Super Mario Strikers Charged (also known as Mario Strikers Charged Football in European and Australian territories) was released on the Nintendo Wii in 2007 and created by Next Level Games in partnership with Nintendo. It is the sequel to Super Mario Strikers on the Gamecube.
Before it gained the subtitle ‘Charged’ later in development (a reference to the game’s ‘skillshot’ charging mechanic), the game was initially going under the simple title of ‘Super Mario Strikers 2‘. The original title was scrapped before its first public showing at the “Wii Prove Our Promise” keynote in August 2006.
More art from early on in development on the game has been found by Unseen64, which offers insight into some of the smaller concepts played around with towards the start of the project.
At one stage, ‘ball launchers‘ were considered as an aesthetic addition to levels. These were machines that would have propelled multiple balls up towards characters during mega strikes. In the final game, these were dropped and only one ball model is shown when a player is able to activate one. Any additional balls earned during the attack’s initiation aren’t shown to the player (up to 6 can be gained at a time); this is a process which happens off screen. These small mechanisms weren’t implemented into the game, as they were viewed as an unnecessary detail that would have needlessly extended the animation sequence.
Another visual idea that the artists at Next Level experimented with towards the start of development were mechs and other vehicles, which would have decorated the perimeter of certain stages during gameplay. In most of the concept art, these are commonly seen operated by Toads. They would have been dotted around the sides of pitches, acting as security guards and performing other miscellaneous tasks. One concept, for instance, sees one of the Toads operating a crane-like contraption and another in a large digger.
One of the machines that did make it into the final product was a design featuring a Toad, riding a captive Blooper monster. These can be seen in the Wastelands stadium towards the side of the field, acting as security guards. However, some small revisions were made to it from its first iteration. The final model is marginally less detailed (likely due to the technical limitations of the Wii) and doesn’t feature all of the band aids and bandages seen in the concept. The reason for this was attributed to a desire to make the Blooper look less as though it was being used against its will. It is positioned noticeably more upright as well. An alternative, darker blooper design was created too, but this was not used.
The iconic metal football featured in the game was also subject to changes; many, in fact, according to the concept artist who designed it. It went through a total of 12 reiterations and grew much simpler over time. Originally, it was envisioned as an elaborate, high-tech sphere, made up of many different exhausts. More and more of them would gradually illuminate as it charged up, each one glowing a different colour. This would culminate with a bright, multicoloured glow effect on the pitch when at full power. The final version features comparatively few exhaust ports and radiates only one colour at a time. It begins a shade of purple and as it charges up, cycles through increasingly bright colours until it emits a gleaming white light upon reaching its capacity.
In Mario Strikers Charged, all of the players are outfitted in armour, including chest plates and shoulder pads. This aesthetic choice debuted in Charged and was made partway through early beta development, after some experimentation by its concept artists. Initially, character models were drawn much in the style of the game’s predecessor, Super Mario Strikers, in which the characters are seen wearing fairly standard football kits.
At one point, the artists toyed around with the level of armour each character would have equipped, as well as certain other details. A good example of this is seen in how the Kremling goalkeeper‘s character model evolved over the course of its creation. The concept artist responsible for it tried a variety of different armour/outfit configurations on the road to deciding upon the finished model. Shin guards, 4 different types of gloves and even alternative footwear with large metal claws were among some of the considerations. Ultimately, the artists went with a barefooted model featuring metallic gloves and a heavily armoured torso, including a wire frame mask.
It is possible that that the game had some alterations made to its initial stage selection. One unused piece illustrates a scrapped concept for an unnamed stadium set inside a futuristic city. Surrounding a relatively standard, green five-a-side pitch was a darkened seating arrangement held together by metallic structures and a myriad of exposed wiring. In the immediate distance, a white dome is visible with satellites peering out of it. The level idea was scrapped for unknown reasons, but similarly themed sci-fi locations were made available in Charged, such as ‘Galactic Stadium’.
One other deleted concept was the idea of a playing field set on top of an enormous aircraft. The untitled ship sports four horizontal propellers to keep it aloft and a large front-facing cockpit design somewhat reminiscent of a stealth bomber. Whereabouts this ship would have travelled to or been stationed at in the Mushroom Kingdom throughout the level was never decided. The motivation for abandoning this stage design is unknown.
Thirdly, we were able to discover another rejected stage from a former NLG artist, which called upon a classic thematic trope of the Mario series. This ambitious arena was suspended over an active volcano by four wires and was to feature a giant stone Bowser head carved into the rock around it; with lava spewing forth from its mouth. In the far-off landscape, you can see what appears to be a vast, technologically-advanced city and a number of space crafts whizzing by.
It’s conceivable that this design is a precursor to another lava-filled level, which made it into the final product, called ‘The Lava Pit’. In this image here, we can see streams of flames shooting out of the crater over, and possibly onto, the pitch. This would be in line with the design of the aforementioned Lava Pit, which spits fireballs onto the playing field as a gameplay gimmick, burning any players who come into contact with them. Assuming this theory is correct, the setting turned out to be much smaller than how it was first drawn up. None of the faraway city details were included and the pitch was lowered to the floor of the volcano, floating on top of the molten rock. Perhaps, this was another victim of the Wii’s limited processing power.
It’s worth noting that some other minor adjustments were made to the final stadiums over their first visualisations, too. The Sand Tomb level in Charged is situated in the middle of a remote, scorching desert. Whereas in its concept art form, it seemingly takes place in a canyon surrounded by a distant jungle vista. Also visible are some grey temples with ancient Egyptian-esque architecture. We can only speculate as to why this change was made, but it would seem likely that this was another decision influenced by the Wii’s restricted hardware capabilities. The baron surroundings of the pitch in the final version are comparatively less intricate. It’s possible this was done to preserve the performance and consistency of the graphics.
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