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Mario Super Sluggers


Ok, ok. Here's a shocker for you. No really, you weren't expecting this; I guarantee it! Nintendo (are you ready for this?) just released a sports game...with Mario and friends! I know, I know, it surprised me too when I first heard about it. I mean, how ingenious is that?

I'm sure that back in the day (mid 90's) when the first Mario sports outing came out that's what the buzz was like. Nintendo fans undoubtedly clamored over each other to be the first in line to get what was sure to be a fun game that was a break from tradition for Mario. In all honesty, most every Mario sports game that has been churned out since then has been relatively decent, and dare I say fun. Unfortunately as is the case with anything over-saturation, a lack of upgrades, and incredible ease have been most of Mario's sporting faults. Sadly the tradition continues somewhat with Mario Super Sluggers for the Wii, but I'd be darned if I said I didn't have a good time with the game.

If you've played one Mario sports title then you probably already know what to expect with Super Sluggers. The "story" offers up very little in terms of Mario canon even though all of the characters you know and love are present in force. Basically Mario and all of his buddies go to some island where everyone gets to have their own baseball stadium. Bowser crashes the party and brings all of his goons with him and before you know it it's a clash of the titans on the Mushroom Kingdom diamonds. It's silly, it's light, and it's an arcade style baseball game easy and enjoyable enough for all ages, but what else would you expect?

Gameplay


When you fire up Mario Super Sluggers you'll be hit with a screen full of the game's modes faster than you can saw balk. Before we get into a discussion about what's actually here let's talk about what isn't; online compatibility. I get that Japanese gaming culture is very different from the American, but omitting online play (even via the dreaded friend code) for a game such as this feels like a glaring oversight. Super Sluggers absolutely begs for play online since it's a game that is a hoot with friends. Sadly we're out of luck there and your experience with the game will be firmly rooted in the comfort of your living room.

Knowing that going in it's time to experience the modes and what the game has to offer. Before you go into any of the games anywhere I suggest that you take to the Training Mode to practice your swing a little bit. Mario Super Sluggers allows for controls via the nunchuk and wiimote or just the wiimote itself. Either one works well, though the combination of the two controllers allows for a much more solid experience and better ability to control players on the field. It's not that the wiimote controls are bad by any stretch of the imagination, but they feel a little too simplified and gimmicky compared to implementation of motion controls by other titles. Let's just say that in terms of control, Super Sluggers doesn't exactly raise the bar.

Once you've got the basics of training down (swing to move the bat, raise and lower the wiimote to throw, and shake it to run in the field) the next place you should visit is the Challenge Mode. This section of the game offers the meat of the single player experience and allows for some of the more robust experiences you'll have with the title outside of multiplayer. In Challenge you'll basically go through a story of sorts depicting the events discussed at the beginning of this review. You'll start out with Bowser Jr. landing on the island and attempting to take it over and eventually his daddy arrives as well.

Challenge Mode is entertaining mostly thanks to the way it approaches some of the mechanics. All of the staples are here and there are many components of baseball strewn about even if you aren't actually playing a game. You'll travel the island in order to recruit players, find new captains, and build a better team. You'll also be finding coins along the way to buy upgraded equipment for your group and there are tons of mini games scattered throughout. It feels very much like a baseball version of Mario RPG, though sadly that element isn't quite as deep as it could have been. In the end exploring Challenge Mode is a lot of fun, but it's not a lasting experience. You can essentially beat the mode with only playing two actual games and you don't "have" to unlock new characters and such.

Once you've dipped your toes in the Challenge Mode pool you'll probably want to head on over to the Exhibition Mode and play some more games. Exhibition is where you'll be playing against friends and the like once you've grown tired of Challenge. Like the previous Mario baseball game on the GameCube there are two other modes included here; Toy Field and Mini-games. Unfortunately both modes offer very little in terms of innovation from Mario Superstar Baseball and in the case of the mini-games you'll most likely play them all through the Challenge Mode anyway.

All of the modes, control schemes, and lack of online play aside, Mario Super Sluggers is a solid experience, but it lacks originality. While the game is fun, easy to get into, and offers a great time for anyone who straps on the wiimote there's no denying that this is virtually the same game we played in 2005. Sure there are a couple of new features and the control set up is decidedly different (see: you shake the controller now), but if you played Superstar Baseball you're probably going to be asking yourself if you're really playing the sequel or Superstar Baseball version 1.2.

The bottom line is if you own a Wii, haven't played 2005's title, and aren't looking for an in depth baseball sim then Mario Super Sluggers is strongly recommended. Those looking for a long-lasting experience that provides deep gameplay and those simply something that improves upon the original Mario Superstar Baseball are going to be left wanting. Despite this line that divides the game's audience, Super Sluggers is still a solidly produced game with plenty of fun elements. It will undoubtedly entertain the diverse age groups who are into the Wii and it by no means offers anything even remotely close to a hardcore gaming experience. Then again, I suppose the game never really needed to.

Graphics


Mario Super Sluggers looks very similar to its 2005 counterpart though a few elements in its design have been improved. For starters the game supports 16:9 widescreen, which is a definite plus, and the resolution has been kicked up a notch. Character models are all around sharper, depth is better perceived within the game, and everything is as bright and cheery as it should be. This is by no means a revolutionary looking title (it doesn't even look quite as good as Mario Galaxy), but it does offer plenty of charm and it's not a total slouch as far as the graphics are concerned.

Sound


This is undeniably a Mario game. The voiceovers are cute as a button, the sound effects are all very familiar, and the music is downright catchy. Things do get a tad repetitive after a while, but there is enough variety to go around before you get to that point. All around this is a safe sounding game that doesn't strike out though it doesn't necessarily hit it out of the park either.

Conclusion


Mario Super Sluggers is everything you'd expect it would be. The game is a no-brainer in terms of entertainment value for the whole family and it's definitely a title to pick up if you're looking for some relaxed game time with the kids (or parents). It's very easy to get into and offers plenty of nuances that help flesh out the controls such as "error items" and star abilities. Nintendo's mark of quality holds up well to scrutiny and Super Sluggers stands solidly on its own two feet. Unfortunately the game is not an improvement over Superstar Baseball and all around there is very little that is "new". As long as that doesnít bother you, you donít mind the lack of online play, and are just looking for a fun game to spend some time with you'll have a good time. Consider the game recommended.