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Mario Strikers: Battle League Game review

Game review 15 June 2022, 16:00

author: Giancarlo Saldana

Giancarlo Saldana has been covering video games and tech for over a decade for publications like 1UP, GamesRadar, TechRadar, MacLife, Blast Magazine, and more. Twitter: @giansaldana

Mario Strikers Battle League Review: Worth A Shot

15 years after the release of Mario Strikers Charged, a new entry, Mario Strikers Battle League, makes it ways to Switch to offer fans more of a zany Mario-esque soccer game.

The review is based on the Switch version.

Nintendo has a way of making sports games accessible to those who wouldn’t normally call themselves a fan of the genre. While games like Mario Golf and Mario Tennis have the basics of the sport down pat, items like those found in Mario Kart remind you that these are lighthearted titles meant not to be taken too seriously.

This sentiment holds true with Mario Strikers: Battle League, a sequel to Nintendo’s Mario-brand of soccer 15 years following the last entry in the series. Setting the game apart are its technical controls that make it feel like a serious sports title mixed with a rock soundtrack, some updated features, and that Mario-universe flair that makes it feel approachable and familiar. While its overall features are slim pickings, Strikers gives you quality over quantity and a unique take on the sport.

Depth on the Field

At its core, Battle League is a soccer game taking lots of liberties. There are no referees, no penalties for doing too much damage to your opponent, and games are played four on four across a decent-size field with two goalies at each end. Think of it as an arcade-y take on soccer because you won’t just be running with the ball hoping to kick into your opponent’s goal: you’ll be taking out your aggression on your opponents a lot here, too.

Besides the usual passing and shooting, tackling plays an important defensive maneuver on the field. Now chargeable, tackles let you ram into your opponents to steal their ball. One of the downsides of always playing aggressively is that the enemy can dodge, and if you miss, your character will need a few seconds to recover. Battle League now also lets you tackle your own teammates to then cause them to bump into the enemy to steal their ball. This technique isn’t just fun to pull off, but it makes for some strategic plays when you communicate well with your partner or if you time your move just right.

PROS:
  1. Surprisingly technical offering plenty of ways to strategize and master different plays;
  2. Stylish and filled with personality;
  3. Gear selection lets you customize your team to your liking.
CONS:
  1. Few modes to choose from;
  2. Small roster of players;
  3. Unskippable cutscenes get repetitive.

In fact, team tackling is just one of the many techniques that the game allows you to master to feel like a true Battle League pro. There are unique ways to pass the ball, combos you can achieve by passing then shooting, and even perfect inputs you can pull off that give you an edge when you time them just right. It’s impressive to see its training mode walk you through these techniques in depth considering most Mario sports titles have basic controls with the occasional gimmick thrown in.

And yes, there is a “gimmick” here too, and it resembles the Final Smash in Super Smash Bros. As you play a match, a shining orb will show up on the field, and whichever team gets to it first will charge everyone up to pull off a Hyper Strike shot. If you complete its quick-time event just right, your shot will be an instant goal and give your team two extra points. This is a great way to help a losing team make a comeback, but it leaves you vulnerable to getting tackled if you don’t think twice about when to pull this off.

Thankfully, the Hyper Shot is a balanced technique and only adds to the frenzy that happens on the field. If your input isn’t perfect, the defending team can simply mash a button and stop your ball from scoring. Plus, as I mentioned, you can quickly tackle someone to interrupt their shot. It’s flashy and comes with it some cool animations for each of the game’s characters, but you sadly cant skip it every time it plays out. And considering the game’s roster is so limited, sitting through the same Hyper Strike cutscene will soon get old.

Items also offer you a way to come back from a loss and add another dose of strategy to your plays. In fact, if you play too aggressively and always tackle the enemy when not near the goal, the enemy team will get an item that could mean trouble for you. Dodging green shells, bananas, and even that familiar star means you have more things to worry about when playing defense but it can clear the way to pull off a Hyper Strike or increase your chances of scoring when the ball is on your side.

