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Mario Strikers: Battle League Review
Mario and his friends return to the field for high-octane fútbol action, but there are some glaring and questionable omissions.
There has been a bit of an unhealthy trend when it comes to Mario sports games on the Nintendo Switch. They lack lasting power and personality. These games almost feel like they’re one-and-done experiences. Run through all the offerings of the game, shelve it, and never look back. Even with the post-launch content, I couldn’t bother to revisit them. Now with another sports game in the mix, does Mario Strikers: Battle League break the mold?
I’m here to tell you that Battle League is a solid entry to the series, but not without some major faults. It has been fifteen years since we got a proper sequel in the Mario Strikers franchise. It does the job in areas that we most care about, but this is a very conditional purchase for fans of the series. This game has a lot of trade-offs.
Slim Pickings for Solo Players
If you’re looking to get a lot of single-player hours out of this, you may want to reconsider. Unlike other games in the Mario sports franchise like Mario Golf, there isn’t some kind of story mode or campaign to take up a handful of single-player hours other than its barebones Cup Battles Mode. These modes would oftentimes be in place to get you acquainted with the controls and maybe unlock some cool new modes and characters.
What we have instead is just the over-the-top gameplay, which is solid, to say the least. The bar was set very high for how well the last game in the franchise was. It might be unfair to do so, but one would expect that with time, future iterations of Strikers would be more innovative. We wanted there to be something more to reel in new players and bring the veterans back into the Strikers lineup of games. This is going to be an ongoing feeling oftentimes provoked with Battle League; we wanted something more, but that isn’t the case.
Nintendo is slowly adapting that “games as a service” mentality where they’ll slowly add content to their games that feel like incomplete packages at launch. It’s not a good look because so many of us are used to fully justifying those $60 (plus tax) purchases of AAA games from Nintendo since they hardly get price drops.
This is going to be an ongoing feeling oftentimes provoked with Battle League; we wanted something more, but that isn’t really the case.
This is also where the problem lies. Should this game have an MSRP of $39.99 or even USD 49.99, the lack of content would be a lot more justifiable. That “Nintendo Seal of Quality” you see on the back of these game cases is starting to feel more like misdirection at this point. It can be argued that the quality of gameplay is great, but a standard set in previous generations did not necessarily carry over.
A Party is Sure to Be Had, but Not Without its Restrictions
The gameplay of Mario Strikers: Battle League, as I said earlier, is solid. It translates well into the multiplayer aspect when playing with other people locally. Battle League can support up to eight players on one console, allowing for larger groups to play without having to swap out for turns. Of course with the Switch’s hardware, there are some limitations to controller combinations beyond four players. That’s to be expected from hardware that is quickly being left behind compared to its competition currently in the market.
This game has an easily digestible way to play which is explained thoroughly in its Tutorial mode. It’ll give you the rundown of how movements, passes, kicks, and other fundamentals work. More advanced techniques will be taught. For casuals who might just pick up an extra controller from a friend to dive in with the basics, it’s a fun time. The hectic nature of having eight different people of different skill levels controlling their characters on the field is a blast.
The game is extremely engaging. The only actual downtime is watching the goal replay being shown at different angles and in slow-mo. Other than that, you’re almost always in control, running around, passing the ball, intercepting it from the opponent, making a shot at the goal, dribbling, dodging, or grabbing or using items. This is a game where your utmost attention is required, especially since you’re using nearly every button available to you on your controller.
One would think that a title that nails its local multiplayer gameplay gets a full pass, but that’s back to it being an incomplete package. This game has only TEN playable characters on launch, excluding some fan favorites like Daisy or even the more recent Pauline. Nearly every match will have repeated characters on both teams. After a while, we’re going to be seeing the same Hyper Strike moves from the same characters since there’s so little diversity. That part will get stale fast.
Other Mario sports games have included some wacky, unexpected characters like King Bob-omb in Mario Golf: Super Rush or Spike from Mario Tennis: Aces. The game will be receiving free post-launch content which could probably justify purchase later down the line (and hopefully with a price cut).
A Hit and a Miss When Going Worldwide
Since multiplayer is the meat and potatoes of Mario Strikers: Battle League, we would hope that the online will only supplement that if we have friends in faraway places. It gets the job done, but sloppily. With Nintendo’s archaic netcode for the online portion of its games, Battle League suffers significantly from connection issues in the form of delay. This creates some rather frustrating issues, especially for a game that can heavily depend on timing.
Unless every player in every lobby you join has reliably fast internet and is hooked up directly to a router, you should expect some hitches and delayed inputs in your online matches. Imagine trying to pass the ball to another teammate just for the input to not be registered or for it to be registered late. That could easily lead to an opponent tackling the ball off from you and ruining your game plan.
What makes this more of a letdown is that, despite the game being able to be played with eight players locally, it isn’t the case online. You can create these clan-like groups called Clubs which can host up to 20 different players, but you can’t take four players all on different consoles to join a lobby in matchmaking.
Instead, you’re limited to using two Switches, each with a guest to play online to then play globally. These hardware limitations are becoming a bit absurd, given that other games have been able to support more than four Switch consoles connecting all at once. It’s getting a bit ridiculous that a game that mostly shines when played with other players has even more restrictions because of a waning network system. Hopefully it isn’t too late to give the online an overhaul or an upgrade, or this game will be left in the lukewarm categories like its tennis and golf counterparts.
Mario Strikers: Battle League is a game that’s carried mostly by its local multiplayer and gameplay. There was so much missed potential for this game to shine brighter than its predecessors. From the lack of single-player modes, content, and limitations to its online, it’s very tough to justify buying the game in its current state.
It’s a shame. The Strikers series was one of the more popular Mario sports franchises. To receive the game we did on launch almost seems like Nintendo needed to throw in a filler of a AAA title to fill in the downtime between big releases. If the game just had a few more characters, a bit more single-player offerings, and a better online system, this could have been a hit.
To answer if this game breaks the mold of lukewarm Mario sports on the Nintendo Switch: it doesn’t.
- Score: 3 / 5
- Available On: Nintendo Switch
- Published By: Nintendo
- Developed By: Next Level Games
- Genre: Sports
- US Release Date: June 10, 2022
- Reviewed On: Nintendo Switch
- Quote: "Mario Strikers: Battle League is a game that’s carried mostly by its local multiplayer and gameplay. There was so much missed potential for this game to shine brighter than its predecessors. From the lack of single-player modes, content, and limitations to its online, it’s very tough to justify buying the game in its current state."