Review by DomZ Ninja

"I don't think Mario is good enough for the pros just yet."

With the recent trend of slapping Mario in every single sport and making a game out of it (I wouldn't be surprised if Mario Shuffleboard is next in line); there is no doubt that a baseball game would be released some time. With great hits like Mario Tennis and Mario Golf, Mario Superstar Baseball looked to be yet another great sports title. While I feel that it not downright terrible, many aspects of the game still need improving.

Graphics
The graphics in Mario Superstar Baseball are pretty good. The opening cinema looks outstanding to boot. The graphics for the characters are nice and very detailed. What's good is that you can change the color of some characters, which gives them a little bit of variety and even changes their looks beyond a simple color change. For example, as opposed to a normal Dry Bones, you can choose to be a black and red Dry Bones covered in spikes. Very sweet. The stadiums all look great (yeah, the audience is bad, but they're like that in all games). Overall, I have nothing to complain about with the graphics; they are good. Not perfect or outstanding, but good.

Controls
To put it lightly, the controls in this game are split down the middle. I find nothing wrong with batting controls; it's very easy to move around the plate, and you can press L to reset your batting position to the default location. Hitting the ball is simple to do and there is no problem about it. On the other hand, the fielding controls are pretty much abysmal. You have little to no control over your players. Once a ball it hit, you will be "assigned" to a player in the field to control. The game is designed to let you control the person closest to the ball, but that rarely works out. You end up controlling a character nowhere near the ball which gets frustrating because you will give up runs. And giving up runs makes you lose, which in turn frustrates people.

For example, a ball is hit and softly rolls to first base. I don't control the first baseman; not even the shortstop. I end up controlling the guy in the right outfield, so I end up frantically running towards the ball while my other players are gawking at the ball. Another cheap control scheme is throwing. When in the field, you can throw the ball to any of the bases or another person on the field. Press Right while throwing to chuck the ball at first base, Up to second, Left to third, Down to home, and don't use the D-Pad to throw it to another player on the field. While the concept is simple, you will most likely find yourself accidentally pressing Left instead of Up, which screws up everything. I enjoyed the batting controls, but loathed the fielding controls.

Sound
Another rare sight; the game has great sound and music. All of the players have their own signature sounds and all sound differently while playing throughout the game. The baseball effects are great, such as a ball getting hit or a player catching a ball. The only peeve that I have about the sound is the announcer. The announcer sounds very strange/annoying and most of the time you would have no idea what they're saying aside from the giant words on the screen when you get someone out or something like that. The music is superb in this game. New tunes, some old ones, and even remixed versions. My personal favorite is the orchestrated version of the Mario Bros. theme in Peach Gardens. Overall, the sound and music in Mario Superstar Baseball is excellent.

Gameplay
I really didn't want to give it such a low score, but I had to and it's unfortunate. The best part of this game was a real shocker for me; the cast of characters. I was surprised at the massive amount of characters in this game. You can play as 32 different characters from the Mario universe. The range of characters is ridiculous (in a good way); you can have a team with Luigi, Monty Mole, Dixie Kong, and a Paragoomba. Some of the characters thrown into this game (i.e.: Noki, Dixie Kong, Paragoomba) seem downright random as they play such a little role in the Mario games. Like I said earlier, you can change the colors of some characters. Not only do their colors change, but their stats change as well! So that's basically another 8-10 characters thrown into the game. They are a nice aspect to the game and I enjoy the range of characters in the game.

The gameplay is very simple to get used to. Pitching is straight-forward and simple to do. You can throw a variety of pitches. Use the control stick to move the ball, setting you up for some mean curveballs. Hold A to charge up your pitch so you can throw faster. If you let go at a certain time, you will throw a fastball. Batting is also simple. You can move around the base at first, and use L to reset to your default location. Press A to swing the bat. You can charge up your swing by holding A. But beware; the longer you hold it down, the better chance you have of hitting a fly ball (making it a lot easier to catch). If you hit the sweet spot of your bat, the ball will go faster. Charge up and hit the sweet spot to almost guarantee yourself a home run. I explained the fielding and how bad it earlier, so no need to repeat myself entirely; the fielding is very bad.

