Kicking, the habit

Mario Strikers: Battle League is OK as far as it goes for an hour of goofy fun, but wears out its...
Mario Strikers: Battle League is OK as far as it goes for an hour of goofy fun, but wears out its welcome pretty fast. IMAGE: SUPPLIED

From: Nintendo For: Nintendo Switch ★★+

I have a soft spot in my heart for Mario Strikers.

My older brother picked up the the Nintendo Wii version, Mario Strikers Charged, from a discount bin and we spent countless hours battling it out with each other.

The idea of a cartoonishly violent version of football where Bowser spikes the ball with his hands and punches the other players into electric barriers is brilliant. It’s fast, goofy and totally disregards the idea that sports games have to be serious. I have fond memories of it.

I imagine many children will grow up with fond memories of Battle League, but it makes me sad to think what they are playing is a shallow, content-starved version of what used to be great.

In Battle League you pick out a team of four Mario characters and play football. There are 10 characters on the roster and five stadiums to pick from.

You can upgrade your characters with gear, which make them better at football. You buy gear with coins. You get coins by playing football. You can play tournaments, which consist of multiple football matches in a row.

Football, football, football. That’s the game.

A game from the earlier eras of gaming with more heart would have had a list of unlockable characters and stadiums. Battle League does not. Battle League is purely about playing football for the sake of it. That is not inherently bad. The issue is the football is not a whole lot of fun. It is wonderful for an hour of couch gaming with a friend, but it quickly becomes stale.

The standard match time is four minutes, most of which will be spent with you and your opponent having goals blocked. Your rival, an AI, online opponent or a friend, will take the ball, and maybe you’ll take it back. You’ll charge a shot and the extremely strong goalkeeper will block it. That is the gameplay loop of the match.

You can get around this super-powered goalkeeper by being crafty, which almost guarantees a win against the AI. The fun of it only really comes in if you’re playing a friend who can actively understand what you are doing.

The other way to score goals is by picking up an orb, which allows you to make a ‘‘hyper strike’’. To pull off a hyper strike, you charge a shot to full and perform a brief quick time event. Mario, Bowser or whoever you’re playing will pull off a dramatic shot in a long-winded animation and then your rival will have to button mash to try stop it. Any goals scored this way are worth double points. The problem is this makes trying to score normal goals worthless, and the game is almost always more fun if you disable them.

The amount of animations is very small, too. There is one hyper strike animation per character, and but a few animations of characters celebrating after scoring a goal. These animations are fun, but get ready to watch the same one an awful lot.

I decked Yoshi out with gear to make him my main striker. Hearing him proudly celebrate while pulling off tricks is fun, but I’ve heard him say ‘‘yo wa ha ho!’’ so many times now that it just frustrates me. I skip it every time.

Battle League offers some fun, but it just feels unloved. Single format party games can be great, with Super Smash Bros being a shining example of that. But Battle League doesn’t try at all. There’s no nuance to the gameplay and no other content to keep you interested. The football feels like it could be a mini-game.

I could understand if the game was being sold for $20, but it isn’t. It truly feels like Nintendo made the basic gameplay feel OK, slapped a full game price tag on it and called it a day.


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