2 Gamers Review one Game

Friday, September 09, 2005

Mario Superstar Baseball - Review

Here's the drill. I take a shot at the game, then harshly has his take. Thanks for checking!

Mario Superstar Baseball - Review - Gamecube - Picky Pants

Mario Superstar Baseball is one of the few sports games I will ever review, not to mention play. I have not been a fan of the sports genre since Ice Hockey. The Mario sports genre, however, has always been enjoyable to play due to the personality of the game, and the oversimplification of the gameplay mechanics.

In a group of four, the best time to play the Gamecube, you will invariably have players not up to snuff at games with a steep learning curve. Having a newer player "pick up" a game of Super Smash Bros. Melee and get destroyed by the pros is essentially telling them, "Don't even bother trying to play videogames with us." This is where the Nintendo sports line has been helpful. In getting those lesser gamers a chance to have a good time, but not to button mash their way to victory.

Nintendo has dealt with its audience very well in the last few years by making their first and second party software incredibly easy to pick up, with just enough depth for the hardcore gamer to get excited. The best recent example would be the addition of the "gunner" seat in the Mario Kart franchise. With the older Mario Kart games, there would more often than not be someone who knew all the Kart levels, (normal and mirrored) knew when to drift-boost and knew all the shortcuts. The problem with that was when they were racing against 3 other players, that person would never see their competition, save a random blue shell. Adding the option of a "gunner" seat in your Kart allowed one player to just relax, and focus on aiming shells. Easy for them, fun for everyone. The depth came in when two good players were in a kart together, they could assist each other in turning, stealing items, and dual drift-boosting. By giving their players accessibility, and eventual depth, Nintendo makes games that are attractive to get together and play.

But I digress. This is a review about Mario Superstar Baseball. From the moment you turn it on, you know this is a Nintendo sports game. I say that because of the unbelievably long animated CG video before the start screen. I swear to God, are these things getting longer? I thought I had seen enough of Waluigi and Wario's goddamned ridiculous antics in Mario Tennis. Hell, I thought the 10 minute Mario Tennis CG video was long. (made longer by the ninten-dolarious out takes during the credits) Nothing prepared me for the length of MSB's intro video. I went to get a glass of scotch and a pop-tart and came back and that video was still on. Amazing.

Mario Superstar Baseball is Nintendo's latest "new" sports franchise. I say "new" in quotes, beecause this game feels like a sequel to Nintendo's old school, RBI Baseball. Which, coincidentally, was the last baseball game I played. Mario, Luigi, and Bowser replace old favorites from RBI like "Drryl Stwbry" and "Rgr Clmns."

The first thing that jumped out at me was a lack of 4 player support for the actual game. This seems like bad news to me. People buy the GC for the 4-player support, and this game lacks such support for the main baseball game. I know baseball is a game typically played with 2 people, but come on! Can't Nintendo split pitching and out fielding to two players? There are
9 people on a team, you would think they could do something. But no. They do give you 4 player support for a bunch of mini-games, but a bunch of mini-games does not a rewarding experience make (As demonstrated by the Mario Party franchise) The fact that the game is called Mario Superstar Baseball and that you can't "baseball" with 3 other people is pretty aggravating.

The two player ballgame is like you would expect. Loads of crazy Mario characters doing their crazy Mario thing, jumping, whooping, and back flipping around the field catching crazy bomb shaped fly balls and engaging in tom foolery of all sorts. The gameplay mechanic is tight, controls are responsive, and the game just makes sense. No rocket science here. I am not a baseball game purist, but if you are, you might not like the looseness of the mechanics.

Then again, if you were a baseball game purist, you wouldn't probably own a Gamecube in the first place.

One really cool part of the game is selecting your team. After choosing a team captain from Nintendo's finest, you then select 8 additional players for your in and outfield. With a staggering 32+ characters to choose from, MSB makes it easy for both players to choose unique team members. Each character is divided into four categories: Balanced, Speed, Technique and Power, and they are all rated in hitting, pitching, fielding and running. Choosing a team requires a certain amount of strategy, allowing you to pick a perfect team to combat your weaknesses. If you suck at fielding but excel at bat, you can populate your team with runners and fielders, giving you a huge outfield edge, but when its your turn at bat, you must rely more heavily on your own timing and skill. It is reminiscent of the NES game Ice Hockey where you could play with a team of fatties, or a team of skinnies, or one fatty and three skinnies etc. It can be incredibly amusing to choose, for example, Bowser, Wario, Donkey Kong (who doesn't use a bat, hitting instead with a boxing glove on his fist. Awesome) Petey Piranha, the fat marina people from Mario Sunshine and King Boo. Interestingly enough, in order to have so many playables from the Mario universe they had to scrape the bottom of the barrel to accommodate. Any character with so much of a cameo from older Mario games is ready to play. Skeleton Koopa, Para-goomba, and the dude who owns the hotel/casino you save in Mario Sunshine all are extending their 15 minutes. I just wish Ludwig Von Koopa was here.

