|System: Wii||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Namco Bandai||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Nintendo||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Aug. 25, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
July 21, 2008 - Mario Superstar Baseball for the GameCube may be one of the lesser known Mario sports games, but that doesn't stop it from being one of the best. Addictive gameplay and some Mario twists on America's pastime made it a solid game for baseball and Mario fans alike. The Wii is getting a sequel to the game, titled Mario Super Sluggers, and if you loved the original, you may want to get ready for the release of this game as well.
In many ways, Mario Super Sluggers is very similar to its predecessor. The core gameplay mechanic has not changed much at all. You'll pick your captain from a cast of characters from the Mario universe, field a team, and then hit the diamond. Character stats make a return, and some of the fun in Sluggers is going to come from building an ideal team. Placing characters in a position that plays to their strengths as well as balancing chemistry (or lack thereof) between characters is a fun and addictive undertaking.
Mario Super Sluggers gives you the option to play with the Wii Remote on its side (as a more traditional controller) or with a more Wii-specific scheme with plenty of waggling. Either way you decide to play, Mario Super Sluggers has the same basic hitting and pitching mechanics. Pitching and batting are actually similar in terms of controls: you'll charge up the pitch or swing and then release to hurl a pitch or swing the bat, respectively. With the more traditional control scheme, you'll do this by holding and then releasing a button. With the waggle control, you'll pull back the remote to charge, and then push it forward to release.
It seems like a fairly straightforward system, but this "charge-and-release" mechanic actually works quite well. As anyone who played the original game knows, timing is incredibly important as it relates to both hitting and pitching. If you charge a pitch for too long, you won't get any benefits from the charge; instead, if you release the throw at the height of the pitcher's wind-up, you'll throw a much faster pitch that'll throw your opponent off guard. Likewise, if the batter charges up the swing for too long, a hit will just be a pop fly that results in an easy out. Rather, you'll have to time the height of the swing with the pitcher's wind-up so that you unleash a powerful swing just as the ball crosses the plate. It's a fun implementation and it works well in the game.
Fielding is where the two control schemes are significantly different, however, and the more Wii-specific scheme definitely seems geared toward younger or more inexperienced players. You're given a cursor where the ball is supposed to land (if it's in the air), and moving around is easy enough. But, then there's also an auto-switch option that automatically gives you control of the fielder nearest the ball. With "traditional" controls, throwing the ball is as simple as hitting a direction and A at the same time (the D-pad's directions correspond with the bases). With motion controls, though, it's even simpler: a quick shake of the Wii remote automatically tosses the ball to the "correct" base.
Of course, it wouldn't be a Mario sports game without some crazy additions to the core game of baseball. Sadly though, Mario Super Sluggers doesn't seem to add much to the baseball mechanic that wasn't already included in Mario Superstar Baseball. Each character can execute a special hard-to-hit pitch or a swing that makes the ball tough to field. This idea is fun and doesn't make the game too imbalanced. The problem is, it's not really anything new for the series. Of course, there are also a variety of Mario-themed fields that each affect the game in a different way. At least the fields are original, and playing through all of them and seeing how each wacky park affects the way you play is sure to be lots of fun.
Mario Super Sluggers isn't going to be an incredibly deep, customizable baseball experience, and those expecting something as new and exciting as Mario Superstar Baseball was may be a bit let down. But, it's shaping up to be a fun, if simplified, baseball outing. Mario Super Sluggers is a nice-looking game and promises more of the same solid action that was offered by the original. Hardcore baseball fans may want to stick with a game like MLB Power Pros, but Mario Super Sluggers will be a great game for any beginning gamer or those who fell in love with Mario Superstar Baseball and are looking for more of the same fun.
CCC Freelance Writer