Mario on his own usually never misses a beat. Place Mario in a sports setting and things start to become hit-or-miss at an alarming rate. Hand the property to Square-Enix and you’re nearly promised things won’t end well. Nintendo has done just that with Mario Sports Mix, the newest Mario-themed sports game for the Wii. Does it have any redeeming value? Read on and I’ll let you no…I mean know. I’ll let you know. Weird, word slip there I guess.
I’ve talked about Mario’s outings via the sports medium before, touching on how golf and tennis have treated him great, soccer has been pretty cool, and baseball isn’t really his thing. Mario Sports Mix delivers not one but four sports at once, blowing away any dedicated sports titles in pure number but failing next to Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games (Mario Sports Mix is at least better than those two). In the package are volleyball, hockey, basketball, and dodgeball. Among them there are no real standouts for best sport since they’re all essentially the same game strategy-wise, i.e. keep mashing “shoot” and eventually you’ll score a point or two.
You may remember that Squeenix made a Mario sports title once before with the DS’ Mario Hoops 3-on-3. You may also remember that said title was okay at best. Squeenix used that DS game as the center of Mario Sports Mix, meaning they play exactly the same with three characters playing against three other characters. Final Fantasy characters are mixed in here and there, like a Moogle, a Black Mage, and a White Mage, but it’s something I can’t really care about. Those are Squeenix’s safe characters since they’re just a default image. Iconic, yes, but so are Toads and Koopas. People realize the Black and White Mages are the Toads and Koopas of Square-Enix, right? Despite this being a Mario game made by Square-Enix, characters from Super Mario RPG don’t make an appearance, so no Geno, no Mallow, no Axem Rangers, and to that I say, what a waste.
Each character plays about the same with some being faster and some being stronger, but once you factor in special moves, everything sort of becomes a wash. Everyone’s animated well and they all sound like you’d expect, but it’s all things we’ve seen and heard before. These are flat characters in terms of personality, so it’s important to do something to lift them up from non-dimensional to interesting, and Square-Enix didn’t perform that duty here.
Mostly, if thus far your feelings are “This sounds like a game I’d want no interest in,” the reason is probably because your age is in the double digits or you’ve been playing games since you came out of your mother’s womb. Mario Sports Mix is made exclusively for the younger audience with controls that have zero depth (albeit the controls work for what they need to), so if you’ve come to enjoy games with substance, this is one instance where you won’t find any.
Were Squeenix to title it Mario Sports Party Mix, it’d be a little more accurate. This is a game meant to be played with a group of at least two other players, mostly because the computer AI is pitifully brain-dead when on your team, whereas the enemy AI yo-yos from “faceroll” to “rolfrape” pretty much any time the computer feels like switching its game up. There are some additional minigames thrown in, but even with those there isn’t much that will call you back for even a second visit to Mario’s gaggle-o-sports.
To recap, the graphics and sound are good, the controls are simplistic, but the game doesn’t do anything really innovative or original, delivering a title that will under deliver to even the youngest of players who may have a superior game like Super Mario Galaxy 2 or Mario Power Tennis. Heck, even Mario Party 8 has vastly more to do and to come back to. Mario Sports Mix isn’t a cash-in, but it’s clearly not meant for anyone but Mario’s youngest or newest fans. Everyone else will probably find themselves too bored to care.
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