This week, MCV Pacific Weekly Editor, Joab Gilroy looks at Nintendo's 3DS title, Mario Sports Superstars.
From the button hammering days of International Track & Field, through the weird but wonderful California Games series, past a dozen or so Olympics games and into today, the sports compilation has been successful in video games for so long now that it's almost traditional. Mario Sports Superstars bucks that tradition, somewhat, veering towards team sports like soccer and baseball where others focused on sprints, jumps (long, high and triple) and throwing things.
Joining soccer and baseball are tennis, golf and — perhaps the most quirky of all — horse racing, combining in a compilation that is utterly unique in its makeup. Taking advantage of the 3DS's ability to create ad-hoc multiplayer networks on the go, Mario Sports Superstars allows you to play all of the above in both singleplayer and multiplayer, which means you can play it with or without friends wherever you are.
As a Mario Sports title, you already know it will feature members of Nintendo's insanely popular stable, all vying to defeat one another in Nintendified spins on their respective sports. They're not trying to make FIFA or MLB The Show here — they're not simulations — but that doesn't mean they're not making each game competitive. Soccer has 11 vs 11 matches with special characters filling the role of captain, assistant captain and goalie — similar to Mario Strikers, but not the same. Baseball also shares similarities to its solo game counterpart, Mario Baseball, while still varying a little. Meters are used to gauge accuracy and power, instead of straight inputs, for example.
Tennis plays similar to — you guessed it — Mario Tennis. With Ultra Smash shots in the game, it bears the greatest similarity to the WiiU's Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash, a surprisingly robust tennis game on Nintendo's previous home console. Chance shots return as well, affording you the opportunity to smash the ball back at your opponent when available. The Mario Tennis series has been a personal favourite of mine for years — Mario seems to be the only one consistently putting out games that allow you to take to the court, and while they're never simulations they always seem to find a good balance between accurate recreation and fun.
Mario Golf is another series which consistently puts out a blend of faithful adaptation and fun gaming, and Golf in Mario Sports Superstars sticks to the mold here too, borrowing from Mario Golf: World Tour. There are multiple courses to play on, and two modes — 9 hole Stroke play or Ring Challenge, where players aim to send their ball through a ring (which is just a hole in the sky, if you think about it).
Horse Racing is the only one of the activities which doesn't resemble its real life counterpart. Playing more like a Mario Kart off-shoot, it sees you take your characters (and their horses) around tracks as they manage their horse's stamina against their speed, and a 'Herd Effect' element adds a cycling tour style of strategy to the game as horses in groups are faster, which means leaders who stray from the pack need to work harder to maintain their lead.
Another added feature comes by way of the Amiibo Cards system. Spining off from the wildly successful Amiibo toys-to-life range, Mario Sports Superstars features amiibo cards, a real-life collectible card set which will launch alongside the game. These cards will be used to power up your characters, so you can turn them into sporting superstars as you play.
Mario Sports Superstars should allay concerns people had regarding Nintendo launching a handheld/home console hybrid — 3DS owners had concerns that they might have to leave the dual screen world soon. With Amiibo cards launching alongside what is shaping up to be a very competitive sports compilation, though, they should be able to rest easy knowing the 3DS is still a part of Nintendo's roster.
This article first appeared in MCV Pacific Weekly, MCV Pacific's new weekly industry communication. You can subscribe here.