This Review is on the usual 0-4 star scale. 0 is a strikeout, 4 is a home run, in baseball terms (if youíre batting, that is).
Mario Superstar Baseballís graphics are awesome, being probably the best graphics for a Mario game besides Luigiís Mansion. Everything is crisp and clean. Sure, theyíre cartoonish, but that fits the Mario style. The biggest complaint I have about the graphics is the Challenge mode mapÖ those clouds above Bowserís castle donít look right. But on the field, pretty much everything looks fantastic. My biggest compliment to the graphics is about the fans. In this game, as compared to many other sports games, you can see the fans very clearly. Namco went to great detail in showing lots of different Mario characters in the stands. Great job there, especially.
The music here isnít very memorable. I like hearing the original Mario tune at Peachís field, but most of the other music isnít anything great. It isnít bad, though. The characters are generally not annoying- save for one. Lakitu has the most annoying voice. Heís the one you hear saying ďStriiiiiike!Ē Thatís enough for me to really hurt the rating of the sound, because you hear it over and over again, and I canít stand hearing that voice of his over and over again. Oh yeah, Bowserís voice stinks. I donít want him to have a real voice, which I assume he got in Super Mario Sunshine. He sounded much better on the Nintendo 64.
Donít get me wrong, it is great to see characters such as Dry Bones, Hammer Brother, Magikoopa, Paragoomba, and even Dixie Kong in this game. But there are multiple problems with the character choices:
-There are not enough characters. Although there may be 54 total choices of characters when it comes to colors, you cannot have more than one of the same character on a team, so there are really only 32 characters- not enough for even four full teams. There went my idea of a Mario Superstar Baseball tournament that I was going to do, and fill all of you in on. Instead, you do not have nearly enough choices.
-There needed to be more older characters. I donít mind Noki and Pianta showing up, if there are more older characters. Charginí Chucks played baseball, and remember Baseball Boy? What about characters like Boom Boom, Snifit, or *gasp* the Koopalings? Instead, we ended up with a shortage of characters, and had such characters been in the game, this wouldnít have been a problem.
Shockingly, Mario Superstar Baseball isnít all that difficult of a game. I may just be used to winning at baseball video games, but considering how different this game is from your average baseball game, it canít all be about that. Even the Special Cup level isnít that difficult. Iím not saying you wonít lose. In fact, you will lose a few games on each level, but itís not like some of the other Mario Cube games where you lose and lose and lose and lose and it takes you forever to win. One suggestion if you have difficulty batting: turn on the ďEasyĒ batting option, to help you know where your bat is swinging. This isnít cheating; in fact, most, if not all, baseball games since the N64 have a batting aid. This is standard in baseball games, so playing without the aid is actually more difficult than a simulation baseball game. You will get frustrated with some stupid things in this game, which I will explain later, but it shouldnít stop you from winning and unlocking all the characters. The mini-games can be quite difficult to beat on the higher levels, however, I will admit.
Controls: no stars
This is hands-down the biggest problem of Mario Superstar Baseball. Besides one particular Mario game named after the type of weather at the beach, these are the worst controls Iíve ever had to deal with in a video game, period. First, thereís the fielding. You control your players with the control stick, and A jumps, while A and a direction dives. But the same control stick and button control your throwing! So, you may be running to get the ball, and then you want to throw the ball. You want to throw it to third, but you were just running to the right to get the ball, so you accidentally throw the ball to first. Many, many times the game will throw the ball to the wrong base. Why wasnít the C-Stick used? The C-Stick just sits there, while it could have been used for quick throwing. Just slap the stick in a direction, and you throw to the corresponding base. No, gamers are scared of too many buttons and control sticks, remember? So we end up with terrible fielding controls.
Then thereís the pitching. Itís almost impossible to throw a breaking ball! You want to throw the ball to one direction, so it curves. But even though youíre hitting the control stick, itís not happening. Why not? Ask Namco. With some pitchers, it works, and with some, it doesnít. Why not? Again, ask Namco. I donít have any idea.
And how about the batting! You want to hit the ball on the ground, to avoid a pop-up, so you hold your control stick up. Yet this makes your player move up in the batterís box, while you may want to keep your player back in the batterís box. Why do buttons and control sticks have to have two functions? Why canít other buttons or control sticks be used? Why is there such an emphasis on the A button and that one control stick? This is not intuitive! This is not innovative! This is stupid!
