Mario Sports Superstars (3DS) Review
Mario has had a pretty successful sports career. From tennis to golf, baseball, soccer and more, he’s had some fun, over-the-top sports titles that are entertaining to sit down with friends and play.
Now, we have Mario Sports Superstars, a compilation of the four sports above, plus horse racing. It sounds like it should be a grand slam, right? However, MSS seems to miss the charm that so many of the sports titles have had in the past.
As for control of the games, they are still very simple to pick up and go. After a brief tutorial, you won’t have a problem doing smashes in tennis or galloping a horse through the course. That’s always a great feature of Mario games: even if you aren’t great at sports titles, you should be able to pick this up and be competent within a few minutes.
Each sport also has the same modes: free play, training, multiplayer and (the bulk of each sport) tournaments. Tournaments are the main single player mode, letting you unlock new playing areas and characters by earning coins, as well as difficulty settings for more challenges.
Take tennis, for instance. Early on, AI opponents will hit simple shots and only use smashes if you REALLY set them up for it. Later on, they will punish you for any mistake you make, and take you for some long rallies just for one point.
Unfortunately, outside of getting more coins to get everything unlocked for each sport, there really doesn’t feel like a need to go through the tournament mode more than a time or two. Even with the increased difficulty, nothing really hooks you or gives you the Mario charm to keep you coming back.
That also carries over to the levels. One of my favorite things to see in Mario sports titles are the unique levels: the Piranha Plants causing havoc on a tennis court, a Wario themed baseball park, etc. Instead, levels are fairly generic to see and can get stale after a few games.
Another thing to note with the team sports is that, after you choose your main character and partner, the rest of the team are generic characters that just have a particular strong trait (speed, power or technique) or are all-around characters. If they have traits anyway, why not just use the other main characters to make teams and make it a bit more enjoyable to have a superstar team on both sides?
Both golf and tennis are definitely the best titles to play more than a few times. They’re simple to get a quick game in and don’t overstay their welcome. Baseball can drag on, and the AI controlled fielders can be slow getting to balls, leading to unnecessary runs. I recommend switching to manual fielding as quick as possible.
Soccer had some issues with controls for me. Hitting the pass button once often had the next character with the ball passing it off randomly to who knows where, or delaying a shot if you try to do a one-timer immediately after the pass, letting the goalie easily stop what’s coming. The AI was also terrible in responding to getting to the ball, often letting it go by or running past it. Plus, the game tries to automatically switch your character, leading to you running right with one character before being switched to one on the right side of the ball, meaning you’re running away from it now.
Horse racing does have you trying to balance speed and stamina, which can make the game a better challenge to try and stay competitive. Plus, you have to keep collecting carrots on the track to keep your stamina up faster than the standard recharge.
The problem with races is that three laps start dragging on. A longer one lap race, or standard two lap race would’ve kept my interest more here. There is also a Stable Mode to pet and clean the horses to make them stronger for races, but that was a short diversion at best.
One mode I haven’t touched on yet was online. While that seems like it would be best for replaying, lag really hampered all the sports except golf. So, if you can live with the frustration of a normal tennis ball freezing in front of you before bouncing by you, or a soccer shot jumping halfway across the pitch in an instant, then you may have some enjoyment online. Otherwise, it’s not worth the frustration.
Finally, we get to the “big draw” for Superstars: amiibo cards. There are 90 cards to find and collect, which can give you new characters, star players with better stats and let you play the Road to Superstar mode. It’s worth noting that buying cards in game will give you new characters and star players as well, but won’t give you access to the mode.
The Road to Superstar mode will help unlock superstar characters, with much better stats for use in sports. However, it’s basically Breakout played with up to three amiibo cards at a time. Clear the blocks and beat the boss and you’ll unlock superstar characters for the amiibos that were used. It’s a weird mode, something that seems forced in only to sell those cards.