By Matthew Bird
GAME NAME: Mario Tennis Open
RELEASE DATE(S): 25 May 2012
Growing up, I was a huge fan of Mario Tennis for Nintendo 64. The Gamecube version lost some of the game's simplicity, but I'm happy to see that Mario Tennis Open on the Nintendo 3DS has pretty much returned to what made the N64 game so good. Even better, it's that same goodness in the palm of your hand.
What I enjoyed most about the game was its controls. They didn’t take long to wrap your mind around, and once you were used to them you could focus on actually playing the game instead of mucking around constantly pressing the wrong buttons. There are five different styles of shots to play, and if you are struggling there is also a one button option which auto selects the most appropriate shot. One really good addition to the game is that of "Chance Shots." These are colour-coded circles that appear during the point and enhance the effectiveness of the five possible shots. The best thing they do is break up game play and avoid overly long boring rallies with the AI.
One not-so-good addition is a new control scheme named the "Gyro Sensor." With it, you actively control the direction of your shot by angling the 3DS in the direction you want. The camera view moves with the changing angle as well. I couldn’t stand this. I always turned it back to the fixed-point camera. I understand the goal of trying to add something new to make use of the 3DS' features, but it was an unnecessary addition. Having to change the position of your screen is directly counterproductive to the 3D capabilities of the game and the device. Another flaw in the game is the inability to pause mid-point, which I understand in online play...but against an AI, you're not really gaining any huge advantage by being allowed to do so.
The colourful visuals and remastered versions of the classic Mario music added to the fun of the game. The music and the visuals were definitely a treat for your senses, reminding me of all the reasons why we all fell in love with each Mario franchise from a young age.
With six three-round tournaments of varying difficulty, and four mini-games to master, there are enough characters and enough challenges to keep you playing for a while. The difficulty in each tournament and game is challenging without being impossible. The one thing that could be improved with the tournaments is the repetitiveness in the characters you would play in each of the tournaments. With so many possible characters I found it disappointing that I battled Bowser for the final 95% of the time and in the other rounds I played against a total of about 5 different characters.
What will keep you playing the game is the desire to increase each character to their "Star" level, and also to unlock the four additional characters by mastering each mini-game. Further unlockable items are used to boost your Mii character to enhance their performance either against the characters of the Mushroom Kingdom or against other users in online play.
The online play is mostly good. The online matches are a singles match in a tiebreaker format (so, first to 7), so each match goes pretty quickly. The standard of players is varied, so you win and lose in a non-frustrating balance. A major stuff-up with the ranking system means that rankings go backwards to what they are supposed to. Ranking number 1 is actually the lowest ranking player and the highest-ranking player has a number depending on how many other users there are in the online arena. This gets confusing for tennis fans.
I greatly enjoyed playing Mario Tennis Open. The flaws that I have mentioned either minimally affect the gameplay or can be switched off. You don’t have to have a background in tennis to play the game, so I highly recommend it not only for tennis or sport fans but also for fans of any Mario franchise. The game perfectly compliments the 3D and the control scheme of the 3DS, so I’m tipping that this game may bring a few new gamers to the Mario party (pardon the pun).