Cutting Corners

While the game’s techniques and controls are robust and what you want in a good strategy sports game, its roster leaves much to be desired. When I first played the game and noticed only 10 characters on the roster, I figured more would be unlocked as I played through more of the game—but no. Compared to past games that included captains and sidekicks, Battle League only features 10 playable characters. Sure, each one has unique stats in speed, strength, and passing, for example, but sometimes you just want to play as someone besides Mario. Where’s Birdo, Boo, Goomba, and, hello, Daisy?

Despite this, everyone’s individual stats give you a unique experience on the field. Toad is too weak to tackle Bowser unless you fully charge his attacks, but he is the fastest of the bunch. If you want to customize your characters even more and make Toad, say, stronger than Bowser, you actually can by purchasing gear and equipping various pieces of armor, headgear, and footwear to change the stats of each character. Keeping things balanced, gear will increase a stat and decrease another, and this lets you customize your characters and create a team based on your preferences. At the end of the day, however, a Toad is still a Toad no matter what he is wearing.

Similar to its small roster, Battle League’s modes are pretty lacking and don’t offer the usual fluff that comes with other sports titles. Surprisingly, there is no story mode or a collection of mini-games to play with here, and all you get are modes that highlight the game’s specialty: soccer. Quick Battle lets you play offline or online matches against people or computers while Cup Battle just lets you play through a series of matches in a tournament-style mode that gets tougher as you win. These modes are straightforward and give you more of what the game excels in not to mention coins that let you purchase gear—but you will miss the joy of modes that normally add depth to a sport beyond just scoring. You will miss the lack of fluff.

VERDICT:

Much of the fun that you will get from Mario Strikers: Battle League will be on the field mastering its tight controls, discovering the best ways to give certain characters various gear combinations to maximize their potential, and understanding the ins and outs of playing offense and defense. Its modes, however, are simple so but don’t expect too much right now in terms of extra features and characters. What you see is what you get.

Battle League also offers a new Strikers Club mode that lets you either create or join an online club where members can play together against other clubs in matches to be the best. Nintendo plans to refresh the leaderboards each season so teams can get competitive and test their skills, but this mode does have some questionable choices that take away from its design.

For starters, you can only play online matches with other clubs with one other team member and not as a full team. What’s more, whenever you win a match you gain club currency that you can apply to upgrading your club’s stadium via cosmetic changes. This is the only mode that lets you customize your stadium, and if you leave a club, all the work you put into customizing it is left behind for the club owner to benefit from. It’s a strange choice to not offer the same options in offline mode considering that would give players more to unlock beyond character gear. The first season starts soon so time will tell how competitive players get and how this mode holds up when a simple ranked mode could have easily sufficed.

Final Thoughts

Mario Strikers: Battle League is a game that oozes personality. Animations are unique to each character and will surprise even the most diehard Nintendo fan. Who knew Peach was a secret gymnast or that Yoshi had so much swagger? The amount of detail in each match, especially in the Hyper Strike cutscenes, is impressive and its rock soundtrack is banging and fits the game’s aggressive, gritty vibe.

Much of the fun that you will get from Battle League will be on the field mastering its tight controls, discovering the best ways to give certain characters various gear combinations to maximize their potential, and understanding the ins and outs of playing offense and defense. Its modes, however, are simple and only focus on what makes it good without adding anything to spice things up.

Mario Strikers Battle League Review: Worth A Shot - picture #6

Our reviews are featured on Metacritic.

Nintendo plans to offer free DLC down the road so let’s hope that includes new modes and characters because right now the game feels a little too small for what you would expect. Easy to pick up but hard to master, Battle League is both an impressive arcade sports title and fun party game all in one but don’t expect too much right now in terms of extra features and characters. What you see is what you get.

Giancarlo Saldana | Gamepressure.com

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