Well, those shysters at Nintendo have done it again. Once again, the Big N has pushed an incomplete, barebones piece of trash our the door and expects for us to wait for them to finish it! It doesn't even have as much content as the previous game! I can't believe Next Level is wasting their time on this series!!
Ladies and Gentlemen, meet the internet's current favorite whipping boy, Mario Strikers: Battle League!
I guess it's in vogue to shit on Mario Sports games (and ARMS) now, but I'm not down with it. Mario Tennis Aces was the quantum leap forward that the series needed to justify its existence, Mario Golf Super Rush was a fascinatingly flawed, yet still enjoyable rethink of video golf, and Mario Strikers: Battle League is a super-tight, super-violent version of indoor soccer. After the mass internet whining, I was expecting some shambling mess of a game, an Ultra Smash-level punt, but the core gameplay is tremendously tight and fun, with tons of tactical depth, ripe for mind games. If Mario Tennis Aces was the tennis equivalent of Street Fighter, Battle League is the soccer equivalent of Power Stone.
When I played the Test Kick, I was a bit overwhelmed by the amount of moves and advanced techniques, but the basic controls are fairly intuitive and tactile. Shooting a goal feels a lot more controllable than in something like FIFA. And there is a WHOLE lot of shooting. The field of play may seem a little small at first, but that focuses the action on the interesting bits: shooting, tackling people into the fences, dodging, using power-ups, and intercepting passes. Will I ever master tackling my own players during offensive and defensive plays or performing free lob passes? Maybe! Maybe not. But I can still have fun without those options.
The Smash Ball-like Orb which allows you to shoot charged Hyper Strikes (hey, that's where that 3-click golf meter disappeared to!) worth 2 Points also focuses the action in a fun way. Will you abandon your post to grab it? Is the risk of fully charging a shot worth the 2-Point reward? The other power-ups also have a huge impact in the small arenas.
Before the game came out, everybody was making such a huge deal about the animations, and it all seemed a tas overblown. But they are actually awesome. Seeing Peach's eyes fill with flames or Toad Naruto-running or Wario just... being Wario might eventually get old, but it sure hasn't yet!
It's good stuff, tense and exciting, with lots of smack talk potential. I've only played the CPU so far, and I'm sure playing online will infuriate me, but this game seems like it would be a real hoot in local multiplayer. Which, really, is the main function of most Mario Sports games.
As for the common points of contention, there does not seem to be much single-player stuff besides playing Cups against the CPU. However, as in Smash and ARMS, playing against the CPU is actually enjoyable. Anyway, what you see is what you get. There's no Story Mode, but I'm not sure that I would've wanted one. (I actually thought that the Story Mode in Mario Golf Super Rush kind of over-delivered, for what it's worth.) Some kind of Challenge Mode might have been nice, but it really is a multiplayer game at heart.
Maxing out the online play at 2 consoles vs. 2 consoles (with up to 2 players on each console) is a bit disappointing, I admit. As with Smash, I imagine that it was just too difficult to network 8 console smoothly online, due to the amount of insanity going on in this game. But they should've at least allowed up to four players on one console to go online. I mean, that should result in LESS lag, right?
As for the amount of characters, I don't mind them being rolled out over time. The amount of love they put into each one is quite impressive, so I'm genuinely looking forward to seeing what they come up with. The arenas are also identical in functionality, with only cosmetic differences. It might be nice to have more crazy hazards, but it seems like people hated the hazards in previous games' arenas. It would still be nice to have the option of hazards. And more customizability, at least in Local play.
I should clarify that I've only played Battle League a couple of hours total so far. I rented it from the library, but I'm definitely picking Battle League up in the future. It seems like it'll be a real multiplayer powerhouse. Most of my online time is taken up by doin' my Switch Sports Weeklies, but I'll try out Battle League's online one day, when I feel like being humbled/belittled.
Above all, it just FEELS good to play. Smooth, intuitive, and fun, with a great, tactile sense of impact (HD Rumble!).
But that's enough out of me. Has anyone else tried this game out?
Also, was there ever such a thing as a "whipping boy", or is it just a turn of phrase?
I have also tried it out, and I am sad to say, I am one of the whippers whipping this whipping boy! To be fair, I've only played a few hours of singleplayer, but I'm just not a fan of most of the changes they've made from Charged.
The decreased character count alone wouldn't be that bad, but there's so little difference between any of them besides stats now. Gone are the unique dodges (aerial hops, teleports, counterattacks) and the sidekick super shots that made captain and sidekick selection feel more hefty in Charged.
The character animations are mostly still fun, but there's no more interaction between captains and sidekicks. No more Peach angrily tapping her foot and glaring at her minions. No more Waluigi gleefully throwing a ball in the face of a shy guy. What's there is good, but it feels like an element of character interaction is gone.
And yeah, the unique stadiums added some interesting folds to the gameplay that aren't there anymore. Maybe I'd rather not play them online very often, but they made the singleplayer cup runs feel a lot less one-note.
Like I said, I haven't put much time into it, but I really don't feel compelled to. The core gameplay is fine, but aside from a few changes to things like timing and holding buttons to power things up slightly (changes I'm not convinced I like, especially if the online is as shabby as I'd expect), it just feels like a stripped down version of Charged to me. Which is still fun enough, I suppose, but I can't help but wish I were just playing Charged instead.
