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

He returns. After 15 years off the field, 15 years trying every sport imaginable, 15 years of unfathomable waiting that will probably never reveal their secret, the world’s most famous plumber is finally putting his cleats back on. This Friday, on Nintendo Switch, comes out 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 installment released in 2007, it takes over a concept left in the closet by Nintendo, whose fans have long been asking for a return.

The principle of the game is as transparent as the name: Mario and his friends play football. Far from realism at FIFA, which tries as much as possible to approach the experience of the fields, Mario Strikers is based on a much more arcade gameplay, with special moves, super attacks and unrestrained matches, with no umpires, with all shots allowed. Very nervous, the result, developed by Next Level Games like its predecessors, is really satisfying controller in hand, as no match is like the previous one.

2.6 million sales on Wii

History will never 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 have been another hit. First installment of the series, released on Gamecube in 2005, Mario Smash Football had already sold more than 1.5 million copies worldwide. A figure well exceeded by the Wii installment (2.6 million), two years later. Figures that need to be dusted off by the Switch opus.

“Nintendo’s strength is that it’s ultra-wide. They affect both children and adults who have the first “notes Olivier “Bronol” Bron, author of a documentary on YouTube about the license Mario Strikers† The Switch, the family console on which the new opus will be released, has sold 103 million units worldwide and has also had time to settle at home since its release in 2017. “And then there’s something very simple, it’s that football is super popular, the concept appeals to everyone. completes Aurélien “Ponce” Gilles, a very popular streamer on Twitch and specializing in Nintendo games. Especially since the typical games FIFA spinning in circles for some, so it’s a good alternative”

“Waiting increases enthusiasm”

But nothing plays so much in the excitement around Battle League Soccer then nostalgia around the franchise. “In general, Nintendo always releases one game of each license per console: a Mario Kart per console, one Mario Tennis per console, one Mario Golf per console, one mario party even several, states Ponce. And nothing for that since the Wii Mario Football, while the license is very popular. Because we have been waiting for this for a long time, the enthusiasm is rising. †

For many players, the Wii episode was also the discovery of online games, Mario Strikers Charged Football because it was one of the first games to take advantage of online. “It also sold very well because it featured characters from the Mario universe in a universe where you can’t exercise well, summons Bronol when opening the memory box. It was brutal, you could tackle without the ball… It really scored. †

An unexplained pause

In Mario Strikers Charged FootballIndeed, the cult characters of the Mario universe constantly carried their opponents, were dragged in the mud, celebrated their goals by showing their crotches… An adult prejudice, sought by Next Level Games, which clashed with the others games of the genre. And can partly explain that the license has been put on hold. “It seems that the cross-border side didn’t really appeal to Nintendo. More than the characters touching, it was the humor that bordered sometimes », says Bronol. Officially, however, the Japanese studio has never communicated on this topic.

To justify his fifteen years without new ones Mario FootballNintendo didn’t even give an explanation at all, leaving room for the craziest theories. Without any indication, fans hoped for a big comeback at every Nintendo Direct, the quarterly conferences where the studio’s new games are announced, without their wishes ever being granted. Until February 9. “When the video started, I saw a field that looked like a football field, I understood… I screamed, I didn’t expect it at all”laughs Ponce.

A euphoria to hold

On social networks, the euphoria is collective, even if the game is immediately presented more politely than the previous opus. Since then, she has not relapsed and the new features announced have been enthusiastically received, be it equipment to customize the skills of her characters, the inclusion of an online ranking, the ability to create teams with her friends … Alone the lack of content at launch, which should be made up for by the release of additional paid content in the coming weeks, was lamented.

If the launch is supposed to be a success, the challenge now for Nintendo is to build a game that will live over time, beyond the frenzy of the early days. For this, it will definitely be a powerful online mode, which will allow players to compete remotely and organize competitions, which is far from guaranteed. But if these conditions are met, Mario Strikers: Battle League Football should radiate as expected… To the point, perhaps, that fans will still be playing it 15 years from now?

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