|System: Wii||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Next Level Games||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Nintendo||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: July 30, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Jonathan Marx
Mario Strikers: Charged is here for the Wii and so is online play. I'm not a big fan of Pokemon so this was my first opportunity to get online and have some fun with the little white box. My initial impression of the game was not great, but after playing a bit and getting online I was pleasantly surprised. The graphics fall in line with other third party developed Mario titles, and the music and sound effects are lighthearted and fun but will probably grate on you. The gameplay is the crux of the title however, and makes for a very nice experience overall.
Strikers is loosely based on indoor soccer. I say loosely because the crocodilian keepers can use their hands outside of the box, your players can score multiple goals with one shot, and often hands, mallets, and other implements are used while shooting. This is by no means a Mario-ified soccer sim. This is a simple party game that you and your buddies will get a kick out of for a number of hours. You start the game by selecting a captain from the list of Nintendo standbys: Peach, Daisy, Mario, Luigi, Bowser, Yoshi, Wario, Donkey Kong, and Waluigi are all here. Each character has different skill levels divided between four attributes: movement, shooting, passing, and defense. Mario's the all-around jack-of-all-attributes, while Wario is a powerful shooter and great passer. His defensive ability and movement, however, is suspect. Another aspect of each captain is their unique power move. For example, Donkey Kong can pound the ground and cause opponents to fall over allowing him to win possession. Mario can grow to be Super Mario and flatten the competition. Neither skill level nor unique power moves really make a difference. I would suggest selecting your favorite character and having some fun.
After settling on a captain, you have to decide on who will make up of the rest of your team. You'll be able to choose from defensive, offensive, power, playmaker, and balanced Sidekicks, all of which have their own Skill Shots. Selecting your Sidekicks is also not particularly important. Some Sidekicks, like Monty Mole, are defensive stalwarts that are great on the tackle and have a great shot, however he's very slow. Others are more agile, like Toad, and provide an offensive threat due to their speed and passing ability. In this regard, the game feels a lot like Nintendo's classic Ice Hockey for the NES. In Ice Hockey you had to choose between the fat enforcers, the average Joes, or the skinny Gretzkys. In Strikers, there are more options with more subtle differences. However, the basic premise remains the same: you can modify your team to suit your playing style. Everyone who plays will have their favorite team setup, but those gamers that are better than everyone else will continue to win regardless of who makes up their team.
After team selection, the game begins. The play is fast and furious and full of tackling. Passing the ball rapidly between your team members will change the aura surrounding the ball and make your chances of scoring increase accordingly. This is a neat feature that rewards creativity, but unfortunately it also penalizes individual brilliance and first touch strikes. The keepers just seem to be too good. Despite the importance of passing, the game also has character specific feints mapped to the D-pad which are very useful when timed right. At least as important as offense is defense. Tackling the opposition is essential. If you're slow to take your opponent, out you will be Mega Striked to death. (Don't worry I'll explain that next.) If you do tackle successfully or execute powerful shots, you will be rewarded with weapons to aid you. You'll pick up, but are not limited to, green shells, red shells, bob-bombs, stars, and mushrooms. All of these items have classic Nintendo properties and prove to be quite useful. If I had to describe the gameplay in a sentence, I would say it plays like the NBA Jam of soccer.
While going through the nicely made tutorial, I was a bit worried about the Mega Strike ability being too decisive. Mega Strikes allow the captain to turn the tide of the game. If you can charge your shot long enough a meter will appear that demarcates how many balls will be fired at the goal and how quickly they will come in succession. If done correctly, you can literally score up to five goals at once, essentially leaving no game out of reach. This seemed a bit ridiculous to me at first. I figured it would completely mar an otherwise fun game. This really only proves to be true in the easiest levels. Once you start playing online or get into Superstar, Legend, or Megastriker levels of difficulty it all changes. You simply won't have time to execute the maneuver very often. You'll constantly be checked off the ball and into the electrified barrier surrounding the field, making you shriek with joy and frustration. If you want to get rid of the Mega Strikes and the Skill Shots altogether, then all you will have to do is open up the classic mode of play by getting Mario's player card. You'll be able to play in a number of classic stadiums that do not allow these features.
Modes of play include Domination (player Vs. player and co-op), Road to the Striker Cup (career/league), Striker Challenges (beat the scenarios), and of course online play via Wi-Fi connection. Road to the Striker Cup will hone your skills as you advance from tournament to tournament besting ever more difficult competition. Striker Challenges are great moments in cup history that you will try and reenact. If you successfully beat each scenario, then you will be awarded with player cards that unlock cheats and special options. Finally, playing through the Wi-Fi connection is a lot of fun. You can play against other ranked players, cooperatively, or against friends.