Game: ‘Mario Strikers Charged Football’ (EU / AU version)
Platform: Nintendo Wii
Developer: Next Level Games
Mario Strikers Charged Football is a game that I never particularly wanted. That isn’t to say that I begrudge the game’s existence (because it is actually a really cool football/soccer game), I just never saw it as something that my life was lacking…until I saw that opening cinematic.
Two mortal enemies, gazing meaningfully into one another’s eyes, while flying through a cloud filled sky, in an airship, with cracks of lightning echoing around them. Sounds like the beginnings of an erotic Obi-Wan x Anakin fanfiction, but actually it’s the introduction to Mario Strikers Charged Football!
The introduction cinematic works hard to get you hyped to start playing, and that hard work really pays off. By the time it ended, I found myself sitting at the main menu with mouth agape and the sound of guitar riffs still echoing through my ears. Right then and there I realized that this might be the most excited I’ve ever been to play what is pretty much a sports game.
So I waved my Wiimote toward the mode titled ‘Road to the Striker Cup,’ which (as it turns out) is the campaign mode, and selected my team captain.
I will say that I was a little disappointed at the lack of characters on the roster. Initially we have nine captains to choose from, with three that are unlockable, and although I would have really liked a few more characters to play with, I was happy that Wario was there from the very start. So I picked my captain (Wario, obviously) and went about picking out my team. I opted to go for a Toad, Dry Bones, and Monty Mole which seemed to work out well for me when the AI team members did their job efficiently.
Computer controlled allies in this game really are a bit of a nuisance; they don’t seem to want to go where their role designates that they be. I lost count of all the times that I ran the ball upfield with Toad (my go-to playmaker) only to find my strikers somewhere back near my own goals. Of course you have the ability to just tap the A button to take control of them, but doing so puts your former character under computer control (which, again, isn’t a good thing).
As the game gets progressively harder cup by cup, I found myself struggling more and more with my virtual teammates. This steeping difficulty got me to the point where my single player romps through the campaign began to look more like a game of Stracraft 2, rather than a fun little Mario-themed soccer game.
Thankfully the shoddy AI issue can be solved through multiplayer. Just get a group of four mates around, threaten them a little to make sure that they don’t lose you a game and suddenly you’ve got a shockingly functional team.
Even the campaign’s harder matches are able to be breezed through with few issues if you have a good group of players who are communicating well with one another. It makes me sad that Nintendo shut down the Wi-Fi servers for the Wii as I really would have liked to pit my team (formed entirely of my cowering friends who lived in fear of my fury) against a real human controlled opponent, but alas we will never know how far their fear truly extends.
Overall, Mario Strikers Charged Football is not a hugely deep game with complex mechanics. The hardest part, besides contending with the AI, is knowing when to make your plays.
Defending is as simple as utilizing the best character for the job and stopping an opponent’s captain from initiating a Mega Strike Goal, which is effectively this games version of a finishing move. If you take control of a team captain and hold B you will begin to charge up your own mega strike, you will need to release and re-press the B to stop the gauge that will designate how many balls you kick at the goal and how fast you will kick them. Provided you haven’t been tackled during the charging of your Mega Strike; an animation of your character leaping into the air and basically going Super Saiyan.
It is here that the opposing team’s goalie will get the opportunity to block the incoming balls by pointing the Wiimote at the screen and praying that they can press A quickly enough to stop them. Wii motion controls being how they are, you will more than likely have a hard time blocking these balls in your first few games, so ideally you do not want to find yourself on the receiving end of a Mega Strike Goal.
These remain, even into the more difficult matches of the campaign, the most effective way to score goals and bring your team back from all but the most horrific and embarrassing losses – which means that the animations began to get very stale very fast. Sure, it’s cool to see Donkey Kong turn into a thunder-monkey the first six or seven times, but after a while it just gets old.
So, why should you buy it?
Well, it’s a game that is undoubtedly better as a multiplayer experience, but even with the sometimes shoddy AI, you are still more than capable of squeezing some fun out of this game. The game is dirt cheap and fairly easy to find, so I would say that, if you ever get the opportunity, you should definitely pick it up.