The Wii-make epidemic is beginning to look like a very real problem. What I’m referring to is when Nintendo takes a good title from their previous console, the GameCube, slaps on some form of gesture controls and then packages it as a new game. Don’t get me wrong, I would have no problems with this practice if the controls worked or made sense and the game was, at the very least, slightly updated graphically and on the gameplay side of things. Unfortunately, most people, including myself, would have a hard time calling Mario Super Sluggers an upgrade in any way over Mario Superstar Baseball for the GameCube.
With Super Sluggers, you are basically getting Superstar Baseball with very few changes and subpar motion controls tacked on. Everyone who picked up a Wii got a copy of Wii Sports, which had what one would assume to be the basic template for motion-based controls for a baseball game. Sure, Super Sluggers allows you to swing your Wii-motes to pitch, bat, and field but fails to match Wii Sports Baseball in terms of control quality. The speed at which players swing their Wii-motes has absolutely no affect whatsoever on the power of your pitch or swing. As a result, swinging your controller feels incredibly pointless, since you could effectively do the exact same thing by just pressing a button.
Super Sluggers gives you three different control schemes to choose from. Unlike the old fairy tale, none of these options feels just right. Players can utilize just a Wii-mote, having the Wii control everything besides batting and pitching, not unlike a lamer version of Wii Sports Baseball. By attaching a Nunchuk, players can control their fielders, choose which base to throw to, and even control their base runners. Last but not least, my favorite control scheme, you can use the Wii-mote turned on its side like a classic NES pad.
When using just a Wii-mote, players will still need to bat, pitch, and waggle to throw to bases and speed up their base runners. Everything else is completely controlled by the Wii. Not being able to control your base runners is a major pain, especially when hitting pop flies to the outfield. Adding the Nunchuk doesn’t improve things very much but at least it gives you the ability to steal, tag up, and avoid cheap pop fly outs. When using the Wii-mote like a NES pad, players will no longer need to worry about the game’s lackluster motion controls. Instead, everything is reduced to simple button presses that are much easier to manage and greatly more precise than the waggling alternatives. This control option has its share of issues as well, mostly due to the limited number of buttons available. Since there are so few inputs, several things will utilize the same button presses, making for some unnecessary errors that can’t really be avoided. A good example is that the same button you mash to run bases quicker is also used to make your runners advance to the next base. Too many times I’ve tried to rush to a base before the ball came just to have my character start running to the next base, resulting in an instant out.
Control issues aside, Super Sluggers is mostly what one would expect from a Mario sports title. Take an arcade baseball experience, add a significant amount of Nintendo characters and charm, and you’ve got Super Sluggers. Almost any Mario character you can think of is included, with a strong cast of Donkey Kong characters thrown in as well. Choosing players for your team is enjoyable, as there are a ton of options, and your teammates’ chemistry actually matters this time around. Characters that have chemistry will be able to perform moves that would otherwise be impossible. If a homerun is sailing over the wall, two characters with chemistry can perform a buddy jump to snag the surefire run away from the opponent. If two characters with chemistry are back to back in the batting lineup, when the first one bats you will get to make use of Mario Kart like weapons. After you’ve hit the ball, you can move a cursor around the screen and fire banana peels, shells, fireballs, and various other weapons at the fielders trying to catch the ball. Players’ chemistry is an interesting addition to the game that actually makes you think when choosing your teammates.
As far as Super Sluggers’ play modes go, players are given a limited offering. You can expect to find practices, exhibition games, mini-games, offline multiplayer, and a challenge mode. There are a ton of mini-games to be found throughout this game and most are at least mildly entertaining. Destroying rolling barrels as they approach from different parts of the field by batting, and hitting homeruns in the correct direction to create fireworks are just two of the highlights. There are also plenty that help to hone your skills in fielding, pitching, and base running as well.
This game is clearly at its best when playing with up to four players on the same screen. Competing against friends is entertaining, especially with all the character chemistry and attacks at your disposal. The only thing I can’t figure out is why there is no online multiplayer offered. The Wii can clearly connect to the internet and Nintendo has already made several games that can be played online. This game would have greatly benefited from an online multiplayer option and perhaps some form of leaderboards to keep players coming back for more, especially once you’ve completed the game’s short challenge mode.
The challenge mode is a bit of an oddity, having you control a variety of team captains in what boils down to a point-and-click adventure with mini-games. You start off with just Mario and need to explore several undersized environments to find coins, items, and the rest of the game’s characters. The puzzles involved in this mode are incredibly simplistic and amount to nothing more than needing a specific team captain to be able to do certain things. Mario can use warp pipes, Donkey Kong can climb vines, Wario can open treasure chests, etc. The disturbing part of this mode is that apparently nobody trusts Mario anymore. Every time you find a character, you have to prove yourself by playing a mini-game before they’ll join your team. Seriously, if you can’t trust Mario, who can you trust? These mini-games aren’t incredibly interesting, but they all help you to learn how to better play the game. Once you have at least nine characters, you can challenge Bowser Jr. and, later, Bowser himself to an actual game of baseball. Sadly, if you don’t take the time to find and unlock all the game’s characters, this mode can be beaten in a little less than an hour. However, fully exploring the environments and collecting everyone will take you between four to six hours.
With Mario Superstar Baseball on the Gamecube being such a great game three years ago, it is fairly disappointing to see Super Sluggers not really doing much to improve on its formula. Sure, player chemistry and attack items are good additions, but there is really nothing else. The motion controls are tacked on, all the control options are flawed, the graphics are the same if not slightly worse, there is no online multiplayer, and the challenge mode is boring and repetitive. If you are just looking for a fun baseball game, by all means pick up this title. However, if you are looking for a true successor to Mario Superstar Baseball, I guess you’ll have to keep waiting.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.6 Graphics
Mario and his crew look decent, but the game’s baseball fields feel a little underdone. 2.5 Control
No matter which control scheme you use, expect to have some issues that detract from your experience. 3.8 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Sound effects and character voices are everything that you would expect from a Mario game. 3.0
Sluggers is a fun game, but is better when played with others. No online multiplayer really limits this game’s replayability.
3.2 Overall Rating – Fair
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.