Mario Tennis Open Review

May 19, 2014 at 9:20 am | Posted in 3DS Review, Game Review | Leave a comment

Mario Tennis on the N64 was one of my favourite sports titles back in the day. Have Camelot conjured up another ace here, or is it a double-fault?

MarioTennisOpen

Title: Mario Tennis Open

Format: 3DS

Developed by: Camelot Software Planning

Published by: Nintendo

Genre: Sports

 

Mario’s sporting outings have been keeping people entertained for nearly twenty years now. Since the plumber picked up a golf club in the NES Golf title, he’s gone on to try nearly every sport under the sun, with the possible exception of Aussie Rules football and Lacrosse (although I wouldn’t rule them out). One of the best sport games the Mushroom Kingdom has featured in is Mario Tennis on the N64. Developed by Nintendo’s regular sporting partners at Camelot, this title managed to strike a fine balance between realistic physics and the kind of wacky style expected from a Mario game. Unfortunately, the GameCube sequel completely tipped things in favour of over-the-top special abilities which spoiled the party somewhat.

 

Mario Tennis Open on the 3DS gets rid of these troublesome power-shots, but replaces them with something far, far worse. Say hello to the all-conquering chance shots.

 

During a rally, coloured circles appear on the court where the ball is due to land, if a player can run to that spot and use a shot that matches the spots colour they can unleash a more powerful shot. This sounds great on paper, but in reality this new gameplay mechanic quickly gets annoying. While they’re a bit easier to defend against than the abilities in Power Tennis, they’re still far too powerful. Instead of winning a long-fought rally with a well-placed shot, most points will be won by a cheap chance shot. This completely strips out the most gratifying element of Tennis games; the skill and strategy of picking the right shot and placing it just where you want it has all but disappeared.

 

In the more difficult tournaments, using a powered-up shot is pretty much the only way to win a point, and rallies against high-level opponents will eventually boil down to a succession of one chance shot after another. The fact that they appear so regularly means they’re no longer special. Had Camelot awarded them for skilful play in a match (accumulated via aces, smash winners etc.) and limited their use then they might have felt more rewarding, but as it stands they’re just frustrating. To make matters worse they can’t even be switched off.

 

Nintendo seems more open to patching games after release, following the recent shortcut-chopping update for Mario Kart 7, so there is still hope that they will see sense and tweak the appearance and effectiveness of these shots, or at least give us the option to turn them off.

 

The presentation, however, is top-notch, with a large assortment of colourful courts to play on and really catchy music from Camelot veteran Motoi Sakuraba.

 

There are some great new additions to the existing formula, like customisable Miis. Players can choose to spend coins earned in mini-games on outfits and gear that can help give an edge on the court. Sadly, this addition seems to have been included at the expense of the excellent RPG mode of the handheld titles on the GBC and GBA.

 

Mario Tennis Open also marks the first time the series has ventured online, but the results are mixed. While setting up matches with friends, or taking on strangers is relatively easy, match options are incredibly limited. The only choices available are a quick three-game match or an even quicker tie-break game; doubles matches can only be played with friends. This, coupled with chance shots, means online matches last a few minutes at best and are not very satisfying. Mario Kart 7 has shown the 3DS is more than capable of providing engaging online multiplayer so Mario Tennis’ dearth of options is immensely disappointing.

 

Camelot has tried to utilise most of the 3DS’ features, but this is once again a bit hit-and-miss. Local multiplayer matches can be set up using one cartridge, which is a nice touch. Potential opponents can also be found using StreetPass, if you happen to live near other Mario Tennis enthusiasts. The 3D effect doesn’t feel as robust as other Nintendo games, but it still adds to the experience. Strangely, when switching to the over-the-shoulder camera (by holding the 3DS vertically, tilting the system left and right to place shots) the 3D is disabled making the option largely redundant. Assigning shots to the touch-screen also feels a bit unnecessary; holding the system with both hands and using button inputs feel more comfortable and doesn’t break the 3D effect so easily.

 

The usual mix of mini-games are all very entertaining, and do at least help bump up the replay value a little. Ring Shot returns, alongside three new mini games, Galaxy Shot, Ink Shot and Super Mario Tennis. The latter is by far the best of the lot, players have to serve and volley the ball into a video screen showing auto-scrolling levels inspired by Mario’s first NES title. Hitting coins, enemies and power-ups rack up the points and add a bit of time to the clock, the goal being to reach the end of the level before the timer hits zero. Unfortunately there are only four levels, so it is a short bit of fun, but beating high-scores means there’s plenty of replay value and it’s where I spent most of my time outside the single-player tournaments.

 

Overall, Mario Tennis Open feels like a missed opportunity, with some glaring omissions and the basic Tennis gameplay overshadowed by an over-powered gimmick. Fingers –crossed Nintendo send out an update, but in its current form it’s hard to recommend.

 

6.5/10

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