Giant Bomb Review

31 Comments

Mario Super Sluggers Review

2
  • Wii

Namco Bandai strikes out with this halfhearted baseball game.

Free agents are ruining the sport!
Paul Verhoeven's Starship Troopers is one of my favorite movies of all time. At a passing glance it just seems like a bloated, brain-dead summer blockbuster, where pricey special effects are meant to distract from the by-the-numbers plot and the sub-soap-opera acting. Those paying attention, however, will find a scathing indictment of fascism and conformity, a brilliant mass-media satire, and perhaps one of the most politically subversive films to come out of Hollywood in the past 20 years. That said, I have absolutely no interest in its direct-to-video sequels. It's still space marines fighting giant space bugs, but without the creative forces that brought life to the original, they're nothing more than the stupid action movies they appear to be.

Similarly, I've got a deep and abiding appreciation for the Mario franchise, but that doesn't mean that every Mario game gets an automatic pass. Namco Bandai's Mario Super Sluggers is, for all intents and purposes, a direct-to-video Mario game. It's got all the characters you expect from a Mario game, but without Nintendo actually handling the development duties, the whole thing has a real off-brand feel. Mario Super Sluggers is also a baseball game of sorts, albeit one that is simultaneously too casual about the sport itself and not imaginative enough about how it exploits the Mario motif.

The game was called on account of Bloopers.
As has become the default MO for many Wii games, Mario Super Sluggers puts a high value on accessibility, providing you with three distinct control schemes, two of which have you making use of the motion controls--one with the nunchuk, one without--and one that has you holding the Wii Remote sideways. I like to think that I've become fairly aware of the technical limitations of the Wii Remote over the past few years, and can adjust my play style accordingly, but I found the motion controls in Super Sluggers to be particularly inconsistent. The remote-and-nunchuk combo might provide a greater degree of control, but I found the sideways control scheme to be the most reliable and easy to use.

The game abides by the basic rules of the sport, focusing most of its energy on batting and pitching, though even then there's not a lot of nuance. When you're at bat, it's simply a matter of timing your swing--there's no consideration for the shape or speed of your swing when using the motion controls, and every character comes with a predetermined batting power. There's a bit more to the pitching, which accommodates fastball, change-up, and curveball throws, though it also seems to require less skill. You'll have varying levels of control over your fielders and your base runners depending on your control scheme, but I found them to be either too automatic or not responsive enough.

You can build your own teams out of the usual rabbit-hole menagerie of characters you expect to see in a Mario game, and in addition to each character having discrete performance stats, you'll find that certain characters work better together. The allegiances tend to break down the way you'd expect, but it still manages to make the team-building an interesting exercise.

Toy Field is the best thing about Mario Super Sluggers.
Mario Super Sluggers spikes the action with a few Mario touches, such as the ability to build up star power when either batting or pitching. Every character reacts slightly differently, but activating it it generally results in a powerful swing or a speedy, unpredictable pitch, depending on which side of the plate you're on. Star power tends to build up quick, effectively providing a free pass every other at-bat. You'll also find stadiums with different surfaces, and the ability to throw “error items” out onto the field while you're running the bases, but these touches tend to muddle the gameplay rather than enhance it.

Beyond the standard exhibition game and the surprisingly brief story-based challenge mode, Mario Super Sluggers offers some minigames to test and hone the skills you'll need to employ in a standard game. They can be OK on the lower difficulty levels, but at a point the minigames just seem like a showcase for the gameplay's shortcomings. Then there's the Toy Field mode, which crosses baseball with pinball. This is easily my favorite part of the game, simply because it abstracts the sport to such a degree that the simplicity of the gameplay doesn't seem like a liability. In this mode, four players take turns at bat, while the other three players are out in the field, which is divided into a grid of panels, each with its own point value. The fielders then trigger a slot machine that determines the pitch, as well as whether any error items get tossed out. Points are awarded to the batter for contact with different field panels, and fielders can get points for catching the ball, or simply stealing the ball from another fielder. After a set number of turns, scores are tallied and a winner declared. I only wish there was more action like this in Mario Super Sluggers.

