"Nintendo takes a huge swing at an arcade-style baseball game, but strikes out"

For as long as Nintendo has been making consoles, Mario has been its shining star (no pun intended) amongst many titles that waver in their greatness. Whilst other Nintendo stars stuck to one form and delivered it well, Mario branched out in to many different genres, from teaching children to type, to our most recent addition to the Mario name, Mario Superstar Baseball.

Let's not get me wrong here before we start out. I loved Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour, and I thought it was a wonderful way to make golf not only accessible to those bored to death by the PGA tour, but to throw in just enough incentives to keep playing to make the title itself last for a good long time by sports game standards and not lose the core charm of the game of golf. Mario Power Tennis, I felt, was not as good. While you would get locked into a zone when competing with an opponent, with rallies lasting 20, 40, sometimes even 60 hits, they tried too hard to really differentiate it from tennis as a game, and made it into something far less desirable, but still played with tennis racquets. Mario SuperStar Baseball, on the other hand, fails to please on an entirely different front. It just doesn't play well. At all.

Mario Superstar Baseball boasted a lot of new things for the Mario Sports World, namely a 'challenge mode' that was not simply tournaments. When introduced to this concept, you think that you'll maybe have the opportunity to really go down that career path they say is there, and that you will turn a motley crew of baseball players into the Mushroom Kingdom's finest hardballers. In this aspect, MSB takes a cut at a new innovation, and grounds it foul for strike one. There was huge potential for a really deep career mode spent building teams by impressing the opposition enough to acquire some of their players, a mode with individual character development in a user-friendly manner. This, in short, was definitely not what happened. While at first we think to ourselves that this is not just another tournament ladder and some minigames, that's really all it is. A few additions here and there like a map of an overworld with the 6 venues you will play on have been made, but for the most part, the "illustrious" potential career mode this game had to offer did not come to fruition.

Once on the overworld, you can navigate in a 2d manner, interacting with the creatures that go by, play some shallow, annoying minigames, and then stop at a stadium and play ball. To progress in terms of making your character look better on paper, you have to accomplish a number of relatively basic tasks in order to get "stars" for doing such. To get new characters onto your team, you have to complete a number of randomly determined and timed events during the course of however many game games you play(such as, say, "strikeout this batter" or "turn a double play this at-bat") and win against them, and then their stadium will raise a white flag of surrender and its players will join you. That's it. No special work, and no play of any clubs other than those frontlined by one or two Nintendo stars. In terms of depth, this game leaves a huge amount unaccounted for, and this time MSB swings and fouls the ball back over the catcher.

Of course, I've gotten this far and haven't even addressed the issues one will have when physically in a baseball match. When one enters a game, you will notice that the core part of the game: the pitching and the batting, is relatively rudimentary and unimpressive. Sure there's “star pitches,” but really it fails to impress. After the ball jumps off the end of the bat, however, the game becomes truly ugly to play. Home runs are a rarity in MSB, but that would not be a problem if the fielding and baserunning systems in MSB did not cause so much frustration. The Gamecube controller does not have a diamond-shaped button layout, so one can't simple press a button to throw to a base or advance a base. Instead, one must hold the analog stick in the direction of the base you want to throw and press the B button. They didn't decide to eliminate the misery by having us press corresponding buttons on the D-Pad to throw and run to bases, that would be too easy. To further kill the fielding and running controls, the input is not responsive at all, and after the fifth inside-the-park homerun against your friends as a result of terrible fielding controls, you just want to put the controller down and cower in a corner until the madness subsides. The control issues cause this game to make a huge swing and a miss, and that's strike three to Mario Superstar Baseball.

It's a shame, really, because this game had a huge amount of potential as a blockbuster title, but its numerous control issues and other annoyances really destroy any value this game could have had. Nobody can accuse them of going down without swinging, but the fact remains that, in all seriousness, this is not a very good game at all, and it fails to redeem itself on any front other than that Mario is in it.

Reviewer's Rating:   1.5 - Bad

Originally Posted: 09/23/05

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