During the press conference with Reggie Fils-Aime, the President of Nintendo of America, he mentioned that some people felt that Nintendo was catering too exclusively to casual gamers with titles like Nintendogs and Brain Age. To this he countered that they had a number of games that appeal more to the core players, as he called them, and said he was going to show us one of them today. The title in question was Mario Strikers Charged, a sequel to the generally well received Gamecube original. Seemed kind of dubious to consider it a 'hardcore' game, but I suppose it was when compared to the other titles shown at the event.
Before we were able to get a hands-on with the title, Reggie called up one of the developers of Mario Strikers Charged who loaded up the opening cinematic of the game for us to enjoy. The cinematic was a high-energy movie featuring all the major Mario characters kicking ass on the soccer field in some form or another. The characters had an interesting art design, much more anime-esque than the normal Mario designs. One of the highlights of the opening cinematic was seeing all the special moves that each of the characters have, like Donkey Kong's ability to smash the ground and knock everybody out around him. The developer pointed out that even though the opening movie was pre-rendered CG, all the moves are actual ones that the characters themselves have.
From there, he showed off a bit of the gameplay and talked about some of the differences inbetween this one and the first Mario Strikers. Sounded like they'd done a lot of changes, with ramping difficulty in the single player now, way more customization and quite a few more characters to choose from. Also, in a first for a Wii game, it will support full online play. Thats right, a Wii game finally gets online play.
After the presentation, we got let loose on the event floor and got to try out Mario Stalkers Charged for ourselves. The game seemed fun, and reminded me a lot of Sega Soccer Slam (which is definitely a compliment). The motion controls didn't really add anything, but overall it controlled well. I got the sneaking suspicion that it would have controlled a whole lot better with a normal controller though, something that I heard a lot of the other journalists agreeing about. The gameplay was solid though and the new moves and additional characters really made it play better than the original.
The graphics were a bit of a disappointment. In what has become an increasingly common occurence, the game looked no better than what we've seen from the GameCube and PS2 for years. It didn't look bad, but colors were not particularly vibrant, the stages were surprisingly uninteresting, and the characters weren't very detailed. It's frustrating that the Wii is more powerful than the GameCube, yet games seem to rarely take advantage of it. There were a few nice graphical flourishes though, including some nice bloom lighting and some great special effects for some of the wackier moves.
This should be a solid title for people jonesing for a bit of fast-paced arcade soccer. Just don't go in expecting Nintendo to have fixed all the issues with the first one. But the addition of online play definitely makes this game sweeter, and it's great that Nintendo finally included it. Mario Strikers Charged comes out on July 30th.