Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Mario Superstar Baseball

Mario Superstar Baseball
Arcade-style Baseball Hits the Mushroom Kingdom

In the latest release in the Mario sports genre, Nintendo brings America's favorite pastime to the Nintendo GameCube with a bit of Mario flair. The title revolves around the classic gameplay mode and the various mini-game challenges that add to the depth of the game. Controlling your character can take a bit of time to get used to, but luckily Nintendo threw in a great practice mode which will bring players up to speed in no time. In the traditional mode, Mario and friends slug it out on one of several wacky baseball stadiums. Each player selects a captain and then fills the eight other positions with a variety of classic characters from the Mario franchise. Each team's captain then becomes the primary rivalry, usually sparking some heated moments during the matchup. The gameplay essentially revolves around batting, pitching and fielding. You move your character around and press buttons to swing or throw, but Nintendo beefs it up a bit with arcade-style moves and abilities. Players can perform charged swings or throws, or use Star Power to perform their character's special ability at the plate or on the mound. There is the simple exhibition mode which is a quick play setup, or you can enter into a sort of "story mode" in which you traverse a Mario Party style board to various stadiums in an effort to beat every team in the Mushroom Kingdom in order to earn the right to face off againt Bowser's squad. Beyond the traditional mode are the several challenging mini-games, ranging from a twisted version of Home Run Derby, to tossing Yoshi eggs at Pirahna plants, to hitting a ball at exploding barrels. Each mini-game provides a different scenario, and as you meet point requirements for each, the difficulty level increases.

Mario Superstar Baseball also offers several hidden characters, stadiums and addition mini-games unlockable when certain requirements are met. The title truly lends itself to a great multi-player experience, but the single-player mode can become repetitive for even the most hardcore Mario fan. The game is not without its flaws, either. Baserunning is too complicated and fielding in the traditional game mode can be a pain due to the small size of the ball, even with the aid of the built-in "circles" that show the ball's landing spot. Overall, Mario Superstar Baseball is a solid game, though it is best experience with others. Fans of traditional baseball games looking for in-depth gameplay and lots of customization options will probably find the game a bit lacking. But for those looking for an arcade-style baseball game that's great to play with others, Mario Baseball is the best title out there.

Score: 7 out of 10


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