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Monday, June 6, 2022

An Overwhelming Mario Strikers: Battle League First Kick Experience

By LUDWIG VON KOOPA - There's a lot of real-time micro-management I don't think I can handle.

Over the weekend, Nintendo really wanted you to try out the Mario Strikers: Battle League First Kick demoeven offering an additional one-week free trial of Nintendo Switch Online (beyond the standard one-week free trial). So I did. And lots of other people.

First, I went through the trainings/tutorials, because with the First Kick demo, the actual playing the game part is locked to online multiplayer, and that was only at a few, specific one-hour time slots throughout the weekend. The tutorials are structured in a way where a tutorial robot named Fútbot with the Galactic Strikers Federation (I suppose it's a galaxy-based sport because Rosalina is present?) teaches you the controls to an input or several inputs, and you practice doing that. Then you have to practice those inputs in a limited-time “match” three times each. I managed to do this except for the advanced techniques involving “perfect” versions of all of the inputs that was the second-to-last tutorial. Being able to do all of those inputs in three minutes is pretty much a luck-based mission, and after two tries, I said screw it. The fact these timed inputs exist in the game seems superfluous and makes it more complicated than it should be.

But that brings me to how I feel overall: The game is very complicated. If Mario Tennis Aces is a fighting game, then Mario Strikers: Battle League is basically a real-time strategy game. You have to control the movements of four people on the field simultaneously, keep track of your opponents’ positioning, and make intelligent usage of items you pick up, too. Mario Strikers: Battle League is unlike most other Mario sports titles (maybe except Mario Hoops 3-on-3?) where you really need to control several players at once to do well, and constantly be switching between them. You can toggle between Auto and Manual switching; Auto also lets you manually switch with a button press, but smartly gives control to other members on your team depending on what's going on. Manual doesn't do this. Auto is much easier to play with.

Mario Strikers Battle League frustrated Toad smashing head on grass floor ground
Is it a Yoshi egg?
No, it's Toad banging his head against the ground.

The demo forced you to play doubles, which means that there are two people controlling each team's four characters (for a total of four people total in a match), and then switching control of the characters between those two people. Each person picks two characters for the team of four, but you can switch control to the characters your teammate picked. I'm not sure why they forced this pairing for the demo. I thought there was an upside of having an additional brain to help manage everything going on, but there was also a downside of having no way to communicate strategy with the other person. If someone disconnected, say on my team, then I'd have full control over all four characters after a brief lag spike. I think they should have allowed one player per team to be an option in the demo, since it's an option in the full game (and greyed out in the demo).

There are only ten available characters, and with eight characters on the field at any given time (four per team), and with some characters being unpopular, there will be duplicates or even more (Yoshi and Toad can be selected multiple times per team). No one even bothered to use Mario, which is a shame, because the whole appeal of the game was supposed to be smashing balls into Mario's face.

Mario Strikers Battle League Bowser win score victory pose
King Dad reigns supreme over this sport, like many others.
Not sure why Wario is surprised.

In my experience, I didn't really feel the impact between the different characters’ stat lines and specialty classes. Maybe this is because the differences will become more min-maxed when gear becomes available from the shop in the full game? But many of the characters’ stats go against what is established for them in other games. Yoshi isn't a speedy character like he is in Mario Golf: Super Rush, Mario Superstar Baseball and its sequel, the Mario & Sonic Olympics franchise, or the full line of Mario Tennis games. He's almost as slow as King Dad or Wario, but he can kick the ball harder than Donkey Kong. Meanwhile, they made Waluigi one of the fastest characters in the game.

But even if statistically the characters aren't true to how you'd think of them, at least the game is packed with personality and flavour and animations. The Mario Strikers series has always been known for that... possibly more known for that than the actual gameplay. I think when people look fondly on this series, it's for the attitude more than anything else.

Ludwig isn't saying that Mario Strikers: Battle League is a bad game... he just didn't click with it and came away feeling like it's too much and more stressful than fun. If you felt differently—and the other members on KoopaTV's staff do feel differently (mainly Heavy Lobster)—feel free to share your impressions in the comments section.

Ludwig likes the gameplay of Mario Superstar Baseball way better (as well as the sport it's based on), since he really only has to worry about controlling one individual at a time (and he likes the philosophy behind that).


  1. I experienced more frustration than enjoyment from the demo. For instance, I often lost track which character I was controlling. Am I moving Yoshi or the Mad Hatter? The fields also feel small and lack any uniqueness besides the background. Also, the animations are neat the first few times you see them but start to drag on the more you see them. This is just another game I cannot get into.

    1. I knew who I was controlling until I swapped characters... and then there is a brief but impactful moment where I have no idea who I just swapped control to.

      I'm not sure wot the purpose of the stage selection is if all of the stages are the same!


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