Oh, but thatís not the end of it. When you try to use Stars, sometimes they just wonít work! Youíll press R, even hold it down, and try to use a Star swing, but nothing happens! Whatís the point of having the Star, then? Itís so frustrating.
And how about running? You have to press the button twice to get your player to turn around, not to mention having to tell your player to run fast (shouldnít players run at full speed, period?). Sometimes this leads to me having to cross my left hand across the controller to tap the B button while my right hand uses the Y and X buttons. This is ridiculous. L and R should have been used for advancing and retreating runners, like in normal baseball games (it makes sense). Players should not need to be told to run fast by repeatedly tapping the B button. I know that in Major League Baseball, players often use what my sister and I call ďbaseball effortĒ, or little effort, and they chug around the bases instead of running hard. But this is a video game, not real life, so we shouldnít have to tell our runners, ďRun fast, Troopa! Faster! Faster!Ē
There is no change player button. Instead, the game changes players for you on its own. So one moment you may be controlling Paragoomba in center field, and the next moment youíre controlling Magikoopa in left field. Thatís genius. Actually, Iím being sarcastic, as itís really just plain stupid.
And can you believe that these awful, awful controls do NOT ruin this game? That might be the most unbelievable thing about this game. Still, the controls are really, really bad, and this needs to be known.
These players need some baseball sense. On a pop-up, or most fly balls, you do not just sprint to the next base. You first stay near your base to see if the ball is going to be caught or not, then you run to the next base. How come these players donít use baseball common sense? Instead, they just run around like robots. This is the first baseball game on a 64-or-more-bit system that Iíve had to tell my runners to retreat after a fly ball is caught. These players will run and run and run and wonít turn around, even if the ball has been caught. This is just flat-out stupid, and thus youíll hit into quite a few double plays and triple plays, even if you know about the stupid players, because sometimes they take off too fast for you to turn them around in time.
The Star pitches are a very good addition to the gameplay. The Star hitting works sporadically, and when it does, it doesnít really help you very much (it at least hasnít helped me very much). But the pitches are basically automatic strikes, although occasionally you can hit some of the playersí Star pitches. Star pitches of non-team captains are nothing special, so they arenít really worthwhile. Star pitches (and Star swings) take up one Star for your team captain, two Stars for a team captain who is on your team but not your captain (for example, Birdo on the Yoshi Eggs), and one Star for a non-team captain (like Goomba). Bowser and Bowser Jrís Star pitches are the easiest to hit; Daisy and Peachís are near-impossible to hit.
The slow ball, or change-up, is used by holding your control stick down at the right moment. While this, like the rest of the controls, is no guarantee that it will work, if it does work, it is very hard for a live opponent to actually make contact with the ball. My sister started pitching all slow balls to me, and I couldnít hit them. I had to start bunting on every pitch. This isnít good gameplay; it should be much more possible to hit slow balls. They should be harder to hit, but you should be rewarded with a more powerful hit if you do connect.
It is very easy to get back to a former base if you start running towards a base where youíll easily get thrown out at (like trying to steal second and the ball getting there way before you). If you turn around and start tapping B, youíll easily make it back in time. This allows you to gamble a lot more than you would in most baseball simulations, where youíd usually end up having to run back and forth for a long time in order to avoid getting out.
The baseball fields add extra challenges. At Yoshiís stadium, Piranha Plants pop up. At Warioís stadium, Chain Chomps and whirlwinds can change a fly ballís flight. At Bowserís stadium, youíd better make sure that you donít let a fair ball roll into lava, as I did following a Hammer Brother triple, and he was awarded an extra base. These are a nice touch to the game.
Overall, the gameplay is pretty good. Itís not excellent gameplay, as found in such baseball gems as the N64ís All-Star Baseball 2000 and the Xboxís MVP Baseball 2003, but it is quite competent in its own right.
