I’m old enough to remember the days when Mario was just a referee in sports. He didn’t care for the competition, he was just around to tell you that your tennis ball was out, or be the judge for your big heavyweight match against Mike Tyson. The one day, along came Wario, and everything became a competition. Some of the sports games produced by Nintendo have been awesome like Mario Tennis and Mario Superstar Baseball, the pinnacle of these games I would say is Mario Kart. Then you get lackluster titles like Super Mario Strikers and Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games. They’re not all winners, a lesson you should learn in sports. So we’re going to see how the latest Mario-themed games hold up in the 3DS release of Mario Sports Superstars.
The game gives you five competitions in which you can face off with people in: Soccer, Baseball, Golf, Tennis and Horse Racing. You will pick from an array of your favorite and not-so-favorite Mario world characters and face off in exhibition or tournament play. We’ll start with Soccer, where you will pick two primary characters as your star players with the rest of your team made up of all secondary characters like shyguys or goombas. The main two characters can do all the specialty moves while the rest a regulated to running around the field as passing points. I found the game tedious because in order to get an assured goal, you need to have the ball supercharged and glowing like a rainbow. Since only two people can pull this off on your team, you’ll need to use your other players to kick the ball around to charge it up, then pass it to the main guy for a goal. In other words, it’s a large waste of time until something cool happens, much like soccer.
The next game is Baseball, which offers some variety in that you still choose two people as the primary leaders, but the first person is your pitcher with the other is catcher. Depending on you who pick, you can get really brutal or extremely precise in your pitches. The rest of your team is made up of secondary characters you can choose from, but most of them have one of three types of hitting while their field skills are basic. The game is about as simplistic to baseball as you can get while feeling a sense of accuracy, it’s a nice addition to the game. Next up is Golf, which has not changed in it’s design and mechanics since the N64 days. If you’ve played any other version of Mario Golf, you’ve played this one, along with all the annoying factors about putting and placement that go along with it. It’s average at best, but that’s Nintendo-themed golf in a nutshell.
The forth game, Tennis, is probably the best and most advanced one on here. Tennis seems to be a pride for Nintendo as they continue to make version of this classic game better with time. The controls are easy to latch onto, especially when serving and doing power shots. The added feature of special attacks if you hit the ball at the right time and spot makes for super intense encounters. By far, this is the best game on here. Finally, we come to the worst, which is Horse Racing. In what feels like a dumbed-down version of every Zelda horse challenge you’ve ever done, you’ll kick the horses into gear and use the bumpers to steer them. It feels like a challenge, but ultimately it’s a race with so many possibilities to mess up, you’ll eventually lose to the computer through no fault of your own. The game could be so much more, but it just isn’t.
One of the nice additions to it is the Amiibo characters. This game uses special cards, which you can purchase like trading cards, and it includes at least one from every sport. Using the scanner, you’ll get characters who have their abilities raised in certain areas and makes them ideal for specific sports. Giving yourself an edge while still using a designated character. I managed to get a Baby Luigi who was awesome at golf as well as a Diddy Kong who was fantastic at Tennis. However, some of the other characters would classify as “above average.” Meaning they added in certain areas, but it didn’t make them dead-ringers in any particular area. For example, I got a Boo who was great at turning with Horse Racing, but was lacking in the other fields. Or a Rosalina in Soccer who had great power, but little addition in anything else.
Ultimately, Mario Sports Superstars is pretty fun all across the board, but some of the games could have been balanced out better as far as gameplay and accessibility. And if Nintendo was set on having a racing game involved with this one, it should have been something better than one with horses. Even if it wasn’t a cart-themed game, I would have taken a water sport or biking over what we received. It’s got great two-player capabilities for you and a friend to duel it out, and the Amiibo system works well (even if you have to collect 90 cards to get the whole set). It’s well worth playing if you’re into these titles.
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