Review by gamerman555

Reviewed: 02/13/06

The newest release in the Mario Sports series is great fun, however certain aspects keep it from being great.

The ever growing Mario Sports series just seems to be getting better, or is it? I have been a big fan of the Mario Sports games since the Nintendo 64 releases of Mario Golf and Mario Tennis. Since then, there have been some sequels to both of those games, as well as the famous Mushroom Kingdom cracking down uniforms in some other sports.
The newest release in the Mario Sports series is Mario Superstar Baseball from Nintendo and Namco. A lot was expected from this game, as previous games in the Mario Sports series have never been a failure. Don't get me wrong, Mario Superstar Baseball definitely does not upset, however there are a few problems that can turn a lot of people off.

Many people may think Baseball is boring, however Mario Superstar Baseball takes this sport into another world. This is not just a straight baseball game, but, for example, in certain fields there are obstacles in the field that will challenge even experienced players to try and get an out. The game is very fresh and original.

Gameplay - 6/10
This is where I found Mario Superstar Baseball to falter, and Gameplay (in my opinion at least) is the most important part to any game. Firstly, the gameplay is not very nice to new players, especially if you have never played a baseball game before. It is quite difficult (which is surprising for the Mario Sports series) to get used to the controls when you are at bat. If you charge up a swing to much (very easy to do) it will always pop up into the air, making it an easy out for the team on defence. If you don't charge up at all, most of the time the ball will just roll by the pitcher or one of the bases, also making an easy out for the team on defence. The only way to hit a good shot (which stays low and hits the ground just past the bases) is to time your charge just right, and this is very difficult to do. Even after playing for a while, it's a challenge. The only way to hit a home run is to charge it perfectly and stand in the right spot, which is also very difficult to do.

When you are on defence (in the field), catching balls is quite hard to do thanks to camera angles, and it takes almost forever to pick up the ball, get a grip, and throw it. If the ball is popped up high, a little circle appears on the ground. You must quickly move under it for your character to catch it for an out, however with shorter characters (such as Baby Mario), half the time the balls goes right over your head, which gets to be a pain after a while. Once you do catch the ball, you may need to throw to a base to make an out. You throw the ball by pressing A while pressing the control stick either left, right, up or down (depending which base you want to throw to). This is where the gameplay shatters, as half the time if you want to throw to third (left while pressing A), you will throw to first base (which is pressing up). Whether this is a glitch or bad programming, I don't know, but it is a pain, especially if someone scores a run off of it.

Pitching is quite solid, however you only have a very small array of pitch options. You can press and hold A to charge up a fast ball (you can control where it goes with the control stick), press A quickly to throw a breaking ball (which is hard to hit, but moves slow), or hold A to charge up a ball and release at the right time to make a "Nice" pitch, however the AI tends to hit these more than anything else, making it a bit "cheap" as some people say.

You also have something called Star Swings (while batting) or Star Pitches (while pitching). You must press and hold R as you make your swing or pitch. These add a special effect to the ball, and as pitching make it almost impossible for the batter to hit the pitch. Too bad you can only do this about six times in a game, as getting your stars back is only available through a special "Star Chance". In fact, if you swing and miss while using a Star Swing, you lose that Star, which is a pretty annoying thing.

You also have teammate chemistry. The higher this is, the better each player will interact with each other. Again, too bad almost no player will get this chemistry, and even when you do have it, it doesn't make a huge difference in the gameplay.

The largest fault is the AI while on base. Every time you hit the ball, no matter what type of hit it is, they will always run. This means, even if it is a pop-fly (meaning the defensive team will get you out about 99% of the time from these), the AI on the bases will still run, making it easy double or triple plays for the defensive side, and this always works against you. You can press X to call them back, but they should know in the first place when to run and when not to.

Overall, the gameplay isn't all that bad. Once you get used to it, there's no problem, however it does take an unnecessarily long time to get used to them. It could have been much easier, and the controls for throwing to a base should be MUCH sharper than they are.

Graphics - 9.5/10
The game looks beautiful. The stadiums are all detailed to the very brick on the wall, and the character models look great. From Mario's large round nose to the stadiums themselves, everything looks just great. There is no slowdown, and no little graphic blips at all. This game really does show off the Gamecube's abilities, however some deeper textures would have been nice. Can't complain here.

Sound - 10/10
This is probably the strongest part of the game. If you have a Dolby Surround Sound system, you will be happy to know this game is done in Dolby Pro Logic II, giving you a very nice surround feature. The sound of the ball hitting the bat is very crisp and clear, the music sounds great, and all the little sound effects that go on around the stadium (such as the crowds and the sound of water trickling through streams) is all there. The track recognition between speakers is very well done. Nothing to complain about here.

