There are definitely some new bits to consider. The gyro function of the 3DS allows you to change the view whenever you want, just by holding the 3DS differently, there is both local and online multiplayer, you can play as your Mii character, and there are new practice mini-games, some of which are the epitome of innovative.
Announced on February 22nd, Mario Tennis Open was showed at GEC, but PAX East was the first time the game was available for hands-on gameplay, as well as the debut of the new gameplay modes. We had grand old time with this revival and detail all of the fun in our first impressions review.
Feeling and looking much like the classic for the Nintendo 64, the general gameplay of Mario Tennis Open captures the essence of what made this such a beloved series. The game still feeds back that satisfying pop to each shot, and the points are a flash of high speed rallying. Like the other versions, it is hard not to get emotionally involved with each point, resulting in fist pumping, and maybe a few tears. Yet there is so much more in this little package than just singles and doubles matches with your favorite Mushroom Kingdom friends. This time, Nintendo has added a bunch of mini-games and multiplayer modes to fill out the title.
Against the computer, this version of Mario Tennis reminds us more of the 64 version than the Gamecube one. Nintendo has eliminated the character specific, extra animations that went along with a successful powershot and left the gameplay smoother as a result.
With the gyroscope inside the 3DS, Nintendo has added the ability to change your view. If you hold the 3DS up in front of you, the camera angle changes to look over the shoulder of your character. If you are playing with the 3DS below your field of vision, you will see the classic top-down view. Depending on your style of play, one view may be better than another for a given situation.
Oh, and if you really like yourself, you can import your Mii character to face off against anyone from the Mario universe, or other Miis from strange lands.
New to this version, and newly playable at PAX East, were a few skills mini-games. To name a few, there was the Ring Challenge, Mario Galaxy Tennis, and Super Mario Tennis. The Ring Challenge is a great way for beginners to learn the subtleties of the different shots in a low pressure environment by hitting balls through rings, which will tally points at the end of a round. Mario Galaxy Tennis teaches the importance of directing your shot, as parts of the opposing court fall open, where the balls will drop through the court and get sucked into a black hole.
The most exciting and creative practice mini-game is Super Mario Tennis. In this mode, you send your chosen character to play against a practice wall, but this wall is special. On the wall, streams the original Super Mario Brothers game for NES. When you hit the wall, the ball activates each part of this game. For instance, you can crush goombas by hitting them with a perfectly aimed shot against the wall. If you hit a mushroom, the ball gets bigger, and each time you miss, you lose a life. We were really impressed with this incredibly clever synergy of two great Mario games that is both fun and will definitely increase your skills as you play.
The A and B buttons are your topspin and slice shots as ever, but X and Y now are Simple Shot and Flat Shot respectively. You can still lob and dropshot as well.
A new aspect of the game involves color coordinated hit zones. Before, you merely stood in the star, charged up a shot, and blasted off when the timing was right for a spectacular power shot. Now, the hit zones are color coordinated to the proper shot you need to do to perform a power shot. It was hard to tell at PAX East whether the colors were randomized, or specifically suited to each situation. It is an interesting mechanic that has some advantages and drawbacks for diehard fans, but everyone can agree that it changes the overall gameplay.
Something we did not like about this new system was that the second screen on the 3DS showed you which shot to hit, by lighting up the title of the appropriate stroke. If you press the title, you will make the best shot, and now the game has lost the necessity of skill. Maybe this new method will make sense down the road as players get better at the game, but when we played against the computer, every time we hit the title of the shot on the second screen, we won the point immediately. Suddenly, the game did not have the shine it once did.
Nintendo really wanted to focus on multiplayer this year. You can play this version of Mario Tennis locally, with anyone in the area that has a 3DS, or over a network internationally as well. Online you can be paired with people of similar skill quality so the matches are not always a blowout. Mario Tennis was always more fun when playing with other people, now you can do that any time, even if you have no friends. :(
The atmosphere Nintendo creates for the Mario Tennis games is one of the best aspects of these games. The gameplay is solidly among the best, but the roar of the crowd, the streak of a powershot, the colors, and the characters create an fun and intense environment.
There were some people and creatures in a kingdom filled with mushrooms. They both hate and love each other due to a series of polarizing back and forth aggravations, beginning with the hostage situation of 1986, involving the kidnapping of Princess Toadstool by King Bowser. Now they resolve their differences by playing tennis.
This is not a story driven title, and it doesn't need to be. It's fun, so stop asking questions.
The characters are not as smooth as the Gamecube version, but on the 3DS they look great. In fact, the courts and characters resemble those from the N64 most. We love the colors and the streaking ball shots. The game is a feast for the eyes, even if it does not show off the best graphics ever conceived.
The sound is continuous and cartoony, really amping up the action during points. Each character has a few amusing and familiar grunts when they hit the ball, as well as taunts and cheers when they win a point. There is an announcer and crowd noise to make you feel like you are a part of a big tournament.
The Mario Tennis titles have consistently been some of the most fun multiplayer games Nintendo has to offer. This year's 3DS title expands from this legacy with a great new addition to the series. Resembling Nintendo 64's version both in graphics and gameplay, Mario Tennis Open is really fun and makes strides to advance the multiplayer connections.
The familiar gameplay will get users straight back into a title they know and love. With the ability to play with other people locally, or online matched to similarly skilled players, people will want to pick this title up and get on the court right away.
The new extra features are that extra spice needed to round out a great game. The gyroscope view changing is pretty cool to watch in action, and may really be a boon to some players during serves or other scenarios. The Super Mario Tennis however, is a genius concept that is not just an interesting idea, but also fun and functional. Throw in your Mii character and you could be playing this game non-stop.
There is but one qualm we have with Mario Tennis Open. The second screen tells you which shot to hit, and you do not even need to hit the buttons to make that happen. You can just press the title of the lit up shot type, and the best shot possible will be hit. Using the demo at PAX, playing against the computer, the "best shot" resulted in a won point four out of five times or more. We are unsure how this will work when playing a real person, as presumably they could return your best shot with their best shot, but we have to say it took almost all the fun out of running around, pressing buttons, and coming up with our own best strategy for how to win points.
All things considered, Mario Tennis Open is still a great title that will yield hours of colorfully giddy playtime. If you have a 3DS, we highly recommend grabbing this game when it releases on May 20th.
Meet the tester
Christian Sherden is a valued contributor to the Reviewed.com family of sites.
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