As a Mario game, Mario Super Sluggers feels kind of cheap; as a baseball game, it fails to capture the finer points that make the sport interesting in the first place. Its accessibility is probably Mario Super Sluggers' most well-realized characteristic, but what you're getting access to simply isn't much fun.
31 Comments
Posted by diz

Neat review - but has the Wii really been out for a "few years", as you write?

Personally, I couldn't think of a nastier game than a Mario flavoured baseball Wii game. Call me a nazi, but I can't see the fun in any of those things.

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Posted by Snail

I'm sick of Mario Rip-offs ever since I played Mario kart Wii.

Posted by LordAndrew

I played it for a bit at EB games. It seemed pretty wonky.

Posted by Aaox

What? A third party Mario Game isn't good? WHA?

Posted by Brym

Starship Troopers is also solidly in my top 5 movies of all time.  Good taste Ryan.

I'm also firmly of the belief that the poor acting and story is fully intentional, and meant to lovingly satirize the traditional hollywood sci-fi blockbuster (in much the same way that Robert Rodriguez's Planet Terror treats the Zombie B-movie).

Posted by ddensel

Can I look forward to a Wario Land: Shake It! review in the future? I mean if Mario Super Sluggers gets a review, surely Wario Land can get one, right?

Posted by Salviati

Ryan, you are spot on with Starship Troopers.  The film is brilliant from beginning to end.  I still find it shocking that it was put out my a major Hollywood studio,my reaction upon seeing this was 'how the hell did this get past the corporate censors'.

Posted by MeatSim

All these Mario Spin-offs have just become too tiresome.

Posted by Kohe321

Well written review as always. Seems like this will be a pass, then.

Posted by Kohe321

Oh yeah, and I love starship troopers as well. Hillarious.

Posted by DorianBlack

I played this at a "party" the other night and wasn't too fond of it. It was fun in that I was having fun with my friends, but the game was not fun itself. Half the time the game just would not do what I wanted, like for example throw to home when I wanted to throw to 3rd. Maybe the kiddies will like it.

Posted by Irishjohn

It just sucks that Mario has to whore himself out like this.  Times are tough in Nintendo land I guess. Oh, wait...

Posted by Claude
Posted by benHaskett

Ryan, I like you and the things you say.  Really dug the opening.

Posted by RHCPfan24

Good Starship Troopers reference.  Cool movie and I love these comparisons.

Posted by LiverKick

Hmm...well, I like it.  I also have MLB 08 for my PS3 and playing Mario Super Sluggers is a welcome change of pace.  Mind you, I haven't played it too extensively with it, but from what little time I did, I found it charming and different....but in a good way.  Who knows, as I get farther along with the game, I may end up hating its guts.

Posted by unholyone123

Namco Bandai made a Mario game? *Salutes Mario with tears running down face* It's been a pleasure playing your games! *Puts gun to side of head and pulls the trigger*

Posted by Arkthemaniac

I don't think many people had high hopes for this one. MLB Power Pros 2008 is more than definitely a better alternative.

Posted by Koopa_kid12
Posted by Emandudeguyperson

I hate how Nintendo has to keep REHASHING and REHASHING the same games on the newer consoles!! Jesus make it stop!!!!

Posted by Death_Burnout

Love the Starship Troopers comparison! would you like to know more? hell yes i would

Posted by Gizmo

Super Sluggers? Super fucking sluggers?

Posted by damnboyadvance

I enjoy baseball. I enjoy Nintendo games. I enjoy Mario games. I absolutely hate Nintendo's Mario Super Sluggers game. Good thing I only rented this game.

Posted by Hef

Whats this? Nintendo's putting out more casual shovelware. Who could have ever predicted that?

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Posted by Chicken008

The challenge/RPG mode sounded interesting when I first heard about it, but I guess it is just another Mario sports game..

Posted by halfameatball

My Wii needs a game, it is hungry. I don't think it will for some time though.

Posted by bornagain888

Traded my wii in for a new 60g 360 and havent missed it yet; sorry Nintendo, don't think you need my buisness anyway.

Posted by PremierOctopus

Has there only been one Mario Tennis game?

Posted by Link

Bah! Mario can bugger off... It seems only about 1 in 3 Mario games that get released turns out to be worth while

Posted by HoldSteady828

I liked the part in Starship Troopers were there were boobs.

I was young at the time.

Posted by JonathanMoore

Meh, i had no intention to buy beforehand anyway.

-- God Bless.