Mario Strikers Battle League is the chaotic sequel to Mario Strikers Charged from the Nintendo Wii released back in 2007 and well, chaotic is the perfect word to describe what Mario Strikers Battle League is all about. It's fun, it's packed full of mayhem and violence but ultimately it just all becomes a little too frenetic and overwhelming. You’ve never seen the beautiful game quite like this…
Mario and his friends are back in the world of Football after a 15 year hiatus, now you might think that after 15 years away from the game these lovable characters might have slowed down a little or maybe even want to take it a little easier this time around right? WRONG. Mario and the gang are back and it would seem they are hell bent on glory. Focusing much more than ever on violence and brutality, Mario Strikers Battle league feels much more like a ‘battle’ than a friendly competition. Essentially you control the characters on a team of 4 outfield players and one AI controlled Goalkeeper and just like regular football, your aim is to score as many goals as possible while allowing your opponent as few as possible. But that's where the comparison to the beautiful game ends. All the rules of football are out of the window and players are able to use any part of their body to control the ball, including their hands and well, fouls no longer exist. You can do whatever you please to take your opponent out, which includes throwing them into the electrically charged fence around the arena. We will touch on this a little more later in the review
This style of gameplay is both extremely fun, and extremely chaotic and frustrating. The total of 10 players on the very compact arena leads to a very overwhelming and very hectic time. Leading to much frustration as you go from having a shot on goal to conceding one in less than 3 seconds. This also hampers your ability to form any real strategy as you have absolutely zero time available to pick out a good pass before an opponent comes in and destroys you.
Graphically, Mario Strikers is actually pretty nice, it has that same art style that most mario games have while adding in very diverse and unique customisation to almost every aspect of your arena and your characters. One slight letdown for me is the crowds. For example the crowd is made up of a bunch of different characters, there can be 20 blue Yoshis, 15 red Yoshis and a bunch of Koopa Troopas. Now the issue is the diversity of the actions these characters make. All of the same character types all do the exact same thing at the same time. For instance, all the blue yoshis will jump in the exact same animation at the exact same time almost like they are a single entity rather than a bunch of different characters. It's not a huge deal and one that a lot of people probably won't even notice, however, despite all the action on the pitch, it's something I found myself noticing regularly. Other than that the game looks pretty awesome and runs well. The movement is relatively smooth, the animations are well made and the different ways in which each character moves and plays comes together really well.
Gameplay is, as I have already mentioned, fun and very chaotic. Almost to its detriment how chaotic it is. Don't get me wrong, it's a good time, but don't expect it to be anything other than frantic. Not only do you have to contend with the bad player to pitch size ratio, but you have a lack of rules meaning your head must be on a swivel at all times. Theres the usual mario powerup boxes, giving you things like green/red shells, bananas, bombs and even stars etc to both utilise, but also for your opponents to utilise on you. Then on top of all of this there's the Hyper Strike power ups. These are essentially a golden ball of electricity that will appear randomly throughout the game and the first player to get to it will earn their team a ‘Hyper Strike’ powerup to use within the next 20 seconds. Each character has their own unique hyper strike animation that if timed well is a guaranteed 2 goals, but if not timed well gives the goalkeeper a chance to save it and can leave you vulnerable to a counter attack. This is possibly both my favourite and least favourite aspect of the gameplay as it can give you the edge and a big lead early on, but it can also turn the game on its head in the dying moments. The animations for these hyper strikes are unique to each character as I mentioned but they are absolutely epic, they become a little repetitive as time goes on but they are really cool and give a real sense of grandeur each and every time. However, the fact that they give you 2 goals, means that in the final few seconds you can easily go from 1 goal up to 1 goal down with no time whatsoever to make a comeback. This can be very frustrating especially on the already really hard stages later in the game.
Each character has their very own unique play style and attributes and while it doesn't matter early on in the game it definitely becomes much more important to get the balance of these play styles right in the later stages. For example, Mario is a bit of an all round player, he has good technique, speed and shooting which makes him perfect for hyper strikes etc. Donkey Kong is really good at pulverising your enemies and Toad is his usual fast self running from one end of the pitch to the other in almost zero time at all. You'll need to learn what each player's strengths and weaknesses are if you want to stand a chance later on in the game. This is also where the character customisation comes into it. Each win earns you coins, and those can be spent on upgrades to characters gear. This gear can be used to adjust your character's play style a little and each piece of gear has its own strength and weakness. For instance, I upgraded my marios shooting ability as I use him as my main striker, so I chose all the gear that boosted his shooting, however each piece of gear has plus to shooting and minus to another attribute, (+1 shooting/ -1 speed), that type of thing. So it is important to pick and choose what attributes you need and which ones work within your personal playstyle.
The playable characters are something I found the game to be quite lacking on to be honest. I mean, the mushroom kingdom has a massive amount of characters in it yet Mario Strikers Battle League only has 8 characters to choose from. I'd like to have even seen different versions of each character, for example, Tanooki Mario or even Daisy could have made an appearance.
Overall, Mario Strikers Battle League can be a very fun game to play. But it can also be hugely frustrating. In my opinion, not as good as the previous Mario Strikers games, this one feels a little too fast paced and brutal and while it's fun for the most part, it can feel a little overwhelming at times. If you want a fun, frenetic, fast paced beat em up sports game then this is absolutely all of those things, if you're after a bit more of a standard football game with rules and strategy, this aint it.