Mario Sports Superstars Review
There was a time where Mario sports titles were synonymous with quality and among the best games on their respective systems. In more recent years we’ve seen these games gutted of features and become shadows of their former selves. So can putting five sports into one game bring the Mario sports games back to their former glory? Not really.
Mario Sports Superstars has a great combination of games, but the entire package feels both recycled and complacent. It simply exists and is missing that certain something that makes Mario sports games fun to play. Nintendo has decided instead of going full crazy with the sports to homogenise it more than what’s come before. Included in the package are Football (Soccer), Baseball, Golf, Tennis, and Horse Racing – the newest sporting addition to the Mario collection. All of the games work on a functional level, they’re fun to play, but the entire time you feel like they could be doing more.
Football is the full 11-a-side experience; your team is made up of two Mushroom Kingdom stars and then an assortment of Toads, Koopa Troopas, Magikoopas and Shy Guys fill out the rest of the squad. The gameplay sits somewhere in between a full simulation and the craziness of the Mario Strikers series, there are super shots here but nothing completely outside of the box. The football action works much like other games in the genre and works well. There were only a couple of times where the game would be annoying and not let you pick the right player to pass to.
Baseball is all about timing, whether you’re pitching or batting it’s all about getting the timing right. I had great difficulty connecting with shots when batting for quite a while; perhaps I’m just getting old but it just seems there was such a small window to hit a correct shot. Pitching is easier, you can choose your type of pitch and then a spinning dial appears where you have to land the marker in the middle. The pitching feels way more forgiving than the batting at least. Fielding is entirely automatic, you don’t have to pick up the ball or run it, but you can choose which base you throw to. There are some strategy moves you can pull off on the D-Pad for batting and fielding but it’s not much.
Tennis and Golf are the two strongest parts of the game because they’re just cut down versions of the two Camelot-developed games. That paring down of the two games has come with a loss of charm, as the game’s courts and courses have been completely stripped of their Mushroom Kingdom flair in order to match the rest of the game. To be clear, you’re not getting the entirety of the 3DS Tennis and Golf games here, there are fewer courses, courts, and options. Mario Tennis: Open Tour‘s mediocrity is also reflected here in the Superstars iteration. The Golf however, is just as strong as what has come before it. The brilliant bottom screen usage for different shots and information has returned as has the classic power meter gameplay that’s been in every Mario Golf title ever.
The fifth and final sport in the game is the newcomer, Horse Racing. The game plays similar to Mario Kart but without any weapons and you’re riding on the back of a horse of course. Instead, you’ll need to pick up stars and carrots dotted around the course to keep your horse up to speed. Collect enough stars and you’ll unlock a Star Dash which you can save for when you need a quick boost, while the carrots keep your stamina meter up and allow you to avoid whipping the horse. You can also keep your stamina meter filling with the Herd Effect, this refills your stamina as long as you’re close your opponents, which will mix up your strategy. The only real issue with the horse racing is that the horses are fairly slow and with three laps each race it drags on somewhat. If the races were shorter and there was more variety, things could have been more intense and more fun.
Each of the sports all feature a tournament mode where you play through four cups to unlock sports specific superstars versions of the characters you’ve played with. The only issue with this is if you want the superstar version of say, Mario, in each sport you’ll have to play through and win with Mario in each sport. This is needless padding and only makes you feel like Nintendo are pushing you to toward the amiibo cards.
With the amiibo cards, you can unlock all of these characters when you scan in their card. Unfortunately, unless you buy a whole box of the amiibo cards, they’re sold in blind packs and you’d have to spend a lot of money or trade with your mates to get them all. We’re not sure investing in potentially hundreds of dollars are worth it for these characters and playing through all the sports with all the characters just doesn’t sound like any fun either.
All of the sports have a different ‘training’ mode as well. Golf gives you shot practice challenges and Tennis has a ring and rally challenge mode as well. Horse Racing and Baseball just sort of let you loose in the game to see what works and doesn’t. It’s better than a tutorial, but it doesn’t much. You won’t need too much training, as the AI are pushovers for most of the game – only the latter cups will really challenge you. The best challenge will come from other people – lucky for you, the game has multiplayer. Unfortunately, Nintendo hasn’t included a Download Play option here so you’ll all have to own the game. If you don’t think your friends are even going to buy the game, luckily there’s an online mode for each sport, you can play that with friends or random players. We’ve only been able to play the game online a handful of times because it simply couldn’t find other players, when we did it worked well at least.
Mario Sports Superstars does a good job of just being. It doesn’t do anything remarkably good but it isn’t a badly put together game either. The tournament modes will keep you entertained and the addition of both local multiplayer and online means you do have someone other than the AI to play with. Having to play through all the modes with all the characters is just ridiculous and feels like a cheap way to sell more amiibo cards as well. We’re happy Nintendo is keeping the 3DS alive in 2017 but if we’re just going to get a game that merely exists, then what is the point?