Super Mario Strikers Hands-On

We get our hands on a near-finished version of Next Level Games' action-packed soccer game.

Earlier this week, during a visit to Next Level Games' studio in Vancouver, we had an opportunity to spend some quality time with a near-finished version of Super Mario Strikers. Currently scheduled for release in Europe (as Super Mario Football) on November 14 and in North America on December 5, Super Mario Strikers is a colorful soccer game in which eight of Nintendo's most prominent characters captain rival teams. Like most previous sports games set in the Mario universe, Super Mario Strikers bears only a passing resemblance to the sport on which it's based, and after our time spent with the game thus far, we believe it does a great job of marrying the world of professional soccer with the world of Nintendo.

Super Mario Strikers Hands-OnOne of Next Level Games' goals when developing Super Mario Strikers was to create a sport that would be wholly believable within the context of the Mushroom Kingdom. To that end, matches are played in large stadiums filled with Mushroom Kingdom inhabitants who, at least in the minds of the development team, have stood in line for hours in the hope of getting tickets to see their heroes in action. The heroes in question, of course, are the team captains: Mario, Luigi, Daisy, Peach, Donkey Kong, Yoshi, Wario, and Waluigi. Regardless of their relationships in previous Mario games, these eight personalities are bitter rivals when they step onto the field with their respective teams, and you can expect their behaviour toward one another to be far more competitive and passionate than in any other game to date.

Gameplay options in Super Mario Strikers will include grudge match, in which a score is kept as the same two teams play rematch after rematch; cup battles, which will let you compete in mushroom, flower, star, and Bowser cup tournaments; super cup battles, which are lengthier tournaments that you'll unlock by completing the cup battles mode; and custom battles, which will let you create your own competitions for up to eight player-controlled teams. The main menu screen will also boast a "Strikers 101" tutorial and practices mode, as well as an options screen that can be used to let you tweak match lengths, choose from four difficulty levels, and suchlike.

After deciding on your gameplay mode and choosing one of the eight captains (whose abilities vary only slightly) for your team, you'll be prompted to pick one of four sidekick types to fill the remaining three outfield positions. Your team options include Toads, Koopas, Hammer Bros., and Birdos, who, like their captains, play almost identically. The only major impact on gameplay your character choices will have is that you'll get power-ups that are appropriate for your squad more often than others. If you choose Donkey Kong for your captain, for example, you might get more banana skins to throw around the field.

Super Mario Strikers Hands-OnPower-ups play a huge part in Super Mario Strikers, since they can turn the tide of a match when used well, and they are essentially what makes the game so different from any soccer game that's gone before it. You'll be awarded power-ups according to how you're performing on the field, much like you would in a Mario Kart race, where being in last place invariably results in you picking up better weapons. In the absence of a referee, you'll also find that power-ups are awarded to teams whose players are knocked to the ground by mistimed tackles or are blatantly attacked off the ball and forced against the electric fence that surrounds each field.

By Justin Calvert
Posted Oct 25, 2005 5:02 pm PT

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