Mario Strikers: Battle League has a Sound Design Problem

Mario Strikers: Battle League is the newest iteration of the Mario Strikers franchise. While the game has plenty to praise and criticize, one of the most prevalent things I noticed was a distinct downgrade in sound effects from the game's predecessor Mario Strikers: Charged.

Mario Strikers Battle League has a Sound Design Problem

I grew up playing Mario Strikers Charged for the Wii. I remember it as an intense and chaotic spin on soccer. After a 15 year hiatus, Mario Strikers: Battle League was finally announced for Nintendo Switch. I was excited to see a reimagining of one of my favorite childhood games.

When gameplay came out, it felt empty. My first impressions of the game revealed that something was clearly missing from Mario Strikers: Battle League. The sound design in Mario Strikers just isn’t what it used to be.

Sound Design is an incredibly important component of any game, not just Mario Strikers. It helps convey impact, emotion, ambience, and a myriad of other things. I’ve found that the sound design in Mario Strikers: Battle League pales in comparison to what it used to be in Mario Strikers: Charged.

Mario Strikers History

Mario Strikers has always been the more “hardcore” Mario Sports title. The art style is grungier, the gameplay is more violent, and the overall aesthetic leans away from the typical bubbly Mario game. It has been this way since the franchise debut on the GameCube.

The box art for Super Mario Strikers on the GameCube.

The box art for Super Mario Strikers on the GameCube.

The Strikers series has always tried to differentiate itself from soccer. While you’ll go to game series like FIFA for realism, you came to Strikers for over the top cartoon violence. Mario Strikers: Charged on the Wii was a great evolution from the GameCube version. It added new mechanics, new stages, new characters, and overhauled existing systems. One thing that I think Mario Strikers: Charged did exceptionally well was have sound design that adequately conveyed the intensity of Mario Strikers.

Sound Effects in Mario Strikers: Charged

Mario Strikers: Charged features a charge mechanic where the more you pass the ball before you shoot the stronger the shot will be. It’s a fun mechanic that encourages passing. Accompanying this mechanic is sound design that clearly conveys the mechanic. When you pass the ball in Mario Strikers: Charged it sounds like you are striking a piece of metal. The more you pass the louder the sound, and the more it echoes. When you finally shoot the ball after charging it sounds like an explosion on impact with the goalie.

Finally when you charge a megastrike you can get one of three speeds based on your timing. The grey area will give you a slow megastrike and give you a normal buzzing sound. If you hit the green area, you get a medium speed megastrike and the sound of striking a bell once. Finally, the orange area will give you a fast megastrike and play the sound of a bell urgently ringing repeatedly. The sound made by the orange megastrike is burned into my mind as a core part of playing that game. The sound promotes the sense of anxiety and dread for when you have to block a fast megastrike and how devastating it can potentially be to your score.

Luigi charging a mega strike in Mario Strikers: Charged.

Luigi charging a mega strike in Mario Strikers: Charged.

With these sound effects passing feels satisfying, shots feel brutal, and well timed supers drive anxiety through the roof. The sound design not only works well, but actively enhances the emotions you feel while playing the game.

Sound Effects in Mario Strikers: Battle League

When you pass the ball in Mario Strikers: Battle League it sounds like you are hitting a soccer ball. Yes, this objectively works for conveying a game of soccer. However, the problem lies within the fact that Strikers has never been trying to represent real soccer. The sound effects are good, but they do nothing to represent the intensity of a game.

While the game has gotten rid of the overall charge mechanics of Mario Strikers: Charged, it still has a perfect pass mechanic to reward good timing. Hitting a perfect pass in game will give the passing sound a slight electric twinge, but does nothing to add impact. The sound is subtle and does nothing to adequately differentiate a normal pass from a perfect pass. The hyper strike in this game has a similar charge mechanic but the sound effects are similarly mundane. When hitting a perfect timing you get a very quiet little jingle that, while satisfying, does nothing to convey the immediate danger or power of the hyper strike.

This is how a lot of the game’s sound effects feel: empty and low impact. It leaves a sour first impression before even really diving into Battle League.

Mario Strikers Comparison (Switch, Wii, Gamecube)

SOURCE: Nintendo Galaxy on YouTube

Why Sound Design Matters

Sound design is the subtle backbone of almost every game. Without sound design moves would lack impact, and games would feel emptier. Good sound design is a great way to convey information and make a game experience feel much better.

However, at the end of the day, sound design is not a make or break for the entire experience. It might be nitpicky, but losing out on a feature that I feel was nailed in a previous game is a bummer. I think comparing these two games is an interesting example of how important sound design can be to developing game feel. However, Mario Strikers: Battle League has bigger problems that need to be addressed, namely, a severe lack of content. If you want to read more Mario, then check out our ranking of all the 3D Mario games!

Mario Strikers: Battle League - Here We Go Launch Trailer - Nintendo Switch

 

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