Since its premiere on the Gamecube in 2005, Mario Strikers has been a favorite of many Mario sports fans, thanks in large part to its non-stop action. Its successful formula was improved in Mario Strikers Charged just two years later on the Wii. And then…nothing. It’s now been 15 years since the last time we got Mario and his friends on the field for a friendly (or not-so-friendly) soccer match. My demo session left me intrigued by the updates and excited to take it for a spin myself, but in the back of my head, I had the looming question: Is Mario Strikers Battle League playing it too safe?
I recently watched 45 minutes of Mario Strikers Battle League ahead of next month’s release, played by members of the Nintendo Treehouse. The session showed us two offline modes: Quick battles and Cup battles. The latter features multiple double elimination tournaments of increasing difficulty. Mario Strikers Battle League will also support up to 8 players offline versus on one console and four-player co-op in the offline cup battles.
For those wondering about what it offers beyond the offline content, we also got to check out the online Striker club mode. Strikers club is Battle Leagues online mode where players can create or join football clubs and compete against others in seasons to earn rewards and customizations. Matches played online will earn or lose your club points and place you in various tiers that will determine your prizes at the end of each season.
Battle League still utilizes one character to assume the captain’s role, showcasing their unique styles at the beginning and end of matches. While you were only able to field one main character as a captain in the previous Mario Strikers entries – and the remainder of the team would consist of Toads, Birdos, Koopas, and more – this time around, you select your team from any remaining characters in the roster in any way you see fit, minus the goalie.
The roster during our preview only included ten characters, most of which everyone will expect. It was shocking that it appeared to have a smaller roster for a team game where you use four characters, especially compared to Switch’s other Mario sports games. Both Mario Tennis Aces and Mario Golf: Super Rush launched with 16 characters. Granted, it’s arguably tougher to balance a game and its characters when more of them are on the field at once, but it did feel like Strikers is playing it safe. Thankfully both tennis and golf have a solid track record of adding new characters post-launch, so here’s hoping that Mario Strikers Battle League will follow suit in the same way.
I selected Waluigi as my captain for my demo, with Peach, Rosalina, and Wario filling up the remaining slots. Each character has a unique special called a Hyper Strike that aligns with their personality. Waluigi twirls with his iconic rose, and his particular shot spawn thorns that block others from passing, while Rosalina kicks the ball around a planet before it returns covered in ice, freezing all caught in its path. Hyper Strike goals can sometimes decide a match as they have the potential of being an unblockable two-point goal. However, teams will be fighting to obtain hyper strike balls that will spawn throughout the match to enable these Hyper Strike shots. This power-up lasts a short while or until the player attempts a Hyper Strike, but opponents can prematurely end the power-up by interrupting the shot with a well-timed tackle.
Speaking of tackling opponents, just like in the previous installments, attacking players who don’t have the ball will give that team a free item to use and potentially gain a significant advantage. Items include green and red shells, banana peels, bob-ombs, stars, etc. And don’t worry if your opponent refuses to tackle your team unless they have the ball, as items will still randomly spawn on the field regularly throughout the match. If you’ve played Mario Kart or any other Mario sports game, you can imagine how powerful an item at the right time can be for turning a match around.
Meanwhile, Mario Strikers Battle League seems to have leveled up its customization options. Besides choosing the pattern or colors for your jersey or kit, you can also equip stat-boosting gear to enhance your character’s stats. Gear sets like the muscle set increase your strength at the cost of shooting, whereas equipping the complete cannon set can help make even the worst shooters an ace scorer.
Additionally, you can personalize your stadium to your liking. There are multiple themes for your stadium, field, and other fixtures. Depending on your preference, the fences and goalposts we see in soccer swap from the boring goalposts to pipes, blocks, and other Mario-themed objects. I got to see five themes in the preview, Mushroom Hill, Jungle Retreat, Royal Castle, Lava Castle, and a Spooky Mansion theme that, as you might expect, is heavily inspired by Luigi’s Mansion. Each of these also has multiple variations to unlock and customize to help differentiate your stadium’s theme from your opponents. The coolest part is that when you face off against an opponent, your stadium merges with theirs, so both get to show teams get to show off their flair.
Although I couldn’t play Mario Strikers Battle League myself, the preview was enough of a taste of what to expect when it launches. I’m excited about the ability to build my dream team of Mario characters and challenge others around the world. And while Nintendo wouldn’t confirm anything specific, they did mention that there are plans for additional content down the line. Hopefully, we will see other popular characters join the roster after it launches for the Switch on June 10, along with their matching customization options.
Source: IGN Video Games All