Mario Strikers: Battle League Football Review

Gaming
6.5

Fair

Mario Strikers: Battle League Football

Developer: Next Level Games
Publisher: Nintendo
Platforms:Switch
Release Date: Available Now
Price: $59.99 – Available Here | $79.95 – Available Here

Overview

Mario is not new to sports, as his side-hustle has brought in a lot of value for Nintendo, with the plumber finding success in nearly every activity he has geared up for. The football (or soccer, if you will) portion of his dynasty has been largely put on the back burner for over a decade, but a new romp is ready to reset that and aim for even more goals with Mario Strikers: Battle League Football for the Nintendo Switch. Does this release merit a celebration for its return, or is it one that could have used bigger portions at launch? Let’s find out. 

Story 

Unlike a lot of recent entries, Mario Strikers: Battle League does not really try to put together a narrative for why Mario and his friends are playing the game of football. This concept is not too new, but without a narrative – we just have the sport itself spread over a set number of modes, with the player simply attempting to win cups or play online to get victories, all of which are not celebrated outside of some cheeky cutscenes. Sure, it is bare bones on that front, but I can say the core game is at least fun, and there is still plenty of incentive to dive in and take to the field with some of the Mushroom Kingdom’s greatest competitors. 

Gameplay 

Accessibility is the name of the game here. This is one of those titles that from the tutorial – most will realize that it’s easy to jump in and play, but still takes a good deal of skill and practice to master. Each game consists of a four vs four structure, with each team also assigned a mostly non-playable goalie. Players have power-ups located in mushroom blocks that can offer minor advantages, with red and green shells that smash opponents, mushrooms that offer limited boosts, and invincibility stars that act exactly as you would expect for a short burst of dominance. Each character also has their own “hyper strike” attack, which offers a special shot that can score two points if you are able to execute it through a timing mini-game, and mostly – all of this works exactly as it should. 

For offense, passing and shooting is easy enough, with the player having the ability to turn their team to auto or have a sense of control with a manual character swap. I think that was my first gripe with Battle League that never felt quite normal, as the input control for swapping characters is the top shoulder button, and it’s rather easy to lose focus of who you are juggling between. Personally, having this mapped to a click of the right stick or another button would have made the experience feel slightly more optimized. Either way, returning fans will dig the core experience here as it is still solid overall.  

As players progress through the tournaments, they can unlock coins with every battle played that can reward gear. Gear is a way to customize your character visually, boosting stats such as speed, shooting, and other field metrics that each character comes with by default in exchange for a minor decrease in another stat. Stats are balanced enough between the nine selectable stars here, and the gear does offer incentive to keep playing for a good bit. That said, the roster of characters feels bare compared to normal Mario Sports outings. There are no playable characters able to be unlocked from the start, and while I do like the roster included – glaring omissions such as Daisy, Koopa Troopas, and the Shy Guys will have most wanting to pick up any of the promised free DLC that drops in the future. 

That is Mario Strikers: Battle League’s biggest issue. There just is not a lot of content to really justify the entry price-tag. Sure, the online mode is fun, but it’s only 1 vs 1 in any circumstance, a bizarre oversight that could have led to a lot of chaos with more players. Local mode does have up to eight, and with the lack of content, it is truly mind-boggling why Nintendo would not want to create what could have made this title a champion effort for their loyal community out there. The different fields are also nice to see, but unlike past titles, offer no unique field hazards or challenges that truly set them apart. The lack of effort at launch holds this title back from reaching the potential of its predecessors, as things just feel less complete by normal Nintendo standards. 

Visuals 

The graphics here are great. Animations are stellar, and the crisp color keeps the field feeling full and enjoyable during every match. There are a lot of nuances with detail that also stick out, such as marks and skids on the field that occur with attacks and slides, as well as craters that appear when a bomb blows up. There isn’t any doubt that this is a pretty game – as it is. That said, a lot of the animations are repeated, and there is only so many times one will want to watch Yoshi make the same couple of victory moves after he scores a shot. 

Audio 

The soundtrack is fine. Sure, it may not be as memorable as what we would see in Mario Kart or even Mario Golf, but it does fit in well enough and sets a nice competitive- yet goofy tone that one would expect. All the characters also have their own voices, which is a nice touch that allows these personalities to come out while on the field. Again, these also can be a little repetitive, but there is still a great deal of charm they add to the overall package. 

Overall 

I wanted to like Mario Strikers: Battle League Football more than I actually did. The game is still great, but Nintendo have always had a habit of delivering more to each package, and this game at launch feels like going in for a three-course meal and only getting a steak. You and some friends can still have an afternoon of entertainment, and that is undeniable, however – with no story mode, and limited options around online aside from clubs, there is not a lot of content here to justify a fully priced experience. I get it, DLC is the sign of the times, but Nintendo have always been that company that delivered more and there isn’t a whole lot here to really plug into for an extended period of time. Those wanting a solid Mario sports game will still get their fix, but others wanting something more complete may want to wait as further content drops at a later date.  

Capsule Computers review guidelines can be found here.

Summary

Mario and friends return to the field with a lot to love, but in a package that comes with its own limitations due to a lack of content.
6.5

Fair

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