Challenge Mode: **½
Challenge Mode is the heart of this game, where you unlock everything. You choose one of five team captains: Mario, Yoshi, Peach, Donkey Kong, or Wario, and you take their team around a map and defeat the other four teams you spurned, unlocking a battle against Bowser. You can play the various mini-games for coins, or play a mini-challenge against Bowser Jr. for coins, and use these coins to purchase things like power-ups for your next game, or unlocking the special pitches for your team captains. As you play through games, you have lots of mini-challenges in each game that by completing them, you can get opposing players to join your team. There are also mini-challenges in each game to supposedly improve your own players, but I havenít been able to notice any tangible improvements in my players once Iíve completed them.
Overall, the mode is pretty good, but I wish there were more options to it. This is what was put in the game instead of something more fun like a season mode, which I really wanted. With the mini-games besides Bob-omb Derby being usually too hard to win at a normal rate, I only play Bob-omb Derby in this mode, not wanting to lose coins by playing the other mini-games and losing. The Bowser Jr. challenge is a nice, quick challenge, but if you lose, you also lose half your coins, so beware. Avoid bumping into him if you donít want to play him.
Iíll split these up into the different mini-games.
Bob-omb Derby: ****
This is the best home run derby-style mode Iíve ever played in a baseball game, period. It seriously is the best. There are five different types of Bob-ombs that will shoot out of the machine, and by hitting them, you gain points. You want to get a certain number of points to beat the mini-game. The different Bob-ombs come out at different speeds, and sometimes youíll get a ?, not knowing what will come out. This makes this mini-game a fun challenge, something really worthwhile playing. Itís great playing against a live opponent, and playing it solo is fun too.
Wall Ball: *
Wall Ball is pretty random. Although the game would like you to think that the meter tells you how hard youíre pitching the ball, and thus how many walls the ball will go through, it usually does different things for you and for computer players. You want your pitch to stop on the music note wall, for 100 points, and not on the Bowser wall, which will lose half your points to your opponents. The randomness loses any sort of fun from this mini-game.
Chain Chomp Chase: *½
In this game, you want to collect as many gems as possible while the Chain Chomp is sleeping, but you want to stop running when he awakes. However, you usually donít get much of an advantage from being a faster runner than an opponent, and with the strange controls, you often wonít stop in time to avoid getting chomped, and losing half your coins.
Barrel Batter: ½
Youíre supposed to aim your hits in this mode to hit barrels that have similar colors to each other, and thus knock out a whole bunch of barrels at once. It is very hard to aim your hits, however, and thus makes this another random mini-game.
Piranha Panic: no stars
This is the worst mini-game, as you keep on getting hit by fireballs while trying to throw certain colored eggs at certain colored Piranha Plants. Itís a waste of time.
Coin Dash: **½
You run around collecting coins. Not much deeper than your average Mario Party mini-game, but not any worse than the four previously mentioned mini-games (besides Bob-omb Derby).
Toy Field: no stars
Toy Field is a mode in itself, but it is so poor that you ought to completely skip it altogether. Basically, itís a four-player mode where one player pitches, one bats, and two field, and the players rotate doing these tasks. There are tiles on the field that cause different things to happen, and you want to gain coins. Itís so random, though, as I went from having lots of coins to no coins to lots of coins, and it really has nothing to do with skill whatsoever at all. Itís a waste of a mode.
You can play this game against live opponents, and it can last quite a while. However, the appeal of computer matches dies quickly after you unlock every characterÖ I guess you may want to get MVP with every character, but thatís about it. Itís multiplayer matches that will make this game last, though with no season mode, not as long as I would have liked.
Fun Factor!: ****
Hereís the most important thing about this game: itís a whole lot of fun. This fun is what overcomes the terrible controls and the lack of a season mode. The fun of these baseball games is what has made me love playing Mario Superstar Baseball. If only the controls were fixedÖ
What if. What if the controls werenít so bad? What if the game had a season mode? What if the game had many more characters? What if the players were smarter on the basepaths? What if the mini-games were better? These things stop Mario Superstar Baseball from being an excellent game. It is already a good game, one I definitely recommend to any Mario fan or baseball fan. But it is not an excellent one, not one that could go down in history as being one of the greatest Mario games ever, as I had hoped. Instead, it goes down as a good game, but not quite what I had hoped when the game was first announced. Itís a disappointment, though not nearly as disappointing as I thought. It is certainly worth buying, as this game is a fun, if flawed, baseball game.
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