Already available in Europe and scheduled for release in North America next week, Super Mario Strikers is a GameCube-exclusive soccer game in which eight of Nintendo's most popular characters captain rival teams. We recently received a finished version of the game, and although it hasn't changed noticeably since our visit to developer Next Level Games last month, this is the first opportunity we've had to play through any of the game's cup battle competitions and unlock additional content.
The main single-player gameplay options in Super Mario Strikers are cup battles and super cup battles, the latter of which are simply lengthier and more challenging versions of the former. The mushroom, flower, star, and Bowser cup battles are essentially leagues contested by up to eight teams, and you'll need to win each one to unlock the next. As you progress through the cup battles, you'll also unlock four additional stadiums, for a total of seven, and a number of different milestone trophies. The extra stadiums, which include such memorable venues as Konga Coliseum and Battle Dome, don't play any differently from those available at the start of the game, but they boast some quite varied visuals.
Super Mario Strikers' five milestone trophies each come in bronze, silver, and gold flavors that you'll inevitably unlock if you spend enough time playing cup matches. The trophies include a veteran award for the number of matches you've played, a sniper award for goals scored, a super strike award for super strikes, a tactician award for perfect passes, and a paramedic award for total hits. To give you some idea of how long you'll need to play to unlock the gold trophies, playing 100 cup matches will unlock the gold veteran reward, while tackling for 1,000 hits in total will earn you the gold paramedic award. We've earned one gold trophy since getting our hands on the finished game a couple of days ago, for pulling off more than 100 super strikes in cup matches--our reward was unlocking an "explosive" set of custom power-ups.
Custom power-ups are one of a handful of different cheat menu options that you'll unlock as you play Super Mario Strikers, along with weak goalies, infinite power-ups, field tilts, and perfect strikes. We've not had a chance to try out any of that stuff just yet, but rest assured that we'll be kicking all of them around in plenty of time for our upcoming review.