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July 17, 2017

Mario Super Sluggers (Part 2)

Go read Part 1 if you missed it! Now, how about we resume this look at Mario Super Sluggers?

Mustachioed plumber versus the big bad's baby.
We’ve freed two areas from Bowser Jr., and there are many more. However, we can go and challenge him on his own baseball field now. We build a team, and head into the toy-like castle. Bowser Jr. has built a team out of regular mooks of the Mario series – mostly Magikoopas and Dry Bones. They’re pretty easy to defeat if you’ve learned the game mechanics. I mean, it’s not like Bowser Jr. is that big of a threat… despite the fact that he is apparently able to turn people to stone! …well, that, or one of his Magikoopas did it, but let’s not get technical. Point still is, he's a spoiled little brat, and it's time to kick him down a notch.

Bowser: Tossing Bullet Bills as if they were mee
baseballs!
When Bowser Jr.’s team is defeated, we can practically hear him cry out for his dad. And what happens? The toy castle sinks and gets replaced by… a miniature Bowser Castle. With Bowser at the commands, and the definitely final baseball field to finish the Story Mode. On top of that, the night falls. As it turns out, daytime in this game is when Bowser Jr is battled, while nighttime is when Bowser can be fought. Dammit Bowser, do you really have to go and one-up every villain that isn’t you, even if the day's villain is your own son? So yeah, you can go challenge Bowser. Make sure to defeat him here, for the first time.

You can switch back and forth between night and day simply by aiming the cursor on the sun or moon and pressing A. There’s a few advantages to this; daytime is where you go to play baseball, nighttime is where you go to play baseball-related mini-games… and perhaps earn money.

Yeah, sure, it looks good at night.
But it also cost millions to make...

Why, yes! You can collect coins here! Oh, you don’t get an extra life if you collect 100, but you can go around and amass a little fortune in order to buy items that will enhance your team when playing. There are some shops around the maps. That’s not the only thing of interest about these shops, though; if you carry enough money, you can actually buy items that will unlock new stadiums – Luigi’s Mansion (because it was apparently taken off the ground where it was and then turned into a baseball stadium) and the Daisy Cruiser.

We should just leave him there...
But then again we do need his talents...
Dammit!
If you really want to, you can go ahead and complete the other parts of the Story Mode. Wario’s stadium, behind an area looking like a city, is covered in fog when you get there, and the electricity has run out. Wario, trapped on top of the building, pleads for you to help him clear the fog and repair the power plant. On DK’s side of things, he is trying to retrieve pieces of an artefact that gave him control of his part of the island – namely, the park and the field around it. Because Bowser Jr. stole the pieces. Why would Peach make something like that on her island in the first place?? Yoshi’s side is an amusement park, but Bowser Jr. broke most of the rides, and thus our job is to repair them. Kill the Piranha Plants that infested the Ferris Wheel! Who knew baseballs could be such useful weapons? I thought they worked only against Moai statues! (If you got that reference, I love you.)

Sheesh, gotta wonder how they do to reproduce so quickly.
Especially if they keep on sprouting back so easily in those
little ferris wheel seats...

And all the way through, whenever you find a new hidden player, they’ll challenge you to small challenges. Because they all want to be sure that you’re good at baseball, right? But the challenges they demand are usually very, very easy. It’s almost laughable. Like, dude, why do you bother with that mini-quest?

Could you imagine this as a Mario-based fighting game?
You don’t need to save all of the team captains before going against Bowser in a baseball match, but you’re gonna have to do it anyway if you want to unlock every playable team member. Donkey Kong can break barrels and crates, Yoshi can pound the ground near shaking trees and go through sewers, and Wario can open treasure chests (which contain special moves) and use a magnet for various purposes. Every single area in the game has hidden players that can be unlocked only if you have the captain with the required ability. How many playable characters are there? Excluding the 12 captains… 59. Granted, species like Yoshis, Toads, Piantas, Nokis, Kritters, Magikoopas, Dry Bones and Shy Guys come in multiple colors and are represented by only one on the team player selection screen, but that’s still a lot. The actual number is closer to 42, if you don’t count the alternate colors – and even there, that’s still an impressive number. The roster includes resident species from various kingdoms, staples of the Mario series from both heroes and villains, and we even have many characters from the Donkey Kong series, whether it’s Kong’s family and friends or the Kremlings, including their leader King K. Rool. Also, five Mario babies… what, were they afraid that they wouldn’t appeal to a younger demographic otherwise? Oh, and yes, you can use up to 8 Miis as well.

If a new baseball title was made for the Switch, you can bet
they would add MORE babies like Baby Rosalina to that
damn roster. Like babies are what we need in this game...

Switching from day to night, the baseball fields are no longer used for that purpose, and become mini-game arenas instead. The mini-games include:
Magikoopas: When they don't turn princesses to stone,
they make fireworks out of Bob-Ombs.
-Knocking Bob-Ombs into the skies to make fireworks;
-Breaking walls with powerful baseball throws;
-Knocking back Piranha Plants moving towards the players on treadmills;
-Catching various precious stones tossed on the field;
-Smashing barrels and Bob-Ombs with balls;
-Attacking ghosts around Luigi’s Mansion (where else?) by tossing balls at them;
-Running around the square of a baseball field while the giant Gooper Blooper has taken residence within it and is attacking the players with its tentacles;
-Running around a field with a paintbrush to try and paint more than the opponents;
-Playing a weird baseball/pinball mash-up in Bowser Castle. What is it with Bowser and pinball anyway?

Good stuff. And a nice change of pace. A pretty great addition for multiplayer, too.

