Last week, a large, unmarked white van with curtained windows rolled up outside Joystiq HQ and a man I had never seen before encouraged me to step inside to play games with him. Before I could run and find an adult, I found myself in the back of the van gripping the best controller made prior to 2005 (a Nintendo WaveBird, naturally) playing a game of Super Mario Strikers for the GameCube.
The game is good, folks.
Not since my wacky college roommate stayed up nightly until 5am playing FIFA something or another and screaming "Maradona! Hah hah hah hah!" whenever he scored against the other slacker I roomed with have I dreamt of soccer in my sleep.
We didn't get to spend much time in the van, but here's what's nice about Strikers, and why we intend to give it a full play-test and review. First, the controls are simple. There are just a few buttons that matter and every time I mashed one, the game responded instantly with a clear, visual change, be it switching to a different player, passing the ball, or moving a player around on the field.
Second, the arena is perhaps half the size of a normal soccer field bounded by walls with no out-of-bounds zone. Thatís a plus because it makes for constant action. There are no great big patches of grass vacant of players; the whole game feels closer and more immediate, like basketball or indoor soccer.
Combine this immediacy with the visceral special tackles and complete absence of any referees, and the game quickly falls into a back-and-forth rhythm of comical violence punctuated by shots on goal.
Iíve always felt that there was something missing with the FIFA line of soccer games. In their attempts at verisimilitude, they succeeded in reminding me of bygone misery playing the position of ďdefenderĒ (quoted, because I never effectively defended anything, except, perhaps, the bench from cold). Itís not that the other games suck: they do a great job at depicting a game that is itself perhaps a little slow and boring (yes, it has its moments, but Ritalin is even more expensive than stadium food). Strikers takes all the boring stuff out and gives more of what makes soccer fun: goals, tackles, and acrobatics.
Check out an official gameplay clip here.