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It's unanimous -- Mario strikes out

October 04, 2005|By SARAH JOHNSTON

Your favorite character is back. A longtime icon of Nintendo, godfather of video games, Mario is up to bat. But for the first time in a long time, fans will find little to cheer about.

The storyline can be summed up in one sentence: Mario and his buddies are having fun on the field when spoilsport Bowser sees the perfect opportunity for a challenge, a game of ball.

OK, so Mario's adventures have never been known for complexity. True to form, you'll find no subplots or twists here. However, what Mario lacked in storylines was always made up for in game play.

Until now.

Unlike the Mario Party series, you are extremely limited in the variation of game play in Superstar Baseball. There are just four modes, only two of which are multi-player. Mario Party boasted over 70 Minigames, while Superstar Baseball has a mere five, used in both the Challenge and Minigame Modes. Nintendo is sure slacking off.

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"This game has no replay value," says my friend John Snyder. "You see all that it has to offer very quickly."

As a testament to this, it took less than an hour for my team of gamers - John, Anna Cueto, Ben Crampton and myself - to experience all the variation in game play Superstar Baseball allowed.

Not long into practice, which you can conveniently return to at any time to hone your skills or refresh your memory, we realized that the fielders had their work cut out for them. Although the controls are simple, it seemed no amount of button-mashing was enough to make the players dash for the ball.

"This gives batters a definite advantage, making the coin distribution unfair," says As Anna Cueto about the Toy Field, a multi-player game of coin collecting chaos. But can't get too confident at the plate. "It's all about the timing," Anna says.

So how does Superstar Baseball compare to Marios other athletic endeavors? It beats Mario Power Tennis, ties with Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour, but doesn't hold a candle to Mario Kart Double Dash.

"I miss the custom weapons from Mario Kart," sighs Ben Crampton. We all wistfully agree; they always made for zany outcomes.

In Superstar Baseball the character's special skills and talents are rarely exhibited. Four out of the five stadiums are equipped with hazards, from chain chomps to piranha plants, and we found ourselves hoping a barrel would bowl us over in Donkey Kong's home stadium, just to liven the game up.

When Mario does finally face off against rival Bowser, there's one thing he doesn't have to worry about: his lineup. The cast of characters has tripled from that of Mario Party to include new and old favorites, from Super Nintendo's Super Mario Brothers games to Nintendo Gamecube's Mario Sunshine. All show their stats, and you can choose them from four categories - Balance, Technique, Speed, and Power.

The graphics are, as always, as colorful as the characters. The palette of bright, rainbow hues is a feast for the eyes, but the insanely adorable and wonderfully whimsical landscapes, backgrounds, and creatures from games past are sparse.

As far as the soundtrack goes, you'd probably be less annoyed by a baseball crowd singing, "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." Speaking of which, that's not such a bad idea.

Overall, your younger brother or sister might be entertained by Mario Superstar Baseball, but for all of the creativity put into the game, teens will find more satisfaction in watching a game at the ballpark.

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