Game: Mario Super Sluggers
The previous generation’s Mario baseball game, Mario Superstar Baseball on the Gamecube, was a fun and quirky installment in the Mario sports franchise. Like all Mario sports games, the game added its own bizarre twists to the classic baseball game, and the result was some good, silly fun. A Wii sequel seemed like a no-brainer, as all they had to do was add the motion controls from Wii Sports onto the already-enjoyable Mario baseball formula to score a hit. Unfortunately, Mario Super Sluggers goes into foul territory with wonky controls and lackluster gameplay.
At first glance, there is a lot to like about Super Sluggers. It’s loaded with primary colors, of course, but it’s not terrible-looking; and the baseball island paradise where Mario and company play seems like a pleasant place to be. In addition to various tutorials and exhibition games, there are also several baseball-related mini-games to play to mix things up a little bit. They make the game feel more like Mario Baseball Party and some are more fun than others. These mini-games are good for improving your skills when you only have a few minutes to play, but don’t offer any kind of extended enjoyment. There is also a challenge mode that turns baseball into sort of an adventure game as Mario and Luigi travel to various parks in order to recruit players to eventually play against Bowser and his gang.
Of course, you probably want to know about the actual baseball, as that is what the game is really all about. Up to four players can participate in a game, either on the same team or facing off against each other, and there are over 40 Nintendo characters to unlock and choose from, in addition to using your Miis. Of course, there is more to Mario’s type of baseball than simply pitching, hitting, and fielding; both batters and fielders can use special power-ups, and you’ll sometimes find items like bombs or turtle shells making their way through the field to shake things up.
Like several other Wii games, players have their choice of control schemes. In addition to using the remote pointed at the TV, you can also hold the remote sideways, or attach a nunchuk. With multiple ways to play the game, you would think that at least one of these control options would be ideal, but you would be wrong. Using the remote for batting is fine, and pretty much exactly what you would expect it to be (carefully timed swings, with some power-ups and special moves thrown in), but if you choose to use the remote in the field, the controls are completely dumbed-down to the point of being insulting. Fielders will automatically run towards any ball and throw to the right base without aiming, and often I saw players make catches that should have been completely out of their range.
Fortunately, you are allowed to switch up the controls when you head to the outfield if you want to attach a nunchuk and actually have some control over your team. With the nunchuk, you can aim your throws and move yourself towards a ball—yes, imagine doing that in a baseball game! Nunchuk controls are also necessary when batting if you want your base runners to steal a base or keep running. However, playing like this kind of defeats the purpose of playing a Wii game with motion-sensitive controls, so you might as well just go back to playing Mario Superstar Baseball on the Gamecube.
When playing alone, I ended up having more fun going through the challenge mode than playing exhibition games against the computer. Like I stated before, the challenge mode brings an adventure aspect to the sports game, as you must recruit a solid team and defeat Bowser in a game of baseball. There are different ways to get new teammates; sometimes just talking to them is enough, other times you must help them out in some way or win a baseball-related challenge in order to recruit them. If it sounds totally silly, well, it is, but you didn’t come to Mario Super Sluggers expecting a serious, straightforward baseball game; if you did, you are totally in the wrong place.
In addition to the questionable controls, the main problem with this game is that there really aren’t any significant improvements over its predecessor, and definitely not any to make this game worth fifty bucks. Playing a game or two with friends, or screwing around in the challenge mode, might be good ways to spend a Sunday afternoon, but Mario Super Sluggers severely lacks any kind of addictive quality that games like this should have. While I did have some fun playing the game both with a friend and by myself, it wasn’t long before I was ready to move on.