In 2005, Namco Bandai brought Mario Superstar Baseball to the GameCube. Now a full three years later a sequel is available on Wii, though not much has changed at all since the last time the all-star plumber and his team took the field.
The bulk of the content in Mario Super Sluggers is found in its single-player Challenge Mode. This four to five hour adventure sees Mario traveling across the worlds of Baseball Kingdom recruiting players for his team in order to challenge Bowser Jr., who has invaded the peaceful kingdom built by Princess Peach.
Mario starts out by recruiting a few Nokis and Piantas, cute folks that inhabit Baseball Kingdom. These generic filler characters will help players through the first couple of challenges, but are soon replaced by familiar faces like Luigi and Baby Mario.
Baseball Island is broken down into five worlds in which to recruit players, one for each team captain in the game. Players will traverse Mario Stadium, Peach Ice Castle, Yoshi Park, Wario City and DK Jungle.
As you adventure through the worlds, you will have to solve light puzzles to either find or recruit some players. Each of the five captains has a special ability that they can use to get past certain obstacles. For example, DK can climb vines to get to otherwise inaccessible places and Wario can open treasure chests found along the way.
When attempting to recruit a player to your team, you will be faced with a challenge. The challenges vary somewhat, but boil down to a few key things. Players will be tasked to “Get a hit to score” or “Strikeout a batter”. The challenges rarely last more than 30-45 seconds and are quite easy using the game’s default Wii Remote control method.
Later in the adventure challenges involve playing a “full” three or five inning game, but for the most part they are all very simple. In order to complete the game and recruit all 71 players to my roster I only had to play three “full” games, two of which were against the same team. Upon completion of Challenge Mode, I found there was very little else to do with Mario Super Sluggers as a single player experience.
Completing Challenge Mode does however unlock a few extra stadiums and alternate night time stadiums for use in Exhibition Mode. This mode allows you to play multiplayer games using customizable parameters like game length and item use. There is also a series of minigames, after all this is a Wii title. The nine games, while baseball themed, feel very much like rejects from a Mario Party game and frankly aren’t very fun at all.
The core baseball gameplay varies quite a bit depending on which control method you choose. The default Wii Remote only method is, in a word, simplistic. Using this method players have little control over fielding or base running. Players will only need to focus on the timing of their pitching and batting and have access to a couple of special fielding moves.
The default control method would be great for young children or those who get overwhelmed by standard sports game controls. A bit of a letdown though are the actual motions Mario Super Sluggers asks you to make. Instead of pitching overhand like a real fireballer, you are asked to simply make a down swing motion with your arm. Batting only requires a simple side to side motion. For me this led to a lack of immersion and I just ended up playing on the couch using slight wrist motions instead of really getting into it like I was hoping to.
For those looking for a more traditional or advanced baseball game experience, there are several control options available. By simply plugging in a nunchuck or Classic Controller, players will be able to add curve to their pitches with much more reliability than twisting the Wii Remote.
Using a controller attachment will also give players full control of their fielders and allow much more advanced base running techniques. There is also an option to play with the Wii Remote sideways like an old NES controller, perfect for 30-40 something parents that used to play games like Bases Loaded or Bad News Baseball.
The game’s presentation is mediocre at best. While the graphics are bright an colourful, many of the character models look like they were ripped directly from the first Mario Baseball game or a Mario Party iteration. Some of the stadiums look decent but are lacking any real detail and the crowds are downright ugly. The game does however run in 480p & 16:9 for those with HDTV sets.
Aside from a few recognizable themes from the Mario universe, the original music in Mario Super Sluggers is forgettable if not grating. Hearing the theme from Luigi’s Mansion was about the only highlight for me as far as audio goes.
Mario Super Sluggers can certainly be a fun experience. As with the other Mario sports titles the gameplay is fast and accessible, littered with power up items and over the top action and charming. The real problem with the title is a lack of content. There are no season or tournament modes to speak of, so beyond the Challenge Mode there is very little to do at all, especially for traditional sports game fans.
While Mario Super Sluggers is almost ideal for those in a family gaming atmosphere or someone looking for a game for small children, I have a difficult time recommending it to anyone looking for any sort of depth. Those players would be better off trying games in the MLB Power Pros or MLB: The Show series.
+ Accessible play for just about anyone
+ Family friendly
– Sorely lacking content
– No online play
– Motion controls are overly simplistic