Good: Variety of shots and weapons, music, online play
Bad: Gameplay gets old after a bit, annoying A.I., unskippable cutscenes
Considering the Mario gang has dabbled in go-karting, baseball, tennis, and 3-on-3 basketball, I was really hoping to see them take on football. Unfortunately, we're stuck with soccer. Despite my (and 99% of the rest of the country's) complete apathy towards the yawn-inducing sport, Nintendo has managed to make it semi-entertaining to play. For a while.
Mario Strikers Charged is the sequel to the Gamecube original, a title that was met with mostly positive (but not overwhelmingly so) reviews. I was a little concerned with how soccer gameplay would translate to the Wii's remote and nunchuk. Thankfully, Nintendo kept motion control to a minimum, perhaps accurately predicting that it wouldn't have many useful applications in this sport. A quick flick of the remote will cause your character to perform a big tackle, and you'll point at the screen to block "megastrike" charges.
These megastrike attacks are impressive when you first see them, but they quickly become tiresome thanks to the unskippable animations. I had no problem with watching Donkey Kong rain down lightning-enhanced soccer balls the first couple of times, but I just wanted to skip the animation after that. Despite their annoying nature, they're crucial to scoring. They can only be performed by your team captain, and you can score upwards of six goals with them. Pulling them off is difficult against anything besides the easiest A.I. opponent, however. You have to get fairly far away from the defenders, considering that it takes several seconds to charge up. After the charge is complete, a meter appears on the screen that determines the amount of balls kicked, as well as their speed. If you hit the maximum amount of balls at the maximum speed, you'll usually rack up at least 3-4 goals.
Just like every other Mario sports game, there are a variety of powerups. You'll recognize most of them from the Mario Kart series, including green and red shells, bananas, mushrooms, and stars. One especially useful powerup is the ice shell that bounces around the field, freezing defenders in their tracks. Each field contains their own unique hazards, as well. The desert field features falling Thwomps, the mountaintop field features wind-tossed debris, and other courts feature muddy courts, lightning, and other obstacles.
Wii owners should be happy that they now have a competent online-enabled game for their system. While you'll have to use friend codes to play against those you know, it features a random matchmaking system for ranked games. Even better, you can challenge opponents with a teammate sitting right next to you in your house. Going against two online opponents with a friend really is a blast.
I was actually very impressed with the visuals in Mario Strikers. The last Mario offering (Mario Party 8) didn't even include widescreen support. Strikers features widescreen support as well as progressive scan, and the graphics are sharp and vivid. Even better is the soundtrack, which omits the standard copy-and-paste Mario music for much more lively tunes. There's a large variety of tracks, and most of them are great (especially Luigi's intro music).
Despite the entertaining online gameplay, it gets old very fast if you're playing single-player. The A.I. isn't developed enough, and is either terrible or terribly cheap. If you can see yourself playing online a lot (or play a lot of local multiplayer), Strikers Charged might be worth checking out. If you're looking for a solid single-player experience, however, you might want to look elsewhere.
First Play: 8.0
Replay Value: 7.0