Technology

Mario Strikers: Battle League Soccer Game Review, What You Need To Know

Prepare for cartoon carnage in the third installation of Mario’s no-rules football game.

These products are hand-picked by our team to help make shopping easier. We may receive payments from third parties for sharing this content and when you purchase through links in this article. Learn more

Despite growing up in a half-English family that loves to watch a decent Premier League game, I’ve just never been able to find the appeal in football.

This ambivalence has also largely extended to true-to-life sports games, despite my brothers’ determination to get me to love Fifa over the years.

Had my character in Fifa been equipped with the delightful ability to swallow the ball, turn it into an egg, boot it downfield and have it hatch as it hurtled past the goalie though, my feelings on the matter may have been quite different.

Luckily, that’s exactly what you get in the third title in Nintendo’s Mario Strikers franchise, Mario Strikers: Battle League Football.

As a newcomer to the series, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect from Battle League when I first booted it up. In true Mario style though, what follows is nothing short of chaotic fun – even if there are some considerable issues.

RELATED: Best game releases of 2022

PLAYABLE CHARACTERS

At its core, Battle League offers a fresh take on arcade-style football, incorporating edgy artistic graphics, helter-skelter play and minimal rules.

Two teams of five are pitted against one another in short matches, where you’ll get to retain total control over four players. Your goalie is meanwhile a mostly CPU-operated Boom Boom Koopa, with the game only granting you control over the character when defending certain Hyper Strike shots (more on that later).

Unlike previous installations of the game which saw your team filled with Shy Guys and Koopa Troopers, Battle League allows you to pick all four main players pre-match. A disappointingly small number of characters are available for selection here: Mario, Luigi, Bowser, Peach, Rosalina, Toad, Yoshi, Donkey Kong, Wario and Waluigi.

While the small roster may not be overly important to the overall game, there are plenty of notable characters missing from the Mario universe that we would have enjoyed seeing. Yew Battle League follows in the steps of other Mario sports titles though, we could see the character selection expand in the future via free content updates, which would be a bonus.

Out of the 10 characters currently available, each has varying base stats for strength, speed, shooting, passing and technique. For instance, Toad is fast but weak, while Bowser is much harder to knock over but lacks technique. Because of this, you’ll want to give some thought to stacking your team – ensuring you have the required stats for a decent defender, two midfielders and an attacker.

You can also change character stats by equipping them with various gear for their heads, arms, bodies and legs (gear can be purchased with coins you receive from playing matches).

Be warned that each new piece of equipment will increase one particular stat while decreasing various others, which adds a thin layer of strategy to picking your best line-ups.

CONTROLS AND PLAY OPTIONS

Once you’ve booted up Battle League, you’ll be met with an extensive tutorial outlining how to play. Depending on your familiarity with the game, this can either be incredibly helpful or quite overwhelming.

In addition to moving around the pitch, passing, tackling and shooting, you can also dash, dodge, free pass, free lob pass, use items and switch characters. Then comes different types of shooting – including basic shots, aimed shots and charged shots – ‘perfect’ passes, shots and tackles, mastering different types of items and perfecting the aforementioned Hyper Strike shots. Phew.

While the substantial amount of input makes for an interesting and engaging game, learning how to play properly takes both time and patience. After completing all of the tutorials, I had already forgotten at least a quarter of the controls by the time I entered my first match which is, frankly, less than ideal.

To give the game some credit, picking up the basics is fairly intuitive, but gaining full command over the game definitely requires some skill. And if you haven’t yet grasped the complexity of the controls, playing online can quickly become a frustrating endeavor.

Rather than being matched with players of a similar skill level, you’re simply matched with whoever happens to be online at the time. So, if you’re entering your first match as a relatively underskilled player, you can still be pitted against someone who has already spent a significant amount of time perfecting their play. Needless to say, this usually results in total carnage.

You can, of course, play single player vs. CPU which we definitely recommend as a starting point for newcomers. Once you have improved your skills though, there are relatively few options for single players. Instead, you’ll want to jump into one of the multiplayer modes, including Quick Battle, Cup Battles and Strikers Club, which allows you to join or create a club of up to 20 players.

There is also an option to join the same team as a friend and split the four characters between you. This also takes quite a bit of mastery but, if you get it right, you’ll often end up with a better game strategy than when you play alone.

