Mario Strikers Charged

Reviewed by Kyle Bell, Posted on 2007-08-08


Developer: Next Level Games Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: July 31, 2007 Also On: None

Nintendo has had a long streak of success with Mario branded sports games. Back on the Nintendo 64 there was Mario Tennis and Mario Golf. The GameCube followed that up with sequels to both, as well as Mario Baseball and a soccer game known as Mario Strikers. It didn't do as well as Nintendo hoped, both with sales and reviews, but judging by the over 40,000 people that logged on in its first week at retail, the Wii version of the game is already doing substantially better than its GameCube cousin. The main reason for this: online play.

Nintendo stubbornly shunned online gaming throughout the life cycle of the GameCube. Although it features a port for both a dial-up modem and broadband adapter, Phantasy Star Online was the only game to ever use it. The Nintendo DS launched in 2004 with built-in WiFi capabilities and by the fall o f 2005, gamers were riding their Mario Karts online on the DS. Finally, a first party online game from Nintendo! It took them over six months to do it, but since launching in 2006, Mario Strikers is the second game to hit the net on the Wii.

Without a doubt the biggest draw to Mario Strikers is its online play. Simply put, this is the most addictive game the Wii has to offer. I clocked countless hours playing online with my friends and brother in the first week, holding a respectable top 50 and going nearly 200-110. Believe it or not, there are actually people that will have over 100 wins played in a single day. The nice thing about Nintendo Wi-Fi Connect is that it is free and still includes leaderboards. A new season starts every week, although Nintendo keeps track of wins-losses over time, as well as over a season and daily.

In Mario Striker you have a team of five players: one goalkeeper, a team captain and three sidekicks. The captains are Nintendo staples: Mario, Donkey Kong, Yoshi, Peach, Bowser, Luigi, Wario, Diddy Kong and so on. These captains have special abilities, such as Mario and Luigi's ability to grow into giants, Diddy Kong's ability to essentially open a vortex and suck in any players near it, Donkey Kong's blast, Wario's gas, Yoshi's egg and so on. You then have secondary characters like Birdo, Shy Guy, Dry Bones, Toad, etc. Like the captains, these secondary characters have special abilities and different attributes. Birdo is slow, but good at defense and has an unstoppable shot. Dry Bones is fast and can stun the goalkeeper (or anyone in the way of the ball) and then score a goal.

From playing online as much as I have, I can make a few observations about how it works. First let me say that if you are inexperienced, don't expect to win. I understand that Nintendo's new mantra is accessible gameplay, and the game is easy enough to understand, but it also has many tricks which a newcomer will easily become victim to. For instance, the power shot system may seem ridiculously fast until you get used to it and the constant use of hitting may overwhelm some people. Using Toad to jump over the goalie or Birdo to instantly score a point from a fully, egg... will annoy you plenty - at first.

Once you understand the basics of the system and begin to use your character's strengths and opponent's weaknesses to your advantage, you will be able to win online pretty easily. For a game that doesn't take itself too seriously, Mario Strikers is surprisingly deep and requires a good deal of strategy. A lot of the strategy comes before the game even starts, when you pick your team. Do you want a fast and agile team, a balanced team or a slow and powerful team?

I've spent a lot of time talking about the online play, and that is the biggest draw to the game, yet Mario Strikers Charged does have a solid offline as well. Not only can you play with up to four of your friends on one console in two-vs.-two, but there are different modes as well. You can play the cup matches to unlock characters, stadiums and cheats. You can also play the various challenges that the game throws at you. Some of them will challenge you to come back from a deficit, not let an opponent score or win by a certain amount of goals.

The biggest complaint I have about the game is the clunky friend system. Thanks for including it at least, but why do you insist on friend codes, Nintendo? It would be infinitely easier and less confusing if the friends and friend codes for the system were the same as the friend codes for the game. But no, the friends you have stored on your system that you can send Miis and messages to are not automatically on your friend's list. You have to add them with a special friend code that you will receive from within the game. Definitely poor execution here.

A poor friend system is not going to keep me down. Most everything else is Strikers is superb. You have a fun offline single-player, an entertaining offline multi-player with friends and a solid first effort at online play. Better yet, you can play with a friend in the online matches. Since launching in 2006, Super Mario Strikers is the second best game that I have played on Wii, behind only Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess.

Graphics: 9
Sound: 8.5
Gameplay: 9.5
Creativity: 9
Replay Value/Game Length: 10
Final: 9.5
Written by Kyle Review Guide

Reviewed by Kyle Bell