Mario Sports Mix Review «

Mario Sports Mix is not the game I expected. For one thing, despite the standard assortment of pick-up-and-play games, the game’s tournament mode ties together in a simple but incredibly bizarre tale. Also, despite the fact that they’re not to be found anywhere on the box or in the game’s opening cinematic, you can play as characters from Square Enix’s Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest universes.
That second point shouldn’t come as a huge surprise; Nintendo has released screens that show the playable Slime character, and you can recruit a Moogle by completing the basic Mushroom Cup in any tournament. But things go a bit deeper, and weirder, than that. The trophies you earn for each event are more than just trophies — they’re made of crystals that apparently fell to Mario’s planet from some meteor. If you’ve never played a Final Fantasy game, the entire set up utterly nonsensical (or at least as nonsensical as anything can be in a world where an Italian plumber, anthropomorphic mushrooms, and giant turtles all play basketball together). And if you are familiar with Final Fantasy, you get to wonder at how they wedged a story about gathering the four Crystals of Light into a Mario sports-themed game.

Click the image above to check out all Mario Sports Mix screens.
On the surface, though, things are pretty standard: you have four main sports and a handful of minigames to play with your friends. All of the sports share some basic similarities, which makes them easy to jump into, but it also makes the experience feel a bit samey when you switch between tournaments. And you have two control-options: either the standard Wii Remote and Nunchuk, which gives you better control over your character (but forces you to constantly shake your remote in order to score to perform simple actions), or just the Wii Remote — where you lose some control but you don’t have to waggle the remote in place of pushing a button.

And the motion controls never function as more than button replacements; unlike Wii Sports Resort or other Wii-specific sports titles, Sports Mix is a simple arcade experience. Though the only event where the waggle really gets tiresome is Vollyeyball. This least enjoyable game on the disc also has matches that feel like they take twice as long to complete as in every other sport. Unlike Sports Mix’s other game’s, Vollyeball has no time limit; like real volleyball, you play to 15, and best of three wins. Sure, you probably won’t lose against the computer, but each round just feels interminably long.

And those two points highlight two of Sports Mix’s biggest weaknesses: terrible A.I. and having matches that drag on too long. Because play pauses and goes to a small-celebration screen after every goal, a three-minute round of Hockey can easily stretch to 10. But that’s just until you learn one important trick: don’t score. It’s not as much fun, but especially in the basketball and hockey’s lower tiers, it’s easier to just score a couple points, then bide your time until the clock runs out. That’s problem’s exacerbated by the fact that you have to work your way up from the bottommost tier each time. The Mushroom Cup is clearly targeted at younger audiences and people unfamiliar with the Wii Remote; forcing everyone to play through those too easy stages for every sport feels unnecessary.

 

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