JV – Mario Strikers: Why the return of Nintendo-style football is an event

He’ll be back. After 15 years off the field, 15 years of trying every conceivable sport, 15 years of unmanageable wait that will probably never reveal their secret, the most famous plumber in the world must finally take his cleats on again. This Friday is coming out on the Nintendo Switch Mario Strikers: Battle League Football, one of the most anticipated sports games of the year, guaranteed commercial and critical success. In line with the Wii episode released in 2007, it incorporates a concept left in the closet of Nintendo whose fans have been asking for a return for a long time.

The principle of the game is as transparent as its name: Mario and his friends play football. Far from realism at FIFA, which as far as possible tries to get closer to the experience of the pitches, Mario Strikers is based on a much more arcade game with special moves, super strikes and uninhibited matches without referees, where all shots are allowed. Very nervous, the result, developed by Next Level Games like its predecessors, is really satisfactory controller in hand as no match is similar to the previous one.

2.6 million sales on the Wii

History will never be able to prove it, but there is strong reason to believe that even if it had turned out to be average, Mario Strikers: Battle League Football would still have been a hit. The first episode of the series, released on Gamecube in 2005, Mario Smash football had already sold more than 1.5 million copies worldwide. An amount that far exceeded the Wii episode (2.6 million), two years later. Figures that should be dusted off again by Switch opus.

“Nintendo’s strength is that it is ultra-wide. They affect both children and adults who have experienced the first “notes Olivier “Bronol” Bron, author of a documentary on Youtube about the license Mario Strikers. Sold 103 million copies worldwide, Switch, the family console on which the new opus is released, has also had time to settle into homes since it was released in 2017. “And then there’s a very simple thing, it’s that football is super popular, the concept speaks to everyone, completes Aurélien “Ponce” Gilles, very popular streamer on Twitch and specializing in Nintendo games. Especially since the typical games Fifa go around in circles for some, so it’s a good alternative ”

“Waiting increases enthusiasm”

But nothing plays so much into the excitement around Battle League football than nostalgia around the franchise. “In general, Nintendo always releases one game from each license per console: a Mario Kart pr. console, en Mario Tennis pr. console, en Mario Golf pr. console, en mario fest even more, lister Ponce. And there since Wii, nothing at all for Mario football, while the license is very popular. As we have been waiting for this for a long time, it increases the excitement. »

For many gamers, the Wii episode was also the discovery of online gaming, Mario Strikers Charged Football having been one of the first games to take advantage of online. “It also sold very well because it contained characters from the Mario universe in a universe where one does not play sports nicely, raises Bronol at the time of opening the memory box. It was brutal, you could tackle without the ball … It really scored. »

A still inexplicable pause

IN Mario Strikers Charged Football, The cult figures of the Mario universe actually constantly carried their opponents, were dragged into the mud, celebrated their goals by showing their strides … An adult bias, desired by Next Level Games, which clashed with the other games in the genre. And may in part explain that the license has been put on hold. “It seems like the cross-border side didn’t really appeal to Nintendo. More than the characters that hit each other, it was the humor that was sometimes cross-border.”, says Bronol. Officially, however, the Japanese studio has never communicated on this topic.

To justify his fifteen years without new ones Mario football, Nintendo never even gave an explanation at all, leaving room for the craziest theories. Without any indication, fans were hoping for a big comeback to every Nintendo Direct, the quarterly conferences where the studio’s new games are announced, without ever seeing their wishes fulfilled. Until February 9th. “When the video started, I saw a pitch that looked like a football pitch, I understood … I screamed, I did not expect it at all”laughs Ponce.

A euphoria to maintain

On social networks, the euphoria is collective, though the game is immediately presented in a more polite way than the previous opus. She has not fallen back since, and the announced new features have been enthusiastically received, whether it is equipment to change her characters’ skills, inclusion of an online ranking, the ability to create teams with her friends … Only the lack of content at launch, which was to be offset by the release of additional paid content in the coming weeks, was regretted.

If the launch is to be a success, the challenge for Nintendo now is to build a game that will live on over time, beyond the craziness of the early days. For this, the imperative will be a powerful online mode, which allows players to compete at a distance and to organize competitions, which is far from guaranteed. However, if these conditions are met, Mario Strikers: Battle League Football should shine as expected … To the point, maybe fans will still play it in fifteen years?

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