Go on, Peach. Show Bowser that you, too, can beat him!
We can go and challenge Bowser to a match again. And this time, he’s not messing around – his team has been training, and you’ll definitely find them tougher to defeat. Still, if you toss the balls just right, and know how to use the various mechanics to your advantage, you can win. Replaying for this review, I won 3-1. If you’re good enough, you might even skip the final innings, since there is an option to skip the last full innings if you’re 10 points ahead of the opponent (that applies to story and multiplayer matches, but you can turn it off).

PARTY!
Wait. Peach is the one who won, not Mario.
With Bowser defeated, the heroes celebrate yet again, while Bowser angrily smashes his spiked bat into the ground. However, Peach decides to welcome Bowser, his son, and their underlings, to play with them – and since Jr. really wants to play some more, Bowser reluctantly accepts. Thus, we get the endgame party. Mario is celebrated again (even if you won the final match with another team captain), everyone gets to eat around a table, with a buffet and so much cake – but Bowser and his son only get tiny slices. The party ends with fireworks, supplied by Mario knocking Bob-Ombs into the sky, like in the mini-game.

So Bowser actually decided to be heroic for once? Or maybe
it's just a "Only I get to kill Mario" type of deal.
However, there’s still some scheming going around. Wario and Waluigi approach the Bob-Omb cannon and slip a live Bullet Bill in it, and it’s thrown at Mario, who doesn’t have the power to toss it back. Bowser jumps on the field and smacks the Bullet Bill sideways, sending it back to the Waa brothers, who get caught by it and sent upwards. The Bill then explodes, in a giant blast of light, and the evil bros. fall back to the ground. Bowser doesn’t really want to be renowned for this sudden moment of niceness, so he gets out of the way while everyone else keeps partying in that good G-rated fashion. This closes the celebrations on Baseball Kingdom.

Waaaaaaah!
Also, Waluigi's L is backwards on here.

It’s expected that these characters will hardly ever go back to Baseball Island. Everyone will leave, and it’s a mystery if they’ll ever return. The artificial island will thus be left there, untouched, floating aimlessly, with no one to enjoy its activity, a white elephant that cost a fortune to make, money ultimately wasted. We all know that Mario is almost always busy saving the world or Princess Peach. I mean, we all know he's got a big odyssey coming! That's big stuff! He ain’t got time for baseball!

The plot of Mario Super Sluggers makes no sense – but let’s be honest, we’re not here for the plot. We’re here for some good ol’ pitching, batting, running and sporting. The plot is merely setup. How does the game hold up?

Well, it’s really good! I quite enjoy it. Sure, it feels pretty easy, but it features a large cast of characters and enough bonuses to get you to play for a while. Well, until your arms hurt, anyway. It helps that you can pick between three control schemes – Wii remote alone, remote with Nunchuk, and sideways remote. You can go for the simpler controls with the remote alone, or go for the complex ones that give a wider array of possibilities. With some control schemes (usually when using the Wii remote alone), the game may not always register your movements, which is a bother when batting (can’t have a delay between movement and game, when the ball is already coming towards you!). But overall, that’s not a frequent issue.

Speaking of, a big downside of the game is how so many things are done by vividly swinging or shaking the Wii remote. You swing when you’re throwing or batting, then immediately afterwards you may be shaking the Wii remote to run around the field. This will strain your arm, especially if you use the Wii remote alone.

The game doesn’t pretend to be a serious baseball title, and it shows. It keeps the fairly simplistic controls, with very little baseball strategy to it aside from batting or pitching in certain ways and counting on team members to do certain maneuvers or special catches. It’s not revolutionary or realistic, it just wants to be fun. I can’t fault them for that. If you want something closer to reality, there are other games.

The wide selection of playable character and the nine available baseball fields are nice touches. I especially like the various gimmicks, such as the Star Moves, the special throws that some characters possess, as well as the obstacles and hindrances found on most baseball fields. The whole character chemistry mechanic is a good addition, and it gets quickly important to count on the interactions between characters. You’ve got slightly better chances of winning by sticking together the characters who share chemistry.

Like I said, the “Story Mode” of sorts is nothing to write home about, just an excuse to make you play through the game, discover its mechanics and have the odd mini-match here and there. You go around, discover secrets, free everyone and collect captains and team members. It gets kind of annoying after a while that most people you free will join your team only after you’ve “proven your worth” and shown that you could be a decent baseball player. The Story Mode areas are pretty small and don’t offer much, and are done in such a way that you can’t fully beat one, go to the next, rinse and repeat. Your best bet is to gather the captains first, but some captains are in faraway areas and you need other captains to reach them, and so on. It’s like a big puzzle that you can’t complete until you’ve got the full array of abilities. Once the final match against Bowser has been won, you don’t have much of an incentive to go back, unless you want all the playable characters and special moves.

The mini-games are quite enjoyable and add a nice color, and so does the Toy Field. There are many things to do with many players, something to encourage you to try out with friends. Only downside being, back when you could play online on the Wii, this game had no online capabilities. Wanna play with friends? Gotta do that in your house.

The graphics are suitably cartoony, and the music’s okay. There’s really not much else to say about those.

All in all, a pretty fun title. If you don’t mind overworking your arm by swinging all the time, you should enjoy it. This concludes my review. You know… we’re getting closer to the blog’s fourth anniversary. Wow, I can’t believe I’ve been doing this for almost four years. What should I do this time around… I need a big game for the anniversary review.

Let’s see… Ah! Yes, this one will be perfect. Let’s stay in the realm of the Mario series, shall we? And reminisce on one of the most beloved titles of its time, one of the games that people still play or want to play. The combined powers of two developers, for a truly epic adventure… which went on to be nearly ignored afterwards by the Mario series, despite fans clamoring for it to get more recognition.

Yes indeed. Next Friday, get ready for my fourth anniversary review. I’ll be reviewing Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars!