A couple of days ago I went over to my brother’s house to play a few games with him and my twin sister. The first game we played was Mario Super Sluggers, a Mario baseball game for the Nintendo Wii. It is the follow up to Mario Superstar Baseball on the Gamecube.
To put this out there right at the get go, I am not a sports person by any means. I don’t watch sports, I don’t understand sports, I don’t find them particularly engaging and I was never particularly good at them when we played in school. Not bad, but never compelled to keep playing after the PE class was over for the day, if you understand.
That feeling of general ‘Eh’ toward all things sports transferred to my gaming sensibilities. Besides a few sparkling exceptions, like the inexplicable Mega Man Soccer, sports video games don’t appeal to me. But maybe the key is throwing characters in that I know and recognize, and making the gameplay less realistic and more goofy and fun. You know, appeal to me the same way they do children.
Mario Super Sluggers is exactly that kind of game. The controls are simple, the rules are condensed into the most basic principles that any one who picks up the Wii-mote can follow. No batting averages or complicated numerical stats. Swing bat. Hit ball. Blow someone up with Bob-omb. Simple.
As I mentioned above, everything about this game is simplified. It asks you two swing the Wii-mote to hit pitches, and to swing it to throw the ball around. That is pretty much it. You can change the kids of pitches you throw, and some characters have special moves, but using them is no more complicated than pressing B or A at the right time, or together. This is a positive: the simple controls make it fast paced and more compelling fun for cooperative play. Even when the controls get more complicated, as in the mini-games section, there are always hints and explanations on screen, as well as a page in the menu that explains what to do and how to do it whenever the play is confused enough to press pause.
To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t paying much attention to the sound. We were mostly yelling at each other, laughing at the silly plays and the funny ways characters lumber up to the plate or the item they used for their bats to really care. Like Donkey Kong punches pitches with a giant boxing glove. Awesome! Not regulation, but still awesome. They all have their own voices and sound effects, and what I do remember was bright and bouncy. It all must have worked, as it never distracted me enough from the play to really want to harp on it.
The colors are clear and fun, the movements fluid. There were no glitches in the two exhibition matches we played, and we played through all the mini-games without finding anything out of the ordinary. Characters have that typical Mario roundness to them, and their cartoony natures work well for the Wii’s graphic capabilities. The special moves are not too impressive, visually, which was slightly disappointing. It makes sense, in the long run, because if you’re using the moves each round it gets tedious to watch the animations each time.
I can’t comment on the story, because we did not play it. Honestly, though, I don’t think it would have mattered, anyway. The game was fun. A lot of fun. I would like to get it for my own collection, so I might play it in the same way I do puzzle games: when I’m looking for something interesting or fun, but don’t want to invest time and emotion into a story driven plot. I do think this game is better suited as a party game, though, than a stand alone epic. While I do think I would enjoy playing it while sitting alone in my room, I already know it wouldn’t be half as much fun as it was with my twin and brother playing with me.
So check out Mario Super Sluggers, play it alone first to get a feel for it, then bring in the friends and see the difference. Don’t take it too seriously, and enjoy!