Early Impressions of Mario Strikers Battle League First Kick

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It’s been over 15 years since Mario Strikers Charged was released, but a new Mario soccer game is finally being released with Mario Strikers Battle League on the Nintendo Switch. 

The game will be fully released on June 10th, but a demo is available June 3rd through June 5th for Nintendo Switch Online members. Mario Strikers Battle League First Kick can give players a taste of the gameplay to decide if they want to purchase the full title.

Things To Know About Mario Strikers Battle League First Kick

There’s a few important details surrounding this online demo that are worth taking into account:

  • The online play isn’t available all weekend; instead, there are certain 1-hour windows where the game will be active, and you can only play Mario Strikers Battle League during this window. For a complete schedule, check out the official page.
  • The available gameplay online is 2v2; this means you can either pair up with a friend or be paired with someone randomly. You cannot play the demo solo (unless your teammate happens to disconnect.)
  • You can still download the demo outside the online hours, but only the tutorial will be available. You can take the time to learn the mechanics of the game anytime, but online matches are only available during the 1-hour windows from June 3rd to 5th.

As such, the demo may not offer the full picture that some potential buyers would like to experience before purchasing. Still, the online play gives you a good feel for the gameplay itself.

Early Impressions Of Mario Strikers Battle League Gameplay

Mario Strikers Battle League offers the classic arcade soccer gameplay established in Super Mario Strikers and Mario Strikers Charged, but adds more depth to the mechanics. The result is a game with a higher learning curve and skill gap, but more longevity that could appeal to casual and competitive audiences alike.

Teams are split into 4v4, featuring classic Mario franchise characters (Nintendo has announced that more characters and arenas will be added after launch, free of charge.) While in previous games, players would be limited to just choosing Mario, Luigi, or Yoshi individually and surrounding them with Koopas, Birdos and Boos, you can now field a team entirely with those primary characters. Each character comes with different stats, which include:

  • Strength
  • Speed
  • Shooting
  • Passing
  • Technique

Additionally, the full game will have customizable gear that can change the default stats of characters, allowing for a wider customization of your team.

From a gameplay standpoint, Mario Strikers Battle League builds on the series’ established mechanics by offering more options along with “perfect moves.” Perfect moves are precisely-timed shots, passes, dodges or tackles that are better and stronger than the standard versions (a perfect pass, for example, is harder to pull off but cannot be intercepted by the opposing team.) Mastering the different timings of all the moves will be harder than previous Strikers games, but the payoff will be much more noticeable.

The animations and sounds are as lively as ever; characters have unique dribbling, shooting and tackling animations, and they all come with their own goal celebrations; there are also animations of utter despair when the opposing team scores on you. The different fields are vibrant but quite limited; hopefully future patches will provide more variety sooner rather than later.

The 4v4 format will be familiar to fans of the franchise, and each team has the same non-playable goalkeeper. Items have been altered to work similar to Mario Kart, in that boxes will be thrown on the field, which can be collected for use. Off-ball tackles will result in a box that has a team’s color being thrown, which can only be collected by said team.

A major change to the Mario Strikers formula is how hyper strikes work. Hyper strikes still provide two points instead of one; however, rather than hyper strikes being limited to the team captain, any character can perform them now; however, the ability to do hyper strikes has to be unlocked by collecting a Strike Orb which spawns on the map. When collected, everyone on the team will begin to glow and hyper strikes will be available to any teammate for a small period of time. There is a chance that a decent to good hyper strike can be saved by the opposing goalie; however a perfect strike will always score.

Having hyper strikes decentralized means that opponents can’t just focus on the team captain anymore to neutralize that threat, and there can be some decent strategy in playing around the Strike Orb. On the other hand, the fact that a randomly spawned collectible is needed to trigger hyper strikes means that one team could just happen to get most of the Strike Orbs. A slight difference in skill or luck could result in some matches being total blowouts.

The demo’s online gameplay was hit-or-miss; there are frame-drops and connection quality varies depending on the players involved in a match (a wired connection is highly recommended for online play.) When everything lines up though, the games feel smooth and engaging.

One gripe for veterans of the franchise might be the controller layout; all the new options for offense and defense will take some learning to remember exactly what buttons do what, and the current layout won’t feel intuitive (passing is set to the A button the pro controller, switching characters is the shoulder button, to name a couple.) While undoing the muscle memory of older games won’t be the hardest thing, here’s hoping the game offers the ability to customize your in-game controls.

With Mario Strikers Battle League to be released in full in less than a week, there is good reason to be excited. The game’s arcade-style charm is still in full force, and while the updated mechanics and new additions might steepen the learning curve a bit, the end result will be a much more engaging experience that both casual and hardcore players can find value in.