Mario Strikers: Battle League Football – Game Review


Mario Strikers: Battle League Football 

(available for Nintendo Switch only)

Mario Strikers: Battle League Football is developed by Next Level Games, making this their first project since being purchased by Nintendo at the beginning of last year. Mario Strikers was a series that they developed during the GameCube and Wii eras, but the team has certainly moved on since then- having made Punch Out on the Wii, as well as taking over the Luigi’s Mansion games, which I think was a good move for them.

Now, Mario Strikers hasn’t had a lot of time to build up, it was only announced 4 months ahead of its release, and it didn’t look like it was doing much different than in previous games. You’re essentially playing 5 aside football with Mario characters and of course, all of the chaos that comes with it, and it’s a much more brutal version of the game. The difference this time is, you’re not controlling one big Mario character and minion characters, all of your team members are prominent Mario characters. So you can have a team that has Mario, Donkey Kong, Peach, and Toad if you want.

The items are once again here and they’re items you would expect from Mario Kart and of course Hyper Strike Circuit, but they are slightly changed from previous games. The major difference being that you mash the A button if you’re blocking and the bar works a little bit differently since you can also get invincible shocks if you time it correctly. Though this time, if the hyper strike goes in, it counts for 2 goals rather than one. You can’t get the massive increase in goals that you could in previous games.

The game also announced the Squad system, where in each session there are people in different clubs facing off for the leader board. It’s one of the reasons that this review took me a bit longer than anticipated, because I had to wait an extra week after launch to wait for this game to become available.

That being said, I thought that Mario Strikers in the previous games was one of my favourite Mario sports games and I was excited to see Next Level Games come out with another one but how does it turn out? Well, it does improve on previous Mario sports games, but it also copies a few of them.

PROS

  • Gameplay

Now, I will say, Mario Strikers’ gameplay is a lot better than Mario Golf’s gameplay. The biggest problem with Golf’s gameplay is that it had a combination of being too dumbed down and also feeling like it was up to a random number generator for several sections. It also had a really bad story mode. The gameplay this time is a lot more fast paced and fun, and it really works! Matches are a little repetitive but they can still be a lot of fun, especially if you have a good team for it. There are a few issues I had with the gameplay, but they’re mostly superficial- I did feel like the goalies were a little inconsistent about when they were going to save a goal, but on the whole that wasn’t really much of an issue. I also think that the hyper strikes this time have a better risk vs. reward mechanic to them, as you can have your hyper strike interrupted if your opponents tackle you in time, and at that point you can’t have another attempt at them unless you get the power sphere later on in the match.

Matches are set to 4 minutes, giving them a good quick pace.

The selection of characters is also interesting, each one having different stats that they excel at. For example, Bowser and Donkey Kong are good power characters for tackling, and Rosalina is a really good striker, so she’s very good if you can get her near the net for a good shot.

The use of items is also a bit chaotic, but they really do add to the game. If you can time them right they can give you great advantages. For example, activating a star can give you a clean break to do a hyper strike, or throwing a bomb so there’s less defenders for your shot.

Overall, I will say that Mario Strikers might be quite a repetitive game but that doesn’t make it boring at all.

  • Graphics

I actually think the graphics and art style looks really good in this game, particularly the animations that are used for hyper strikes. While I would say that it’s not really pushing the Switch, it does a good job and it matches the Mario art style very well. One of the problems with Mario Golf was that none of the courses felt like it was set in the Mario universe, but this game does a way better job with this.

MIXED

  • Multiplayer

The multiplayer in Mario Strikers is very much a mixed bag. It functions perfectly fine and is very good fun, you can have up to 8 players playing the game, if you’ve got 8 controllers that’s great, if not, there’s always online multiplayer. You can, under the right circumstances, have a full 8 player match online. The online functions really well, I rarely had disconnect from other players or any major lag in online. Granted, I was playing in an environment with good internet most of the time, but I did try in other locations and it still functioned relatively okay.

The problems with this mainly surround online multiplayer. If you want to play a 4v4 game online it’s going to require 4 Switches. While it will let you team up with other players online, it’s not possible to have 8 people all with their own Switches pair up to have a match. The game only allows 2 switches to team up at a time. So, if I gave my friend another controller, we would appear together on screen and could each pick our own character. We’d have to do this 3 more times and then we would have a full match. That’s way too many hoops to jump through! It really reeks of it not being possible in the time frame that Next Level Games was given, so they had to put the game out with online multiplayer that doesn’t function that well.

I also had some trouble with online multiplayer. While I could play them myself and that functioned well enough, I did sometimes notice that I had trouble following which character I was and who had the ball at some points.

