Review by Scrapperton
"Mario and Company, Nintendo, and Namco hit a Home Run!"
Many Mario games have been released over the years. There are the classic platformers and the other ones, such as the Mario Party games and Mario Kart games. After the popular tennis and golf games, the Mario cast pick up the gloves, bats, and the ball. Hosting a large cast of characters giving one a wide selection to pick from and having the usual Mario sports touches, it is definitely one of the better Mario sports game.
If you know how to play baseball, you will definitely understand this game. However, most of the fields you can play on offer some sort of gimmick that make the game a little more challenging, although it might make the game seem rigged at times. There are also powers for each character. They are only unique to the captains however and even then they are shared powers. Everyone else is stuck with hitting the ball so it goes much farther and quicker and are clearly on different terms of strengths with the various special hits. There are also special pitches. Each of these special moves takes up a star. How do you get stars? During matches there might be a match up. If the batter gets out, the pitcher team scores a star and the reverse, with the batter team getting a star. How many stars can you get? It depends on your team chemistry. Many characters share bonds with each other of like and dislike. Characters that like each other co-operate better, for example the baseball travels between them faster. Characters that dislike each other are the opposite and the ball goes slower between each other. This means that it is best to plan out placement of characters to make sure that ones with good chemistry are near each other. This can be time consuming though and many people don't want that in a baseball, even less in a Mario baseball game.
There are several modes in the game. The story has a team of your choice (you pick a team, they aren't custom) beat all the other teams (the ones you didn't pick and Bowser's.) Fortunately, you can build on your team. Each character has a set number of flags on them and at certain times, like the stars, you get a matchup but the challenges are different such as steal a base. If you complete the challenge that character gets a flag. Lose and you get nothing. If the character has all the flags they can have and you win the ballgame, they join you. This is the only way to get new characters on your team. As difficulty rises so do the required number of flags. Fortunately, not all flags need to be given in one game. Another time increases with difficulty and those are challenges. Challenges are character specific goals that when all are completed, your character becomes better. The challengers increase in difficulty and by the end of the game, some are near impossible.
Other than story mode, you have Party Mode which is picking a team and playing the regular ball game. You can choose if you use star powers or not, which team goes first, if there's a circle where the ball will land or not, and how many innings you play. There are also some short minigames which lose their touch quickly and aren't meant to be played for long periods of times, most of them teaching you certain aspects of the game, such as running bases.
Graphics: The graphics are above average for the Gamecube. Nothing looks that bad, but things do look good in general. There are also some well-detailed things such as the sand in some of the stadiums. The character models are well-designed and all the animations are extremely fluid, especially during the pitches. Even the handless Paragoomba has a good pitching animation for what he is. There aren't any graphical issues or glitches, making this impressive for a Mario sports game.
Sounds: The tunes in this game are decent and shouldn't get on your nerves. This is good because you will be playing some very long baseball games depending on your skill and the opponent difficulty. It isn't very fun to have to mute the game due to annoyance, especially when the sound is needed, like in the NES game Friday the 13th. Fortunately, sound is not needed in this game at all so if you really need to, you may shut your sound off and you will never be penalized for it.
Controls: The controls in this game are very simplistic, but unfortunately they can get in the way. A button lets you hit the ball, hold A lets you charge your hit to hit the ball both higher and farther which leads to an easy catch. Pitches work the same way although you can throw different types of balls, partially guiding it with the control stick. Charged pitches are generally harder to hit and given the nature of how simple it is to perform a 'perfect' pitch, it is easy to hit the ball. Running controls are simple, you just use the control stick. Unfortunately, over outfielders will go for the ball and if they get too close to the ball, you will control them which can mess things up, leading to very confusing situations. Lastly, you don't make the characters run from the bases. They run on their own and you mash the heck out of the B button to make them go faster, which isn't very fun to do. You can stop individual runners with X and pushing the control stick in a certain direction dependent on where the runner is. Pressing X just makes the runners all go back a base. Y makes them go forward. This can get confusing to pull off at times.
Multiplayer: This the core of Mario sports games. It is pretty good and fun. You'll find yourself only playing the Party Mode and toy place that consists of hitting the ball and praying to Go---OH MY GOSH I LOST ALL MY COINS TO A RANDOM BOB-OMB AT THE LAST TURN NOW I'M BOUND TO LOSE THE GAME NOOOOO! The randomness level in this mini-game is wild, as well as how some things work in the real game. For example, the body press technique doesn't seem to work all the time and only at random moments, not when you really need it. If you're ok with randomness, then you'll be fine with the multi-player but if you might wanna stick to the least chance involved matches, you best stay at Mario's Stadium with no star powers, the equivalent of "No items; Fox only; Final Destination."
Rent or Buy?: If you don't like sports games, don't buy this one. It won't be changing your mind anytime soon. If you plan on just playing the party mode with some friends rent it for a week. There are far better games meant for more than one person to play on the Gamecube, such as Super Smash Bros. Melee and Mario Kart: Double Dash!! If you love any kind of baseball game or you want to play this game and beat everything on it, I highly recommend you buy it.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 10/03/05, Updated 07/01/08
Game Release: Mario Superstar Baseball (US, 08/29/05)
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