Of all the GameCube titles we were hoping to see resurrected on Wii, Mario Strikers was never one that really showed up on our radar. After all, the original wasn’t hugely impressive, being an exhausting and largely skill-free exercise in button-mashing attrition. If it was an arcade sports game its simplicity might have worked in its favor, but who would pay $50 for something so frantic and random?
But it’s back, polished up and given a few new Wii controls though essentially unchanged in terms of core gameplay, and with all the stadiums from the previous version returning with the word “classic” tacked on to them. So were we just completely wrong about it in the first place?
Mario Strikers is a fast and furious five-a-side game of soccer, stashed with power-ups and completely devoid of referees. The ball can never go out of play, as the pitch is surrounded by a force field, and the goalkeepers seem practically unbeatable, capable of saving any shot.
Well, almost any shot. You can pass the ball around for an entire match, working perfect scoring angles and peppering the goal with seemingly unstoppable drives that fizz through the air at ridiculous speeds. The goalie will save 99 out of 100 of them. The only way to beat them is to charge up a special move, which means holding the shoot button until the player automatically unleashes something completely unsporting. If you’re close enough to the goal, you score every time.
So a match of Mario Strikers is a non-stop fight to buy enough time and space to charge up one of those special moves, while the opposition punches, kicks and red-shells like crazy to knock down the shooter and regain possession; which essentially makes Strikers a Smash Bros. with balls.
The only time Strikers so much as pauses for breath is when the invincible goalie has possession. As soon as he throws it back into play, the explosions begin afresh, the power-ups start flying, players get zapped on the force field like flies and the attritional struggle for shooting opportunities resumes.