Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
Nintendo Australia Mario Super Sluggers
A swing and a miss for Mario Super Sluggers!
- Huge roster of Nintendo characters, tonnes of minigames and extra modes, Toy Box mode is fun.
- Poorly implemented controls, too many game-breaking moves, Challenge mode gets repetitive.
Poor controls, frustrating gameplay and a repetitive single-player mode mean it's three strikes and you're out for Mario and his friends.
When Wii Sports was first released, many gamers fell in love with the baseball minigame. It was simple, fun and really showed off the Wii Remote's capabilities. Most of us assumed that a Mario-themed iteration was going to come eventually and it's finally here in Mario Super Sluggers. Unfortunately, this is one promising prospect that falls just short of making it to the big leagues.
While players gushed about the amazing pitching and hitting in Wii Sports baseball, it was missing two other essential aspects of the sport: fielding and base-running. There's a reason Nintendo probably didn't try to take on those aspects — they're ridiculously difficult to get right. By stripping out those parts, Nintendo saved themselves a lot of headaches and freed themselves up to focus on the two aspects of baseball that were more conducive to the Wii experience. But developer Namco Bandai doesn't get a free pass in Sluggers. They had to include fielding and base-running and they really dropped the ball. Sports game developers have struggled with crafting a good defensive interface for years and Sluggers is saddled one of the worst I've ever experience. Poor design is a root cause but the main culprit is the game's control scheme.
Sluggers offers you three different control options-you can hold the Wii Remote vertically, which approximates most of Wii Sports Baseball's control scheme complete with semi-automated fielding and running; you can hold the Wii Remote horizontally, which crams far too many actions onto too few buttons; or you can use the Wii Remote and the Nunchuk, which throws clunky motion controls into the mix. The Wii Remote and Nunchuk combo is by far the most palatable, but it doesn't feel right; flicking the remote to throw feels especially unnatural. Why Namco didn't take a page from the Mario Kart playbook and let you use the Classic Controller or the GameCube controller is beyond me.
I might have forgiven the game for its terrible controls if the actual game had at least served up an awesome batter-pitcher experience but Sluggers fails at this as well. It couldn't even live up to the expectations set by the simplistic Wii Sports Baseball. You have access to three basic types of pitches and swings-normal, charged, and super. You take a 'normal' hack or pitch by simply flicking the Wii Remote forward; you can charge your throw or swing by quickly flicking the Remote backwards before going forward, and you can super-ise it all by holding A and B while flicking the Remote.
Unfortunately, executing the various throws is almost as confusing as explaining it. The game also does a poor job of recognising your input. It'll often fail to notice that you're holding down A and B during a swing, leading to a meek dribbler to third instead of a potential home run. And how about when you want to surprise your opponent with a quick pitch from the stretch but the game confuses your quick throwing motion for a slow charge? Say what you will about Wii Sports' simplicity, but at least you could count on the right moves being made on your behalf.
The game does get one thing right though: it includes a huge roster of characters to play with, each with their own set of stats. There are 40 different characters to choose from but disappointingly, they're all limited to the Mario universe; those of you expecting to take Samus or Link out onto the field will be let down. You can also include Miis, which is a nice touch. You field of team of nine and take to the field. You can't pick reserve players though, so you'll have to make substitutions on the field; rather than sit your rubber-armed pitcher after he gets shellacked, you'll have to sub him in at another position.
The roster in Sluggers is filled with extremely capable players, which makes choosing your team such a treat. At the very basic level, you've got the four categories that every player is rated on-throwing, running, fielding, and hitting. Most of the characters also have at least one super-move, which allows for deceptive pitches, powerful swings, and lightning-fast relays to the infield. Another factor to consider is team chemistry. Placing compatible characters like Diddy Kong and Donkey Kong next to each other in the line-up and on the field yields some strong returns. At the plate, your friend on-deck can use an item when the batter hits the ball, tossing bombs, bananas, or POW blocks onto the field and creating chaos. On the field, tightly-knit teammates can pull off some masterful moves, like crazy jump boosts to snag homeruns out of the air. This leads to some interesting strategic options: when you've got to move a failing pitcher to right field, do you risk losing the valuable teammate bond, or do you shift the entire team around to keep that intact, even if the player's stats don't fit the position quite as well?
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