Why the hate for Mario Super Sluggers?

mariobaseball.jpgCammie Dunaway, Nintendo’s newly crowned Vice President of Sales and Marketing, yesterday announced Mario Super Sluggers, a Wii sequel to the successful 2005 GameCube title, Mario Superstar Baseball.

Any person qualified enough to take Reggie’s old job demands respect. Her words, dripping with delicious truth, ought not be disputed:

“We think (Mario Super Sluggers) is going to take these three wonderful areas of Mario, baseball and the unique capabilities of the Wii remote and bring them together in an exciting experience.”

Maybe I’m being overly optimistic, or maybe I’m referring to the precedent set by Mario’s countless successful sports endeavors prior, but what about this game doesn’t seem awesome so far?

Strangely, it seemed that before the details of the announcement could even be divulged, an online cadre of haters voiced their premature displeasure. Of course, the means varied; some made the familiar assertion that Nintendo is overusing Mario, while similarly oft-cited complaints were also expressed ad nauseam Internet-wide.

The prevailing view, however, was that Nintendo simply cannot pass on an opportunity to make a buck on the shoulders of its timeless Italian icon. “Eoco” over at OpinionDebug.com yesterday prompted Nintendo to “get some new ideas” in a post slamming the company for taking advantage of another “money-spinning opportunity.”

All of this cyber-hate, of course, without a single hands-on preview, let alone a release date. A tad premature, couldn’t you say?

mariobaseball2.jpgWe could speculate all day about things we don’t know; hell, some Web sites base their entire existence on doing so. But instead, let us look for a moment to relevant, tangible precedent through which we can reach some educated hypotheses regarding Mario Super Sluggers.

The original Mario Superstar Baseball was, above all else, an enjoyable arcade-like baseball experience. Sure it had flaws, but it was addictive and fun, particularly with friends. The controls were tight, particularly the batting mechanics, and like any great multiplayer Nintendo effort, they made it easy to pick up a controller and play. It had several different single and multiplayer modes, as well as countless baseball minigames. Considering how late it came in the GameCube timeline, Mario Superstar Baseball provided Nintendo loyalists a solid pre-Wii reason to keep fresh batteries in their Wavebirds.

Now, let’s be honest. For all the fun it had to offer, Mario Superstar Baseball also was hindered by some serious flaws. The fielding mechanics suffered in contrast to the superb pitching and batting, and some sort of stat-tracking application for the single-player season mode would have been a nice addition. But even the critic inside me couldn’t deny the pure fun factor inherent within Mario Superstar Baseball. As was the case with their kart-racing, tennis and golf experiences prior, Mario and friends were naturals on the diamond.

And hitting a towering homerun with Bowser to the quick rumble of the controller is about as satisfying a feeling as any GameCube sports game has to offer. So why the hate, guys?

(NOTE: And if you say it’s because you want “fresh, new franchises” on Wii instead of piles of Mario spin-offs, I demand to see UPC tags proving your purchases of Zack & Wiki, Elebits, Trauma Center, Geometry Wars, No More Heroes or at least two of the other fresh franchises released thus far on Wii. Otherwise, zip it.)

Sure, Mario is in a lot of different games spread across countless genres these days. But jaded accu$ations aside, his frequent appearances have just as much to do with the quality of his spin-off endeavors as their ridiculous profitability. As we embraced their faults, let’s be fair and accept their strengths; generally, the best Mario sports/racing games provide some of the most frantic, addictive and enjoyable multiplayer experiences Nintendo has to offer.

If it takes the best parts of its predecessor, makes some necessary adjustments and refines the solid swinging and pitching mechanics of Wii Sports, one could justifiably argue Super Mario Sluggers might well become one of the most enjoyable Wii games of 2008.

Haters, I respectfully call you out. What exactly is the problem?