Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Mario Strikers: Charged (Wii) Review

Next Level Games recently released Punch-Out! for the Wii, the first installment of the classic franchise in over ten years. Let's take a look at their first Wii offering, Mario Strikers: Charged, a fierce and frenzied game of footie.

This game gets the Golden Foot award.

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Mario and crew return to the football field with Mario Strikers Charged. Developed by Next Level Games, as soon as the game is turned on the player is introduced in a very cool opening cinematic featuring Mario and Bowser aboard some sort of high-in-the-sky dropship overlooking a field. Bowser pushes Mario aside and leaps off the ship plummeting towards the field. Mario soon follows. What occurs next are the various Strikers competing on the various new stadiums in the game with some cheesy butt-rock. Butt-rock must be the new black in the video game world or something.

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Apparently someone is in need of rescuing,
and Mario is the only superhero that can do it.

The world of Strikers is a fierce, competitive one. Games are set up within electrified playing fields. But is it to keep the audience out or the players in? With the amount of physical damage teams face it might be the latter. Players begin by selecting one of twelve team captains-- each with their own special move, attitude, and playing style. Three of the captains need to be unlocked for offline play in the aforementioned Road to the Strikers Cup mode. After selecting a captain, it's time to select some sidekicks. Different from the original Strikers for the Gamecube is that a player can choose three different sidekicks instead of just all Koopa Troopas or all Birdos for example. There's actually four new sidekicks to choose from as well-- Monty Mole, Boo, Dry Bones, and Shy Guy. Each sidekick has their own strengths, weaknesses, and special skillshots which will be discussed later. So in a sense the sidekicks are as varied as their captains offering some excellent strategy when choosing the team right for any given player.

Unlike Super Mario Strikers, the ball starts mid-court, so it's anyone's ball to start off with. Charged is played with the Wii remote and Nunchuk, so passing is as simple as tapping the A button. By continually passing the metal sphere used as the soccer ball.. well... charges as the game title would suggest. When it is glowing white that signifies that it might be a good idea to shoot it at the net. The ball won't always go in when the ball is white, but there's a better chance it will than, say, when the ball is glowing purple. There's a whole slew of moves that captains and sidekicks and unleash upon each other. Players can lob the ball over their opponents and some very stylish goals. Holding the B button charges the ball, and when it's released it rockets toward the goal much more effectively than a simple tap of the button.

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One of the many sidekicks available to select from.

When on the opposing side of the field, sidekicks can hold the B button and unleash a skillshot. Each skillshot is exclusive to a particular sidekick. Koopa Troopa, for instance, shoots out a stone shell that can knock out the goalie in time for another player to make the assist. Meanwhile, captains when charging the B button can let loose a megastrike. If held down long enough up to six different shots can be made at the goal. When the meter swings the other way, by stopping it as close to the green line as possible, the megastrikes will be shot much more rapidly. POW! POW! POW! POW! Well, that's as close to an example that can be given in text form... Nonetheless, up to six goals can be scored with a megastrike. The only catch is that effective megastrikes take a long time to initiate. If the player is having a megastrike used against them, they'll be transported into a mini-game-like screen. By pointing the Wii remote where the balls are being shot, the goalie can successfully stop the onslaught unharmed.

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For once, Luigi is a bigger star than Mario... literally.

Mario Strikers Charged offers up an impressive seventeen stadiums-- seven of which are from the original. The newest stadiums are the most interesting as they have gimmicks tied to them. The Lava Pit, for example, features fireballs that leap out from the fiery abyss onto the field, burning anyone who touches the area where they erupted. Additionally, the Wasteland is an incredibly icy football field where players will slip and slide their way as they try to score goals. While not all of the stadiums have a gimmick associated with them, each stadium does have its own unique flavor and locale which is greatly appreciated.

Strikers Charged includes a wide variety of game modes to choose from. There's the cleat and potatoes mode Road to the Strikers Cup which is what players will want to experience if they wish to unlock anything for offline play. This mode has three cups which become increasingly difficult especially in the later matches. The Road mode is essentially your traditional round-robin style play. Each team faces each other twice, and what follows then are elimination rounds. This gets very stupid in later cups because a player is forced to participate in ten matches, and they could win all of them. Then they play their first elimination round and lose to the incredibly cheap AI. Not fun, not smart. Completely idiotic and a very crappy way to make players keep coming back for more.

Challenge Mode is another place where players can test their Strikers skills in various scenarios of rising difficulty. Most of the challenges include beating an opponent while being down a set number of goals, to being short-handed, to finding out that Jessie is taking pills to stay awake to study or she won't get into Princeton. ...Oh, wait. That last one was an episode of Saved by the Bell. Anyway, by completing a challenge the player will receive a cheat for use in Domination Mode-- the essential versus mode of Strikers Charged.

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A lot of action can happen on the field, so be ready for anything!

The presentation of Strikers is quite good. The arenas are varied, good to look at, and feature a profusion of details that might go unnoticed by most players. Games begin by the away captain taunting the sidekicks of the home team. Suddenly, the home captain drops in from the sky in an impressive display. Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it's Daisy! ...Damn... I would have preferred a bird. Also, each captain has their own taunts for when they score a goal, win a game, lose a game, and when they have a goal scored against them. Some are incredibly entertaining like Waluigi who puts his arms in an "X" formation and proceeds to chop his crotch thrice. I think I went to high school with someone like that...

Most likely the most important question that folks have on their mind is "How is the online play?" Rest assured, the online is fast, fun, and lag-free-- even on the first week of North American release. A reason for this is that American and European players are on different servers. They cannot play one another even with friend codes. This is most likely to prevent lag and for other latency issues. Furthermore, there's an online leaderboard where one can play ranked matches against people from all over their region to compete to see who can be number one. Points are earned not only by winning, but also by staying in the game. Disconnects will take away points and give a player a big fat "L". Friend codes have returned for better or worse. The reason why they didn't just choose to use the Wii's code is unknown. It's most probable that they did so for protection reasons that are just complete crap. Who are the protecting exactly? There's also no voice chat which is yet another online opportunity missed for Nintendo. Overall, however, the online is quite fun which is the most important part obviously.

Ultimately, Mario Strikers Charged is a step above its Gamecube counterpart and leagues above the first Wii online title in America, Pokemon Battle Revolution. A person does not need to be a football/soccer/or whatever the hell else people call it fan in order to enjoy this title. With a vast array of techniques, characters to play as from the Marioverse, and numerous modes, options, and stadiums, Mario Strikers Charged will not be receiving any red cards from me except in the Road to the Strikers Cup mode. There's just so much other stuff in this $50 package to delve into. Next Level Games certainly made a goal with this one.

[SuperPhillip Says: 8.25/10]

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