Mario Strikers: Battle League Football

Mario really is a superstar tradie. With prowess in basically any sport you can hurl at him, we’re surprised that he ever has time to swing a wrench. Mario Strikers: Battle League Football is his latest sortie onto a pitch.

It’s soccer, but not as we know it (well, unless you played a previous incarnation of Mario Strikers). There’s a pitch, a goal either end, a kick-off, passing, tackling and all that, but with essentially no rules. Barging through opponents often pays off, and we haven’t seen any of these superpowered “Hyper Strike” moves, of which each playable character has their own take, during any of our sleepless World Cup watching nights, let alone electrified boundary fences. If you desperately call out, “Oi, ref!” it’ll fall on deaf ears, because there’s absolutely no presence of anybody of an umpiring bent.

Yep, it’s a warped, Mushroom Kingdom view of the sport, and it can be super fun, especially against another human being. But we’ll get to that.

The first thing that any sane newcomer will do is work their way through the many tutorials. You’ll probably spend a decent half an hour or so wading through them, all under the tutelage of one Fútbot, who judging by his looks just may be a very close relation to PlayStation’s megastar robot Clank. From basics to full-on technical trickery, there’s an incredible array of buttons and functions and combos and such to absorb. You likely won’t remember them all and, even if you do, actually managing to recall them in the heat of battle can be a challenge. The solution? Practice!

“It’s soccer, but not as we know it (well, unless you played a previous incarnation of Mario Strikers).”

This can be accomplished by playing against the innards of your Switch, be they a ‘Quick’ or ‘Cup’ battle. Within here there are numerous configuration options, up to an insanity-inducing eight players locally (if you’re blessed with enough Joy-Cons) or four online. Battling other humans is definitely a lot more entertaining than taking on the CPU.

Then there are online variations against friends, foes or randoms, and the big one, ‘Strikers Club’. Here you can join an existing club or create your own, as long as you get your timing right, as they kick off once per fortnight. They work much like a typical real soccer league, with rankings determining which division you’ll end up in as you manage your team of up to 20 (hopefully) winners.

Teams are comprised of a Boom Boom for a goalie and a selection of four familiar faces from a pool of ten (with more to be added at a later date) – Mario, Luigi, Peach, Rosalina, Toad, Yoshi, Donkey Kong, Bowser, Wario and Waluigi. Each has their own strengths and weaknesses and, if you haven’t twigged by now, that’s not where the Mario Kart influences end.

Mario Strikers: Battle League Football

Beyond the almost anything goes nature of play, and the insane special move Hyper Strikes that we touched upon, familiar power-up question mark blocks appear randomly during play, yielding such extra-cheaty delights as speed mushrooms, bananas (really huge bananas!), green turtles, red turtles, Bob-ombs and the classic invincibility star. These can wreak as much – or even more – havoc as they can during Mario Kart, and have been known to turn the odd game on its head in our extensive testing.

This wouldn’t be a Nintendo game without oodles of neat little touches. From the character themed Hyper Strikes to choosing which half of a customisable stadium you’d like – and the further embellishments from here such as what music plays – there’s no shortage of Nintendo niceties. Gameplay is also, as you’d expect, usually smooth-as.

However, it does get all kind of crazy, even with only two players going at it. To get even vaguely good at Mario Strikers: Battle League Football you’ll need to invest a lot of time and practice – admittedly much like any decent sports game, even if this isn’t as deep as something like FIFA. It most certainly isn’t a pickup and play straight away with the kids kind of title. Also, the first time that you witness a Hyper Strike animation it’s quite wonderful. But by the second or third time, and with them seemingly being unskippable unless you turn them off entirely, they get boring and flow-busting really, really quickly. As for keeping track of the fairly teensy ball when playing in handheld mode, it can be, uh, well, a challenge.

Mario Strikers: Battle League Football is a super-fast, often crazed assault on both the senses and the game of soccer in general. More or less a collision of “the beautiful game” and Mario Kart, if you put in a bit of effort then you’ll be rewarded with a mostly fun, frenetic experience that will sometimes frustrate as much as it thrills.

Mario Strikers: Battle League Football is available now on Switch.star-4

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