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Feb 4, 2009

Review: Mario Super Sluggers

Mario Super Sluggers
Nintendo, Namco Bandai Games
Available for the Nintendo Wii

With the snow on the ground outside, the winter blues have probably set in for most gamers but don’t worry, because I have a game review this week that’s going to bring the summer time fun back into your living room. Mario Super Sluggers is a fun and easy to play baseball arcade style game with lots of mini games to keep you and the family entertained for hours.

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 Princess Peach’s baseball 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.

When you fire up Mario Super Sluggers you'll be hit with a screen full of the game's modes faster than you can say the game‘s title. Before we get into a discussion about what's actually here let's talk about what isn't; online compatibility. I understand not everyone cares about online play but truthfully no game on the market today is complete without some good online play, especially if it’s a sports game.

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.

Once you've got the basics of training down, the next place you should visit is the Challenge Mode as this section of the game offers the meat of the single player experience and allows for some of the better experiences you'll have with the title outside of local 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.

You'll also travel the island in order to recruit players & captains to build new teams, find coins to upgrade equipment, and play 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.

Exhibition mode is where you'll be playing against friends and family 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.

Mario Super Sluggers looks very similar to its 2005 counterpart though a few elements in its design have been improved. Character models are all around sharper and everything is as bright and cheery as it should be. This is by no means a revolutionary looking title, but it does offer plenty of charm and it's not a total slouch as far as the graphics are concerned.

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.

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. Nintendo's mark of quality holds up well to here and everyone in the family will find the game easy to get into. Unfortunately the game is not an improvement over Superstar Baseball on the GameCube and all around there is very little that is new. As long as that doesn’t bother you, you don’t 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.

Rating: 6 out of 10
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