I’ve been playing Mario Strikers Charge casually the last few weeks, both online and off. It’s a cartoon take on soccer featuring various characters from the Mario world (only Mario though, not the entire Nintendo roster) performing over-the-top moves on both offense and defense. While overall creative, none of the moves are really groundbreaking or a huge shock when you see them. Mario becomes huge, Wario farts, Bowser breaths fire, etc. You pick a captain from amoung a selection of major Mario characters, and then three sidekicks from a roster of lesser knowns, such as Toad, Hammer Bros, Koopa Troopa, etc. Each captain and sidekick has varying stats, like shot power, passing, defense, speed. Unfortunately in an attempt to keep it simple, the stats don’t vary enough, and you only get a few basic setups. More important than stats is each characters special moves, as they vary in power quite greatly. For example, Toad’s flip dodge is a cheap way to bypass the goalie (if timed right) for an easy score, Hammer Bro’s hammer toss dodge and special shot are both powerful tools for scoring, and Bowser’s shell move is… well not as great.
The feature set is fairly standard. You get a training mode, a tournament selection, offline versus play, and most importantly, online play. The offline stuff is fairly basic, but the game shines when you get online and start playing other people. The online setup is very basic, which is great. You connect, play either random people or a buddy, and then get right into it. Playing random people, you get auto-matched, and can accept or decline based only on the other players connection strength. Once you accept, the game setup is the same as it was offline, pick your captain, 3 sidekicks, and off you go. The game goes quick; I believe its 4 minutes per game, best of 3. The overall game is frantic, as you are constantly dodging, tackling, using special items. At first glance it appears the game is TOO fast, and scoring is more luck based than skill, but after some time with the game online, you learn what type of tricks and combos get you the best results. Nothing is a guaranteed score, and even the best thought out plans can go wrong by some random twist of luck, but the game is a bit deeper than it seems at first glance.
Overall I have to say it’s a worthwhile purchase. It’s a great game to pick up and play for 30 minutes or so, and in that time you can get in a few series online. The offline stuff will also keep you fairly busy, as there are plenty of items and stadiums to unlock. The graphics won’t blow anyone away, but they do their job, as does the music and sound. As with many other Wii games, you can’t exactly point to one factor of why it’s entertaining, but it is, and you keep coming back for more.