Mario Strikers Charged Football is hardly a football game. It follows the very basic rules of football, but forgets about referees, offside rules, throw-ins, corners and all the like. You get the ball (or is it everyone’s favourite bounty hunter that Mario and Co are kicking around?) in the other person’s net, and that’s all that remains of the rules. Add in charged balls, items, megastrikes and special abilities, it’s a crazy team battle more than anything else.
There are two types of passes – normal and lob, passing the ball causes it to charge up (indicated by the colour changing to white), the more the ball is charged up, the more chance of the ball getting past the keeper. Shooting is done via B, a simple tap for a normal shot or hold to charge for a skillshot (sidekick) or megastrike (captain), and you can do fakes by tapping the D-pad. Each character has an individual fake of varying usefulness. Items are handled with C.
When defending, you have two types of tackles, a hard whack done by shaking the Remote and a sliding tackle done by tapping the D-pad. When the attacker is doing volleys, you can press A when you are close to the ball to header and steal the ball off them. Pressing A in any other case will cycle the selected player.
A team consists of one main character (like Mario , Bowser or Waluigi) called the captain and 3 mushroom kingdom (or nearby) residents called sidekicks and a keeper called Kritter. Sidekicks include Boo, Koopa and Toad (No Goomba, unfortunately) and each have their own skillshots, performed by holding down B when in possession of the ball. These range from keeper-hampering shots (Toad’s flame ball and Shy Guy’s Bullet Bill) to allow for easy shots; to instant goals. Some require the sidekick to be within a certain distance of the keeper, but Birdo’s can score from anywhere in the opponents half. Providing that no players (from any team) are in between him and the goal, that is.
Captains can perform megstrikes. You charge with B until a bar appears. A cursor moves along the bar from right to left, and you tap B to stop it – the further left means that more balls (from 3 to 6) get fired at the keeper – then the cursor moves to the right with some coloured targets now visible on the bar. The closer to the orange bar you stop it, the faster the balls fly at the keeper. It’s a bit like pre-Wii golf games, really. Tackling the captain performing the megastrike will stop it, and you can shake the nunchuck to cause the megastrike bar to wobble.
When a megastrike is performed, the captain jumps into the air, does a little cut-scene which is unique to every character, then hits the balls. The camera than goes behind the net, and the defender can stop the balls with the pointer and pressing A, like a Duck Hunt-type game. This means that megastrikes are never too powerful, and don’t detract from the game.
In single player, you have a “road to striker cup”. You chose a team, then head through various cups (which consists of a league and a knockout round) until you get the Striker Cup. The difficulty goes from easy to intense, and it’s likely to take more than a few attempts to beat them. On top of that, you have 12 striker challenges – Single matches with special conditions that you need to win – to keep you occupied. Single player has enough to keep you occupied. You can also play with up to 3 friends in the multiplayer mode.
The meat of Strikers is the online mode. You can have more than one profile in the game, each one connected to a different Mii, and it is split into two sections – Friendly and Ranked. In the friendly mode, you can play against friends on your friends list (done by everybody’s favourite – Friend Codes), from here you can configure the matches with as many options as the normal multiplayer mode – except for that everything online is unlocked from the very start – most of the time, it runs very fluidly, but there can be lag at times.
Ranked matches pit you against a random opponent (so you can be put against 1st in the league even if you are 8594th), the leaderboard is reset every few months to give new people a chance at getting a good position. At the moment, however, it just seems that people that play virtually non-stop get the top spots. Hopefully, this will die down as the game gets older. Ranked matches can still be fun. There are tactics that can be annoying if repeatedly used. Hammer Spammers (People who use the Hammer Bros’ fake repeatedly, then a charged shot for an instant goal) are really annoying to be on the receiving end of, and the few characters who can fake right past the goalkeeper. With a bit of practice you can prevent these – if you time your tackle right you can stop a Hammer Spamer, or perform them yourself at times, in the case of faking past the keeper.
The game looks great – and is full of nice details and effects. The crowd looks immense, and colourful with all the Mushroom Kindom residents jumping around. All the items (gained when you perform a charged shot or a player without the ball gets tackled) leave nice trails of destruction, too. The new stadiums also have many dangers – tractors and cows fly across the pitch on thunder island, lightning strikes the ball in the wastelands. It makes the game much more frantic. There are classic stadiums where there are no dangers on the pitch itself (bar the opponents). The music is awesome – rock themes of recognisable tunes, and some great new ones. Each captain and sidekick have their own unique themes, too (Boo’s merry-go-round theme from Super Mario 64 was a delight to hear).
Mario Strikers Charged Football can almost stand up on its own in single player, but the multiplayer and online is what this game is all about. It’s simple to get to grips with yet it has a lot of depth to it. It also shows that you don’t need any fancy Wii waving about controls to make a great Wii game.