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We were half expecting this to be like a Mario-ised version of the baseball game from Wii Sports, but we’d have to say we were half wrong. Or is that fully wrong? Anyway, the point is that it’s nothing at all like Wii Sports, so the potential for a full-on baseball game with Mario characters and some proper motion-sensing for the batting and pitching has not yet been realised. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Much as we enjoyed the silky-smooth movement of Wii Sports Baseball, there’s a lot to be said for games with a more precise control method, and Mario Super Sluggers is certainly a more arcadey sort of experience.
Instead of wielding the remote like a real bat and hoping for a clean connection with the ball, you simply flick it upwards to charge the shot and then move it in another direction to have a swing. If you smack the ball at the precise moment you’ve reached maximum charge you’ll get a screaming power shot that will, hopefully, blast the ball clean into orbit for a home run. But the charging period is hard to judge and if you start too early you’ll run out of steam, meaning the best you can hope for is a scuffed shot that somehow bisects the fielders and lets you run to first base.
The pitching mechanic works similarly to batting, except you can hold a button to blast off a special shot that only a superhuman batter (or the AI opponents) will have a chance of hitting. Clearly there are a limited number of these per match, but the exact number of these super shots and other powerup items is determined by the roster of characters you choose at the start.
There are more player choices than in any other Mario sports game, and just as in the GameCube version of Mario Baseball you can choose a complete mixture of characters for your team. One-offs like Donkey Kong or Peach disappear as soon as you pick them, so they won’t crop up on the opponent’s side as well, whereas lesser characters of the kind that made up the rest of your team in Mario Strikers can be chosen as many times as you want. But while the obvious decision to begin with is to select all your favourites, there’s some chemistry to take into account.
Rather than providing an excuse to whip out the Bunsen burner, the chemistry between each player and the two either side of him/her in the team roster influences the amount of items you’re going to get. Get the batting order wrong and you’re going to have a much tougher time, with fewer powerups to go around, than if you had thought carefully about it and chosen tactically. To further complicate matters, the chemistry mixture seems to change when you change a character’s colour. It’s probably to ensure that you don’t just pick the exact same line-up every time, once you’ve found one that works, but it can lead to some protracted pre-game faffing around if you’re playing another person and both of you are keen to maximise your chances of success.
Away from the madness of the team selection, it’s as solid a game as you’d expect from any sports title with Mario’s name attached. There’s a Challenge mode where you’re forced to pick from certain characters – which is also how you unlock some of the hidden horrors on the roster – and a decent variety of playing fields that come with their own unique hazards and occasionally bizarre obstructions. Minigame mode, well, we weren’t particularly impressed with a selection that reminded us of the original Pokemon Stadium from the N64 days. Still, it’s just a bonus mode, and you don’t have to bother with it if you don’t want to.
Hear more about this article in TalkRadar.
Aug 25, 2008