Mario Strikers: Battle League Football
Developer: Next Level Games, Nintendo
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Age Rating: PEGI 7
Release Date: 10/06/2022
A code was provided for review purposes
Mario Strikers: Battle League Football is the latest Mario sports title on the Nintendo Switch. Though I have never played any of the Mario Strikers games before, since many people think highly of the series, I was eager to get my hands on it. I was especially excited to see how the title would run on the Switch, as I enjoyed the fast-paced action and gritty art style used in the trailers. Was my first experience with the series a good one? Find out in this Rapid Review.
As I booted up the game for the first time, I was welcomed into a tutorial. It broke the game down piece by piece, teaching me how to shoot, pass, and use my special abilities. The tutorial was effective and helped me get ready for my first real battle. At the same time, the game is easy to pick up. While the tutorial is helpful, the game did not feature overly complicated mechanics, so it was easy to introduce to people.
Still, Mario Strikers: Battle League Football does feature some more advanced moves. Most actions are more effective when they follow a specific timing, so players who are more experienced will have a better chance of taking out opponents. Even some of the simpler parts of the game took me a little bit to completely understand. The game has more than just bare-bones soccer mechanics. However, while this game rewards skilful play, I never saw myself returning to practice mode to learn advanced techniques. Overall, this title does an excellent job of being both approachable and engaging once the basics are learned. I thought the movement and character capabilities set the game up for an exciting experience.
It was crucial to master these mechanics as well because each match required me to use all of them. Each match was frantic, invigorating, and exciting at the same time. I enjoyed how the game flowed. Even when I was down by a couple of points, I never felt like the game was over. This was mainly because of Mario Strikers: Battle League Football’s implementation of items. Much like Mario Kart, this game has a negative feedback loop. In practice, this means that the losing player gets better items, keeping them from falling too far behind. I enjoyed the way this mechanic was implemented. It worked and largely helped keep matches competitive. Though most items helped balance the game effectively, some were frustrating, especially the Super Star which made a player invincible, giving the perfect opportunity to score.
Moreover, there are “Hyper Strikes” which are special moves that wildly turn the tide of a battle. Once activated, these “Hyper Strikes” began a quick-time event where I needed to align a moving dial with sweet spots. When I landed both sweet spots, I guaranteed two points for my team. This could easily change the entire flow of any game, so it made the games feel more competitive. Additionally, using one of these abilities would begin a cutscene (albeit a non-skippable one that slows down the gameplay), giving the game personality and being all-around exciting, especially the first couple of times. I really enjoyed these moves and thought the special abilities made the game distinct, lively and kept the game competitive.
As of now, I have been discussing many of the elements I liked about Mario Strikers: Battle League Football. I enjoyed the movement mechanics as well as the way the game was balanced. Unfortunately, these mechanics are only as important when there are ample modes for me to explore. In my opinion, Mario Strikers: Battle League Football severely lacked the content I wanted to see. There were three primary modes. I could play local games with either friends or computer players, play online against real people, or compete in the Grand Prix. There was no story content, nor was I able to play a collection of minigames, so after completing the Grand Prix, there was little single-player content for me. There is a Galactic mode, as well as three different computer player levels to face, but overall, I was disappointed by the lack of modes.
That was not my only problem with the content level though. The ten playable characters get stale incredibly quickly. Since four players are drafted at the beginning of each match, nearly all the players are used every game. This meant that the matches rarely had diversity, so the games rarely felt unique. Moreover, since the “Hyper Strikes” were not skippable, I needed to rewatch the same cutscenes repeatedly. The characters were mildly different in playstyle, but they never wildly altered gameplay. Their super moves were mechanically identical, and while they each had their own set of base stats, this mild alteration hardly impacted the game. The developers also included unlockable gear to alter these statistics, but again, they hardly impacted the gameplay. Since these gear pieces hardly impacted me, I did not get excited to collect them. Overall, I was disappointed by the character roster and gear.
While the character stagnation was frustrating, the staging was even more impactful. Selecting a stage did nothing other than altering the colour of my surroundings. It did not have new hazards, there was no new texture or running speed, and honestly, the stages did not even depict their respective references all too well either. Each match felt like it was on a basic map, and this is what made each game feel nearly identical the most. A lot of the appeal that comes from a Mario sports game is lost due to the lack of hazards and distinct elements in the staging. Mario Strikers: Battle League Football stagnated quickly and much of the charm that is present in other Mario Sports titles was not there.
Though the staging was not exciting, and it lacked the personality many of the other Mario Sports titles had, the overall visual style was excellent. I liked the gritty and dark character models, the ball was always visible, and when a character was in possession of a ball, it was clear which one had it. Despite lacking theming in the stage designs, the visual style was effective and kept me engaged.
On the other hand, the audio was excellent all around. The high-energy soundtrack kept me excited to keep coming back and represented the high-octane gameplay. Even simple sounds like my character kicking the ball were present, so I was more than satisfied with the included sound effects.
Honestly, I had a lot of fun with Mario Strikers: Battle League Football. However, with so little available content, I find it challenging to recommend. I can see myself going back in and playing, but at the same time, I do not see myself itching to play or rushing to tell my friends. If you have been waiting for a new Mario Strikers game for years, I think there is a lot of fun to be had here, so long as you are not expecting crazy scenes and are alright with a bit of stagnation.
Rapid Reviews Rating
3.5 out of 5
You can purchase Mario Strikers: Battle League Football on the Nintendo eShop here
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