It took Nintendo longer than usual to realize it hadn’t milked a particular genre enough. They’ve invaded racing, RPG’s, puzzle, fighting et al, but they’ve only recently began to infiltrate the sports market. With tennis and golf out of the way, baseball and soccer are the next in line. Astute readers will recall that Nintendo did baseball and boxing in the latest EA releases of Fight Night Round 2 and NBA Street V3.
Baseball isn’t exactly a fun sport. In fact it’s one of those sports that is actually more fun to play than it is to watch in the stands. Mario Superstar Baseball tries to up the ante in terms of excitement, injecting all sorts of Mario Universe themes and characters into the game along with the trademark powerups and other goofiness but it just doesn’t seem to elevate itself above being anything more than a colorful gimmick. With dozens of characters to choose from, the “Hey, it’s that guy from SMB2!” factor is pretty high.
Case in point. Mario Superstar Baseball doesn’t feature an entire season mode which should let you know immediately where the heart of the game lies. It’s all about picking up the controller, having some wacky baseball fun for a half an hour or less and then going to grandma’s house for a nice homecooked roast beef dinner. Roast beef not included.
Gamers who love everything “Mario-fied” won’t be disappointed. The characters all have their own stats which you should weigh heavily before deciding who to play on your team (or simply hit Random if you couldn’t possibly care less). You should expect to see pitchers charging their throws and batters charging their swings to counteract the incoming pitch. Play well and you’ll get the opportunity to unlock even crazier powers when you step up to the plate.
MSB isn’t completely void of challenge. There is quite a bit of strategy involved in the game once you understand the characters and their strengths and weaknesses. I imagine that most players who are sitting down for a short game of MSB won’t be digging all that deep into the layers of the game, preferring to see how Namco interprets Mario while interpretting baseball at the same time.
Control is excellent although I found that the HUD of the characters on the bases wasn’t accurate enough to judge positioning which took a lot of getting used to. I often found myself further away from the base than what was represented on the display.
If the regular game is wearing thin, Namco tossed in some lightweight but appropriately themed mini-games that will add some extra oomph. The Toy Field where up to 4 players must hit the balls into various targets to earn coins and other goodies was oddly addicting. It was one of those “Just one more try…” mini-games.
I wouldn’t rush out immediately for a copy of MSB, but if you need to play every Mario themed game that comes down the pipe don’t let me stop you. Considering Nintendo Pennant Chase Baseball was recently eradicated from release lists, Mario and his posse might be looking good at the moment. If you’re really into the sport, look no further than EA’s MVP Baseball which obviously takes the game much more seriously. MSB could be a fun way to introduce your kids to baseball, but don’t expect them to take a hankering for the real thing. Once they realize that there is no King Boo or Wario in the outfield as you sit your asses down at the ballpark, they’ll realize they’ve been totally had. That’s when you break out the beer. Root beer.