Mario Strikers ChargedESRB:
Platform: Nintendo Wii
Developer - Next Level Games
Publisher - Nintendo
1-4 Players (offline)
1-4 Players (online)
Having reviewed Mario Strikers for the GameCube some time ago I always pondered what the next version would be like. Well Nintendo knows when it has a good thing, and as the original Mario Strikers reviewed well a sequel was inevitable and the Wii was destined to receive the next game. Developed by Next Level Games in Vancouver, B.C., Mario Strikers Charged takes this series to the next level (editor's note: pun intended) by adding Wii-remote specific control, pumped up graphics and online multiplayer play.
I found that the visuals in Mario Strikers Charged were a step up from the original GameCube version. Overall the colors are vibrant and the detail of such really has some punch. 16x9 widescreen is supported in this game. I review my Wii games on a 42-inch Sharp Aquos and I have to say the game was quite sharp and the widescreen really helps the overall presentation. The game's character models seem to be better represented this time around too and they really stand out during the game's action. The various stadiums you play in are also well designed and each has a specific theme which is mostly related to the home captain. As I played a number of matches it became every evident to me that a lot more occurs on-screen then in the GameCube version. From the characters themselves to the amount of different power-ups that could be activated and on the field at once, the game managed to display a lot of on-screen activity at the same time. The ability for the game to display so much at once while still maintaining a rock steady frame rate was quite impressive given that so many people are critics of the power of the Wii.
If there was any negative, and I have to say that this is nitpicking, it would be that I got somewhat tired of the same scene of any one of the captains launching their megastrike. There was one specific scene per captain and after playing so many games you get tired of the same one. It would have been nice to have a few different scenes for each captain who successfully pulled off their megastrike. Again, this is nitpicking at its best. Overall I would have to say that visually I was not disappointed with this game and that Next Level Games did a great job.
As for the sound in Mario Strikers Charged, I was somewhat disappointed with the overall audio experience. The soundtrack was not that exciting as it just didn't have that Mario feel to it. Now I know that this is not a true Mario game, but a sports title that has been Marioized, still the music just didn't have that Mario feel to it. There is some voice acting from the on field characters, and they are quite recognizable, but this is very limited and I think there could have been more, considering all the on-screen craziness that occurs. The limited voices don't fully bring the characters to life. As for the rest of the sound effects, from the ball striking the goal post to the sound of your character hitting the invisible fence that surrounds the field, these are pretty well done and seem to be the highlight of the whole sound package.
As I first started to play Mario Strikers Charged I couldn't help but notice one thing, this game was pure mayhem. Now to put this into perspective, when I say mayhem, I don't particularly mean this in a negative way, but what I am trying to convey is that the gameplay as a whole can get so crazy that mayhem is the best word I can use to explain it. But before I try to enlighten you readers to why I feel like this, I think that a refresher course on what this game is all about is in order.
Mario Strikers Charged is another arcade version of a legitimate sport that takes on the Mario name. Like those before it (e.g. golf, tennis, etc) Nintendo has taken a perfectly good sport and added the craziness of the Mario universe to it. You begin by choosing a team captain from a bevy of well known Mario characters such as Luigi, Peach, Donkey Kong, and of course the red suited plumber himself. There are a total of 12 captains in all and each comes with a very character specific set of stats in the areas of movement, shooting, passing and defense. You will find that somewhere amongst all these characters and stats there is something that suits your style of play. After choosing your captain, you are then given the chance to choose three teammates from group of supporting characters in the Mario universe. Now, this is where veterans of Mario Strikers will notice some difference from the original GameCube version as the latter only allowed you to pick one type of teammate. This time around each of the teammates have their own stats and megastrike shots. This aspect makes choosing your whole team a little more interesting this time around.
