Hello and welcome back to Square Roots, where we… switch things up a little bit. Cubed Roots is the name of the game this time around, as Super Mario Strikers (2005) is indeed not a Virtual Console title, but a GameCube one. Still, you can play this bad boy on your Wii (GameCube controllers compulsory of course). More importantly, I think you really should.
I remember playing this game at my local Best Buy– you know, at one of those grimy stations, buttons ringed with caked grodiness, thumbsticks reduced to skeletal stubs… yes, the Porta Potty of video game experiences. I wanted the game immediately, even though my older brother mocked it as a crappy one, thrown together hastily and about as engaging as something you could play through your browser. What an untrained eye he had. And oh, how perfectly straightforward and responsive the gameplay felt.
In that way, Super Mario Strikers is very much a game I would mention in the same breath as Super Smash Bros. Melee. I won’t talk your head off about the latter, but the lightning speed of Strikers‘ animations and controls makes it a proud peer of the game. And of course, it features a group of first-party Nintendo characters (though much reduced, and including Mushroom Kingdom residents only).
Like many of Mario and company’s athletic ventures, though, Super Mario Strikers was developed by an outside studio: Next Level Games, in this case. You can feel that Nintendo’s authorship just isn’t there as early on as the game’s menus. This isn’t really a negative trait–but the big N’s signature affect goes unused in the face of a more “just business” style.
And where else in Yoshi’s past does he rock a scowl like this one besides playing footie?
The Vancouver-based developer is also leading the creative charge on the upcoming Luigi’s Mansion 2 for 3DS. If they’ve earned further projects with Nintendo, it’s because they didn’t screw up with Strikers! It’s apparently a pretty fun studio to work for, too.
It can’t be shrugged that the studio missed out on a few opportunities to make a more complete package out of the game. Stadiums only differ from one another on an aesthetic basis. Surely it could have taken a page from the previous year’s Mario Power Tennis to throw diverse hazards in the mix, invoking much more of the Mario universe’s creature catalog in the process. Where was the Super Mario Sunshine based level, complete with cheering Piantas and occasional goop spills? How did Bowser Stadium fail to include the menacing gravity of the Thwomps?
Super Mario Strikers, then, is a game for those who can look past the shortcomings of a game’s packaging, focusing instead on the winning formula of its gameplay mechanics. It’s as much pinball as it is soccer, and in that prized pass-pass-shoot responsiveness it makes for a Mario game outside of the norm… right? Here I’m reminded of the beauty of the GameCube controller, and of the fact that Nintendo needs to bring it back (they won’t). Is the Strikers‘ variety of seamless speed possible without it? I’ll have to give the Wii’s own sequel to the game a shot to find out. (And I would love your input on the matter. How does Super Mario Strikers Charged handle? Let us know in the comments below.)
Oh, and I can’t believe I missed this piece of Waluigi mythos back when I wrote about the character. Along with the steely determination etched in other characters’ faces, this little celebration surely makes for the least innocent (if not slightly seedy) representation of Nintendo’s mascots. Really though, how many man-hours went into designing this post-goal celebration? Can it be that during none of them the team of Next Level Games hit the “wait just a minute” button? Oh well, what’s done is done (and redone in Super Mario Strikers Charged, shown in the video below).
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I don’t really want to leave you on that note. It’s an exciting time of year for fans of soccer worldwide. And, with the game hopefully costing less at your local used game shop than it does on Amazon, it’s a smart time to pick it up if you haven’t already. It really does make for some of the better couch co-op Nintendo has ever had to offer.
Have a forgotten GameCube classic near your heart that you’d like us to cover in the next edition of Cubed Roots? Let us know why we should discuss your favourite in the comments’ below.