Published on May 22nd, 2012 | by octaneblue0
Review: Mario Tennis Open
Developer: Camelot Software Planning
Release Date: May 20, 2012
Mario and his crew first gathered for some tennis matches back in 1995’s Mario’s Tennis for, of all things, the Virtual Boy. Iterations of the series would be released for the Nintendo 64 and GameCube, as well as handheld “companion” versions on the Game Boy Color and Game Boy Advance. The series is back on the tennis court with Mario Tennis Open on the Nintendo 3DS, with developer Camelot Software Planning back at the helm. How is the newest iteration of this long running Mario sports franchise? Read on…
Mario Tennis Open is a very pretty 3DS title. The characters and environments look great, movement is fluid, and the game is just nice to look at. The use of 3D is very limited; moving the Depth Slider up and down in the game presents very little difference to the eye. The music is pleasant, with some very memorable tunes playing during some matches, and some remixed tracks from older Mario titles appearing as well. Like in earlier series iterations, the music gets dynamic in that it will turn tense during Match Points, etc. As expected, the game’s characters all speak in their own way during matches, although you will definitely hear the same phrases and such over and over again; there isn’t much variety with the voice samples here.
The game is extremely easy to learn and control, with a few control options available. The first is the more “traditional” control scheme that uses the Circle Pad for movement and the 3DS’s face buttons for hits, with each face button corresponding to specific types of shots. You can opt to use the touch screen for shots instead of the face buttons, with the different shots assigned to panels on the touch screen. Another control scheme involves using the 3DS’s gyro controls. The manual mentions this mode is good for novices, but it’s perhaps TOO easy to use. Shots will be in the directions that you move your 3DS in. If your thumb is not on the Circle Pad, your character automatically moves in the path of the tennis ball; this is essentially autopilot mode.
The gameplay is a bit more basic compared to the craziness of Mario Power Tennis on the GameCube. That game featured Power Shots, which were abilities that each character in the game possessed that made matches, for better or worse, rather insane. Mario Tennis Open is more like Mario Tennis on the N64 in that basic matches are more traditional, without the gimmicks. The game does feature Chance Shots, which are spots on the court that appear in certain colors. Hitting the ball with the shot of the corresponding color results in a super-powered version of the shot to occur. Unlike some of the mentioned Power Shots, the Chance Shots in this don’t interrupt the flow of matches.
The game features several modes in both single and multiplayer. If you play on your own, you get the standard Tournament and Exhibitions modes. Playing the former has players going through a cup, in Singles or Doubles matches, earning a trophy for your success. You will also unlock tennis gear; these pieces are purchased in the Clubhouse area for Coins. The gear features themes from various characters in the game and Super Mario series in general (i.e., Hammer Brother, Magikoopa, etc.). You can equip these on your Mii to alter their stats. While you can view the changes that the gear makes on your Mii, the changes are displayed by rather confusing pie charts. And there is no option to compare how one piece compares to another when equipped.
You have the choices of Local and, for the first time in the series, Online multiplayer. For Local, you can play with players with their own Game Cards or you can set up Download Play for those that lack the game, albeit with limited selections. For online play, you can have an Exhibition Match with those on your 3DS Friend List. You can set up a Singles or Doubles game, with the options of Quick (tiebreak) or Extended (2-game, 1-set) matches. Open Matches are ranked games against random players, with the same two match options. You can use any control options, which leads to a problem mentioned earlier. Those playing with gyro controls can have a very easy time on cruise control; there unfortunately is no option for opting out of facing those using this control scheme. The online play is rather basic, but it works for some quick gameplay sessions. However, comparing the online modes of Mario Tennis Open with that of Mario Kart 7, one can’t help but feel a little disappointed. Unlike the latter title, this does not feature a Community option, which was a very convenient addition Mario Kart 7 that certainly would’ve expanded Mario Tennis Open‘s online mode.
The series has featured several tennis-themed mini-games, and they return here as “Special Games”. The game features four different ones: Ring Shot, Super Mario Tennis, Galaxy Rally, and Ink Showdown. Ring Shot returns from previous titles, and involves hitting the ball through rings on the court for points, with a set amount of points needed under a certain time limit. Super Mario Tennis features hitting the ball through levels inspired by Super Mario Bros. Striking blocks, enemies, coins, power-ups, etc. increases the mode’s timer, and once you’re at the end, you have to hit the ball to the goal flagpole. Galaxy Rally, as its name suggests, is a Super Mario Galaxy-inspired mode where you have to keep the ball on the court in the amount of turns given. You can collect Star Chips for Coins, which will eventually form into a Launch Star that gives you more Coins as well. The last Special Game is Ink Showdown, where you have to keep the ball away from your opponent. Ink is occasionally shot out, and missing the hit results in ink splattering all over your screen. Playing these mini-games not only racks up Coins to spend in the Clubhouse for gear, but also clearing Level 3 of each Special Game unlocks a hidden character. The title also supports several StreetPass features. If you StreetPass another Mario Tennis Open owner, you can play the Exhibition or Ring Shot modes with 3DS owner’s set Mii. Playing either of these modes nets you some Coins too.
Mario Tennis on the Game Boy Color and Mario Tennis: Power Tour on the Game Boy Advance were very interesting entries in the series. The two titles not only featured the tennis action we all know and love, but also joined that with an involving story mode with RPG elements. The potential of that mode in this iteration was completely ignored; imagine being able to take your Mii through the ranks and eventually facing Mario and his crew, much like the story of the two predecessors. The lack of a mode like this is disappointing to say the least and definitely would have added immense replay value and variety to the game.
Mario Tennis Open certainly has its flaws, but as a whole, it’s a nice, albeit basic, tennis title on the 3DS. The game definitely features a great amount of replay value, whether you’re playing alone or with friends, or playing modes that are online or offline. If you’re looking for a fun title for the 3DS that you can just pick up and play, check out Mario Tennis Open; just be aware of the title’s lack of innovation and features.
+ Easy to learn
+ Several gameplay modes
+ Good amount of replay value
– Limited online options
– Lack of Story/RPG mode
– Poor 3D usage