It's true that there are less overall characters and, more importantly, less to differentiate each character, in terms of gameplay. The stat differences DO have quite a significant effect on the way the characters play, but you can also manipulate those somewhat with gear.
However, the character abilities in Charged were kind of unbalanced. It also made the game much, much less accessible for players at lower skill levels. NLG did add some advanced techniques to compensate. And there's still so much shit going on at any one time in the game that it doesn't bother me. The mind games just focus more on tackling, dodging, and the Hyper Strike.
Come to think of it, changing the "Charge" mechanic from quantity of passes to perfect pass/shot/dodge/tackle timing is also a significant change. Both ideas are interesting in their own way. It feels really good to deke someone in this game.
As for character interactions... yeah, there isn't much interplay between team members during animations. But the individual reactions are pretty glorious. Boom Boom is pretty great. Speaking of which, what a weird thing to tune: the efficiency/skill of a CPU-controlled goalie. How many sports games actually allow the player to control the goalie?
I could definitely use more global options, in terms of hazards and such, at least in offline. Like in Smash. It could be cool to have shooting "hotspots" appear for extra points, like in NBA Jam. Haha, I used to draw little hotspots on the court in chalk when I played basketball with my nephews. And also an extra arc that I couldn't shoot or vigorously defend inside of. I love house rules and handicaps!
To be honest, I haven't played Charged in a loooong time. And it never got too much play for me back in the day, due to requiring a Nunchuck for every player. But I am feeling the urge to go back to Battle League. It feels more streamlined/focused than stripped-down to me.
Regarding the online, playing with another player on the same team during the Test Kick certainly added some wrinkles, in terms of character switching (Oops, that character is already taken!), and such. This game is so chaotic, I feel like it would shine the most in 1v1, where you can control the overall flow, or 4v4, where you only need to focus on one character.
BTW, I looked up "whipping boy". It was apparently a European/English thing. Some poor sap of a noble would be hired as a young Prince's best friend/whipping boy. Since the royal tutor couldn't whale on the prince, he would instead beat the whipping boy, which would have a similar correctional effect, since he was the prince's pal. And it was kind of a prestigious position?
I've never cared for the Mario Strikers games, with Charged in particular probably being my most-disliked Mario spinoff game. Since the First Kick dealie allowed for going online with two players, why not try it out with my significant other?
I hate to pile on the whips to the boy, but I'd have to agree with a number of the game's criticisms, particularly the lack of content. With that said, this one probably still has better gameplay than the two previous. While Charged had some good ideas in it, it was a big mess of a game, so I'm okay with eschewing all that for more solid mechanics. At the same time however, the characters feel very homogeneous; I'm not certain of the extent of the gear system, but it looks like any character can be tuned to any stat combo. I don't feel like bringing more characters and arenas to the game will add anything if they're all the same.
A few quick thoughts: -The controls feel needlessly complicated, I think they could have simplified things by finding a way to use less buttons. -The game is pretty chaotic so we found it tough to keep track of the character we were controlling. The player indicators could probably do a better job of highlighting the controlled character. -It feels entirely random which shots the goalie decides to block and which he allows to go in. One minute he'll be deftly diving every which way smacking perfectly-time power shots back left and right, and the next, some random uncharged blooper from half-court will just roll right in. -My first impression is that, despite being weighted equally by the gear system, the stats are imbalanced. Speed and Power felt the most useful, while Pass seemed pointless.
Despite my complaints about the game we did still have some fun trying out the first kick, as it offers some fast-paced action and rewards good teamwork. We played in four of the time slots, so four hours total, and we feel like we've had our fill of the game. I may still get it if the price drops enough. Overall, I remain disappointed that this was the next project from Next Level Games.
I believe a Whipping Boy was a literal boy who sat next to a prince while he was being educated, and if the prince did something wrong the boy was whipped in his stead. It was... not a fun job. Unless I guess you had a very good prince.
The ugly history of Human Beings aside, I haven't actually played a Mario Strikers game since the original, and I must admit I don't even really remember the original! All I remember is that the series oozed character in ways that no other Mario games did, and had wonderful over-the-top animation. This one seems no different. I doubt I'll play it (much like in Mario Tennis, I just don't like games with Uber-powers which make the game not about the actual game anymore) but if someone I know bought a copy I'd give it a whirl at least.
Actually I think I have it on reserve at the library, so it will be here eventually.
Also in spite of Daisy not being in it initially, which is nonsense, that has been fixed and so I have no real problem with this whole "character rollout" method Nintendo now takes. As long as it is free, I'm fine with new characters every month or so, even if the initial offerings are slim. It seems to be the way things are headed anyway, and I'm not going to fight it.
@Mop it up It sounds like you kind of liked it! For what it's worth, the new patch attempts to address most of the issues that you brought up. I haven't tried it yet, though.
The controls seemed a bit much when thrown into the deep end during the Test Kick, but they aren't really that complicated for the essential core actions - a turbo button, a shooting button, a player switching button, a pass button, a lob pass/tackle button, and a modifier button for free passes... Oh, and a dodge button!
Y'know, that does sound like a lot, but playing the CPU allows you to come to grips with the controls more easily.