For this Mario Strikers: Battle League review, the game was played on a TV and portably. Playing on a small screen did not do the game justice, as the boys at Next Level Games put their top men in the graphics department so it shines when docked.
Not only does a small Switch screen fail to honor the amazing visuals in Mario Strikers: Battle League, but the gameplay gets compromised as well. This is a Mario sports game where the characters of the Mushroom Kingdom participate in a violent sport that is part Football, part Soccer, and part Rollerball. Playing this on a small screen means squinting at tiny characters on a large field.
Mario Strikers: Battle League on the big screen is a much better experience – the bigger, the better. This is a ball and goal sport and being able to keep track of the ball and who has it is a large part of the game. On top of trying to get a ball into the goal, expect to evade oncoming assaults from Mario characters from all directions. How does the game hold up? Find out in our Mario Strikers: Battle League review!
Mario Strikers: Battle League
Developer: Next Level Games
Platforms: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: June 10, 2022
Price: $59.99 USD
Like any ball+goal team sport, Mario Strikers: Battle League is all about getting the ball into a net protected by a goalie. The appeal in this is the distinctly Mario flavor that elevates it. Mario Kart games rose above being just racing games thanks to the Nintendo-isms. Even golf was made into something so much more due to being injected with a big dose of Mario.
Mario Strikers: Battle League definitely has a lot more character and personality than any FIFA or Madden thanks to the flair of the characters, but the game always felt like it could use more. For a sports game that features so many unique characters, it is shocking to see that the playfield be incredibly plain.
It would be understandable for there to be one very standard field that is flat and has no gimmicks, but in Mario Strikers: Battle League every arena is a standard looking soccer field. It seems like a missed opportunity to not capitalize on having Mushroom Kingdom staples like moving platforms, thwomps, lava pits, hills, or brick blocks.
The arenas seem uncharacteristically basic for a Mario game. The Tony Hawk Pro Skater games were realistic looking, but had unbelievably imaginative skate parks set in gimmicky stages. While the potential for stages is not met, the basic field does serve its purpose for making Mario Strikers: Battle League a straightforward sports action game.
While controlling any of the playable characters; users can do low-passes or air-passes to mix things up against opposing teams while moving towards the goal. Other actions like dodge-stepping, tackling, and shooting will also have an added element of timing that is applied to every action. Doing a perfect pass will make it harder for opponents to intercept or perfect dodging makes them stunned slightly longer.
The layer of precision in Mario Strikers: Battle League’s gameplay is profound and is a stark contrast to the unbelievably chaotic and fast-paced action. This is a high skill-ceiling sports game and takes some time to adjust to its rhythm – but when it does, everything clicks.
While chasing the ball, a power-orb will appear during matches: this is the one of the equalizers in Mario Strikers: Battle League that can turn the tide of a game. This power-up gives the user about 20 seconds to perform a devastating shot that counts as two points… if the player’s timing is perfect.
Landing these are not that simple since it requires the player to fully charge the shot (which can be easily interrupted) and will have to time two inputs with a narrow window. Landing one or none does still have the possibility of executing the goal, but this is where some luck does come into play.
The items are the most notable Mario-like inclusion in Mario Strikers: Battle League. Sadly, there are only about six of them and do not feel like they contribute much to an already chaotic game. If they were cut entirely, nobody would notice. If these items worked in tandem with creative level design, they would matter more.
This is where some of the character’s stats matter. Some stats are self-explanatory, like strength affecting tackle and speed for running, but a higher amount of technique widens the window for these ultimate shots.
Mario Strikers: Battle League does give the option to tweak the stats of the characters with gear, so players are given some leeway when it comes to crafting a build to suit their play style. To keep everything balanced, character parameters cannot exceed the maximum 63 point total. All equipment that boosts a stat also subtracts the same amount, so there is no way to become overpowered.
Mario Strikers: Battle League does seem to favor speed most of all since fast characters can interrupt most shots, can quickly catch up from a stolen ball, or out run opponents to get more chances to shoot.
Mario Strikers: Battle League is a very solid and tightly designed sports game that may lack some of that signature Mario imagination, but it always looks like money. The animation looks CGI animated movie quality in most shots and the highly detailed lip synchronization is unusually highly detailed for a Mario game.
The visuals go into overdrive when performing the ultimate shots and take on a really rough and scratchy pen and ink style. The shaders and extremely distorted camera angles used emphasize the sheer power of these strikes and serve as Mario Strikers: Battle League‘s main key visual.
Unlike all the other animated vignettes, these animations cannot be skipped. These regretfully break up the flow of the gameplay in a very irritating way.
They are not long, only lasting a couple of seconds, but they will feel longer since the pace of the action in this game can be an utter breakneck and frantic back-and-forth. The only way to avoid having to endure these is to disable the power-orb entirely.
While playing online, matches were like a Friday night if the Nazis had won the war. Playing with other players on the same team is a nightmare of keeping track of who is playing as who since the controlling character tends to change depending on circumstances.
This visual management mess coupled with the camera being so far away from the field only to have players sort through a bunch of similar looking characters, things can get confusing.
Sadly, there is no way to control or adjust the zoom level of the POV. Being able to swing the camera in incremental angles might have stressed the Switch too much so it is understandable why that would not be a feature, but zoom levels really would have helped while playing in portable mode.
Mario Strikers: Battle League is a dynamite sports action game with a lot of replay value and unlockable options. The difficulty is shockingly high for a cartoony kids game when playing for the higher level cups. There is no controlling Boom Boom the goalie, so a lot of luck will rest in his hands. He usually knows what to do, but sometimes he does stupid things.
The sleek and dazzling Nintendo polish does not disappoint in Mario Strikers: Battle League, and the online felt smooth and responsive even with a subpar connection speed. It could use a bit more variety and some mini-games to add some value, but you won’t find a more intense and in-your-face ball sport than Mario Strikers: Battle League.