Team Chemistry is a neat addition to the game, but it's useless. If you have two similar characters on the same team (Mario and Luigi, Peach and Toad), they will have chemistry, allowing them to (supposedly) do better than normal. Team Chemistry is uncommon among players and they really do not change the game that much at all. Sure, you can throw a tad faster, but nothing drastic.

The Challenge Mode is the main part of Mario Superstar Baseball, and it is used to unlock characters. You start off choosing a team captain and you roam around the Mario world, defeating other rival teams. After defeating all three (yep, that's it), you will reveal the path to Bowser's Castle, where you can fight his evil team. Once you beat the Koopa king, you finish Challenge Mode. You can buy items from the shop by using coins. To get coins, you can participate in mini-games or fight Baby Bowser in a one-inning game. The items are dumb and not only can you use them once, they do not help you that much at all.

You can recruit players from other teams, but the process is bland and challenging at times. There is a little thing called recruit flags. A player on the opposing team will need a certain amount of flags in order to join your team. Obviously, a team captain requires more flags than a lackey player. Every once in a while, you will be given an opportunity to earn these flags. In order to do so, you must pass a certain "challenge". These challenges range from difficulty and originality. Sometimes you will do something as simple as getting a player out to earn a flag. Sometimes you'll need to perform a double play. Some of the challenges are tricky to do and some aren't even understandable for people that don't follow baseball. When the challenges occur randomly, the challenge is a lot harder to do than normally. For example, if you get the challenge "don't let them score a run!" and you only have a guy on first, then the opponent will frantically steal bases and miraculously hit great shots. Of course they never do this normally; only when the challenge occurs. So in short, it's very hard to recruit players, and without players, it's nearly impossible to succeed.

The difficulty in Mario Superstar Baseball is ridiculous. There are four settings: Weak, Regular, Strong, and Powerful. Weak and regular is self explanatory. Facing a "Strong" team is obnoxiously hard to beat as they are very skilled. A "Powerful" team is near impossible team to beat, making later Challenge Mode difficulties to be almost impossible to finish (leaving you with a few more characters that you will struggle to unlock). The AI in all modes are insanely terrible and annoying. On Weak mode, you can throw a ball at minimal speed in front of the player, and they don't even bother swinging. Most of the time your runs will be in the double digits and they have nothing. But on Powerful, the players end up having unstoppable strategies and unmatched skills. They can hit anything you give them and end up getting a double or triple. The players can smash home runs, even with weak players like Dixie Kong or Waluigi. Even if you find yourself up 6-0, the opposing team will somehow suck the whole game, yet score a massive amount of runs on the last inning, causing you to tie or lose.

Replay Value
I'll admit, there is quite a bit of stuff to do aside from Challenge Mode. After unlocking the stages and characters, you can participate in Toy Field and various mini-games. The downside is that the mini-games aren't fun. The main objective of the mini-games is to improve various baseball skills. Unfortunately, they seem more of a hassle than a privilege. You can improve your records as well. You can unlock character bios for all 32 characters by having them win MVP in an Exhibition game. Pathetically, that is the most fun I have playing this game. There is a lot of stuff to do in Mario Superstar Baseball, but it doesn't really matter considering it is simply not fun.

Overall (not an average): 6/10

Pros
+ Graphics are pretty nice
+ Sound is very well put together
+ Large cast of characters is a real pleasure

Cons
- Controls need a lot of tweaking; fielding controls downright terrible
- Gameplay is not what it is all put up to be
- Difficulty and cheapness of the game is obnoxious
- Mini-games are all bad
- Extras are simply not fun at all

I was really disappointed by Mario Superstar Baseball. It seemed to be unpolished and a lot of different areas need desperate tweaking. Too many things went wrong, and it simply is unacceptable. The sound is very good though, especially the few remixed tracks. The graphics are like all other Mario games for the current systems; sharp, crisp, and pleasing to the eye. The controls are simple, but they just don't work out and turn out to be frustrating. Gameplay is shallow and after finally slamming the controller against some sort of wall or furniture, it also gets boring. The extras are simply unplayable, for they are so bland and annoyingly bad. In short, Mario Superstar Baseball seemed to have been rushed, because so many simple aspects of the game could have been improved. After enough minor fixations, the game would have been a blast. Unfortunately, too many small errors mar any fun produced by this game.


Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 04/10/06, Updated 03/06/09

Game Release: Mario Superstar Baseball (US, 08/29/05)


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