Nearly 15 years after the last Mario soccer game, Mario Strikers: Battle League looks like a promising return for Nintendo's beloved sports franchise. ComicBook.com was invited to a special hands-off preview for the game where we had the opportunity to see Nintendo's Treehouse staff play against one another and against CPU opponents. Given the popularity of the previous two games, there are high expectations for Next Level Games, but the developer seems to have something special in the works.
For those unfamiliar with the series, Mario Strikers: Battle League takes the core gameplay of soccer while adding in greater speed and physicality. That means players can tackle and slam into one another on the field without any fear of penalties. Grabbing a glowing orb also allows players to perform a Hyper Shot, which is worth two points if successful. The Treehouse staff seemed to struggle to pull off the timing, so it's definitely not a sure thing. The game also does not feature any kind of "mercy rule" for players that find themselves too far behind, but the losing team does end up getting more items to use during matches, similar to the way Mario Kart gives better items to those lagging behind.
In Battle League, players select a team of four players, each with their own distinct strengths and weaknesses. Players can also purchase new gear for their players, allowing them to customize their favorites in different ways. For example, Bowser is stronger and slower, so players might opt to amp up his strength even more or work to make him faster. Players will have to be strategic with these choices, however, as each piece of gear has both positive and negative effects.
When Nintendo announced the playable characters, many fans lamented the game's smaller roster and notable omissions. During the session, Nintendo informed us that the game will see multiple free post-launch content drops, including new playable characters. Nintendo has not yet revealed who will be joining the cast, but there are a number of fan-favorite characters that could still make the cut -- including Daisy.
The game's playable characters really stuck out during the preview session. Developer Next Level Games received a lot of praise for the animation in Luigi's Mansion 3, and it seems the team might have outdone themselves with Battle League. The characters are brimming with personality, and there are so many fun little details worth noting. From the way Rosalina floats on the field to the way Wario carries the ball in hand, it's clear that a lot of thought and effort went into bringing the game's world to life.
A similar amount of effort seems to have been placed on the game's stadiums. There is a handful to choose from, and in a cool inclusion, the stadium that the player picks and the opponent's stadium are actually combined, resulting in strange amalgams that might be half Spooky Mansion and half Jungle Retreat. During a season, teams will start out with sparse-looking stadiums, but they'll be able to customize and upgrade them in various ways; the fences, decorations, goals, and field can all be improved.
While Mario Golf: Super Rush and Mario Tennis Aces both included RPG-inspired single-player modes, that won't be the case for Mario Strikers: Battle League. Instead, players will be able to unlock more gear for the game's playable characters by playing the various Cups. Cup battles are offline only, but 1-4 players can participate locally.
From the preview event, Mario Strikers: Battle League seems really promising. The gameplay looks fast and frantic, and the character animations are nothing short of excellent. My biggest concern after the event is that the game might be a little light on content at launch, which is a problem I recently had with Nintendo Switch Sports. However, if the online gameplay ends up being as good as it looks, it's not hard to imagine players sinking quite a bit of time into Mario Strikers: Battle League after it drops on June 10th.
Are you looking forward to Mario Strikers: Battle League? Do you plan on checking out the game next month? Let us know in the comments or share directly on Twitter at @Marcdachamp to talk all things gaming!