When you start the match you get the option of auto or manual, auto meaning that if you pass the ball to another character you swap to control that character, and manual meaning you have to swap characters by yourself. I would really recommend picking auto, it functions a lot better, though it does depend on your style of player.

The major point of the negatives is that I was actually going to team up with my three friends from the Anime Amigos podcast, but we can’t do that now! It’s really annoying.

  • The gear system

Gear was introduced as a way to personalise your character, it basically functions to emphasise one trait whilst lowering another one, like gaining speed in cost for strength, shooting for technique, etc. I do like the personalisation that you can get with this, but here’s the thing- most characters already have traits to begin with. Mario isn’t a strength-based character, but you can turn him into one with equipment, but at this point- why not just pick Donkey Kong? I kind of think that I would have preferred the gear system to not be in the game, and instead there just be more characters. Only one gear requires doing any of the single player content, and it’s only worth equipping because it’s samurai armour so it makes the characters look cool- it’s actually kind of detrimental to the characters overall. I certainly noticed that a lot of other players stopped equipping it after a while.

CONS

  • Severe lack of content at launch

This isn’t just about characters, there’s other stuff too, but there’s only 8 characters at launch, which is absolutely criminal! Especially considering characters like Daisy and Diddy Kong aren’t in the game yet. What’s more, there’s not much gear. There’s only about 6 sets that you can get and the single player content. There’s virtually nothing. There are only about 10 cups to compete in, 5 at normal level that you need to unlock the final set of gear, and the more advanced cups to test your skill that have the worst AI balancing in one of these sports games I think I’ve ever seen. They’ll go from 0 to 100. The AI has some serious issues in the online multiplayer as well, it’s really dumb sometimes and that’s why I think it’s best to have as many people as possible in an online game.

Fortunately, you don’t need to complete the advanced cups, so I would just suggest doing online multiplayer.

Now, I will be honest. I’m glad there’s not much to unlock, because that was my problem with Mario Golf- I didn’t want to play through the story mode of that game, but WOW, Mario Strikers feels like it’s not got much content at launch. Nintendo have confirmed that they plan to bring in more content, but I don’t know if I’ll be playing it that much when they add a new character. The first season of the online multiplayer competition did not inspire me all that much to keep playing, and as a result, I’ve found myself moving away from the game more and more.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Mario Strikers: Battle League Football is not a bad game. It plays perfectly fine, but it’s got some stumbling blocks that really push it backwards, and while it’s not an uninspired game, it needs way more to really convince me to take most of my time. The GameCube and Wii games have more content than this!

It’s not an awful game, in fact I liked it more than Mario Golf Super Rush which made way more blunders.

Final Score 6.9/10

Calvin
Nerd Consultant

And now Reece’s review

My experience with Mario Strikers: Battle League is that I have beaten all of the normal difficulty cups and had plenty of matches in the Battle League mode in the new Anime Amigos club.

Mario Strikers: Battle League is the 3rd game in the Mario Strikers series by Next Level Games, with the last entry being Mario Strikers Charged on the Wii back in 2007 and still remains my favourite Mario sports game aside from the Mario Kart franchise.

It is a football simulator game featuring 4 Vs 4 characters in a match, players can control the 4 players in their team and switch to them at any time in a match. The only character the player cannot control is the goalkeeper who is solely A.I controlled.

Pro:

Gameplay.
In keeping with previous Mario Strikers games, the gameplay is still fast and fluid while staying in control.

If you enjoyed the gameplay of previous Mario Strikers games then you will enjoy the new entry as everything from tackling, shooting and passing is very responsive even when controlling the larger characters like Bowser and Donkey Kong.

Graphics.
The game visually looks great and a big improvement over the last entry, where now textures and colours look great while also being more vibrant.

This is shown off more if you have the OLED Screen Switch that makes the visuals pop even more and help stand out.

The big standout in this game visually speaking is the new Hyper Strikers that instead of the darker and metal inspired of Strikers Charged are now instead more colourful while having a more painted aesthetic to them.

Strikers Club.
The main selling point of this game is the titular Battle League and is the main multiplayer component of the game.

Players can set up their own club and can then invite their friends to join or allow random people to join, and this can be done until 20 players are in the club.

Players can customise their club by choosing which club colours you will wear in your matches, which stadium you want to play on and most importantly the club’s name to help make your club standout from other competing clubs.

The Battle League allows clubs to fight others clubs during a period of time called a “Season” then during this season you compete to climb higher in the ranks to try and see which club can have the most wins by the end of the season and be called the best club.

Gear.
The other big selling point of Battle League is the gear system. On top of each character’s specific stats these can then be further augmented with purchased gear from the gear shop.

