Mario Superstar Baseball Reader Review
I don't understand baseball. Or at least, I didn't until I played this. Perhaps if I ever get the chance to play it in real life I'll be bitterly upset at the lack of fireball powerups, but until that day I'm happy to accept it offers a realistic game of rounders.
And a damn fine one it offers too. I must confess I was deeply skeptical when my friend picked this up full price after reading negative reflections on it. I wasn't going to argue for free of course, despite my confusion at these ker-azy cross-Atlantic sports games. Personally I was far more excited about Mario Football, which offers a more immediateexperience about as deep as a paddling pool. This by contrast, is a surprisingly deep simulation. Despite containing a cast of obese plumbers, giant apes and novelty penises with sprigs of trees stuck in their urethras (what else can I describe those things from Mario Sunshine as?) it's a surprisingly complex little game.
The meat of it is the challenge mode. Here you pick a captain and travel around the map beating the remaining four captains' teams for a chance to take on Bowser himself (who remains wussily hidden behind a boulder until you beat everyone.) Your team is awful to begin with, with your captain and sidekick being by far and a way your best players accompanied by goombas (the little mushroom fellas), toads (the other little mushroom fellas), kooopers (those shelled thingamies) and others. As you play the other teams however, you can impress opposition players so that they defect to your side. You impress them by performing challenges mid game (for example, getting the batter out, preventing them from scoring a rounder etc.) This makes your team significantly better and helps you to beat the other teams, as well as being rewarding in a pokémon style collect them all way.
While there are powerups your players can use (a fireball powerhit for Mario, a banana-bend hit for Donkey Kong) these don't play a huge part in proceedings, and its surprising how non-arcadey the game can be at times. The powerups can even be turned off if you want it to be more of a simulation, but as it stands it is definitely less immediate than the other Mario sports games. There are a series of Mario Party style minigames included to make up for this which make use of the games mechanics for batting, pitching and fielding. These are a fun diversion and can be played with four players, but that is very much all they are.
The graphics are nice, cartoony and crisp as expected - if you don't like Nintendo's style elsewhere, you won't like it here. My mother thinks I've been playing a game aimed for children a third of my age when I should have been writing my dissertation (um.), but my 2 year old niece has enjoyed watching, rather than pushing me off for Ballamory - so y'see, it does have upsides.
There are downsides though, sadly. For one it's astounding that Nintendo neglected to make the exhibition matches of baseball 2 players only. You can have a make-shift game for four players by passing the pads between innings, but a more structured system would have been great. The annoying voice that shouts baseball catchphrases ("Strike", "Out", "That's the Game!", "Waluigi's a big nonce", etc.) is, um, annoying too. Really annoying, in a kind of stabbing pencils in your ear kind of way. But the worse part about this game is the learning curve which I can only describe as the steepest I have ever come up against in my gaming years. You'll breeze through the tutorial. Easily. Then you'll reach your first match. On easy mode. And you'll get thrashed consistently for around 3 days, when you may scrape a 1-0 victory.
It's worth it though. 2 player matches between those of an equal standard are brilliant fun, the challenge mode is deeply satisfying (and has made it my most played game in the last month or so) and the Toy Field multiplayer for 4 players is a nice distraction that will fit in to any gamecube multiplayer session comfortably alongside Mario Kart and Monkey Ball.
All in all, the game is heartily reccomended. It's deep, fun, challenging and a hoot in 2 player mode. Provided you can find someone else who has trained on it for around 10 hours before you play, of course.
Oh, and the game gets bonus points for making the goomba hold his bat like an erect penis too. Other developers take note.
8 / 10