“Mario Superstar Baseball”
••• (out of four)
Rating: E (Everyone)
Mario has taken a swing at golf and a spin at kart racing. Now the mustached plumber and his Mushroom Kingdom posse are taking a crack at baseball.
In true Nintendo fashion, this is an easy-to-play, family-friendly affair with cheery characters and bright graphics. And, of course, power-ups aplenty. Mario and Luigi can throw fireball fastballs. Donkey Kong uses his fists – not a bat – to wallop balls out of the park. And Princess Peach blinds batters with her love-packed pitches.
With more than two dozen characters to fill out your team, goodies to unlock and a fairly simple control scheme (you only really use one button), “Mario Superstar Baseball” should delight gamers of all ages.
The ballparks are absurdly fun Mario fare. On Mario’s desert field, an easily catchable blooper to shallow left field becomes a nightmare when a whirlwind vortex whips up and carries the ball away. On Donkey Kong’s turf, barrels roll through the outfield, occasionally ruining easy out opportunities.
While this goofball sports title primarily focuses on brisk 1- or 2-player games of five-inning baseball, a handful of thoroughly entertaining mini games are available for four friends to battle in.
Mario’s powered-up version of baseball is the best virtual diamond on the GameCube, and while baseball purists may cringe at the characters’ cutesy antics, no one will dispute the game is fun.
–Ryan Huschka, Knight Ridder
“Advance Wars: Dual Strike”
•••• (out of four)
Rating: E (Everyone)
Nintendo’s Intelligent Systems division had to make an “Advance Wars” for the DS. Anything else would have been unacceptable.
“Dual Strike” is the latest in the brilliant “Advance Wars” series of military strategy games, which hit U.S. stores for the Game Boy Advance in 2001 to rave reviews. The addicting gameplay is back with some new twists, including tag-team battles and fights that use both the DS screens.
The meat of the game is Campaign mode; there is also the War Room mode, which lets you hone your skills against the computer, and multiplayer mode. The Black Hole Army is stirring up trouble for the heroes of Orange Star and its allies. The good guys launch a counterattack. To progress through the story, you take the role of various COs (commanding officers) and match wits against Black Hole’s dastardly COs.
To be victorious, you have to wipe out your enemy’s forces or capture their headquarters. In most cases, it’s up to you to decide which of more than two dozen land, air and naval units to deploy. For newbies, the game gently walks you through the first few missions. Once the hand-holding is over, look out.
The computer is a ruthless opponent. If you don’t know the fundamental strengths and weaknesses of your COs and military units, the computer will pick you apart. There are campaigns that will keep you awake at night, second-guessing your tactics, long after you shut off the DS.
– Omari Gardner, Knight Ridder
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