A face-kicking good time.
Mario Strikers Battle League Football heads to Switch in June and ahead of this time, Stevivor was able to take part in a one-hour hands-on session to begin our own evaluation.
Simply put, Mario Strikers has been great in its two previous forms, and Battle League has so far managed to feel like a perfect fusion of what’s come before it.
As is expected with Nintendo, Battle League is polished as can be, with smooth framerates, its own unique art style and catchy tunes. I couldn’t help but smile as I listened to familiar Mario riffs beefed up with a special layer of heavy metal flourish. From those charged up licks right down to spiked gear and its name alone, Battle League oozes aggression. Tackles are literally kicks to the face.
If you’re familiar to the franchise, you largely know what to expect. Mario Strikers has a real ‘simple to learn, difficult to master’ vibe, with basic lobs, passes, tackles and shots layered with perfect abilities that take precise timing and charged moves that leave you open for a tackle. While an all-rounder like Mario has it a little easier with some moves, taking advantage of a greater window of opportunity to pull off, he’s not as fast or as technical as others.
All playable characters have their own set of attributes; some are speedy but are weak when it comes to tackling and others have tremendous shots but can’t pass for their lives. Playing in a squad of five, the real trick is to find a team that works well together to make it up the field and put the ball in the net.
Players can also take advantage of gear, available through an in-game (non-microtransaction-laden) store and able to change the base stats of players. A very Tron-like speed set can turn a slowpoke like Donkey Kong or Bowser into the Flash if you’ve the full set.
Beyond that, it’s football, right? Simple. Not so much; the biggest problem I had in the two non-tutorial matches I played was that I was thinking I was playing a traditional football game. I certainly wasn’t; while tackling an opponent without the ball is a red or yellow card for sure, it’s absolutely encouraged here.
Battle League is a no-holds-barred street fight; you not only can tackle players without the ball, but tackle your OWN players in attempts to cause collateral damage to the other team. Charged abilities take Mario’s simple, aforementioned kick to the face and amps it up in a two-legged wrestling-style straight off the turnbuckle demolishment. Hit a player close to the boundary, and wouldn’t you know it: they’ll be done in by an electric fence.
It’s all insane fun.
This time around, it’s not only team captains that can pull off a Hyper Strike; each and every character has the ability to perform one — powered up by a collectible orb, of course — and all are coupled with a special animation when doing so. Wario sits on the ball and shoots it out at the net because of his da-donk-a-donk, Mario shows off his insane flexibility and sends a fireball of a shot towards the net and Princess Peach sends it with love, potentially enthralling not only players on the pitch but the goalie themself.
While a perfectly timed (two quicktime counter) Hyper Strike will guarantee a two-point goal, a misjudged shot still has the ability to go one for a single point. In the case of Peach, that enamoured goalie will throw the ball in the net themself. While players cannot control goalies, they will have the ability to try to counter those Super Strikes… though the best counter is a tackle of the shooter before they can get that shot off in the first place.
For something deceptively simple, there’s a lot of depth to Battle League. I’d argue it’s at its worst in single-player; with five players to manage on a pitch at the same time, and absolutely no rules to play, you’ll likely struggle to juggle all positions and techniques at the same time. Adding a partner player drastically improves your odds, even to the point where you’ll be able to realistically perform team tackles as you won’t need to cross your fingers that your AI companions will get into the right placement.
With weeks before launch, I’m very excited to get back into Battle League and see just how fun it can be. Thankfully, we won’t need to wait that long; Mario Strikers Battle League Football as it becomes available. Until then, expect the title from 10 June.
10 June 2022
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