Take Me Out To The Ball Game: Mario Superstar Baseball / Super Sluggers - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Take Me Out To The Ball Game: Mario Superstar Baseball / Super Sluggers

Chris Morley does the Mario...

We head into the final stretch of our ball game with a little fun, far from the Major League - 2005 finding Mario & friends having a go at America's game on the GameCube.

Much like a regular season, Mario Superstar Baseball is essentially split into a pre-season, of sorts, in the Exhibition mode with a regular season following, in a sense, through the Challenge option. Unless there's been a rule change in the real life game of baseball, it's doubtful that there's the option of the use of power-ups which allow for super-charged swings making hits twice as potent as normal!

Should you want to play a Mario-style fantasy baseball setup, Exhibition allows you to pick a team captain & roster of players with control also given over how many innings games will last, while Challenge throws you straight in with a pre assembled line up to play games against teams led by the likes of Bowser, Donkey Kong, Princess Peach & Wario. Peach's team is entirely drawn from Toads, while as you'd expect Wario goes with villains of the calibre of King Boo, Boo & some Magikoopas. Donkey Kong makes it a family affair with Diddy, Dixie & some Goombas! Yoshi goes for the cute factor with Babies Mario & Luigi & a few Shy Guys.

Winning games gets you to a lucrative final against Bowser & his chosen few of the Fire, Hammer & Boomerang Bros alongside Bowser Junior & some Dry Bones.

As well as the cup, there's chance for a bit of player recruitment from other teams once you prove you're a stronger outfit by meeting the targets set on scouting flags - once you've captured all the flags of any particular character they're yours. Far less messy than the hopping between the American & National Leagues that characterised the early years of professional baseball across the pond!

And once a team captain is recruited, their original team simply disbands. Lending a further air of professionalism you can train up your team through minigames like Bob-bomb derby, attempting to hit home runs with the charged swing & some Bob-bombs! Pitching is covered in Wall Ball, breaking walls with well-aimed pitches, with base-taking tackled through Chain Chomp Sprint, collecting diamonds as you run between bases.

It would seem that underneath the fantasy, there was an element of reality as a GameSpot review would point out...
“Mario Superstar Baseball takes a lot of its core gameplay cues from old NES baseball favorites, like RBI Baseball and Baseball Stars. The default pitcher-batter view gives you a look at the action from above and just behind the plate. As the pitcher, throwing strikes is merely a matter of getting the ball across the plate; you needn't worry about height, only how far off the plate you are left or right.

Pitches can be thrown with some break to them, as some characters (like Princess Peach) can put a ton of lateral movement on their pitches. Meanwhile, others (such as Yoshi) tend to pitch fairly straight. At first glance, this makes things pretty simple for the batter. You can shift left and right or forward and back in the batter's box, so you only have to worry about your positioning and timing to hit the ball. “
Game Informer also praised the old-school feel, making it something of a recurring theme.
“Mario Superstar Baseball is a flashback to the golden age of video game baseball. Balls cut on a dime and dip in and out of the strike zone, batters can lean onto their back feet to charge up their swings, and you never know when a fielder, who is giving chase after a lazy fly ball, will be knocked unconscious by a ravenous Chain Chomp.

The duel between the batter and pitcher rekindles the skill and trickery that made Baseball Stars a blast to play.”
Making it perhaps inevitable that a sequel would emerge...

Within four years of Mario Superstar Baseballs release, Super Sluggers wouldarrive on the Wii - though only in the US & Japan. Gameplay-wise it was much like its predecessor, though the marketing campaign had more than a foot in another old school kind of baseball gaming - cards for each of the characters in the game, a nice nod back to where it & indeed we started!

Taking it a step further, Nintendo's American arm also owned the Seattle Mariners at the time of the launch, retaining a 10% stake to this day, and so were able to promote it at an actual game! The visitors to Safeco Field on September 5th 2008 were the New York Yankees, & the first 20,000 fans in got Super Sluggers giant foam hands as souvenirs, character cards & a demo of the game also available as a prelude to the day's play. And who should have appeared alongside Mariners mascot the Moose but Mario himself! And whenever a home run was scored a clip of the game was played featuring either Mario, Luigi or Bowser doing just the same magic.

Nevertheless, Seattle have never played in the World Series, one of only six teams never to have done so. Their history begins in 1977, formed as a result of the relocation of the Seattle Pilots to Milwaukee - where they became the Brewers. A first game against the California Angels ended in a 7-0 defeat on April 6, 1977, a first home run hit four days later by Juan Bernhardt. Only one player managed the feat of stepping onto the field for both the Pilots & the Mariners- Cuban pitcher Diego Segui.

It wasn't until halfway through 1992 that Nintendo became involved, the late Hiroshi Yamauchi among a consortium that bought the team from Jeff Smulyan, who had been talking about relocating. The following season saw the Mariners donning the uniforms they still wear up to the present day for the first time, the Moose mascot having been in place since the dawn of the Nineties.

We're outta here!

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