Mario and his rag-tag crew are back, and this time they’re back to playing soccer (or soccer, depending on what part of the world you’re in). Mario Strikers: Battle League is a return to a series we haven’t seen in over 15 years.
I admit, I haven’t played a football game in a while and the FIFA titles just bore me. The arcade experience of Mario Strikers: Battle League was great though, because it doesn’t take itself seriously and has that Nintendo charm we’ve all come to love.
But is that enough to make its way to ours? best nintendo switch games page? Let’s find out.
Everyone should know the basics
As soon as you start the game, you will be asked if you want to jump into the game or watch the workout. Seeing that it’s a new game and I’d rather be ready for everything the game has to offer, I chose to be trained. In doing so, I got more information thrown at me than I would have liked. That’s not to say the training mode is terrible, because it isn’t. It’s just the way it’s all presented. Do this, then this, and then this, then repeat a few times. It’s just boring. Still, it’s worth going through the entire course if you want to be ready for anything on the pitch.
If you skip the training, the game is relatively easy to pick up. There’s the A button to shoot, B to pass, Y to tackle players, X to use items, ZL/L to switch characters, and ZR for dashing. A few more mechanics also use a combination of button presses.
Then there are the unique techniques you need to know to win: Power Shots and Hyper Strikes. Perfect shots can be made by holding down the A button and aiming with the left stick. As soon as you release the button, your character will launch a powerful kick. Keep in mind that you will remain open and prone to tackles as you try to pull this off.
Hyper Strikes can only be performed when a special item called a Strike Orb appears on the screen. It looks like a bright ball of electrical energy. Once this is obtained, you have 20 seconds to perform a Hyper Strike by holding the A button. After a few seconds, a meter with an arrow and blue, orange and black areas will appear.
You have to press the A button when the arrow hits the blue areas. Doing this will allow you to perform a Hyper Strike. After that, you’ll be treated to an animated sequence where your character launches the ball. Of course the keeper will try to stop this, so you have to press the A button repeatedly to score a goal. If you score a goal with it, you earn two points instead of one.
Hyper Strikes also have debuffs that can cause damage to the opposing team. Wario can stun opponents, Bowser distracts opponents, while Rosalina can slow and move them. Of course, your opponents can also use these against you.
The game is played in tournament style Battle Cups. Similar to how most sports are treated during the semi-finals and finals. Winning that Battle Cup will give you the satisfaction of becoming a champion, but you will also score some coins. Unfortunately, there are only a handful of Battle Cups available. Depending on how fast you make your way through the game, you’ll want more, and there isn’t. The lack of single-player content frustrated me compared to Mario Kart 8. I suspect Nintendo will eventually offer more Battle Cups in the form of DLC in the coming months.
If you lose a match, that’s not the end. Instead, you’ll be dumped into the loser category, where you still have a shot at becoming the champion. Failing that, you have the option to spend your precious coins to rejoin the tournament. I think that’s an excellent option for those who don’t want to start over. It does get expensive though, so you may want to think about whether it’s worth your coins or not.
When you win matches, you earn coins that can be used to buy equipment. The gear gives a different look to whoever the gear is equipped on, and it also improves the stats. Gear can be equipped on the legs, arms, chest and head. Equipping gear will increase one stat while decreasing the other. Your character will play differently, and if you’re not careful, you’ll ruin that once-impressive all-star you’ve always trusted.
However, don’t be afraid to use gear as it can produce exceptional results. For example, Toad is fast, but he is weak. Equipping some strength gear will make him a better tackler. Princess Peach has a high technique stat by default. By adding some tech gear, I turned her into an unstoppable Hyper Striking beast.
Drunk with charm
Remember when I said this game had the Nintendo charm we’ve come to love? This game is full of them. Characters will show their mannerisms on the field, which can be seen in action or inactive through their animations. For example, before the start of a match, Waluigi can be seen on the ground in his best “draw me as one of your French girls” pose.
Hyper Strikes are also fun, as each character has a personalized animation where they kick the soccer ball to the goal and what happens after the kick.
However, the best part is when you or your opponent score a goal, while you are treated to a celebratory dance of victory. Each character will do their best when they make a goal, and it’s just funny to watch them. If you embarrass the other team too much, they won’t be kind to your offending dance and they’ll make it known.
It looks beautiful and performs like a champion
When it comes to Nintendo Switch games, performance is always a crapshoot. It looks good but performs terribly or vice versa. I am happy to report that this is not the case here. Unlike Mario Golf: Super Rush, Mario Strikers: Battle League offers a great visual experience at 60 frames per second, which is essential for a fast-paced game like this.
A lack of accessibility
I’ll be blunt: there are no accessibility options other than visual aid mode. I’m not sure how companies don’t get the message that all gamers want to play games. Do it better, Nintendo.
That being said, I recommend enabling visual assist mode even if you don’t think you need it. This makes for helpful markers that make it easier for you to see your characters while playing. Trust me, you’ll want this because the game tends to get fast and finding your character is a hassle at times.
How’s the multiplayer going?
After playing the short Battle Cup series, I decided to try my luck and play Mario Strikers: Battle League online, and for the most part it was solid. I had no problems with the netcode, and the matches were just short enough to play through some while doing other things. However, there is an annoying downside to playing online: tackling.
Oh boy, sometimes you come across a player who abuses the tactic. While tackling is an essential aspect of the game, all you need to do is tackle the person with the ball. That makes sense, right? Except there are players tackling your other players to take them out of a potential game and that’s both frustrating and sucks the fun out of the session.
Fortunately, Next Level Games has thought about that and came up with a way to equalize the odds. Every time someone knocks a player down without the ball, you’ll receive a free power-up that you can use and return a favor. If they keep playing dirty, the game will keep giving you valuable items. Kudos to that, NLG!
If you don’t want to play online, you’re still covered. Up to eight players can play on a single Switch, and the game doesn’t skip a beat. Plus, you can also change the options like how long a match lasts, disable Strike Orbs, and more.
There is still room for improvement
For everything Mario Strikers: Battle League does well, it’s far from perfect, and a few quirks have left me scratching my head.
For starters, as I mentioned earlier, there are only a handful of Battle Cups. All of this can be completed in about 2 to 3 hours, so you can decide whether paying $60 is worth it due to the lack of single-player content. You also need Nintendo’s Switch Online service to play online, which is another cost, especially if you don’t normally subscribe to it.
Then there’s the lack of characters available, with only ten in the roster. I’m upset that Nintendo decided to add Princess Peach and Rosalina, but left Daisy out. I mean, how could they have left out the best princess? I’m sure Nintendo is just being themselves and will eventually add more characters through free updates, just like they did with Mario Tennis Aces and Mario Golf: Super Rush. (At the time of editing this, Nintendo just announced free updates, including Daisy, Shy Guy, Knight gear, and the Desert Ruin stadium).
Finally, I feel like Nintendo and Next Level Games dropped the ball (pun intended) by not adding a story mode. A story mode that showed how the tournament went would be a great addition to a sports game.
What it comes down to:
Mario Strikers: Battle League is a nice entry to the Mario sports series, but it may not justify the $60 it costs to pick it up. There’s not much to Mario Strikers: Battle League progress other than a handful of Battle Cups and earning coins to buy gear, which can hurt the game’s lifespan. Despite this, the game is a lot of fun and the multiplayer experience is great.
As long as the price tag isn’t your business, and you’re more than happy to wait for free updates, Mario Strikers: Battle League could be worth your while. The game is now available exclusively for Nintendo Switch.