Mario Tennis Open Review for Nintendo 3DS

Mario Tennis Open Review for Nintendo 3DS

Too Quick A Rally

Considering Nintendo’s 3DS was released over a year ago, it’s shocking that Mario Tennis Open is the first game of the Mario Sports series to grace the new handheld (if you don’t include Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games, that is).

Developer Camelot is no stranger to Mario sports games, having handled many past tennis and golf titles starring the portly plumber. Mario Tennis Open boils down to exactly what you’d expect—colorful, fast-paced action with Mario and his chums, some minigames for extra fun, and a simple multiplayer. It’s enjoyable for a while, but certainly doesn’t break any new ground, ultimately delivering an easy lob shot rather than a smash hit.

Mario Tennis Open Screenshot

The vibrant background smacks you right from the title screen, letting you know the Mushroom Kingdom is open for business. All the usual suspects are present—Mario, Luigi, Yoshi, Donkey Kong, Peach, etc. (you know the list)—and in their standard attire (the girls sporting their athletic duds, of course). You can also play as your Mii, whom you can customize with gear with coins earned in minigames.

You are immediately thrust into a tutorial that gives you the basics on proper technique. The learning curve, however, never moves into advanced territory, quickly becoming repetitive no matter the skill level of your opponents.

During a match, the touchscreen turns into color-coded shot panels, with options to perform a simple, flat, topspin, slice, lob, or drop shot, each countering an opponent’s previous shot and playing to a specific area of the court. While charging your shot, you can adjust its heading using the Thumb Pad. You can also dive towards out of reach balls with the R trigger, and stop charging with the L trigger. On nearly every shot, a glowing circle called a Chance Area will mark where the ball will land. Matching the specific shot with the Chance Area will create a much more powerful version, which is much harder for the opponent to return. Even if they do manage to make contact, the powerful shot will disorient them for a second. Of course, they also receive the same opportunity, so be prepared whenever your opponent is engulfed in the colored ring.

Mario Tennis Open Screenshot

There’s not much need to worry, though, as the computer controlled A.I. is very timid and predictable. With only a couple well-placed power shots, you’ll be scoring games, sets, and matches at lightning speed. Each character leans toward a specific style, which is easily exploited. Heavy characters like Wario and Bowser, for example, are strong hitters but move slowly, so returning their serve with a drop shot will grant you points nine times out of ten. If they somehow manage to make contact, a lob to the back of the court will seal the deal.

The handicap is further awarded in your favor with a semi-automated timing and contact system. As long as you’re in the general vicinity of where the ball will land (which, considering how condensed the courts are, is pretty much anywhere), pressing a shot button will begin charging for contact and will always strike true. Shooting out of bounds is also exceedingly difficult to do, and only a powered-up flat shot near the net, or a drop shot well behind the baseline, will trigger such an event.

All of these handicaps work with the frenetic pacing, which befits the universe and is endearingly fun, but coddling nonetheless.

Mario Tennis Open Screenshot

The only real computer challenge comes when you unlock the Pro and Ace difficulty levels, which are fiendishly hard. They don’t give an inch, and you could be volleying back and forth until your hand cramps up, which usually spells defeat. However, you can only play these difficulties in Exhibition mode, which is by far the dreariest of the bunch. Choose your player, pick your venue (all of which are set around a character’s prime location), and choose a length. The courts have varying ball speeds and bounce, which adds a little variety, but the whole mode is basically a glorified practice arena. Tournament Mode isn’t much grander, as you move through the playoffs to become the champion, unlocking new tournaments, eight in total.

The Special Games are where you’ll find a little variety in the mix, although it has some minigames that grow stale quickly. Ring Shot is exactly what you’d expect, keeping the rally going while launching the ball through golden rings to collect points. Ink Showdown is a much tougher endeavor, as every shot must make it past your opponent, all the while Piranha Plants are spitting ink in your face. Galaxy Rally is an adorably fun challenge, where you’re pitted against a Luma while trying to snag star fragments. To make it a little trickier, the floor disappears after being bounced on, and another shot in the same quadrant will send the ball into a black hole. But nostalgia takes the cake with Super Mario Tennis, which projects the original Super Mario Bros. platformer against a wall, and your goal is to squash Goombas, collect coins, and smash bricks while the level scrolls along.

Mario Tennis Open Screenshot

After you’ve had your quick fill of single-player diversions, it’s time to hit the multiplayer scene. There’s not much to it, with a couple of Special Game offerings for local play, and exhibition for both local and online play. The online matchups can be ranked, with a regional leaderboard to keep track of your standing. It may be stripped down, but trying to work the corners of the court, looking for that small opening against a human opponent, leaves a much more satisfying taste with victory. Building your rank with wins requires a solid memorization of all the shots, as the pace allows no room for hesitation. Finding a random opponent takes only a few seconds, and after dozens of matches, I have yet to see even the slightest lag in the connection.

The audio/visual department keeps the pattern for Mario hybrid games intact. The whimsical animations, upbeat tunes, and familiar character inflections may seem redundant, but it honestly wouldn’t feel like Mario if developers tried to mess with the formula.

It’s nice to finally see Mario work up a sweat in the first real sports entry of the 3DS. However, despite the human element added with the multiplayer feature, Mario Tennis Open is severely lacking in content, shrinking the value of your purchase. If you like quick fixes of Mario fun, you’ll find it with this entry, but if you’re looking for full seasons of tennis matches and fine-tuned controls, you’d best look elsewhere.

It’s the standard Mario vibrancy and perfect textures, but I think it’s about time for a new, glossy finish. 3.0 Control
Quick controls make it easy to pick up play. But it’s simple, too simple, and rife with handicaps in your favor. 3.2 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Whimsical, upbeat, and full of charm. So overdone though, that you could probably whistle the tunes before even starting up the game and be spot-on accurate. 2.5 Play Value
It has all the modes you’d expect in a Mario sports game, but they’re too trimmed down to make it a worthy purchase. 3.2 Overall Rating – Fair
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.

Review Rating Legend
0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid 2.5 – 2.9 = Average 3.5 – 3.9 = Good 4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
2.0 – 2.4 = Poor 3.0 – 3.4 = Fair 4.0 – 4.4 = Great 5.0 = The Best

Game Features:

  • Fast-paced tennis rallies with Mario and friends.
  • Play online with your friends in singles and doubles matches.
  • Strategize with lobs, dropshots, and topspin as you try to ace your opponent.
  • Hone your tennis skills in Special Games that offer challenging tennis drills with a Mario twist.

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