Many of the significant issues with Mario Strikers Charged lie with Super Mario Strikers on the Gamecube. Out of the Mario sports games, this is the least compelling, fun, and inventive. While Mario Golf and Mario Tennis take a backseat, Strikers is the spin-off to gain an unnecessary sequel that fails to advance this series, with the exception of online play.
This is a fast paced, hectic game of soccer. The Mushroom Kingdom and its inhabitants lead to a number of quirky challenges and pitfalls, which is generally what helps this sports franchise separate itself from other arcade styled competitors. Generally, Mario is golden.
The exception to that rule is here in Strikers. Additions to Charged include some environmental hazards, and the ability to choose every player on your team instead of a generic set of teammates. The latter was a desperately needed and common sense update that should have been included in the original. It expands the personality of the game and the recognizable gaming icons look superb on the field.
Other issues remain unfixed. The field of play is cramped, and as such, games degrade into tackling fests. On-field hazards such as Thwomps fail to add to the style, but instead serve to further condense the game play. Getting the opportunity for a clean shot doesn’t feel rewarding. It feels lucky.
Strikers is fixated with Megastikes, charged up shots that send the player into the sky to rain down multiple balls onto the goalie. This leads the only real use of the Wii’s control capabilities, opening a mini-game in which the player points to incoming shots to block them. It’s brief, though a nice way to add some balance to a game that desperately needs it.
The Megastrikes are also out of place in terms of looks, as is much of the game. This is a surprisingly dark, somewhat harder edged affair. The Megastrikes lead to a cinematic of blank, white-eyed character bathed in a single color and limited light caused by heavy lightning. Stadiums, filled to capacity with an impressive polygonal crowd, are also sadly drab and blah. It’s as if the Mushroom Kingdom suddenly lost its colorful luster once soccer became the chosen sport.
Each character is nicely rendered otherwise, and the high polygon counts will be appreciated by long time Nintendo fans. Not all is equal however. Some of their special powers, especially the Hammer Bros., can be easily abused. Granted, on the highest difficulty, it’s nearly impossible to find the charge up a strike, but online, the cheapest competitors have no problem using this to their advantage.
Using the Wi-Fi Connection to jump into a match is wonderfully smooth. Finding an opponent takes a few seconds, and lag free is the only way to describe it. Playing with friends isn’t quite that easy, as the asinine, clunky Friend Code system initially makes random opponents a far less irritating experience.
For those not online, Road to the Striker’s cup will likely consume your time. This is a basic tournament set up with various goals and trophies to earn. You pick a character, a squad, and you challenge a variety of teams with an increasing difficulty level. It’s also nice to see cooperative play available in this mode. A few scenarios can create a significant challenge for experienced players if the Striker’s Cup proves uninteresting.
Considering the hardware innovation, tennis, golf, and baseball make far more intelligent choices. When introducing the new crop of video gamers to the world of Mario sports, why not take advantage of the controller that involved them in the first place? Strikers is simply an awful choice for the Wii given how it could all have easily been done on the previous hardware, losing none of its small appeal in the process. This is a lost cause.
Mario Strikers Charged is rated E10+ (Everyone 10 and older) by the ESRB for Crude Humor, Mild Cartoon Violence .