Mario Super SluggersESRB:
Platform: Nintendo Wii
Developer: Namco Bandai
Wii Remote and Nunchuk Compatible
In 2005 Nintendo released Mario Superstar Baseball for the GameCube. This game was developed by Namco and the final product wasn’t that bad, and it definitely was a ‘Marioized’ baseball. Well three years later Nintendo has once again put the Mario Universe into “America’s Greatest Past-time”, but this time with a new name, Mario Super Sluggers, and it is for the Wii, not the GameCube. I had the chance to take the game for an early spin in July while attending E3 and my review copy finally arrived in late August. So how does the new Namco Bandai developed title fair? Read on...
The visuals in Mario Super Sluggers are solid, but don’t expect a huge leap in quality over the original GameCube version. I was impressed with the CG cut-scenes, and I kind of wished that the quality of these visuals were passed on to the gameplay itself. Don’t get me wrong though, the game is still pretty good looking. It is bright, colorful and has a cheery feel to it. Characters animate well and they have a lot of the famed moves that you have come to expect out of them. I found that the stadiums were also well designed too. Trust me, the first time you play at Luigi’s Mansion you will know what I mean. Each stadium, there is nine in total, manages to convey each character’s theme quite well. I think most will enjoy the unique playfields found in Mario Super Sluggers. Technically speaking the game runs in 16x9 with no graphical anomalies to be found. At the end of the day the game is visually solid but don’t expect to totally wowed as it is not that much different then its’ 2005 predecessor.
Does the saying ‘typical Nintendo’ ring a bell? That is it a nutshell. The music has a nice orchestral feel to it and it seems to fit the tempo and mood of the game. Some may get annoyed with some of the songs, but in the end there is nothing really bad here. As for the sound effects, they are very Mario-like as everything that is associated with the universe has been brought into this cute baseball game. Each character manages to have their repertoire of special sounds and sayings too and it helps keep the one immersed in the Mario world. Of course the baseball itself sounds good too, if not cartoony, which again matches the theme of the game. In the end though, it is nothing that we have not heard before, so the lack of innovation is definitely noticeable here.
The story in Mario Super Sluggers is typical Mario stuff. Bowser and son want to make sure to add some wretchedness into Mario’s life. The theme of making Mario miserable has been this way since I can remember. Of course Mario’s challenge is to rise to the top and defeat his foes from succeeding at their effort. Sure, it is typical Mario, but hey why change things now right? Oh well, at least things are comfortable like a good pair of shoes. That being said, some change might be in order here just to freshen things up.
If I can say one thing about this game it is that it seems pretty familiar from the 2005 effort, but with an addition or two. There are the same types of features such as charge swings, pitching styles and even the famed player-specific star moves. That being said I was somewhat surprised that something that I was expecting wasn’t as present as it should of and that is full motion sensing control. Yep, you heard me; Nintendo didn’t fully capitalize on what the Wii is all about, innovative control.
Speaking of control, you have three control options available in Mario Super Sluggers. You can use the Wii Remote upright, you can use the Wii Remote sideways, or you can use the Wii Remote upright in conjunction with the Nunchuk. Each of these control schemes offers up a different level of control. From waggling the Wii Remote to pitch or hit to using the Nunchuk to fine tune your control options such as base running, aiming your pitches, or using special items. I found that I enjoyed using both the Wii Remote and Nunchuk as it gave me a little more depth when playing the game. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t expect a deep sim-styled game when playing a Mario Sports title, but I do enjoy more depth in my controls. That being said, the casual user can pick up and play this game from the get-go as well, and this is something we all know Nintendo is aiming for. If I have any complaint in this area it is that a swing or pitch wind-up occasionally didn’t register and this caused a bit of frustration with the result (e.g. miss hitting a perfectly place opponent pitch).
In terms of what the game has to offer, there are still some great play modes available. Right from the get go you have access to such modes as exhibition, training and versus play. These are pretty much self explanatory. You can choose from 25 other characters for your teammates too (your eventual number will equal around 40). There is also a smattering of mini-games to play as well. These games seem to focus on different gameplay mechanics so they almost feel like a tutorial so to speak, but they are not the official tutorial in the game. From home run contests to pitching duels, you'll have more fun than a rookie at his first spring training. These mini-games are entertaining and they add a bit of variety to the game.
There is also a Challenge Mode for you to go through. Here you take Mario (Editor’s Note: Now that is a surprise!) and explore the land of Baseball Kingdom. Most of the conversations and characters you come across will result in a baseball themed challenge of some sort. These challenges are the games way of making you work to add teammates to your team. Once you finally are able to field a team of nine players you can challenge Bowser Jr., and eventually Bowser himself, and the mode will pretty much comes to an end. My main complaint with the Challenge Mode is that it is relatively short and can be beat in one very short sitting. It does not have the depth or challenge I have come to expect from a Nintendo made game, especially a Mario one.
New to the series is what is known as team and player chemistry. Here you can put in players who really work well together (e.g. DK and DK Jr. or Mario and Luigi) and they can perform such things as home run robbing jumps or assist each other in gunning down a speedy runner with an assisted throw to home plate. Team chemistry is really noticeable in such that you can use bonus error items against the other team by pointing the Wii Remote and launching them into the opposing team’s field of play. These are your typical Mario power-ups such as POW blocks or fireballs. I really thought that the whole chemistry idea was a neat addition given that it makes you think about what players you want playing together and you actually start thinking as a coach when making these types of decisions.
My time with the game was pretty enjoyable, and that is what counts here. Sure, some of the game feels very familiar to the 2005 edition, but overall the arcade feel is really quite simple to get into, and fun too. I was able to have some success right off the hop and after a bit of time I was getting the hang of the game’s nuances. The arcade feel that I mention is very evident as there is not a lot of micro-management in the game, which is to be expected given that this is a ‘Marioized’ version of baseball. So that being said, don’t expect a lot of depth as the game is meant to be easy for everyone to play as there is not a lot of the boringness that people associate with a baseball game.
I think my biggest complaint about the gameplay of Mario Super Sluggers is the lack of an online mode. If any addition should have been made, it should have been the ability to take one’s skills online. And I don’t think there is any excuse for such, given that they did it with Mario Strikers Charged for the Wii. It is doable and the exclusion of such for this game is quite puzzling. Sure, you do have local multiplayer, and that can be fun as you can smack talk and celebrate right in front of your human opponent. But in this day and age when games can easily be taken online, Nintendo missed the boat on this one.
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