Review: Do you think they call it soccer or football in the Mushroom Kingdom?
You know, for Mario being a fat, little plumber; he's sure athletic. Starring in over 13 sports themed games, not including the Mario & Sonic Olympic game, Mario has taken on golf, basketball, tennis, baseball, kart-racing, and soccer. How is he still the fat plumber we all know and love and not a Herculean behemoth?
I don't know.
But I do know that Mario and his friends are back at it again in the sequel to the smash hit GameCube anti-soccer game, Super Mario Strikers, with the all new for Nintendo Wii - Mario Strikers Charged.
If you have never played Super Mario Strikers before, the basic idea is that two teams of five face off against one another to fight for possession of the soccer ball. When time is up, the team with the most points wins or if both teams are tied for points, the game will go into a sudden death round where the team to score first will be the victor.
Teams are made up of one captain, two defenders, a goalie, and an attacker. The game allows you to create your own preferred team from 12 captain characters and 8 sidekick characters. Sorry, but goalies are automatically Kritters or better known as the alligator characters from the Donkey Kong series. Team creation becomes a very important strategic element in Strikers Charged, unlike Super Mario Strikers where your sidekicks were somewhat useless. In Strikers Charged, sidekicks are placed into five categories: balanced, playmaker, power, offensive, and defensive. It is up to you to decide the right mix to formulate a perfect team.
The gameplay of Strikers Charged demands you find ways of making sure you try your hardest to hold on to the ball and when the time comes... you STRIKE. To do this, you will use the Wii's nunchuck analog stick to move whichever character has the ball. The Wii remote is what you will be using to pass the ball by pressing the A button and shoot using the B button. When playing on the defensive side, the A button will let you switch between characters and the control pad will let you slide to steal or simply stop your opponents shot.
Though I mentioned it before I will say it again, Strikers Charged demands you hold onto the ball. You want to keep that metallic beauty in your possession for as long as possible and to do this you are encouraged to pass the ball around the field as long as possible. The more you pass; the better shot you will have at scoring when you strike. You can gauge when you should take your shot by the color of the ball. The color will change depending on how much you have passed it, the lighter the color the better the chance you have at making a goal.
Though shooting is just a one button action, you do have five types of shots to use. First you have what is basically a normal shot. Then there's a lob shot, where you lob pass (Z+A) the ball to another player and quickly press the Z and B buttons to have them do a quick shot at the goal. Another is the one-timer shot where you hit B right before you receive ball. There's a skillshot, which is a shot that only your sidekicks can do. It is done by holding down the B button and is basically a special technique that will vary depending on your sidekick character. For instance, using a Hammer Bro's skillshot will have him throw a handful of hammers in front of him clearing out a nice path in which the his shot can travel. Finally there is the megastrike, which is the captains' version of a skillshot. Unlike the megastrike in Super Mario Strikers, which was one big unstoppable shot, the megastrike of Strikers Charged will split that one big shot into anywhere from 3 to 6 shots. The number of shots kicked and the odds of them going into the goal will depend on two different gauges that you will have to time correctly. It is possible to interfere with your opponent's megastrike, by shaking your nunchuck when those gauges pop up, making it harder for them to tell when to strike. Blocking a megastrike will require you to move the Wii Remote around the screen in a shooter-style fashion, using the pair-of-hands shaped cursor to stop the incoming barrage of shots.
Unlike a real soccer game, which this clearly is not, there are no penalties in Strikers. You can be as brutal as you want against your opponents, for example, you can smash your opponents into the electrified grid that surrounds the field. Doing this will incapacitate the unlucky player for a short time. Another way of dishing out the brutality is using various items. Items are acquired by either using a charged shot or by becoming the unlucky one to get shoved the fence. Items consist of four different shell-types, banana peels, bombs, chain chomps, mushrooms and stars. To use an item, simply press the C button to unleash havoc. In addition to the regular items, the captains of each team will have their own special item that can also be unleashed using the C button.
You will be participating in this action inside the arenas of seventeen stadiums, ten of which are new additions. Of those seventeen, ten are new additions. These ten new stadiums pack various obstacles that range from tornadic winds that blow cows and farm equipment across the field to huge Thwomps that crush you under their heavy stone bodies. As fun as watching a flying cow take out Bowser, it becomes a problem because of too much going on onscreen. If you are not careful, you can easily lose sight of your players and maybe get a goal scored on you.
All of this is played out in five different game modes. You have Domination mode which is just a V.S. mode. Road to Striker Cup, a single player series of tournaments in which players will compete against the CPU for trophies and secret characters. Strikers Challenges, similar to the challenge part of Super Smash Bros. fame, where you try to complete the different challenges for more unlockables. Striker 101 is a simple training mode. Finally there is the much awaited Wi-Fi mode. Here you compete for online dominance of the leaderboard. There are two different types of matches in Wi-Fi mode, ranked and friendly. Ranked matches are played out in three rounds against random foes, winning a round will get you more points than losing a round, and yes you get points for losing. Friendly matches are just what the title states, matches against your Wii friends. To play these matches you actually have to have friends give you their Wii codes. The bad thing is Wi-Fi matches are by region only so no playing your football loving friend in England.
Since the Wii is not a Next-Gen technological powerhouse, the visuals look almost identical to its GameCube predecessor, so there is no big overhaul here. However, with all the action going on during gameplay it becomes hard to notice the imperfections. Though, it would have been nice to see Luigi get fried in high-definition.