How does Nintendo do it?
While Mario fans anxiously await the next big thing on the Wii, the company that can’t seem to make a mistake releases something that shouldn’t matter, shouldn’t generate much attention or excitement, and shouldn’t be any fun. It serves up an overblown remake of an enjoyable GameCube title and expects gamers to care.
But play “Mario Strikers Charged” on the Wii, and you will care. Put down the controller and stop grinning long enough, and you have to admit that Nintendo has done it again.
The game’s simple premise masks a festival of action and challenge. Placing the Mario characters back into a soccer title creates an opportunity to merge engaging sports play with playfully intriguing characters. That’s what made the original “Super Mario Strikers” game worth playing, and the same basic charm shines through here. Though “Charged” doesn’t appear to offer much more than the same thing on a new console, in actuality, the update leaves the basic notion of playing soccer behind. It super-charges everything from the graphics to the style of play.
“Super Smash Bros.” is probably the Wii title Nintendo fans most eagerly await. Even though this game has gone through a retread of its own, the ever-evolving joy of pummeling popular Nintendo stars with other Nintendo celebrities scratches an itch. It’s perfect for fan boys who have always wanted to watch “Zelda”’s Link take a beating from Princess Peach.
Put in a few minutes with the new “Strikers,” and you get the feeling that the title’s development team spent some time sneaking peeks at the work of the “Smash Brothers” group. Not to put too fine a point on it — but, while soccer’s cardinal rule prohibits anyone but the goalie from touching the ball with his hands, “Strikers” lets you advance the ball by any means available, including electrocuting your opponent and turning into a ghost, slipping through the field of players and hurling a bunch of hammers to clear the way for a shot at the goal. And there’s the Mega Strike, a move that sends your team captain soaring into the air like some sort of fighter jet, followed by a salvo of shots at the goal. The opposing player frantically moves a pair of hands across the screen, attempting to stop the rocketing balls from running up the score.
Add power-ups and special attacks to the mix, and players end up spending as much time on the physical attacks as they do actually passing and shooting the ball.
For soccer purists, this might be too much. It isn’t so much a sports game as a sports-inspired brawl. Going multiplayer online just emphasizes what Nintendo has been saying for years: Any game can be a party game, and the easier the control and the sillier the action, the more likely you are to find a living room full of people hooting and hollering over a video game.