While the First Kick Demo was originally released the week before, the actual online sessions were only live at certain times during the weekend of June 3rd through June 5th. After playing through the tutorials and familiarizing myself with the controls, I decided I was ready to dive in when the first session went live late Friday night.
And boy was I mistaken. Mario Strikers: Battle League matches are highly strategic and fast-paced, often moving faster than my eyes could reliably track. The 4v4 Quick Battle matches I played through were intense nailbiters that frequently went into an overtime mode where the first team to score takes the whole game. But it’s a level of complexity and on-the-fly decision-making that made each match both a blast to play and difficult to master.
This is not the pick-up-and-play style of game Nintendo is known for; Mario Strikers: Battle League demands you play the game on its terms. That means you have to play as a team, which can get a little tricky when playing with random players in online matches. In some games my teammates and I synchronized beautifully, passing the ball around like old pros. In others, ball hogs would frequently flub easy shots and refuse to pass, which often cost us the match.
But I do not blame some of these less ideal teammates for their subpar abilities, because there are a staggering number of different systems to Mario Strikers: Battle League that demand your attention at all times. It can be overwhelming to try and think about which button to press to change characters, tackle, dodge, shoot, or use items. Layer on top of that the fact that tackling, dodging, and shooting all have perfect versions that require precision timing and it can get a little daunting. And that’s without even considering chained passes and support shots, which require precision timing between multiple players.
The one sticking point (if I can even call it that) was the Hyper Kicks; I’m a little torn on how I feel about these super moves. On the one hand, they’re visually incredible and can turn an entire match around with just one kick; on the other, the mechanic to block them doesn’t indicate any measure of success, which did lead to a few frustrating losses. That said, nailing a perfect Hyper Kick is a very satisfying experience that feels akin to nailing a Smash move in Super Smash Bros.