Today’s review, along with (hopefully) a few more to follow, is the result of a complete immersion in the multiplayer games available on what has become the premier multiplayer system of this aging generation, the Nintendo Gamecube. No other system has the range or the number of quality multiplayer titles as the Gamecube, and no company has put as much emphasis on multiplayer gaming as Nintendo. It is possible this is as a result of the fact that Nintendo likely can not compete with the monoliths of Sony and Microsoft, relegating once powerful Nintendo to a niche market. Regardless of the reason, Nintendo has largely made multiplayer gaming its bread and butter, and the results have been very good. With that, we begin with the most recent entry in this genre, Mario Strikers.
Super Mario Strikers is another in a long list of Mario Sports games. Games of this ilk all feature some characters familiar to people who grew up with Nintendo (Mario, Luigi, etc.), and others more recognizable to those that have come to the brand more recently (Waluigi, Daisy). As the name suggests, Strikers is Nintendo’s foray into the world of soccer. Designed by Next Level Games (the company behind the NHL’s arcade game Blitz), Strikers has all the earmarks of a Nintendo production. Not only are the characters all series mainstays, but all of the items appear as well. Shells, mushrooms, stars and bob-ombs are all usable items, and Bowser and Chain Dogs make their presence felt by arriving on the field and wreaking havoc.
The single player is weak. Its not bad necessarily, but there just isn’t enough to keep the game interesting. There are eight tournaments which need to be beaten, along with a few stats that need to be accumulated in order to complete the game and unlock all of the characters, cheats, and fields. These tournaments must be defeated by playing against AI opponents, with up to four human players. Basically the single player game exists because all games must at least have a single player option, but there is little reason to ever play this game alone.
A team in strikers consists of a captain (named character), and three supporting players (generic, ex. hammer bros.). The differences among the captains are not drastic enough that choosing any one over another should be based on anything besides personal preference. If you like Daisy’s sassy attitude, you can use her without concern for what you may be foregoing in certain statistical departments. The unlockables do not offer the variation they should, either. There is one unlockable team a few unlockable fields, but the choice of character and field changes very little about the gameplay.
The game does shine brightly when it comes to multiplayer though. There are no penalties, and the game has separate buttons dedicated to slide tackling and checking. Throw electrified borders (no out of bounds, the field is surrounded by an infinitely high electric fence) attack items, and the random appearances of Bowser and Chain Dogs into the mix, and emotions can run high. In my house right now, I’ll turn on the single player basically to alert my roommates that someone wants to play the game and they all eventually come running. It has become something of a mating call. After a few games we are all jumping around yelling at each and pumping fists when a moment of chaos ends in a perfect lob pass to set up a goal. Or better yet a two point super strike (takes a while to set up but is a guaranteed two points if successful).
The game definitely has its problems. There are a couple of items that felt almost broken. For example, when the chain dog drops onto the field he will not leave until he puts all the players on one team into a daze, giving the opponents a huge advantage. As mentioned, there is not enough differentiating one character or one field from another. And there really is not a compelling case to be made for the single player game. On the other hand, once you have a few friends get together to wail on each other and score a few cheap goals, there are few games more fun and satisfying than Strikers.