How does the day-one roster for Mario Strikers: Battle League compare to the two previous Strikers games?
I have not played Mario Strikers: Battle League yet, but after seeing the roster of playable characters - or rather, the reaction to the roster - I was curious to see how exactly the roster stacks up to the two previous Mario Strikers games and if the absences of Daisy, Diddy Kong, and more are worth being mad about. It’s been quite a long time since Mario and the gang have hit the pitch. A lot has happened since 2007, as Nintendo flopped out of the Wii only to thrive with the Switch and the game’s developer Next Level Games went from “dudes who made soccer games for Nintendo and also other games sometimes too” to “fully owned subsidiary of Nintendo making Luigi games and an underrated Metroid spinoff.” Also a lot of other things but it’s more fun if we focus on the computer graphic cartoons playing fake soccer.
For starters with the roster, there are seven characters who have been playable in every Strikers game. The “core seven” are largely who you’d expect. You’ve got the brothers (Mario and Luigi), the damsel (Peach), the evil brothers (Wario and Waluigi), the ex-villain (Donkey Kong), and the ex-horse (Yoshi). Whether GameCube, Wii, or Switch, those seven have always been playable. So the differences in rosters is at the fringes, since total playable characters of these games haven’t been higher than 12.
In the GameCube game, released in 2005, there were nine playable characters. Those seven as well as Daisy and the unlockable robotic Supers (that are, for some reason, animated similarly to Waluigi). The Wii version, released less than two years later in 2007, featured an expanded roster of 12. It included the eight from the original as well as adding Bowser, Bowser Jr., Diddy Kong, and Petey Piranha. Bowser did appear as an unplayable villain in the first Strikers, while this late 2000s time frame was the tail end of that weird era where Petey Piranha was a featured guest in essentially every Mario spinoff. Bowser Jr. and Diddy Kong were sensible additions otherwise.
15 years later with the Switch release of Mario Strikers: Battle League, we currently know of 10 playable characters, including the core seven as well as Bowser, Toad, and Rosalina. Compared directly to its predecessor, that’s an apparent downgrade, losing Daisy, Bowser Jr., Diddy Kong, and Petey Piranha. While it’s extremely likely that more characters could arrive as DLC, similar to how more were added for Mario Tennis Aces and Mario Sports Super Rush, maybe there is a reason to be turned off at the roster.
But through this all so far, the “sidekicks” in the first two Strikers games haven’t been addressed. In the GameCube version, you picked one team captain from the nine characters available and then picked one of four “sidekick” groups to round out your squad. Initially, you had choices between Birdo, Hammer Bros., Koopa Troopa, and Toad. That meant, in Super Mario Strikers on GameCube, you had 33 possible team combinations (since the Super Team can’t choose sidekicks).
In Strikers Charged on Wii, the roster of sidekicks expanded, including the four from the Cube version as well as adding Boo, Dry Bones, Monty Mole, and Shy Guy. Additionally, you could custom make your roster mixing and matching sidekicks, though still being limited to one of the 12 main characters, allowing for 1,440 combinations.
In Battle League on Switch, sidekicks are gone. Toad made the leap from sidekick to the main roster, but aside from that, the only truly new addition is Rosalina, who was just a twinkle in Yoshiaki Koizumi’s eye when Strikers Charged came out. Instead of picking one main character and filling out your other three spots with generic minions, you now pick four main characters to field your team, allowing for 210 possible team combinations. That’s a far cry from the Wii entry’s 1,440, but that doesn’t factor in the gear you can equip, of which we don’t know the full extent of how many pieces of gear are available. That could easily make the team selection variety in the same ballpark or higher than Strikers Charged.
Then we get to the biggest absence: Daisy. Daisy’s the only non-sidekick that was playable in the GameCube and Wii versions that is not playable here. The fact that Toad is fully playable after being a sidekick in previous games isn’t the problem here. Same for the addition of Rosalina, since the space princess has been a staple of recent Mario spinoffs as of late. Rosalina occupies the “Petey Piranha Slot.”
Daisy could be an unlockable character (doubtful), one of the first DLC characters (would put money on it), or possibly a super secret villain of an unknown story mode where she’s angry at Mario and the gang for leaving her out of their new soccer league (please please please). Whatever happens, I need to acknowledge I came into writing this piece expecting to come to a conclusion of how Daisy’s exclusion isn’t that big of a deal but honestly, it stinks. I know I just said it in the paragraph above but it bears repeating: she’s literally the only playable character from both previous games not playable here. That’s weird! I’m fine with the decision to retain the core seven and Bowser and add Toad and Rosalina, but why not just go for 11? Why not be open about Daisy coming this summer, as if she’s the equivalent of the leg strap control method being added to regular soccer in Nintendo Switch Sports a few months after launch. Do something for a character who has been generally beloved in the Strikers series.
But the cold dark truth is probably that Daisy just was the most cuttable from a brand recognition standpoint. Poking around at some Google Trends data from the past five years, Daisy pales in comparison to every other playable character, with her only real peak being the day Daisy was announced for Smash Bros. Comically, Waluigi is probably more searched on Google for not being in Smash Bros. She does still outrank fellow absentees from the Switch version of Strikers (Bowser Jr, Diddy Kong, Petey Piranha), so I guess if Petey’s big belly-buttoned plant bod shows up before Daisy makes her grand return, then we riot.
It’s assuredly too soon to condemn the roster of Mario Strikers: Battle League. While it’d be cool if the full roster was there day one, that’s not how the video game industry works anymore. Much like 90% of video games, post-launch content will potentially broaden the pool of characters. Most of the non-returning characters aren’t huge losses. I love Dry Bones as much as the next guy, but the Bones isn’t a requirement for me to get hyped to tackle Yoshi into Wario into an electric fence. That being said, I understand more of where you’re coming from, Daisy stans. Her exclusion is a bummer, but this game looks rad regardless.