While each individual piece of gear won’t do much to change how a character plays, you can stack up to 4 pieces of gear at once (Head, Chest, Gloves and Shoes).

Then when you equip all 4 slots with specific gear that is when a character really changes how you use them. An example is that I have my Bowser (Who’s speed is one of the lowest in the game) to now almost max out his speed while reducing his passing stat this way he goes from the slowest on the pitch to one of the fastest, and this couldn’t be done without the gear system.

Tutorials.
Very in-depth breakdown on the new controls and skills for players to use in-game. The tutorials do a great job of helping newer players get to grips with the controls if Battle League is their first Mario Strikers game.

Con:

Single player.
In comparison to the multiplayer the single player is severely lacking compared to past entries as apart from quick matches you have the cup battles.

The cup battles have also been reduced from past games and the normal versions of the cups are too easy they flipped the switch made the Galactic versions very difficult with the A.I scoring goals from the halfway line and when you fully block their Hyper Strikes it still goes in and they get 2 goals even if you blocked it perfectly.

Next Level Games even removed the mission mode from Charged where you had to complete a specific objective with a strict time limit, so now there’s even less single player content with that removal so if you are a player without either friends for local multiplayer or a good internet connection for online multiplayer then you are stuck with a very limited game that costs full price.

Stadiums.
The stadiums in this game offer no variety to the pitch compared to other, leaving each match feeling very similar due to the lack of variety. These new stadiums also do not have any stage hazards apart from the electric fence.

There are also way too few stadiums as some are shared between characters instead of each character having a unique stadium for themselves.

A more obvious comparison is to Mario Kart and the different tracks you can race on or Mario Golf where there are different courses to play on. Instead, all the stadiums and fields feel identical from a gameplay experience.

Character winning animations.
For some reason when some characters have their victory animations from scoring goals the animation causes the game to lag and drop several fps. This was most notable with Donkey Kong and Wario.

In-game unlockables.
In comparison to previous games there is a severe lack of things to unlock, as there is no characters or stadiums to unlock with the only reward being a set of gear that isn’t the best.

Lack of characters.
Battle League starts you off with 10 captains with no more to unlock and no sidekicks. In comparison Strikers Charged on the Wii featured 12 captains and 8 sidekicks to mix and match to form your favourite team.

This means that Battle League has half of the roster that Charged had at release which is very disappointing, as it is going from 20 unique characters down to a paltry 10 characters.

Gear restrictions.
While the gear system is good in concept it is let down by each gear piece buy being locked behind one character e.g. if I buy a piece of gear for Bowser then I will need to rebuy that same piece for all the other characters too meaning that it will take a lot longer to grind coins for all the characters in game.

Coin grinding.
To purchase all the gear, you need to exchange coins for them and while you earn a decent amount of them through the cup battles in the offline mode.

While each cup earns you 400 coins that is enough for 4 pieces of individual gear but when you beat a cup a second time you can no longer get the 400 coins and instead only earn 50, so if you want to buy more gear for other characters it will involve a lot of grinding coins.

No control rebinding.
You cannot rebind the controls so if you do not like how they are by default then there is no way to change them in-game, the only option would be to use the Joy-Cons or Pro Controller and rebind them in the Switch option menu itself.

Strikers Club limitations.
One part of the Strikers Club that I do not like is the limitations that you have to deal with when you play online, as you can pick your captain as normal but then you can’t freely choose your A.I teammates and instead have to select the 3 random characters that are there.

This really limits your options for team building as I couldn’t use my normal team that I used for offline mode as I had spent most of my coins making sure they all had the correct stats by buying all the gear for them, but now the game won’t let me use them and instead being forced to use characters that have no gear and I have never used in the offline mode.

There should be an option to choose any of the playable characters and gear, like in the offline mode. There is little sense for these limitations when you are going into a ranked ladder situation against other teams, as I had faced other clubs where their teams had full gear and meta team builds leaving myself at a big disadvantage.

Nintendo Online.
As seems to be tradition now with a lot of Nintendo’s online PvP games is that depending on the other player or just Nintendo’s online service is that matches can either run smoothly or be severely affected by large framerate drops.

Conclusion:
A more bare bones version of previous Mario Strikers games that does little to help it standout against the previous game like Mario Strikers Charged.

I would recommend playing with your friends because if you play this game solo then your options are a lot more limited.

It is a shame to see Mario sports game going down the line of little content at launch only the then patch some in later. This has now happened with Mario Golf, Mario Tennis and now Mario Strikers Battle League.

Score: 5.5

Reece Imiolek
Anime Amigo and Nerd Consultant

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The Next Axia17th August 2022
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