Mario Super Sluggers coming soon

We were surprised to hear Nintendo announce a brand new game at its spring media summit this morning - we were not surprised that said game was another Mario sports title. Mario Super Sluggers will arrive in Japan in June and elsewhere "later this year," featuring the requisite number of mascot characters and suitably silly gameplay.

We were treated to a brief demo that showed a 5-inning match between the Mario Fireballs (firebats?) and the Peach Royals. Each team consists of a captain and what we assume will be the Mario second stringers (Shy Guys, Koopas etc), similar to the Striker games. Control is, according to Nintendo's Bill Trinen, much like Wii Sports in both pitching and batting. The former is done by holding a button, winding up and releasing when blue halos close in around the character; the latter by simply holding the remote and swinging. Both forms have supercharged attacks that distract or hinder the other player; we saw Mario's fire pitch scream past a batter, and later, Mario's fire swing ignite an unlucky Donkey Kong out in left field.

Above: Mario and Luigi are on board, and they're bringing just about every other Mario Sports character along

Sluggers is meant to be a "bridge game," in that it takes a setup casual players know (Wii Sports) and adds layers to it that core gamers already know. For example, there is actual fielding in Sluggers, whereas Wii Sports handled all the running and catching. However, instead of introducing a deep control system, Sluggers uses only the remote and has you primarily waggling to run, waggling to throw and waggling to do just about anything else. There wasn't any hands-on time so we can't say for sure if this simplified scheme helps or hurts the experience from a core gamer's perspective.

In a welcome twist, Sluggers actually looks decent, though perhaps not as a big leap over GameCube's Superstar Baseball as Galaxy was over Sunshine. Expect much more as the game's ambiguous release date draws near. If it's June in Japan, and baseballers are lovingly refereed to as "the boys of summer," we'd be shocked to see it come any later than August.

Apr 10, 2008