Mario has just about seen and done it all. He’s a platformer, athlete, partier, fighter and just about anything else we could come up with. Strange thing is, his profession is a plumber, yet we’ve really never see a videogame starring Mario actually doing is job, rather ironic isn’t it? Well, come this December (wait, a winter month?), we all will be experiencing what it’s like to take “Plumber and Co.” out on the soccer field. But of course, this is the Mario universe, nothing is every truly realistic. We’ve seen it in Mario Golf, we’ve seen it in Tennis and just about every other sport he’s been in. The soccer field will be no safe place for anyone when players finally begin competing against each other. Have you ever imagined what a giant Koopa shell floating around a soccer field would be like? Well, you’ll soon find out first hand..
Unfortunately, when myself and my friend picked up our controllers to play the game, there was only one mode available to us. I do believe it was a Grudge match, but even though that was the only one available, it was great fun to participate. Anyway, the game started up, and we had to choose our team captains. There were only two available though, so it’s not like our decisions were tough. I went with Mario, and my friend went ahead with Donkey Kong. Now keep in mind that each character is the only Mario universe character making an appearance on the team. The rest of your team is comprised of other characters such as Koopas and Kremlings. The Koopas are normally running on the field along with you and the Kremlings function as your goalies. Don’t ask why I don’t understand it either.
Anyway, the game begins at midfield just as many other sports do, and the action ensues. The gameplay for Mario Strikers is very simple and easy to get used to. You have the A button for regular passing and the B button for kicking the ball in a scoring attempt. If you would like to make a pass over an opposing player’s head, simply hold L and hit A afterwards. That will cause the ball to be “popped” into the air and travel to the nearest teammate of the direction you are pressing. So what does the L and B combination do you’re wondering? Well just like L and A is a passing combination, L and B executes a sort of “chip shot”. That is particularly useful when you’re close to your opponent’s goal with no one really near you except the goalie. That will allow you to pop the ball over the head of the goalie offering you a great chance of scoring. But something that like happening isn’t very often so don’t expect to be able to pop in goal after goal without much interference. The field of Mario Strikers is quite small compared to regulation soccer, so you’re almost always being threatened by something or someone.
In terms of other controls, they are just as simple. Would you like whoever you’re controlling to do some sprinting rather than jogging? Simply hold the R button down and you have that accomplished. Would you like to execute a sweet looking deke or fake move to get past your opponent? Simply press Y when you’re controlling the ball. However, when on defense, the buttons are a little different. If you press A when not threatening to score, you will switch between characters on your team. If you want to try stealing the ball from your opponent, tap B and you will execute a “sliding” attack. However, if you wish to be a little more ruthless than that, you can hit Y and initiate a nasty hit that will send the receiving end flying. So what does X do you may be wondering? Well that is quite the useful button, as it will cause you to use a special move. In the demo I played, whether you’re on offense or defense you can use them, and I happened to witness spiny shells and bombs littering the field. The spiny shells will interfere with whoever they run into obviously, and in a nice dramatic effect, the bombs will send victims flying from the blast radius. There are a good number more items than that which can cause chaos on the field, but I did not happen to witness them.
Now this is Mario Strikers, a Mario sports title, there’s got to be special ways to execute soccer plays correct? Well, yes, indeed correct. When aiming to put the ball in your opponent’s net, you can hold the B button to do a “charge shot” which is very similar to the power shots of Mario Tennis and Golf. To make it even cooler, if you happen to initiate one of these charge shots and connect with it, you are a treated to a very sweet looking animation of your character pulling some Mia Hamm stuff when nailing that soccer ball. In terms of how everything else looks, the graphics are just fine. The soccer field actually looks very nice, with the traditional graphical appeal of Mario giving it a rather surprisingly realistic display. The blades of grass and white paint look very authentic. The character models look just fine, it’s just a shame that in the demo, all your teammates look exactly the same. That especially applies to the red shelled Koopas. They all look like they are identical twins who just happened to stumble upon a soccer field, which can make games appear a little bland graphically. The audience wasn’t really impressive either, as they all look like flat pieces of paper animated with pitifully cycling sprite movements. As small as the soccer field is, you would think Nintendo would put more time into making the fans a little better looking and more exciting. After all, the spectators of soccer tend to be a little “crazy” so to speak. Now Nintendo wouldn’t have to make them cause violence like it tends to happen on occasion, but they could make them seem more than just thrown together.
Although to help make up for those shortcomings in the game’s overall graphical appeal, Nintendo decided to treat us to impressive FMVs. These FMVs usually occur when you actually score a goal, and then just like how real soccer stars run around the field with fists in the air along with their teammates, your team does the same. Both myself and my friend witnessed Mario and DK respectively having “running celebrations” around the field when we scored. I suppose it’s Nintendo’s answer to the whole announcer thing when they say “GGGGGOOOOOAAAAALLLLL!!!!!” So it’s something to make the game more appealing to the eye, and it’s a more-than-welcome addition.
All in all Super Mario Strikers was definitely one of my favourite demos at this year’s Nintendo Fusion Tour. Both myself and my friend really enjoyed playing the match that we did, and I happened to gain victory over him 3-2 in Sudden Death. That’s right, there are no ties in Mario Strikers, if the score is the same at the end of regulation, it turns to S.D. mode and the first person who scores will walk away with the ‘W’. It was indeed a pleasant surprise for me just how entertaining and exciting the game was, as I originally wasn’t expected a whole lot. But just how kooky the game plays and feels, giving just about all players a fair chance at victory is very appealing. The demo definitely had me sold, as I’m going to be picking it up come December. I actually encourage all of you interested in this game to do the same, as I feel it’s really worth it. A fun and engaging experience, Mario really knows how to lay down the law when it comes to soccer.