Mario Strikers Charged Football Wii Review
And here we have it – the first Mario game to grace the newest Nintendo console. Mario was born in 1981, in the seminal Donkey Kong. Since then, the portly plumber and his extended family have dedicated over twenty years to rescuing princesses from the clutches of the nefarious King Bowser. To be honest, one wonders if this is why it’s always so hard to get a plumber out when you need one. If they’re off eating mushrooms and jumping on turtles, it would explain why they’re never around when I need my U-bend unblocked.
Anyway, in this first incarnation of Mario & co. on the Wii, the player is charged (no pun intended) with leading a 5-a-side football team with a difference – the environments, the players and even the ball are out to electrocute, squish, or burn you to within an inch of your life. It’s a case of Goomba-eat-Yoshi-eat-Koopa world. The player can select one captain out of a cast of twelve to lead a team of assorted characters from the Mario world. The exact mix of sidekicks to man your team is entirely up to the player, with different characters offering different special moves and aptitudes. Each captain also has different strengths and weaknesses, with some being better at attacking than defending, while others having superior offensive moves with which to put the hurt on your opponent. Finding the best combination of captain to team-mates can make or break a game, and it is surprisingly difficult to find the ‘perfect’ mix.
The matches themselves are fast-paced and frantic. Players are controlled with a combination of nun-chuck and motion controls. The analogue stick on the nun-chuck allows the player to run rings around their opponent, while twitches of the wrist unleash your violent streak, triggering tackles and take-downs. Every button on the Wii is used in some way, be it switching players, passing or chipping the ball. While this may not be something out of the usual for console gaming, it belies the initial sense of simplicity that this title brings. The game includes a tutorial mode, in which the player is slowly introduced to the various controls and moves possible within matches, and provided with a scenario to play in which the concept explained is put into practice. In this reviewer’s experience, some of the tutorial scenarios were rock hard, particularly one which tasks the player with winning a match using only the ghost character, Boo. Scoring numerous goals with a character who’s special move is a high chip shot within a time limit proved to be a frustrating experience, and to date it remains uncompleted in my game.
The best super-moves are, of course, reserved for the captains of each team. Mario, for instance, can become massive, running with the ball and flattening all opposition before him. Donkey Kong unleashes a powerful area attack to stun opponents, while Wario simply unleashes noxious flatulence. The other main benefit provided by each captain is their ability to use mega-strikes. Mega-strikes occur when the captain is in possession of the ball and holds down the ‘shoot’ button. A simple swinging meter appears, which the player attempts to halt at the best possible moment. A cut-scene then occurs, as the captain shoots up into the air and launches multiple balls at the enemy goal. Depending on the previous meter minigame results, the captain will launch anywhere up to six balls at once, providing the opportunity to score up to six goals. From the perspective of the player on the receiving end of a mega-strike, the game switches to the goalie’s perspective. As the ball appears, the player must use the Wiimote to intercept them before they enter the net. Thus, a degree of skill is required to use mega-strikes correctly, so that it doesn’t automatically count as six goals. On first reading about the mega-strike, one suspected that it may have been open to abuse. Fortunately, this isn’t the case.
Having abandoned the tutorials for the real game, Mario Strikers Charged Football proved to be by far more entertaining and less frustrating than I had expected. The game modes immediately available to the player include entering a tournament, playing a one-off match against a computer or a friend, or going online to play other players from across the world. Wait – what was that? Online multiplayer on the Wii? Yes, indeed. Mario Strikers Charged Football holds the honour of being the first online title available for the Wii in Europe, with Nintendo finally implementing a feature that really should have been present since the launch. Playing against the computer in tournaments is entertaining, and remarkably challenging, but it can never compare to the thrill of playing against other human beings. The difficulty of the A.I. players in offline mode is well matched to the player’s own skill, with matches never feeling too pre-determined and the opponents never appearing to follow the same tactic over and over. However, the real challenge is in playing, and hopefully defeating, anonymous strangers with all their dirty tricks and cunning tactics. Like all online games, regardless of their genre, the game is open to abuse from enterprising players hoping to cheat their way to the top of the global leaderboards. Abuse of certain characters with difficult to counter specials is not unheard of, but on the most part, players seem interested in playing fairly and having fun. Indeed, for the first multiplayer title for the Wii, Nintendo could certainly have chosen a less entertaining title.
Football games have the reputation for being same-y and generic. However, with Mario Strikers Charged Football, Nintendo have shown that football games don’t have to be predictable. Not since the likes of Mutant League Hockey has a sports game had so much humour, with so much challenge. Every match is different, and every match is exciting. Just stay off the mushrooms, okay?