LifeisXbox’s Mario Strikers Battle League Football review | I don’t normally enjoy sports games, but the Mario titles mix in enough arcade elements and over-the-top gameplay that I usually end up having a great time with them nonetheless. I’ve played a bunch of his tennis games, I’ve hit the greens in the moustachioed hero’s golfing title, but I have not yet had the chance to score a hattrick on the soccer field.
In this arcade soccer title, you face off 4-vs-4 on a tiny field, making for some fast-paced matches where ball possession switches by the second and with special abilities making it possible to score 2 points at once, the momentum can change in an instant. You won’t soon see me playing a FIFA title, but I foresee myself having hours of fun with Mario’s version of Street Soccer.
Most Memorable Moment
I was seriously impressed by how awesome the animations were and immediately made it my goal to see all hypercharged shots for each of the ten playable characters.
ℹ️ Reviewed on Nintendo Switch OLED | Review code provided by Nintendo, this review is the personal opinion of the writer.
What we Liked!
- Character Animations look great! | As I just said above, the animations are spectacular and there are a bunch of them to discover. Each character has a hypercharge shot, and then some varying emotional expressions like after scoring a goal, getting frustrated by the current state of the match or sadness after losing. It adds a ton of charm, especially because this is a cast of characters we’ve all grown to love in the past few decades.
- Soccer Gameplay | The base gameplay is REALLY solid and surprisingly deep, you have various shot types, tackles and passes that get a boost if you time them just right, a dash to get to the ball quicker and you’ll need to master the full repertoire to stand a chance against the AI in Medium or Hard settings.
- Items spice things up | There are a few typical Mario-universe items that you can use to break through the opponent’s defences like green & red shells, Bobombs, banana peels and invincibility stars. They can change the momentum from almost getting a goal against you to scoring yourself, if used right.
- Pick a side | In a cool interstellar-soccer twist, you can each pick your side of the arena and then you join together to create one soccer field. It’s a nice visual touch that gets highlighted in a short animation before every match. It’s just too bad there aren’t that many to choose from.
- Multiplayer | This is the perfect game to play when you have friends over or to test your skill against strangers online. I’ve played a few rounds against my kids and don’t see me uninstalling this from the Switch for a very long time.
- Equipping Gear | You can purchase gear to equip to your characters, customizing them more to your liking, with each one taking -2 in one stat and increasing another by +2. It’s not a bad touch per se, but you’ll have to pay really close attention to actually increase the stats you care about and I didn’t really notice the passes actually getting worse, whereas the technique is very important as that will help you successfully boost those hypercharged shots that are so very important to winning a match.
- UX choices | Minor pet peeve for me, but when I successfully finished a Tutorial, it highlighted the “play again” option instead of the “next tutorial” and I had to quit to the main menu to reach the next one. It’s not a huge bother, but slightly annoying and a waste of time if you pressed “A” too quickly.
- Unskippable animations | While you can skip the short victory animation after scoring a goal, you can’t do the same for the hypercharged shots and since there are only 10 characters, you’ll soon have seen each one way too many times for comfort.
What we Disliked
- Small roster of characters | Sadly, there are only ten playable characters in total, and I found the slower ones like Wario, Donkey Kong and Bowser to have a disadvantage, despite their strength. Being bulky only goes so far when the speedier characters run circles around you.
- No Story Mode | I know I’m very likely in the minority, as people don’t buy sports games for the story mode or the campaign, but I really like how they handle the Mario Tennis franchise, with an overworld and a short story mode to play through. It really helps give people a sense of progression, especially for players like me who mostly focus on single-player content.
- Hard to keep track of your character | Your active character has a number floating above their head to indicate you’re controlling it, but when you’re not on the offensive and trying to switch to a defender to perform a crucial tackle, it can be very frustrating if it instead toggles between two other characters on the field. The same happens when passing the ball around too quickly and forgetting which one is actively in possession of it.
How long to beat game | ~5 hours should suffice to beat all the cups.
How long to fully complete | Doesn’t really apply. Infinitely replayable in versus mode.
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Robby lives and breathes video games. When he’s not playing them, he’s talking about them on social media or convincing other people to pick up a controller themselves. He’s online so often, he could practically list the internet as his legal domicile. Belgian games-industry know-it-all.