Mario Strikers: Battle League review for Nintendo Switch

Platform: Nintendo Switch
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Next Level Games
Medium: Digital/Cart
Players: 1-8
Online: Yes

Mario?s extracurricular titles always seem to ebb and flow in quality, for every Mario Tennis for the GBC, there?s a Mario Tennis Ultra Smash for the Wii U, and it?s quite perplexing. This theorem even holds true for the soccer centric Mario Strikers. The initial entry was a quick pace arcade style sports title which mixes strong fundamentals with a dash of zaniness. You might think you have a shot at the goal, but when Bowser randomly makes his presence onto the pitch, any thoughts of scoring will be dashed by the chaos that ensues.

The less memorable Mario Strikers Charged made the action slower, although the craziness was dialed up (you have have a six point swing with one Megastrike) and shoehorned motion controls (as it was the trend at the time), which meant I spent less time playing the sequel than I had with the inaugural entry. So when Mario Strikers: Battle League was announced there was much trepidation in my mind as to whether the game will mirror the original or continue to blaze the path set forth in the sequel.

Mario Strikers: Battle League is a weird mix of both. The game eschews the ?lead character and the grunts? mechanics of the previous titles, meaning every player on the pitch is a ?lead character? and can do Hyperstrikes (The super attacks of this title). This changes the gameplay up drastically as players on the losing side no longer have to perpetually get the ball to the ?lead character? in hopes of getting a Hyperstrike goal to close the gap. The offset of this decision to make everyone capable of Hyperstrikes, is that they can only be triggered by getting an item which gets randomly thrown onto the field (Think the Smash Ball in Smash Brothers). Defending against Hyperstrikes are still a thing, but it?s simplified to mashing a button to fill a bar, although filling the bar does not guarantee a successful defense as there were plenty of instances of the goalie faltering and the ball slipping into the goal. Speaking of items thrown onto the field, items previously would be added to your inventory due to aggressive offensive play or as reward for being the victim tackles while not the ball handler. The new method of item accrual requires players to run into item boxes that are thrown onto the field, and not all item boxes are created equal as there will be team-specific boxes which cannot be opened by the opposing player.

One of the innovations introduced to this game is the concept of gear. The core conceit of the system is that you can modify your player with equipment to enhance one stat, but decrease another. Unfortunately equipment is uniform across all characters and it doesn?t drastically change anyone. You can only accrue gear by buying them with coins and earning coins is a bit of a slog for those who do not wish to participate in multiplayer. Single matches yield 10 coins per match if you win, 2 if you lose. While you can play a cup for an initial reward of 400 coins, however any additional completions will net only 50 coins, an 88% decrease to the prize purse. People willing to engage in multiplayer will fare better as the Strikes Club ?seasons? will mean rewards from achievements are earnable with each new season. Thankfully you can play without gear.

Speaking of Battle Leagues, the Striker Club is your gateway to stocking your characters with all the gear that you desire. Create or Join a club which can support up to 20 players, play games and earn points that will help your club slowly climb the rankings. The higher your rank the higher your rewards. Rewards which you can use to customize your stadium and equip your players with gear?in theory. My interaction with the Striker Club was a mix bag. I failed to find a club that would accept me as a player so I opted to create my own. However in creating my own I found I would not be able to participate in a season in progress and I would only be able to play practice matches against other clubs until the start of the next season.

Thankfully these friendly skirmishes still offered material rewards regardless of results. While it might not be great for my self esteem as I will rack up a record which would qualify me for a Cleveland sports team, it?ll probably be my vector to earning the coinage needed to purchase gear for all my players.

Mario Strikers: Battle League thankfully leans closer to original Strikers than Charged. While the changes to the gameplay does not necessarily shut out casual players, there?s some meat for those who want to take a more tactical approach. The game leans towards extensive online play, leaving more isolationist players a steeper hill to climb to unlock all the game has to offer. Now if you?ll excuse me, I?m off to some drills so these online skirmishes won?t result in too lopsided defeats.

Note: Nintendo provided us with a Mario Strikers: Battle League code for review purposes.

Grade: B