Review – Mario Strikers: Battle League Football
It’s been 15 years since Mario and friends last laced up their boots and decided to become football (or soccer) stars. For the initiated of the sport, back in those days, Italy were the world champions, Zinedine Zidane was famous for all the wrong reasons, and Ronaldo actually wanted to be at Manchester United. The serious second outing, Mario Strikers Charged received much less recognition than its GameCube predecessor, but that didn’t make it any worse of a game. On the contrary, it was a blast.
The original Super Mario Strikers featured 13 characters, nine of which were Captains (basically your main characters, like Mario, DK, and Daisy), and four additional sidekicks which filled out the rest of each team’s roster. Mario Strikers Charged upped the ante, raising the number to 12 captains and 8 sidekicks. Compare this to Mario Strikers: Battle League Football, the latest Mario sports offering on the Switch, and you’re in actual deep trouble.
Battle League, as it’ll be called for the rest of this review, features a mere ten characters at launch. Coupled with only having five stages, versus nine featured in the Gamecube original, and the Wii game having 10 brand new ones coupled the original 9 from the first game, it’s really hard to justify these choices. It’s impossible not to think this was developed on a rush, just to fill up a first party release slot.
Battle League has a very in-depth training program. In it, you will learn everything you need to know about the game and its mechanics. Sure, it’s possible to learn just from playing, but there are some very key tricks that will come in handy to learn and practice here. The training is actually really useful, and probably one of the best bits of training in pretty much any sports game. The issue here comes from the lack of “main game” that there is to play.
Sure, there’s always quick play, and you can adjust the level the computer plays at, but presumably most people would be more interested in the cups. Battle League has a mere six cups to play, across two difficulties. After winning the original six, you’ll unlock Galactic Mode, where you’ll likely need to put all that training into effect. Winning each cup grants 300 coins, and 100 coins for each additional time on normal mode, and 1000 coins and 300 coins each additional time on Galactic. Coins are used to buy gear for each of the characters, but between a lack of characters, and a lack of gear, it’s possible most will only really play this mode for their own completion.
Battle League leans heavily into the online play side of things. Players will be able to make or join a club to compete in leagues. Leagues are simple: the core gist is to play online, win, and you’ll progress in whichever league you’re playing at that moment. They’re not always going on, but they can be fun. They grant a special type of currency as well, currency used for additional stages, whenever they’re added down the line by Nintendo.
Gameplay is more or less what you would expect. It’s an arcade football game that featured constant tackles that would be bound to get anyone a red card. Items also exist, they can be useful, but they feel a bit dangerous at times. The shells bounce dangerously and take up a significant amount of the pitch, if you’re prone to hitting yourself with your own green shell in Mario Kart, maybe best to only use them if drastically needed in Battle League.
Characters can be customised to some extent, gear grants bonuses to stats, but also decreases other stats. Making a specific character extra fast may be a bonus, while having a key striker can be ideal, but all in all it’s generally not too hard to beat out Boom-Boom, who is always both teams’ keeper. A bummer you cannot edit the roster to its entirety, but it is what it is, I suppose.
At least Battle League looks good right? Each of the stadiums are different, and the pay the stadium a lot of the time is different in each half based on teams choices is interesting. It’s also nice there’s some Paper Mario love with the crowd feeling so flat… oh wait, they’re not paper though, they’re just hideous and low budgeted. The music and sound effects are effectively the same as previous games, they still work of course, but after 15 years you’d link some interesting songs or details from other Mario games would pop up. Maybe like the great selling Super Mario Odyssey.
Battle League features a HUGE gap in content that Nintendo is promising to patch in with post-launch updates, but that really doesn’t help anyone who decided to buy the game at launch. Online play is just as you would expect from the Switch, replaying cups just isn’t enjoyable, and quickplay just kind of exists. If I wanted to turn on a game to play for 5 minutes, plus the time the game is paused for each goal (something that doesn’t happen in football), I would be much more likely to turn on something even like Super Mario 64 or Super Mario Sunshine, where you can knock out early levels that quickly. Yet another disappointing Mario sports outing on the Switch.
Battle League looks good, there’s no doubt about that. The background does appear to be a bit flat, but who’s looking closely at that, especially in handheld mode?
Battle League feels really smooth, online can feel like a bit of a mess, as is normal with Switch online sometimes, but the game itself in regular modes feels good and has a high skill ceiling.
Would it be nice to hear some songs and renditions from games that appeared after 2007, but the tried and true method clearly works to some extent.
Fun Factor: 5.0
Battle League is a lot of fun at first glance, but the severe lack of content really hits home that if you don’t play online, you’ll probably run out of gameplay in maybe 6 hours. Even less.
Final Verdict: 6.5
Mario Strikers: Battle League Football is available now on Nintendo Switch.
Reviewed on Nintendo Switch.