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North America Details

Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: May 20, 2012
Genre: Sports
Players: Single Player, Up to 4 players
ESRB: Everyone

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Game Review

Dec 10 2012 10:34 PM
Mario is truly a poly-talented man. He's done it all. Saving princesses, winning the 150cc Star Cup and snagging a few holes in one are all in some of the earliest pages of his resume. On the Nintendo 64, Nintendo decided to let Mario try his hand at tennis (though the series arguably dates back to the NES title "Tennis"). The result? People loved it! And so they released a Gamecube sequel that added in offensive and defensive power shots as well as gimmick arenas, which was also quite successful. Did Nintendo succeed in bringing this success to the 3DS?

My first impressions of the game on launch day were that the game seemed sloppily thrown together - and that impression still resonates with me. The character select screen in particular seems very lazy. Instead of the usual board of characters, we get a scroll through list and the characters even seem out of order.

The controls are simple, and work fine. You move your character with the slide pad, and control shots with the buttons. You still have the same options you always have plus one need shot type. In addition to the ever present lob [A], slice [B], and the various options that come through their combination, you have smash shots [Y]. Smash shots are fast, and straight. This game gets rid of the power shots introduced in Mario Power Tennis, and instead uses a system referred to a "Chance Shots". At random times, or if certain requirements are met, a small circle on the field will glow a particular color. The colors are coded alongside the shot types, and using the correct shot type while in the circle will use the chance shot. For example, if there is a blue chance shot, and you slice the ball [B], the result is a super charged shot that curves outside the field and back into it. Alternatively, if it glows white, you can drop shot(B>A) for a super short drop shot. There is a chance shot for every type of hit in the game, and the most annoying has to be the purple ones. If a player uses the new smash shot while in a purple chance area, you're in for it. The player will spike a super-fast fast ball straight down onto your court, and those with slow reflexes won't stand a chance.

Chance shots may sound interesting, but they can quickly become annoying when playing against high level CPUs. It seems that in the higher difficulty tournaments, the computer will always get several chance shots in a row while you just play defense for a couple of minutes. You can call me childish or immature, or say that I just suck at the game all you want, but there's no getting around the facts - that is an annoying, cheap, and lazy way to make the game harder.

In a never ending attempt to make their games more accessible, Nintendo has thrown in a couple of options for young and newer gamers. Rather than use the buttons to select your shot type, you can simply tap the touch screen button with the color and name of the shot on it. They also added an option called simple shot, which can be activated via touch screen or by pressing [X]. Simple shot will automatically use the most appropriate shot type for your current situation. The shot will be weaker than normal, but I still feel this is a bad idea and will prevent new players from taking to time to learn the real ins and outs of the game.

As always, Nintendo has included some challenging minigames to occupy your time as well as unlock characters, as well as earn coins which you can sue to buy gear - we'll talk more about that in a moment. The minigames are, for the most part, quite challenging. They are very entertaining if you have nothing else to do, but once you've beaten all the difficulties and unlocked all the characters, you'll only be coming back to farm coins. My favorite minigame was Super Mario Bros Tennis, game in which the camera scrolls through a level of Super Mario Bros. world as you collect coins and kill enemies with the tennis ball.

Another feature Nintendo has been including as of late is the ability to play as your Mii. Normally, I groan at this standard, as Miis generally just annoy me and take away from the game's atmosphere. For the first time, I'm actually glad they included Miis as playable characters - it is actually well executed. You can spend coins to buy clothing and rackets for your Mii, altering their stats into whatever suits you best (or whatever you think looks cool). You can even dress your Miis up in character costumes such as Bowser and Yoshi.

Possibly the coolest new feature is the use of AR codes. Nintendo has been releasing AR codes via Nintendo Power Magazine, their official Facebook page, and Club Nintendo which allow you to unlock characters in the game. While this certainly has potential, so far it has been wasted on nothing but some character outfits and some different colored Yoshis(or is the plural “Yoshi”?). Perhaps they will better utilize this feature in the future.

This is the first Mario Tennis game to be playable online...er…That is to say  that it is able to be connected to Nintendo's Wi-Fi network. To say it is playable online would be an exaggeration. Lag and dropped connections are the norm no matter where I connect, be it at home, college, or even McDonalds, the online is simply unbearable.

The graphics are honestly not that great, but there are worse looking games. Everything is fairly smooth and well animated, and as is to be expected of a Mario game the bright, pastel colors stand out nicely. The 3D effect made me a little dizzy, so I just turned it off. If you hold the 3DS vertical, the camera angle will switch to right behind your character, and the character will move a small amount on their own. I found this feature to be utterly useless, and the camera angle screwed me over more than it helped me. If you play this game lying down, the gyro censor will sometimes think you are holding the system vertical, and switch to this camera angle. The best option is to turn the feature off completely in the settings.

Mario Tennis Open had a lot going for it as far as ideas are concerned, but the execution of these ideas is less than stellar. You'll have a much better time if you just buy Mario Power Tennis or even the original for the N64. If you are still adamant about getting this game, I recommend buying used and trying to find the best deal you can- it isn't entirely unworthy of your time, but it isn't worth the full $40, especially with all the other much better 3DS titles you could buy for that same price.

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