Super Mario Strikers
Reviewed by Megan Parker
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2006-08-20 GameCube Sports E (Everyone) Nintendo / Next Level Games

I'm certainly not a sports fan and there are usually very few sports games I would even consider trying. Usually, if I do play one it means there's a certain character or set of characters in it that interests me. Super Mario Strikers would have that one set of characters that interested me enough to try out this game.

Strikers, like the other non-traditional Mario games, features both good and bad characters from the franchise. You pick a team captain, which is from a fairly short list of the big characters (Daisy, Mario, Peach, Luigi, Yoshi, Donkey Kong, Wario, and Waluigi). Once you choose a captain, you can pick a team, four sets of smaller characters like Birdo, Toad, Hammer Brothers, or Koopas. The team will take on the colors that the captain wears, both in uniform and in skin color. After Mario Kar, the team and captain selection are pretty sparse and there is only one unlockable team (Bowser's super robots), and that comes after you beat the cups.

There are several ways to play, a quick single match, a cup match, and a super cup (which opens after you beat the cup match once) are the main ones.

The single player mode is pretty straightforward. Each cup has a set of games to play, if you win, you unlock the next cup and a field from the previous one. The fields are pretty diverse, ranging from concrete to nice green grassy fields, even a wooden court. If you win a majority of all of the cups, you unlock the super robots team, which you can choose for any game.

Unfortunately, the single player aspect isn't that great. There are goals to meet, such as getting bronze, silver and gold trophies for the most goals, passes or body slams, but they're pretty meaningless unless you're just uber competitive. The AI is pretty weak and as long as you are brutal, the computer doesn't have much of a chance.

There are power-ups similar to Mario Kart: shells, bombs, banana peels, chain thingies; all are given to your team (or the other) when a player who doesn't have the ball is hit. These can be used at any time, and if used correctly, will get the ball turned over to you. You can also body slam any of the other team members whenever you want. In fact, that's how you win the games. If you're close enough, a quick tap to the Y button slams the player to the ground, either keeping them from getting a pass or just stealing the ball from them. If you hit them next to the fence, it actually shocks them with electricity enough to stun them for a little longer, all of which is surprisingly violent for a Mario game.

The controls are pretty easy to get used to, though they can be a little clumsy when you're trying to slam an opponent and accidentally switching which player you're in control of. You can power kick into goals with any character, but if the option is on, you can do a super power kick that can only be done by the captain. If done right, you have a guaranteed two points and considerable bragging rights. It takes a few seconds to actually do the kick and you can easily be knocked down in the attempt.

There are also passing goals, that if two are close enough and there?s an opening (usually signaled by a shout like "ball!") it will do a bullet time moment, though it doesn't guarantee a goal.

The only time you can control the goalie is when the goalie has the ball, otherwise the goal keeping is totally up to how good the computer is. Or rather, how lucky you are. After playing through the cup once, there isn't much incentive to play again. All of the stadiums and the one extra team were. This is the major reason why the single player is lacking significantly.

However, the multiplayer is fantastic. That is, as long as you have friends willing to play with you. Playing against friends is by far the more entertaining aspect of the game and likely the only thing to really keep people playing it. In the cup and single match games, you can choose to have the friend on your team, or even have four friends play at the same time, two in each team. The problem is, with two people it's actually difficult to coordinate, which is partly due to the free-for-all player switch. Most of it is just due to the human factor and just takes cooperation.

I can't say if this is the best soccer game (or football, whichever you prefer) out there, but it is entertaining enough to get even non-fans like me to play it. I do question whether the body slamming/electric fence thing would worry some parents, or even scare some kids, but it's easy enough for gamers of any age. The single player isn't that engaging in the long run, but the multiplayer will definitely entertain as long as there are friends to play with.