Could it have all gone differently for Brazil, if they’d had Wario up front…?

Mario Strikers Charged Football (2007)

I have my own theory on football obsession, or soccer to you sceptic Septics. Being crazy into football when you’re a young kid and teenager is absolutely no problem at all, it’s quite understandable. And even as you get longer in the tooth, football is always handy as a universal men’s language, something to awkwardly discuss at surface level with the other henpecked dads at the next kid’s birthday party you both get bullied into attending.

I must say though, and here’s my theory – if you’re over the age of say, 20 or 21, and you’re still obsessed with football, to the point that your team getting a bad result ruins your entire weekend, then I’m sorry, but this is an admittance that you have absolutely no sex life. After all, there’s better things to be doing of a Saturday and Sunday. And let’s face it, you’re probably a plastic supporter of a mega-club anyway, which means you might as well be watching the share price battle between Coca-Cola versus Pepsi – and at least those two don’t change their ingredients every six months.

Of course, there are exceptions to this rule, chief among them the World Cup, when a month of football obsession becomes OK. That’s when the casuals come on board, and you have to explain the offside rule once more. But, whether you were 16 or 60, World Cup 2014 is going to live long in the memory after the famous Brazil Germany 7-1 semi-final.

Brazil? Brassers, more like. I still remember where I was when that match was played: the pub, of course. What a humiliation – I went for a broken-seal whazz and missed two goals, for heaven’s sake, and just as I sat down and got filled in on what I missed, another went in. Four nil in 30 minutes, Brazil out of the World Cup in embarrassing fashion, and on their own soil to boot. The Brazilians who happened to be in the same bar as us weren’t a bit impressed. There may have been tears.

The result was coming of course, the referees had treated Brazil like an injured little puppy during the tournament, leaving their opponent teams like Croatia licking their wounds and choking on their own vomit at the awful decisions they were receiving. Following Brazilian “talisman” Neymar Jr’s tragic death during the tournament, warmly tributed by his teammates holding up his jersey before the match, you’d have thought the footballing Gods would be kind, and the Mannschaft would be nice and gentle, but not a bit of it. They didn’t even lube up.

Anyway, you may not be a soccer guy or gal so I won’t go too far in depth, but I just want to bring across the shock and indeed horror of so many decisive goals going in so quickly and so devastatingly that it created what the Brazilians went on to call a “source of national shame”. I daresay the diehard fans would have altogether harsher words to say about that whole 90 minute ordeal. If you want, you could take a trip to PornHub and look for the comments under the video entitled “Brazilians Get ****** by Gang of Germans”. You always get the most honest and insightful comments under the porno videos, not that I’d know anything about that.

Talk about two opposites: would you like to be a fiery Brazilian, or a stoic German? I wasn’t so stoic my first time playing Mario Strikers Charged Football for the Wii – shellshocked is closer to the truth. Like all top gamers, I always believe my gaming skill to be top-notch, more than enough for some old Mario football game. It’s Mario sports, so it has to be criminally easy, right?

Hence I cranked the difficulty right up to its highest and started a match. I was caught cold, to say the least, when the opposition team began to play like Barcelona (for casuals, that is, a load of tippy-tappy hobbits), almost walking past my whole team, keeper and all. That was galling enough, but imagine the egg on my face when the opposition Mario took the ball and jumped 100 feet in the air, initiating a dodgy motion control sequence that I barely underwood. Suddenly, the ball went into the net six times in three seconds, a double hat-trick for Mario as calm as you like. He repeated the feat a minute later, and in a flash of frightening blitzkrieg power, I was 12-0 down. Now, what the hell?

Well, this game is still football, just about. But it’s Mario and multiplayer-based, so there were some pretty wild things going on here. Even the intro movie is a lot more hardcore than you’re used to from Mario (I’m back to my Pornhub comparisons again), and I’d say it’s well worth watching. You pick a captain for your team, the likes of Wario, Mario, Peach etc, each with bizarre special abilities that they can use to gain an advantage – Waluigi can use his ‘Wall-uigi’ power to release temporary walls onto the pitch, that type of thing. You just can’t beat characterisation like that, can you?

Rounding out your five-a-side team is some typical Mario lackeys – Boos, Monty Moles, Toads, all those guys, and bizarrely every team has a Kremling from Donkey Kong Country in goal. He’s great at smacking seven shades out of anyone that comes close to him, and he’s not the only one to get his elbows out; there’s no referee out there, so the tackles get vicious, and again it’s far more violent and hardcore than what you might be used to from Mario, or modern football on TV for that matter. Even if you know nowt about footie, you still probably know that today, football has become a divefest for the weak, where feigning injury is of great tactical importance. Even my mother liked a bit of football back then, when supposed real men played.

No referee means no fouls or free kicks when your player takes a smack, but you get an item instead, like Mushrooms for a speed boost, or a Star for temporary invincibility. This really is the footballing equivalent of Mario Kart, then. Certainly not as fun of course, and probably not as appealing to the casual player; either you’re into football games or you’re not. Actually, do you reckon sales of FIFA have gone down in Brazil since 2014…?

I’ll say this, and as I found out to my cost: MSCF is a pretty difficult game, especially if you go through the not-bad single player mode where you play the AI in a series of cup matches, with unlockables at the end if you win. Naturally, a two-player match against a pal is good fun, so long as he’s not Germany and you’re not Brazil.

Of course you can also go online – or rather, you could, Nintendo shelved it a long time ago, not wanting to spend more than £2.50 on their servers .This was the first online-enabled Wii game, I believe, which got a lot of people excited, and it once was the case that the online lobbies were teeming with people. Of course, a complete lack of matchmaking means that you’ll probably be Accringtoad Stanley against Kooparis St Germain, and there’s only so many times that a Boo or a Dry Bones can quite literally teleport the ball into your goal before you leave the online portion well alone.

Other than that, you can find a surprisingly high amount of juice from the goal celebrations, animations, music and voice samples from all of the characters – no really, I’m genuinely impressed that there was almost no recycling of assets here. It’s this level of charm and character, as well as the fairly good gameplay, that’ll keep you interested in Mario Strikers Charged Football, even if you may have forgotten all about it. It definitely warrants an updated sequel. Just make sure you’re winning your games, or at least not losing them badly – shipping 6 goals at once tends to bring about your forced retirement, a sense of national shame, and the need for a constant armed guard in your own country.

26 November 2021

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