On the downside, adding more players to a match absolutely affects the speed of the game. When playing with four players (two per team), my match lagged so much it was nearly unplayable. Hopefully this is something Nintendo addresses soon, but right now it’s a definite bummer.

GAMEPLAY

The love of Battle League Soccer is as straightforward as it gets – knock the ball into the goal to score points for your team. Other than that, there are relatively few rules.

While you can choose the pitch you play on, each design is fully enclosed so there’s no off-side rules.

There’s also no referee, which means there’s plenty of room for violence. In fact, the only penalty you’ll cop occurs when tackling an opposing player that isn’t currently in possession of the ball. If you do, the crowd will throw a box containing an item that only the opposing team can pick up and use.

This isn’t to say you can’t knock your opponents flat though – there’s always a chance they won’t get to their box in time, so playing dirty can often be worth your while.

In addition to penalty items, other item boxes will often appear on the field for any player to nab too. Inside, you’ll get one of six random items you’ll likely recognize from other Mario games: banana peels, green shells, red shells, mushrooms, bob-ombs and stars. As always, each item offers a unique advantage that you can use to help your team score points.

Overall, the gameplay of Battle League is solid but, given the relatively small pitches, the number of controls, the constant switching between characters and the assortment of items being thrown haphazardly onto the field, it’s also nothing short of hectic. While this mostly adds to the fun, it can be a bit much at times.

With so much happening, it’s easy to lose track of your current player or lose sight of the ball – something that becomes even more frustrating when playing in handheld mode.

A “visual-assist” mode does exist to limit the chaos by placing numbers or shapes over characters to make them more identifiable, though it sadly doesn’t do much to help you keep an eye on the ball’s whereabouts.

HYPER-STRIKES

Hyper Strike shots are a definite highlight of Battle League and are worth learning how to pull off correctly.

After collecting a Hyper Orb, any member of your team will be able to execute a Hyper Strike for a short period of time. Once you go to kick a goal, a bar will appear underneath your character and you’ll need to stop two arrows in exactly the right spot to line up the shot correctly.

If you manage to pull it off, your Hyper Strike shot will not only be unstoppable, but it will also score your team two points rather than one. If you don’t get it quite right, the opposing team will gain temporary control over their goalie and will try and block the shot with a bit of button-mashing.

It’s worth noting you can tackle a character attempting a Hyper Strike up until the moment the ball leaves their foot. Your characters will be moving in slow-motion during this period, but it’s worth the attempt and getting the timing right is super satisfying.

Hyper Strike shots will also treat you to some impressive artwork and a cut-scene that is individual to each character. For instance, Bowser will breathe fire onto the ball before scorching the pitch while pelting it at the opposing goalie, while Peach will use her feminine charm to make the goalie temporarily fall in love with her and toss the ball into his own goal.

As great as these cut-scenes are, there’s no way to skip them once you’ve seen them a few times which gets a little tedious. However, they do at least offer a quick reprieve in the midst of all the madness.

SHOULD YOU BUY IT?

There’s plenty to like about Mario Strikers: Battle League, including its tight gameplay, customizable characters and general sense of mayhem. With only 10 characters and five available stadiums at time of launch though, we are definitely hoping for free updates in the near future to shake things up a bit.

The game is also currently carried by its multiplayer modes, making it fun to play with friends, but not so great for single players unless you are playing online – and even then it can take a while to lock in an opponent. There are also a few other downsides such as extreme lag when playing with three or more players online and difficulty keeping track of the ball amongst the chaos.

Overall though, Battle League is an extremely fun game that actually requires a certain amount of skill and craftiness to play. There’s also nothing boring about the gameplay itself which means even the least sporty player will get a serious kick out of it.

Overall rating: 4/5

Price: $79.95

Where to buy:Mario Strikers: Battle League Football is available from leading retailers like Amazon Australia, Catch, Big W and Harvey Norman. You can also shop the game direct from the Nintendo eShop.

Looking for more gaming content? Check out the best offers on Nintendo Switch, the hottest PlayStation deals, the top game releases for 2022, the best gaming chairs or the best gaming headphones.

Lauren is news.com.au’s Best Of consumer technology writer. She previously worked at comparison site Finder as the senior shopping writer where she reported on everything from tech gadgets to the latest home products. Prior to cutting her teeth as a journalist, she completed a Bachelor of journalism at the University of South Australia and worked as a media advisor for JB Hi-Fi where she sold the very products she now writes about.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Back to top button