Each stadium has it's own musical theme, such as the stadium at Peach's Castle playing the classic Mario theme (remixed, of course). This is a nice extra.

Game Modes and Variety - 6/10
Another part where the game went down a bit is the amount of Game Modes and Variety. Again, don't get me wrong, the game has plenty of different things you can do, however most of them aren't outstanding and there could have been more. Exhibition mode is what you will probably be playing most often. You and a friend (only two people can play the Ex mode), or just you by yourself, can play a game of baseball. Each team consists of 9 players (some characters you must unlock) which you can chose. You first must pick a team captain (there are only 12 characters you can chose from, as I wish you could pick from the whole array of characters) who will be your starting pitcher. Then, you pick the characters you want on your team and set where they will be while you are playing defence. Once that is done, you select the batting order. Very in depth. Then, you play a game of baseball, easy as that! Challenge mode will let you complete a story like mode where you will build a team from playing against other teams (and beating them), boosting your stats, and playing minigames, and take on Bowser's squad (classic Mario story). This mode is way to short, though, and only takes a few hours to get through. Toy Field mode is much like Mario Party, where you have a select number of turns to try and hit the ball to various parts of the field and rack up coins. This gets boring fast, though, as the only way to bat is to get the ball while on defence, and the ball almost ALWAYS goes towards wherever the CPU player is, and you lose points way to easily. Minigames mode will let you play several different short games with a baseball feel to them, such as a Home Run Derby (where it is very easy to hit HR's, to easy really), and Wall Ball. You can unlock some more, but there aren't very many in the first place, and they aren't all that fun either. Practice mode is where you learn to play the game (and since they only test you on fast balls, there's no point to this mode at all), or just practice at hitting. Again, no point, as they will only test you with fast balls.

That's pretty much it. Aside from Exhibition Mode, Challenge, and Toy Field, there isn't all that much to do here.

Replayability - 10/10 or 7/10
This is split up. Replayability for the Exhibition mode is infinite, as there really isn't anything to beat. It's just you vs. your friend or against the AI, and you an play as many times as you want. The other parts of the game get quite old fast, especially the Minigames and the Toy Field. A longer Challenge Mode would have been very nice, but I guess we're out of luck.

Fun? - 5/10 or 10/10
When you first play, you might not like it thanks to the difficult controls. After a while you will get used to it, making it a perfect fun factor. It's just the time in between that gives this category a 5, as games should always be fun right from the start, and not take time to get used to. The whole point of the Mario Sports series is for everyone to be able to play, and young kids may find this game to hard and get bored of it fast. But, as I say, once you get used to it, it's a blast, especially if you are playing against a friend!

The CPU - 5/10
Annoying, cheap, and to hard/to stupid. When they are batting, they will get a hit almost every time they are losing, and once they start winning, they will never hit the ball. They play defense as if there is no tomorrow, almost always making plays that a human player can never seem to pull off. Then, when it comes to the bases (while you are at bat), they are pretty dum as they always run no matter what ball it is. It is impossible (I just can't do it) to steal a base while you are batting, yet the AI does it with no trouble. That is indeed annoying, and gives this category a 5.

The verdict is.... - 7/10
I have pointed out all of the bad parts to the game. Does it mean this game is crap? OF COURSE NOT!!!. The game is a lot of fun, well put together, and is a very nice pastime game for the GCN. Despite the problems, if you are playing with another player, it is very fun as you don't have to worry about the cheap AI tricks while they are at bat.

+ It's a Mario Sports game, and they have never upset, and this doesn't change that
+ Graphics are lovely
+ Sound is very nice, especially with the Dolby Surround ability
+ Whole cast of classic Nintendo licenced characters for you to play with
+ Takes a new twist on baseball with certain hazards in the field which will effect several shots

- Those hazards in the field, however, will almost always work against you, and work for the CPU (meaning it's good for them, which gets annoying)
- The AI is cheap, to smart on the CPU team, and to dumb on your team
- Not enough stadiums
- Not enough players for team captains, you should be able to chose from all of them, not just 12
- More modes would have been nice

Buy/Rent/Even Bother?
This depends. If you don't like baseball, you should probably rent it first. If you have never played a Mario Sports game before, renting would be the smart thing to do.

If you feel confident enough, then go ahead and buy it. I assure you that you won't be disappointed. Mario Superstar Baseball will provide hours upon hours of entertainment and fun, whether you are playing alone or not. It does take a while to get used to, but once you do, it is one of the best games in the series.

The game is fun. There are some shortfalls, but it is still just plain fun. Get out there, give it a try, see what you think. I focused mainly on the things that might make you agitated, but there are several great parts to the game also mentioned. Give it a try, you won't regret it!


Mario Superstar Baseball - Nintendo / Namco

Rating:   3.5 - Good

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