To control your team you use both the nunchuk and the Wii-remote in tandem and there are some pretty neat tricks associated with the Wii specific controllers. The nunchuck's analog stick is used to move your character and the 'C' button on the nunchuk is used to activate your power-ups. The Wii-remote is used for shooting, passing and deke moves. Besides the usual button presses Mario Strikers Charged also utilizes some of the innovative functions of the Wii-remote. First off is the way you tackle/check. This is accomplished by simply shaking the Wii-remote while you are running towards your opponent. The second way the motion sensing abilities of the Wii-remote are used during the defense of megastrikes. For the uninitiated, megastrikes are basically supershots. You hold down the shoot button until a glow is around your character and a special shot occurs. For your captain, once you successfully initiate a megastrike you are given an on-screen meter and you respond to button presses in an effort to maximize the number of shots and power of the megastrike. For your teammates you just need to hold the shot button down and once the glow around your character builds up he will automatically pull off his megastrike shot. The motion sensing capability of the Wii-remote is used for the defender to try to stop the megastrike shots from going into the goal. Here a short mini-game is played out where the Wii-remote is aimed at the screen and two hands, representing the goaltenders hands, pop up and you must put the hands over an on-screen soccer ball and press 'A' to stop it. This is like a quick shooter as each time you hit or miss a ball, a new one shows up in another area of the screen. This mini-game is a welcome addition to the series and it was nice to know that you play a major part of whether or not any of the opposing team's megastrikes would play a factor in the final outcome of the game or not.
I should also inform you of two key things regarding the megastrike shots. First off, the captains' megastrike shots are at most likely to go in at least once out of the number you manage to initiate during the meter whereas teammates megastrikes are not always guaranteed to go in and are not as flashy. Secondly you will not always pull off a megastrike shot as you are not always given the opportunity to hold that shot button down long enough and have the time for your character to charge up. If they are hit by an opposing player's tackle or by a power up the sequence is interrupted and you have to get the ball again to try to pull one of these off.
Mario Strikers Charged offers two main flavors of play, single player and multiplayer. Single player modes are somewhat standard. You can choose from versus mode (against the computer AI), a challenge mode where you are presented with a series of different scenarios (e.g. maintaining a shutout) and a "road to the striker cup" mode where you take your team and compete for a slew of different championship cups in round robin tournaments leading up to the coveted Striker Cup. During my time against the computer AI, I found that the skill levels and challenges that the opposing teams presented were somewhat of a hit and miss affair. There were times that they presented no challenge what so ever but then the next game they were quite difficult. Now I do not mind a challenge now and then, but for a game to go from one extreme to another was quite frustrating as there was no general build up to the harder matches. It was like they would just appear now and then while other times the match was almost too easy. Funny thing is that this was on the default setting too. Cranking up the AI setting really made for some frustrating matches as the rubber band AI seemed to be in full swing too many times. However that being said, you can eventually make your way through the scenario and cup modes, but just be prepared for a "want to throw the controller" feeling more often then not.
The multiplayer aspect of Mario Strikers Charged is really where the this game shines. Up to four players can play on one console and for the first time in the series the game takes the multiplayer madness online. Four players can play online at once too, but the maximum per console online is two people. For those matches where you wish to play any friends, you will already have to have their game-specific friend code, however you can also play some random opponents in ranked matches as well. My online experience was quite limited as I had the game about five days before release, so the online opponents were far and few between. That being said, I had some pretty good games online with little to no lag. My wish is that there was some way to really communicate with the other person I was playing with. It should be interesting to see how Nintendo addresses this concern as they did take steps to address such with the DS in the past.
Now, as mentioned in the first paragraph of this section of the review, I used the word mayhem when explaining this game. Well what I mean with that was that the on-screen action can get quite busy in modes of play, be it single player or multiplayer. At times I did find that there was so much going on during play that I was somewhat lost and I could not really get my bearings on what I was doing. For example, while playing any one of the many matches, there were both teams on the field, green shells bouncing about and a chain chomp making his way about the field. Add to the mix some megastrike shots and electric bolts and you have one busy screen. It was scenarios like this that made me realize how much mayhem could really fill the screen. With this in mind, make sure to know that you will have to pay attention to the on-screen action quite closely. The mayhem that takes place in Mario Strikers Charged is not a particularly bad thing, it is just that it can get so crazy and you should be prepared for the on-screen madness that this game produces.
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