While there were scarcely two years between the release of the original Super Mario Strikers on the GameCube and Mario Strikers Charged for the Nintendo Wii, the over-the-top arcade soccer franchise has been all but silent for the last 15 years. Finally, that long dry spell has come to an end, and Mario Strikers: Battle League is scheduled to arrive on the Nintendo Switch in early June.
Honestly, I thought my need for pick-up-and-play athletic titles had been handily filled by Nintendo Switch Sports, but all it took was a 40-minute sneak preview of Battle League to remind me of everything I loved about Mario Strikers—and to assure me that those elements are all front and center in this new entry.
Not to be confused with fútbol-proper, the Strikers line instead focuses on “strike,” a chaotic brand of battle soccer that would even make the Mutant League proud. Characters are chosen from all the Mushroom Kingdom’s usual suspects, with power players like DK and Bowser available alongside the likes of smaller speedsters such as Toad and Yoshi.
Strike is a game of five-on-five, with up to four playable characters on each team; the goalie position is always filled by a computer-controlled Boom-Boom. Team captains get to select the colors and patterns for player uniforms, as well as choose their preferred stadium. Things get more interesting when each team chooses a different stadium setup, as this results in a split pitch with each team’s preferred home turf represented on their side of the field.
To put the “combat” in combat soccer, Mario Strikers: Battle League features the requisite Mario Sports items, complete with bombs and shells. The entire team shares a common inventory of items, meaning well-reasoned moderation can quickly give way to a first-come-first-served mentality if you’re not careful. Moreover, Battle League includes a Mario Kart-style item balance system that can come to the aid of a team being trounced by the competition.
Oh, also there’s a semi-transparent but positively unforgiving electric fence along the periphery of the field. Which, I suppose, at least makes it difficult for players to run out of bounds.
The game’s controls offer all the basics—pass (ground or lob), shoot, and tackle—via the Joy-Con buttons, with big showcase moves arriving in the form of Hyper Strikes. In shades of Super Smash Bros., Hyper Strikes begin when a character catches a floating Strike Orb. This sets off a timing-based button-press event, which, if successfully completed, results in an epic specialty shot.
This treats players to a crazily-themed kick that ties in the game’s distinct dry-brush box art aesthetic and the individual character’s shtick. Waluigi’s Thorn Barrier, for example, uses his trademark rose and thorn motif, while Wario’s Electric Ricochet uses… his butt.
One of the most interesting aspects of Mario Strikers: Battle League is how nicely it accommodates single- and multiplayer play within its online and offline options. In addition to the flexible Quick Battle (which supports up to 8 players), the Cup Battle is a one- to four-player offline-only mode that serves as the game’s de facto “campaign.” Players move through double-elimination championships, unlocking stat-boosting gear with the coins they amass along the way.
Then there’s the Striker’s Club, an online-only affair where clubs of up to 20 people compete globally. All members play for the glory of their club, and top scorers can get promoted to more prestigious (and more challenging) divisions.
Obviously, everything I saw in my Mario Strikers: Battle League preview was pretty enticing, but I have yet to lace up my own (virtual) cleats and play. This will change this Friday, May 27th when I—and, indeed, every other interested gamer with a valid Nintendo Online subscription—can get a free hands-on demo from the Nintendo eShop starting at 6 am PT/9 am ET.
This First Kick demo of the title will only explore the broadest strokes of Mario Strikers gameplay, but it will surely prove a great introduction to new players and a welcome return for those of us already familiar with the sweet science that is strike.
A huge thank you goes out to Nintendo of America for sharing this early preview with me, and with any luck, I’ll be seeing you on the field when Mario Strikers: Battle League launches on June 10th!
This post was last modified on May 26, 2022 7:23 pm
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