Football – some love it, others can only roll their eyes when they think about it. After tennis and golf, Nintendo brings Germany’s most popular sport back to the Switch with Mario Strikers: Battle League Football. We have already kicked a few matches across the pitch and we will tell you why the game can unite football fans and haters.
Since its debut in 2005, the Mario Strikers series has had a loyal following. And this despite the fact that so far only two games have been released – the last 15 years ago. While Mario is a common sight in niche sports venues, Nintendo has long ignored calls to return to one of the world’s most popular sports. Until now. Mario Strikers: Battle League Football combines the simulative nature of games like FIFA with the physical chaos of games like Mario Kart.
Mario Smash Football and Mario Strikers Charged Football differed in their emphasis on strategy and action, respectively. Battle League Football now finds a balancing act that balances surprisingly complex football play with offbeat maneuvers, special shots and malicious use of objects. Nintendo has come to expect affordable fares that can be played quickly with friends and family without much explanation. Strikers are a bit of an exception here, because while the basics of handling the ball are quick to pick up, Battle League Football should fall into the “easy to learn, hard to master” category.
With numerous action variants, counter-attack options, perfect (lined up) tackles, targeted through passes and feints, the entertaining games show a depth that should keep invested players on the ball in the long run. Still, at least on the face of it, Battle League Football seems to be balancing every skill imbalance between players with a pinch of chaos and real catch-up options.
In addition to objects that professionals can slow down, hypershot is particularly important. These spectacular images can best be compared to Ultra Smashes from Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. If it is timed perfectly, the opponent’s goalkeeper has no chance to stop the shot, and such a maneuver is even counted twice. The hype shot is accompanied by a short cutscene, which thanks to the ingenious art style, which is characterized by high-contrast scribbled contours, looks great. However, we have a feeling that the play can slow down the flow of the game a bit once you get tired of the show value.
Personalization: The good and the bad
In more serious football summers, each virtual player is characterized by their individual statistics. And there’s also in Mario Strikers: Battle League Football. While Mario is the usual all-rounder, Bowser can kick more powerfully and is harder to tackle. This is compensated for at the other end at a lower speed. That means putting together the team of Mushroom Kingdom residents that are perfectly tailored to your own needs. At the moment, the selection of the squad still seems a bit confusing, but we would not be surprised if more numbers are submitted via updates over time.
The equipment system, which is the primary driving force to continue playing, nevertheless ensures more individualization, as the clothing parts must first be unlocked with coins. Equipment, however, is not purely cosmetic. The different outfits affect the wearer’s values positively and negatively. Professionals will definitely enjoy finding the perfect combination.
Unfortunately, it looks completely different with a view of the stadium. In Battle League Football, this can be gathered from thematically different halves. Nintendo, however, missed the chance to expand the idea to include gameplay influence. Ice-cold floors with different ball-rolling behaviors, fireballs flying across the field in the Bowser half – the possibilities would have been endless. To take the trouble to realize this kind of purely cosmetic individualization, even though one is still only limitedly aware of the environment in the heat of battle, is not entirely accessible to us. A lot of potential was wasted here.