Review by Ness26
"Not much to do, and even what you can do has flaws..."
The Mario characters are back, yet again, for another spin-off. They've already gone to various games such as golf and tennis. Each time keeping the core rules of the game, yet adding the Mario charm to make it a new experience. This time, the game is baseball. They've added the Mario, yet the core game itself is what the problem is.
Mario Superstar Baseball is fairly simplistic. It is a standard game of baseball, with a few quirks added. In Exhibition mode, you construct a team of 9 players, and play against your opponent. Players range from Mario, to Peach, to Toad, to Koopa Troopa. Since you need quite a few players to play baseball, there are quite a few characters.
There is a bit of strategy to constructing your team. You first have to focus on who plays better in certain positions. Peach is an excellent pitcher, but put her in the outfield and things won't go as well. Most of these issues are fairly obvious, as the character's stats are right on the screen. The other thing you have to worry about is team chemistry. Players that have positive relationships with each other, say Mario and Luigi, get stat enhancements when they work together. While fielding if they throw it to each other they will throw faster, and while batting if the other is on base they'll hit harder. Likewise bad chemistry (Bowser and Toad) can result to missed throws and errors abound.
One nagging thing is that you can't see player relationships until you have picked all of your team members. So unless you enjoy constantly going back to your team select menu to switch one character out for another this will probably annoy you fairly quickly.
After you've selected your team you go out on one of 6 fields, each of which has its own gimmicks. For example, Peach's field has floating blocks in the air that will change the course of your ball, and DK's has barrels that roll in the outfield and can stun fielders. Sadly, most of these gimmicks can't be used cleverly, they are almost all luck based. The barrels in DK's field appear at random, so trying to hit your ball into an area where they roll is impossible. The blocks in Peach's field are so high up that it isn't worth trying to hit them since if you miss the ball is an easy fly.
Characters themselves have gimmicks too, which are accessed using Team Stars. Using Team Stars can enhance batting or pitching. Luigi can pitch fireballs, and Bowser can bat Bullet Bills, just mind that each time you do this you lose a Star. You can earn stars back by hitting certain spots on the field, or by winning "Showdowns." Sometimes when someone goes up to bat you will see "Star Chance!" appear, if that happens the batter has to get on base, and the fielders have to get him out to claim the star for their team. Fairly simple right?
While these gimmick features work fine, the actual game of baseball is horrid. Pitching is extremely dull, and quite easy. The AI has little bugs where if you throw a pitch in one area, then another they won't swing. Fielding is probably the single worse feature in the game. You have no choice on what character you can control, it is simply up to who the game thinks is closest to getting the ball. Sadly, they are wrong quite a bit. The ball often rolls inbetween 2nd and 3rd and you end up controlling the 3rd Baseman and have to go chasing the ball down even though it went right next to the shortstop. What's even worse is that you can't change who you control. The ball can fly up, and be an easy out, yet just since you are the wrong character it can be completely missed. The right fielder actually stood still and watched as the ball fell down next to him as I ran and tried to get the ball. Plus, say you get hit by an obstacle in a course. I watched as Baby Luigi just sat there while Baby Mario was dazed from hitting an obstacle, patiently waiting for him to get up and go after the ball, even though he could've gotten it easily.
The trouble with these is that they really interfere with the game. It's very hard to just have fun when these errors constantly are coming up. And yes, they DO come up constantly. You will be blaming the controls at least once an inning. Plus, the AI often becomes incredibly good at select moments. You may find yourself pitching a no-hitter, and up 6 runs, yet come the final inning they are blasting home-runs left and right. While challenge is good, you want it to be consistent.
The game doesn't have much content in it either. You have 4 modes, Exhibition, Challenge, Toy Field, and Mini-Games. Challenge seems excellent at first, but will let you down rather quickly. You start off with one of 5 teams, then have to build them up to be able to beat Bowser's team. You play against the other teams, and try to recruit their players. During the game against the team you will see Missions pop up similar to Star Challenges. They have different tasks, such as "Strike them out!" or "Get a run!" If you complete the task you get a flag on the character the Mission was for. Once you get all their flags you will get the character at the end of the game.
In addition to Missions are the Character Stars. Each of your characters has Mission Stars, complete them and they'll get slightly better. They start off easy, such as getting on base, or striking someone out. However, later on they become very annoying. The trouble isn't that they are hard, but that you have no control on how to get them. Diddy Kong's last star is to catch an out while doing a wall jump. To get this you'd have to have the ball far enough so that it gets to the backwall where Diddy is, yet be low enough where Diddy can catch it, which is completely out of your control. These missions just end up being distracting, since you often have to do things that you wouldn't normally do in order to get a star. Sometimes you have to drop a sacrifice bunt when you'd really prefer not to, but hey, you have to get the star!
The multiplayer in this game is fairly lacking as well. The only modes you can play with 4 people are the Toy Field and Mini-Games. That's right, no Exhibitions. The Toy Field is a mode where there are only 4 people on the field at once; a batter, a pitcher, and two fielders. Instead of running bases, there are panels on the field that represent hits. There are things like Double, Triple, or panels that trigger a slot machine that determines your outcome. You get coins for hitting certain panels, catching someone out, or striking someone out. You lose coins if you are struck out, get caught out, or hit a bad panel. While this isn't a bad mode, it would be nice if you could actually play the real game with friends.
The mini-games are bothersome. None of which are really fun, or deep. There's a homerun derby, yet in it you are automatically positioned in the spot that will guarantee you a home run. All you do is swing. The other games are meant to improve you at certain tasks, such as shot aiming or baserunning. The trouble is that the mini-games are trying to improve your playing, and aren't focused on fun.
In the end, you get a game that feels like it was put together rather fast. Unlike other titles such as Mario Power Tennis that keep the game itself in excellent playing condition, and still add Mario's touch to it, Mario Superstar Baseball doesn't keep the game fun. You end up with a shoddy game, and if the game isn't playable you aren't going to enjoy the gimmicks. Hopefully the Mario spin-offs won't become games just to rake in the money, and they put more effort into future titles.
Reviewer's Rating: 2.5 - Playable
Originally Posted: 11/03/05
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