what were previously captain characters. Now here’s the big issue and I did feel it while playing online: The character roster is tiny for a 4 versus 4 game. There’s only 10 characters available. What this means is that you’ll be frequently seeing the same characters over and over again. Sometimes even in the same match, just on different team. This causes a few issues which I will explain in a few moments.
Graphically, though, the game is really good. You can notice a lot of polish in every aspect. The character animations are great, the celebrations look amazingly well done. This part is a huge upgrade from the previous games. It’s honestly even hard to notice the fact that goal celebrations are running in real time on the Switch and are not prerendered movies. And the best part is that it all runs very smoothly at all times during the match. I only noticed a small slowdown at one point but nothing really bad.
Back to the gameplay aspects, though, since everyone is a captain character now, then everyone can do their special shot, or Hyper Strike. To balance this, they made it so you can only do your Hyper Strike if you grab an item, called a Strike Orb, that randomly falls on the field. This, in my opinion, felt a bit too random as the orb can fall on your side of the field, somewhere in the middle, or on the opponent’s side where there’s no chance you’ll be able to get it. After grabbing the item, then any of your team’s characters can do the Hyper Strike like you always used to do in previous Mario Strikers games.
The regular items also suffer from the same situation as the new Striker Orb. To get them, you actually need to pass through ? Blocks that are randomly thrown in the field by the audience. Besides that, the same rules as before apply. If you are playing good, you get the chance of an item. Things like doing charged shots can trigger this. If you do “fouls”, or hitting opponent characters who don’t have the ball, the rival team gets an item box thrown in the field that is exclusive to them. And there’s also ? Blocks that any team can grab which, again, are randomly dropped on any part of the field.
With all of these going on already, you can see what I meant earlier when I said the game is already very chaotic. In fact, it’s a bit too much that I sometimes got confused as to where the ball was with all the items being used besides the ones that you have to pick up. And it doesn’t help that the same character from your team could be on the opponent’s team as well. And while playing online, I was also getting confused at which character I was controlling since the default setting is remembering your player number and following that marker. The color of the label is the same one as any other player on your team, though, so you have pay a lot of attention to the number. I did read that the Visual-Assist Mode may fix the player marker issue, though. Unfortunately, I was not able to try it while the demo was active.
As for the controls, the game plays almost the same as any previous entry but adds quite a bit of depth to each action you commit to. Previously, only shooting had some sort of depth as you could choose between a quick tap to shoot fast, charge shot, or special shot. Now, similar properties have been added to almost every other action and you get rewarded for it. For example, you can time the inputs of your passes so that you execute a Perfect Pass. Tackling receives the biggest change as you can no choose to either tap the button or charge your tackle to make them stronger. This is relevant to the new stats that each character has which make it so that light characters can’t normally push away bigger ones. And there’s also a Perfect Tackle (technically a slide) which is done by timing your input properly. And this is just a small piece of all the gameplay depth that can be found, which is bigger than any previous Mario Strikers game.
I did enjoy the small time I had with the demo of Mario Strikers Battle League, but I still felt something about it was off. The game does look amazing, though, like I previously stated. Graphics and performance were great. Cutscenes and character animations are even more detailed than before and really showcase each of the characters personality. But that brings up with the issue I have with the game: a huge lack of characters. Gameplay was good too but maybe a bit too confusing at times.
Unfortunately, at the moment, this all I can share about the game as I don’t own the full game and have no way to at the moment. The current lack of characters (specially no Daisy) also makes it hard to consider buying. But if you would like to see more Mario Strikers Battle League content from N Masters, you can help make it a possibility by supporting us.
Link-NM is the administrator of N Masters, Makendo Central, and aspiring indie game developer at NovaFan Games. His favorite game franchises include Mega Man X, The Legend of Zelda, and Mario Kart.