Once the game starts though, there is a glaring fault. Much like the annoying as hell "Star Moves" in Mario Tennis, all of your batters and pitchers have "Star Pitches and Swings" in order to add the unneeded element of randomness to the game. Can't play very well? No problem, just toss a ball that is impossible to hit! Obviously the number of Star Moves you have are limited, but that doesn't stop them from being exacerbating. The strategy quickly goes from hitting and fielding to saving up your star points for a scoreless 8th inning. Cheese. Certain people feel this addition is acceptable, and adds to the late game strategy, that could very well be, but I for one, do not have the time or inkling to develop that late game. It can be turned off in the options menu like Tennis, but the problem I have with it is the wasted time they spent developing the special graphics and the lack of time spent balancing the moves themselves. Adding to this nuisance is another problem ported from Mario Tennis, which is "random playing field mishaps." Thankfully there is a standard field with nothing but grass, chalk lines, and sunshine. Other than that, there are 4 stages full of annoying random elements. Nothing is more hateful than hitting a well timed shot to left field for a double and having a piranha plant eat and spit your ball to an outfielder for a catch they would have never made. Ugh. Cheese. If adding that element to the game is up your alley, so be it, but I like to win on my own merit and skill, thank you very much.

As for the other game modes, there is an abysmal 4-player mini-game arena where you and 3 friends can run around and collect gems, or hit homeruns over and over. Not both at the same time mind you, that might be marginally fun or challenging. No the mini-games look like they were added so the back of the box would say "1-4 player simultaneous."

Other than that, there is a pretty awesome one player game that is akin to an RPG. You walk around a little map, and try to build your team, leveling up their attributes along the way. Its actually really fun, and a great way to get introduced to the gameplay. The problem is, of course, people don't buy Mario Superstar Baseball for a one-player experience, do they?

All in all, the game is fun. The controls are tight, the visuals are bright and entertaining. And the characters are, as always Nintendo-rific. Waluigi particularly. The lack of four player support and the cheese-tastic star moves keep this game from being a buyer for me. If you have less than talented gamer friends who really like baseball, it might be worth a rental. This game is a long hit fly ball that is caught out right before going over the wall. It's too bad.

Picky Pants

Mario Superstar Baseball - Review - Gamecube - Harshly_Von_Smokenstein

Mario Superstar Baseball. First of all, sports and Nintendo have always married to have some really ugly kids. There is a reason that EA Sports has been slowly shying away from the Gamecube and favoring the Xbox and PS2. That reason is probably associated with the fact that, yet again, Nintendo decided to make a Macy Day Parade out of a sporting venue. Big Fat Cartoony Characters floating their way through a concept.

The genius though, is unintentional. Let me explain.

The Gamecube is tailored for a younger audience. Poke-players, if you will. These little fucks are the snotty nosed 8 year olds who tug on their mother's sleeves in Toys R Us and whine about not having the 7th installment of Mario Party. But Nintendo knows that this categorum of player is invaluable as anyone will pay any amount of money to shut these rat-bag shits up.

But, a side effect, is that most of Nintendo's multiplayer titles work beautifully with drunken video game play. Drunken party play. I'm talking games that are perfect when the hookers have gone home to leave you and three friends at to your own devices at 5 AM. Specifically "more beer" and the "Gamecube."

Back to the game. Mario Superstar Baseball pretty much falls from the same mold as Mario Tennis, Super Smash Bros, and Mario Kart.

I'm sure you remember back in 1994, while stuffing your trapper keeper into your locker, you whispered "Man, it would be so awesome if there was a game where Mario and Link and ____ and _____ all did _____."

Well, Nintendo did it again. All those plucky characters you love and perhaps have no to rememberemember swinging at stink-bombs and spikey projectiles.


Come on. Nintendo...don't you realize that if all 3 of our friends aren't kept busy simultaneously they'll just end up passing out in a puddle of urine choked vomit?

Ok, ok. Mechanics.

Control is fairly responsive. Very low learning curve. Nothing new there.

Graphics are predictable. Big huge cartoony characters are a must when one's vision is failing due to blood alcohol content. Sober, they are fairly delicious in a guilty way. The thought "I shouldn't think this is good..." will wander through your skull.

Replay value? Well, depends on how much you deserve to have sex I guess. An outgoing, charismatic individual with plenty of friends and/or a girlfriend/boyfriend will probably not pick this off the shelf as often as some of the other titles available.

Now, if you are a lonely gamer who collects these "Mario and Pals" themed games just to capture random up-skirt shots of Princess Peach during a fortuitous pause...then you'll probably enjoy the hell out of the game.

Or if you are a little whiney kid.

Ultimately, I have to say that this game is probably a decent weekend rental, but definitely not worth purchasing.

All that bullshit about mini-games and other such "extras"...I trust you, the consummate gamer reader. I trust you not to buy a game based on what mini-games are available.

After all, if such a decision was made in this way, no one would ever play Super Monkey Ball.



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