|Dev: Camelot Software Publishing, Bandai Namco Entertainment|
|Release: March 24, 2017|
|Screen Resolution: N/A||Comic mischief|
by Garrett Glass
I think it’s safe to say that you cannot be a sports fan and still enjoy the multitude of Mario sports games. They’re chaotic and abstract compared to the real thing, and you might have more interest following Yoshi’s career than any current soccer player’s. (Assuming you’re from the U.S., at least.) But I also think they risk being too casual to where they risk low replayability. As fun as Mario Sports Superstars can be, I’m not sure the variety contained in the cartridge is enough to keep players engaged each season.
Rather than focus their attention on a single sport, Mario Sports Superstars is a collection of sports including soccer, baseball, tennis, golf and horse racing. It’s a small number, and I’m sure you can reread that sentence and gauge your interest in the game accordingly. However, navigating the UI is a breeze, and all of the sports are fun and worth trying at least once.
Each game shares the same options: single player (exhibitions and tournaments), multiplayer, and stats. In multiplayer, you can play with friends online or locally or match with random players from around the world. Some games have modes exclusive to them. For instance, you raise horses in stable mode, which allows you to raise your horse's mood to improve your chances of winning races. Regardless of any slight differences, I enjoyed being able to quickly navigate games without having to adjust.
Of course, each of Mario Sports Superstars’ games vary in accessibility and depth. Learning to race horses won’t take you as long as it will to play baseball, but they both require their own means of micromanaging. As for tennis, well, you’re pretty much good to go from the start. All of the characters fall into general classes like balanced, speed, or power, and they each have their own stats as well. You could just pick your characters based on the labels and have a short round of fun with your friends, but thankfully you can experiment further to create the perfect roster.
And that’s what’s impressed me about Mario Sports Superstars the most: there is more to it than meets the eye. Each sport presents a basic tutorial that teaches you some basic moves, but it’s up to you to look up additional information to see what other things you can learn. This usually involves certain strategies, like how to steal bases in baseball or how to employ pressure defense in soccer. They are little touches that might not necessarily be required to complete all three tournaments, but they’re there, and I appreciate Nintendo not taking hold of my hand and walking me through everything, allowing me to decide on my own how far to go.
However, such depth doesn’t really matter when Mario Sports Superstars’s games themselves aren’t particularly engaging. For the most part, they are fun in short bursts, but there’s something missing in the formula. Take away the Mario characters, and you get a collection of sports that won’t necessarily draw your attention away from bigger and better games. Likewise, the Mario characters are present, but apart from a special ability that allows for powerful shots, I felt the games (apart from tennis) were missing the chaos and pizzazz that makes a Mario game compelling.
Although I don’t have a set ranking for each game, soccer is in my top three. You choose two main characters as your primary players, as well as an assortment of generic Mario creatures to fill in the remaining positions. Stealing and passing the ball is simple enough, and I got a lot of satisfaction bending my shots to better score on the other team. However, I wish I could switch characters with the press of the shoulder button so I could try to intercept the other team while I’m on defense. I also found the difficulty to ramp up considerably from the Mushroom Cup to the Flower Cup, but in general you can pretty much just get away with aiming for the corner of the goals.
Baseball is the surprise hitter of the bunch. It’s like the most intense game of rock-paper-scissors. As the pitcher, you can choose not only the style of pitch, which varies depending on the character, but also where to throw it. And as the batter, you must train yourself not to anticipate your opponent’s pitches and choose whether refrain from swinging or extend your bat past its range. Both sides can implement strategies like bunting and stealing bases. I generally didn’t have any trouble in the tournaments so long as I kept switching my pitching styles, but I certainly noticed a twitchy batting finger when playing online.