Mario’s back for another serve
Mario Sports titles are always a nice spin on everyday sports, containing over-the-top powers and ever-more-brilliantly designed tracks or courts. While most of these titles stick to the OOT formula, the Mario Tennis titles have varied from being ridiculous in Power Tennis, to being a very plain tennis game in the N64 version. So with a new 3DS game here, which category will it fall into? Well, read on to find out… Firstly, basic gameplay remains the same as ever, with there being a choice of six shot types (lob, drop, slice, topspin, flat and simple). Over the top special moves have been completely removed, replaced with a brand new Chance Shot. Glowing circles appear on court throughout a match with a colour that corresponds to a shot type (for example, yellow for lob). When a simple shot is used within these circles, a more powerful shot is used (a lob shot will go higher and further to the back of the court). These shots also cause a lot of recoil when returned, and while certain shots can reduce this, it can still be hard for your opponent to recover after a Chance Shot. These shots appear very often, making games a lot quicker and much more frantic. In terms of content, Mario Tennis Open is a mixed bag of grapes. There are 8 tournaments to take part in (16 if you count doubles tournaments), with a difficultly level that ranges from stupidly easy at the start, to frustratingly hard at the end, but with a bit of practice all tournaments can be beaten. There is also the option to play an exhibition with a variety of options, along with four brand new mini-games. These mini-games are quite basic, but the Mario themed twists make them much more interesting. With several difficulty levels and a final challenge mode these mini-games can make the game last a while longer, but the main source of replay value comes from the games full Nintendo Network support. Players have the ability to play 1-v-1 against friends or strangers; friend matches have a lot more customization than stranger matches, but you still have a choice of two scoring types in these matches. The options are Casual, which is a seven point tie breaker, or Intense which is a two game, one set match. The one unfortunate point in this concerns the online mode – for some reason Nintendo has region locked the online, making straight match finding sometimes rather hard, yet making repeated match finding common, meaning you end up seeing the same players repeatedly. The connections, however, are mostly solid thanks to this, and with a great player ranking system the online manages to be very enjoyable and adds a large amount of replay to the game. Another 3DS feature that is not used to it’s full is Street-pass. Street-pass only involves playing against a CPU controlled version of a Street-passed Mii in either a seven point tennis game or a mini-game, neither of which are really that good and give no real reason for players to want to get Street-pass hits. However, the character roster completely brings the whole game down a notch. Not only does it lack in unlockable characters (only 4 and they are only unlocked in the mini-games), but major characters seem to have been missed off due to their part in the background of courts (one Toad being the umpire results in every other Toad not being able to play at all, which for other characters such as Koopa Troopa). Nintendo has since added a few characters by some very elusive QR codes, but the only new faces so far are multi-coloured Yoshi’s and Metal Mario – even with this the character roster is far from varied and interesting. Nintendo have tried to make up for this with a lot of Mii customization options, with a surprisingly large number of racquets, shirts, wristbands and shoes available to unlock and buy with coins earned by playing mini-games or street-pass games. These pieces of kit can also be used to customize your Mii’s stats such as their spin, power or speed, and by grouping a complete set of gear together these stats get boosted even further.
Another very good Mario sports title, let down by a slightly small character roster and a few under-used features
Another very disappointing element of the game is the choice of courts, which is again lacking in variety and depth. The number of courts is low, and their design is not particularly original, with the same themes reappearing (Bowser castle, DK Jungle, Peach’s castle). As with the tennis, the courts have no real special features or events that take place on them, they are simply there to play a simple game of tennis on – a bit of environmental variation would have been great in a game like this. Controls are pretty bog standard, and as usual there is a host of gyro and touch screen control options galore. These controls are forced upon you from the start and are definitely not worth using, as the only control method that works only utilizes the four face buttons, where the most complicated action is the use of the A and B to use a lob or drop shot. One feature that is nicely used is 3D. The high up view of the court gives a very good 3D effect, which is further enhanced when the camera swoops outwards or inwards. Overall Mario Tennis Open is another very good Mario sports title, let down by a slightly small character roster and a few under-used features. Anyone who has played a Mario Tennis title before will certainly enjoy this one and the chance to take the game online will certainly appeal to hardcore players. Players who were getting bored of the repetitive formula will not find anything groundbreaking here, but anyone new to series will definitely find this a great place to start.
The Bad: Online region locked; disappointing character rooster; lack of courts available; GYRO CONTROLS; Streetpass implemented badly