Mario Strikers: Battle League Review
Mario Strikers: Battle League is the third edition of the Mario Strikers arcade-style soccer series by Next Level Games, following Super Mario Strikers for GameCube and Mario Strikers Charged for Wii. It's been 15 years since the last release, meaning an entire generation of gamers has yet to experience this wacky soccer game.
For those new to the series, one way to describe Mario Strikers is that it's a soccer game that has no rules and items. Items show up on the pitch every once in a while, similar to how you get items in Mario Kart. There's the familiar ones like the Mushroom (for a speed boost), Green Shell, Red Shell, Banana Peel and Bob-omb, all staples from the Mario Kart series.
There are no offsides, fouls, red cards or penalty kicks, so anything goes. Some characters even handle the ball with their hands, so don't imagine yourself as real footballers here.
Mario Strikers is a game that is more like a hockey game than soccer, given how you can tackle like a bodycheck, and the gameplay is enclosed inside an arena. This may be due to the fact that Next Level Games is a Canadian-based developer, and ice hockey is the most popular sport in Canada.
As far as game modes go, there aren't really a ton of options. There's a Quick Match mode, which allows you to create a custom game against another player or computer, a Cup Battles mode featuring double-elimination tournaments against computer players to win trophies, and Strikers Club which is an online mode to create your own season. Up to 8 players can play on a single Nintendo Switch.
Also included is a Training Mode where you can follow tutorials by "Futbot" to teach you the basics of the Mario Strikers series. It's an excellent guide to all moves and combos that may not be too obvious despite the arcade-style of the game.
Tackles, charged and combo moves are an important part of Battle League, timing your tackle perfectly allows for you to steal the ball from your opponent, and likewise you can time your dodges to keep possession of the ball. Charging your passes helps you make better moves, and charging your shots gives you a much better chance of scoring.
Mario Strikers: Battle League has a decent presentation overall, very sharp menu screens, good graphics in general, however one problem is that occasionally there can be some on-screen lag which is annoying during a match - this happens whether it is a local or online game.
There's no story mode like in Mario Tennis Aces, nor are there any soccer-themed challenges to add to the game. It's pretty much what you see is what you get here.
The first two Mario Strikers games featured five-on-five play, but this time around it's been changed to four-on-four, which provides a bit more open space on the field.
In the past two titles, you choose a captain (who is more skilled) and a few sidekicks (minions like Toads and Koopas), but in Battle League, you choose a captain, and three additional team members. You can completely customize your team with characters of different size, skill, speed, and your style of play. Unfortunately, there's a relatively small number of characters to choose from, which is disappointing given the large lineups in typical Mario games.
All characters can be customized with different equipment and can change their attributes that are purchased with coins earned during play.
The goalkeeper is once again Boom Boom - who is invincible and can't be tackled. He's an automatic goalie that cannot be controlled unless he's in possession of the ball.
The stadium choices in Battle League are limited to say the least, there are only 5 options to choose from, and are all purely aesthetic. There are no gimmicks, which is a good thing because it leads to game imbalance. Another twist is that each team chooses their own half of the stadium, it's as if you brought your own field and audience over to battle with the other team.
New to Mario Strikers: Battle League is the Hyper Strike. After collecting a Strike Orb, your team will have 20 seconds to attempt a Hyper Strike, which if successful scores you two goals. Depending on how well you time your strike, it can be a guaranteed double score, but it can also be blocked before you get an attempt to finish the strike.
While getting two goals at once is dramatic, it kind of cheapens the game as one goal lead can instantly flip the lead. It's like how it feels in Mario Party, where you have the lead, but end up losing because your opponent gets more bonus stars handed to them.
For novices or those who want a more "pure" soccer experience, it's possible to disable items and Hyper Strikes for local custom games, which can be more fun in its own way, which feels more like a legitimate soccer match.
Mario Strikers: Battle League definitely has some vibes similar to Rocket League which is a multiplatform car soccer game, where you drive around vehicles to try to score on your opponent's net.
Mario Strikers: Battle League is a fun game to pick up to play by yourself, with or against friends, and against others online, but all-in-all it's a very barebones soccer game - that may not be worth the full price of a first party Nintendo game.