Thursday, September 11, 2008

Mario Super Sluggers Review

Hello hello. Very exciting week, what with the new Apple products, and other things, but today, you get the review for the latest Mario sports game for the Wii!!!!! Super Mario Sluggers!!!!!!!

I know...exciting right? Okay...maybe not the greatest game in the history of time, but it's better than nothing. You can check the review over at Classic VFH.

I still semi-plan to make a post about multiple iPhone games, but am very lazy, so not sure when I'll get around to it. If you are a Nintendo fan though, I should be getting my hands on Wario Land: Shake It and Kirby Superstar Ultra, so keep your eyes open for those by the end of September.
UPDATE (3/22/10) VFH Classic is dead:

Mario Super Sluggers brings America’s favorite past time to the Wii, combining it with the Mushroom Kingdom’s charm, but do these two places come together for a home run, or is it a foul?

The first thing you will want to note are the controls, and seeing as how this is a Wii game, it obviously utilizes the unique features. The game has a few control schemes, but I will only focus on the Wiimote-Nunchuk combo, as the Wiimote alone is just not good and doesn’t allow for as much control. There is a fairly in-depth tutorial that goes through most of the aspects of the game, such as hitting, pitching, and fielding, so it is a good idea to walk through these to get a feel for the controls, as they are a bit confusing at first. The pitching and hitting use the same timing mechanism, and neither are 1:1 like in Wii Sports. Instead, you pull back to start the “meter”, and then swing or throw at the appropriate time to perform those actions. When you pull back, a circle closes in on your character and represents the power. When the ring reaches your character, the power is at the max. With hitting, this makes your sweet spot marker smaller, making it harder to hit the ball, but if you do, you will have more power. You can bat and pitch without pressing any buttons, but you can perform special maneuvers with the use of the A and B buttons. If you hold both A and B, you can perform a star move, which is a character-specific technique which can generally secure either a strike or a base hit, if not a double. Luckily, neither move is over powered, so if you happen to collect a lot of star points, you won’t by any means secure a victory. With pitching, you can also throw a curve via the control stick or a change up by holding the A button. The main problem with these controls are simply controller recognition, as numerous times I had both A and B held down and I couldn’t do a star move, which was very frustrating, but aside from that, the controls held up. Obviously, you can also move left and right via the control stick.

You've got your star meters on the bottom, so you can see if you can use a special move, and if you can use an item, it will also be displayed. That sweet spot marker will get smaller as you charge your swing up, so figuring out exactly how you want to hit is key.

The fielding controls are pretty standard, but the AI and other automated movements were very upsetting. For one, when a ball is hit, it is very difficult to figure out which character you currently are in control of, and it will switch to whichever character is supposedly closest to the ball, making things even worse as you are trying to go one way, but then are automatically switched to another character. Also, when a ball is rolling on the ground, it is hard to pick it up. The AI characters won’t go near it, and you can be right beside it, but unless you run directly over the ball, you won’t pick it up, which can be very frustrating. It also takes a minute to really ingrain it in your head how the running and throwing work, with going to a specific base. If I am in the outfield and want to throw it to second, I hold down on the control stick, but that throws it straight to home base…You have to hold up on the control stick to throw it to second, but that is a bit counter intuitive in this case. Also, as far as I could tell, there is no way to throw it to anybody other than people on the bases, so making a double throw is impossible, which would be theoretically quicker than throwing the ball across the entire field and having it roll to a base. The AI also gets very frustrating when running bases. There may be an option, but I didn’t see it, so no matter what, the AI will run to the next base, even if he doesn’t have to. It is very difficult to keep track of all the characters, from the hitter to the other few people you may have on base, so when they automatically run, it can be painful, especially when you don’t want them to. There were plenty of times when I didn’t want or even think that the little toad would go for the next base, but of course he did and got out, urg. You can however, get them to run to the next base, go back, or steal, which are nice features, but I wish they wouldn’t run when they didn’t have to, completely throwing you off your groove and inducing you to shout at the tv.

One very important feature to consider while creating your team is the chemistry aspect. Certain characters have chemistry with one another, like Mario and Luigi, so placing them near each other has its perks, such as giving you special abilities and overall enhancing their performance. For this reason, it is very important to plan your line up for maximum benefit. For one thing, they can assist each other in the outfield, by both allowing them to jump higher to catch a ball or throw faster to get that double play. Also, while batting, if two players with chemistry are next to each other in the line up, you will be able to use an item. These items range from shells and bombs, to POWs and fireballs, all of which devastate the fielders if used correctly, allowing you to gain an extra base or two. The items are pretty fun, but kind of hard to use in practice, due to other controls. To use an item, you simply point on-screen and click the Z button, however, to sprint under any circumstances, you must shake the Wiimote like crazy, so you have a decision to make. You can sprint to first, or attempt to take out the unsuspecting fielder. However, if you miss with the item, you may very well get out, so it’s very difficult and unfortunate that you can’t do both.

