Mario Super Sluggers was released today to the masses, and what better way to celebrate than with a review... of the Gamecube version. The Wii review will be next week, I assure you this. How's that for a fast review!?
Let's play the baseball game.
The American pastime has had a grand following in the United States-- not so much in the Mushroom Kingdom. However, Mario and company along with Nintendo and Namco set out to rectify this with Mario Superstar Baseball for the Nintendo Gamecube. Basically this game is what you'd expect from a Mario sports title. You have the original game of baseball, but with Mario-themed twists. When a letter from Bowser is sent via air mail to five Mushroom Kingdom baseball teams, the chase is on to see whose team is best enough to beat Bowser at his own game.
Mario and Bowser settle their rivalry on the baseball diamond. Who'd a thunk it?
Challenge mode is what isolated players will most likely want to get into immediately. The aim of challenge mode is to explore the overworld map, challenging teams in any order, completing mini-games for coins, buying items in the shop, and recruiting new players for your own team on your way to battle Bowser. Teams can be faced more than once which is good because you'll want to recruit as many new teammates as possible. How does one do this, you ask? By completing in-game challenges, of course! Duh. Occasionally when in a baseball game a challenge will pop up such as striking out the player or getting a double play. If completed, a white flag fills in for the player you just struck out or completed the task for. Fill in all the flags and win the game, and that player will join your ranks. Most likely you'll need to play a team more than once to get all of the teammates that team has to offer. Additionally your own teammates will have star challenges. By completing one of these challenges such as making a hit or scoring a run, their abilities will improve. Get all of a player's stars and they'll be incredibly improved.
DK and Diddy settle who's the best banana-slammer of all.
There's thirty-two different characters to play as in Mario Superstar Baseball, and all of them can have their skills escalated. Players will be able to control character never before playable in a Mario title such as Monty Mole, Dry Bones, Dixie Kong, Hammer Brother, and more. Each has their own playing style and traits to them. There's power hitters, balanced players, technical players, and speed players all for the player's undertaking.
Playing a baseball game in Mario's world is like playing a street hockey game on Interstate 44. There's a lot of crap in the way of the field of play. Most of the six main stadiums in the game include gimmicks. Wario Palace is set in a dusty desert ruin setting where whirlwinds can send the baseball hurtling every which way. Yoshi's stadium, Yoshi Park, includes Piranha Plants which can gobble up a baseball and spit it out giving the runner extra time to shuffle to a base. However, there's still a baseball game going on within all of this chaos.
The basics of baseball are still present in the Mushroom Kingdom. There's fast balls, slow balls, strikes, balls, outs, fly balls, bunts, base-stealing, base-running, etc. Charging up the A button charges up a pitch or a swing. The longer the charge, the faster the pitch or the harder the swing. Base running is done via the X and Y buttons. By tapping the button your base-runner will dart either towards the next base or retreating back a base. But traditional baseball blows if you're no fan of the sport. That's where the crazy stuff comes in. Star shots are earned at specific times in a game. Usually when two captains are going at it (no, not going at it in that sense-- this is E-rated, perverts). By holding the R button down while swinging or batting a character's special hit or pitch will be unleashed. When Yoshi bats and uses a skill shot, the ball turns into an egg upon impact that bounces wildly across the field, hard to grab onto. However, executing a skill shot is not an instant hit. You'll still need to make contact with the baseball or the skill shot usage will be in vain.
Luigi's the lead-off man. Look at that swagger.
One of the problems with Mario Superstar Baseball is the fielding. When a ball is hit to the outfield, the player has no control over who goes after the ball. And even so, pressing the A button will sometimes make the player leap when they wished to dive for the ball. Also, throwing to a base is a pain because sometimes you'll desire to chuck the ball to third base but instead throw it to home. Furthermore, when playing the AI in harder difficulties the CPU will "somehow" keep making hits and scoring runs to catch up and beat the player. This "catch-up" AI is very cheap, lame, and offers an artificial challenge that this title did not need.
Along with the challenge mode are various mini-games available such as the Bob-Omb Derby which is your standard home-run derby with Bob-Ombs thrown at varying speeds for the player to belt to the bleachers. There's a game where players test out their base-running skills as they collect gems. Just don't run when the Chain-chomp awakes! Another game has players batting balls into Piranha Plants of different colors. Match the color shown to earn points.
Overall, Mario Superstar Baseball isn't a grand slam, but it isn't a rain-out either. There's a lot of content to be had, and multiplayer is great fun with friends. The challenge mode offers compelling gameplay, and the other modes allow for a different take on the "ultimate" pastime.
Story: Bowser sends out an invitation to the teams of Mario, Peach, Yoshi, DK, and Wario to see who can stand up against their team. Batter up!
Graphics: Bright, colorful, and what you'd expect from a Mario sports title. Nothing ground-breaking.
Gameplay: There are some hiccups with fielding that should be resolved in any sequel.
Sound: Very good music accompanies this title. There's nothing that stands out as a horrible unless you dislike people singing "Let's play baseball all of the time".
Replay Value: Challenge mode requires multiple playthroughs and getting stars for all of the 32 characters is an added goal. Multiplayer is like Red Bull and gives the game wings, too.
Overall: 7.5/10 - Good. Not Mario's best sports outing, but there's still fun to be had in this baseball bonanza.