Being fairly new to the Wii and a lover of most things Mario, I was excited to give Mario Super Sluggers a go. On the whole, I really dislike sports games, but the Mario games tend to hold my interest and are, more often than not, a lot of fun. Mario Super Sluggers is no exception on most counts. Mario sports games are very popular as they can hold the interest of both casual and more skilled players alike, of which the Wii caters to well. The learning curve is very low but there is also some technique and skill for the keen gamers, making this game another great multiplayer party game.
There are several modes of gameplay to Super Sluggers including exhibition games, mini-games and single-player challenge mode, which functions as the main mode of the game. The game begins with five of nine stadiums available and the challenge mode is the only way to unlock the other four. The single-player mode is not what I expected -- it involved challenges (hah!) that you have to complete to win over other characters to join your team and make your way to Bowser's Castle similar to a typical Mario platformer.
Challenge mode starts with you picking your Team Captain that will navigate the Baseball Kingdom to unlock other characters, stadiums, find coins, and all that Mario adventure good stuff. Depending on who you choose, there are different abilities available to you which can aid in gaining access to new areas and help on the quest to Bowser's Castle. The plot of the Challenge mode is the usual - Mario and the gang just want to have a nice party but Bowser (and Bowser Jr.) come in and ruin it. Bowser is apparently jealous that Mario and Co. have their own baseball stadiums (who wouldn't be?) and crashes his own stadium head-on with Baseball Kingdom. This can be fun if you're into baseball-action without any of the ... game. For some full-on baseball game fun, the Exhibition Mode is where it's at.
Trying this as a single-player was not very fun; the pitching camera was weird and I just felt as though something was missing. After rounding up three friends, however, I started getting into it which really says to me that Super Sluggers is very much a multiplayer game, as with most Mario "party" games. In fact, the game is most fun with the full four players in both exhibition play and the mini-games as it makes use of all the gameplay elements.
Like most Mario games, you have twelve of the usual characters to choose from as your Team Captain. For your team, there are dozens of characters to choose from, all of which vary in ability which allows for some strategy to go into forming your line-up. Not all are available at the start and can be unlocked in both Challenge and Exhibition mode. Unlocking characters in exhibition mode, however, often means they are not available in Challenge mode.
To add to the dynamics of the game, there is "chemistry" between characters which allow for items and better outfield plays when these players are near each other. While batting, if a character has chemistry with the one on deck (that's the next to bat for those non-baseball fans), an item will be available for the player not batting to shoot into the outfield to hopefully hit one of the opposing team members, allowing for the batter to run further around the bases. If there is only one player on a team, that person is also responsible for using the item. The items are what one would expect in a Mario game; green shells, banana peels, bob-omb, etc. and each has a different manner of stopping the outfield from catching the ball. While in the outfield, players with chemistry can do a Double Jump to catch what would be a Homerun. This is often accompanied by groaning and perhaps yelling from the batting team.
Mario Super Sluggers makes good use of the Wiimote, with each player having to swing the Wiimote to bat or pitch with easy to understand motions. The real issue and annoyance is when the system thinks you are trying to pitch when you are actually winding up or just moving the Wiimote and it decides to throw the ball or swing and is a huge problem when trying to play the game. There are few actual button-pressing moments in the game; to perform special bat-swings, special pitches, throw items, and do chemistry-related double jumps. Most of the time you are flailing wildly while running from base-to-base. You can, however, turn the remote sideways and use the control pad, but this is far less effective ... though does give your poor arm a break. It can also be played with or without the nunchuck which is nice for those who don't own a complete set of nunchucks and want all players to be on an equal playing field.
The visuals of the game are what one would expect from a Mario sports game - cartoony, full of colour, and bubbly. However, taking a look at the GameCube predecessor, there is little improvement which is very disappointing. And same with the audio: Happy and bouncy music is present throughout the game and the characters' voices are their usual selves (which is sometimes annoying, let's be honest).
I enjoyed playing Mario Super Sluggers. I do, however, believe the main game mode should involve more actual baseball instead of the puzzles and obstacles of the Challenge mode. While it is a change of pace and gives the player something new to figure out and work with, this is supposed to be a baseball game and one would assume it should involve ... baseball. Overall, this is a fun, Mario "party" game that is a good addition to the Mario sports collection.