Now that you’ve gotten a minute to get a handle on the controls and how the game works, you will want to start building up your team for ultimate dominance. To start, you’re going to want to play through the Adventure Mode, which will unlock a majority of the characters, but assuming you have already done that, then you will have your choice over 40 different characters, ranging from all over the Mario universe. You’ve got your standard Mario, Luigi, Peach, Bowser, and Yoshi, but you also have the likes of Donkey Kong, Dixie Kong, King Boo, Toad, Kremlings, Nokis, babies, and all kinds of other characters who I wont spoil for you. Also, the generic characters have a variety of color choices, which actually act as separate characters as they have different stats. The stats are general and include running, fielding, pitching, and hitting. Also, most characters have a special ability or two, giving them the upper hand in certain areas. You will want to look at both these special attributes and character chemistry when planning your roster, so this gives the game a good amount of depth.

Aside from exhibition play, the game’s main mode is Adventure Mode, which actually has little to do with playing baseball. The game throws you on baseball island, which is comprised of a variety of stadiums, each themed after a main character/captain. Naturally, Bowser Jr. wants to spoil everyone’s fun and take over the island, so you are tasked with the goal of building up a baseball team and beating Bowser Jr. in a game. So what you need to do is go from park to park, recruiting individuals as you go. Some of these characters are in plain site, while others are hidden and require a special character or action to be performed to speak with them. Most of these characters require you to pass a test before they will take your side, and these amount to simple little tasks, such as getting a double play, or throwing someone out, hitting the ball to a specific part of the field, or a variety of other such activities. Most of these must be done 3 times out of 10, or you fail, but you can always try again and most are very easy. Aside from recruiting, you will run into enemies, but you can do away with them in the same manner, with a little activity that you must accomplish. Once you make it to each area’s stadium, you must “fight” Bowser Jr., but most of the time, these again are little activities, but some let you play an inning or two of actual baseball, and if you win, you get to control a new captain, all of whom have a special ability that allows you to reach new areas where you can unlock and find new characters or items. Overall, the Adventure Mode is pretty basic, but has a few cool things going for it, and you will want to keep playing to unlock all of the characters and get everything the game has to offer, including mini-games.

Bowser Jr. doesn't think too highly of you, Mario, but I know you will pull through and defeat the forces of evil and take back the baseball stadiums for the good and down-trodden!!!

Each of the nine stadiums contains a mini-game, which have four levels of difficulty. These are all pretty cool and very varied, with some specializing in batting to try and hit certain objects, or throwing specific pitches to keep a piranha plant at bay, while another has you running around the bases trying to get treasure and avoiding a giant squid. There is even a cool pinball-like game. These games won’t keep you busy for too terribly long, but they are a good distraction, and with high scores, will give you something to brag about. Another side item is the Toy Stadium, which combines a variety of things together. You play with four people and one gets to hit while the other three field on a special field. The ground is lined with numbered sections, and the batter wants to rack up as many points as possible, while the fielders want the ball so they get the chance to bat. Before the pitch is thrown, the fielders choose, via slot machine, what kind of pitch with what speed will be thrown and what item the batter will get. Then the madness ensues. The player with the most points at the end wins, well, after the bonus points are divvied out that is.

Unfortunately, there are no other modes than the ones I’ve already talked about. You have your Adventure Mode and mini-games, and also the Exhibition Mode, however, that is all. There are no cups or tournaments, which is very disappointing. It is a baseball game, but actual baseball is pretty limited. Being a Mario sports game, you would expect to see a Mushroom, Flower, and Star cups, but alas, there is nothing of the sort. You don’t even have an option to start a tournament, even with friends, which is very mind-boggling. Luckily though, the exhibition mode is everything you would expect it to be, where you can set up your team and the opponents’, as well as their difficulty and all of the options, including whether to use items and star powers or not, as well as setting the number of innings. There are the nine stadiums to play on, all of which are very detailed and pleasing to the eye, with many of them containing some sort of special enemy or gimmick that makes the level unique and challenging to play on. These include King Bomb-omb who will throw bombs at fielders, or conveyer belts in the outfield to change the route of the balls.

While it looks impressions, these star powered hits won't get them over the fence, but instead, wreak havoc on the fielder trying to pick it out of the air, making these moves fair and balanced.

Overall, what the game contains is decent, with a good exhibition mode, good controls, fun mini-games, and a decently lengthed Adventure Mode, with a variety of characters to use. The game’s depth comes in the form of character chemistry, special abilities, and the running abilities you can perform, such as stealing a base. The controls take a minute to get used to, but once you have them down, you can perform some very satisfying maneuvers, such as diving for a whizzing ball and making a double play, or stealing a few bases under the pitchers nose, however, you may get a bit frustrated with the AI and the things they do or don’t do. Sadly, the game lacks a tournament system of any sort, including cups, which is a major disappointment, and the Adventure Mode doesn’t really make up for this. The hitting and pitching is satisfactory, with hitting requiring very good timing for best results, but it would have been nice to see more depth in these areas, such as 1:1 movement like what was seen in Wii Sports. However, Nintendo went fairly basic in this iteration, and it is very easy to see that this game is geared more for children and families looking for a casual experience, as opposed to those that want a hardcore baseball one.

Posted in cooperation with GamersPlatform.


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