Mario Tennis Open - Playing NES Mario With Racquets is a Blast
April 5, 2012, 1:00 pm
I’m horrible at tennis. Really, god awful. Which is why I’ve stuck mostly to playing the more fanciful virtual versions, such as Mario Tennis. So I was elated when Nintendo invited me out to their San Francisco office earlier this week to go hands-on with the latest installment for the Nintendo 3DS. Now, I’ve already written pretty extensively about the core gameplay in our previous hands-on from GDC, so I’m going to focus on the more unique aspects of the game that Nintendo showed off for the first time.
Among the newly revealed features were a series of Special Games, which shouldn’t surprise fans of the series. What might be surprising, however, is the effort that has gone into them, with elements that will appeal to both new and long-time Mario fans alike.
Super Mario Tennis
Super Mario Tennis is probably the coolest--and most meta--event in any Mario sports game. It’s just you on a half-court bouncing balls off a giant television displaying one of several levels from the original Super Mario Brothers. But instead of controlling Mario to collect coins and take out enemies, you have to hit them with tennis balls instead. The game helps teach the importance of using different shot-types, allowing you to selectively target higher and lower parts of the television in order to collect high coins or take out low enemies. And you’ll need to become quite adept at it too, as you’ll need to kill as many enemies and collect all the coins you can in order to add additional seconds to the quickly dwindling counter. Fortunately, you can acquire 1-Ups--exactly where you remember them--to provide a few extra tries in case you do run out of time.
The extent to which the game captures the essence of Super Mario Brothers is truly astounding, with perfectly recreated music and visuals. You’ll even have to target wrap pipes to travel to different parts of the level, and aim a ball high up the flagpole for maximum points. Now this isn’t to say the levels haven’t been modified to take advantage of the unique setup, as you will find newly placed coins, enemies, and hidden blocks that’ll surprise even the most dedicated fans.
Super Mario Tennis was a delight to play and I’m eager to go back and finish the adventure.
As you might have guessed, Galaxy Rally is Mario Tennis Open’s take on Mario Galaxy. In this game, you hit a ball back and forth with a Luma on a celestial-based court in an attempt to collect 5 Star Shards. Collecting all 5 will create a Launch Star, that when activated, will award you with some coints and start the process over, repeating until you collect the pre-set amount of shards. The catch, however, is that portions of the arena will disappear, forcing you to carefully target your shots to avoid losing the ball.
The gameplay is just deep enough to be fun on its own, but when combined with the excellent theming--with music and visuals lifted directly from the Mario Galaxy series--makes for a very compelling experience.
In Ink Showdown, your goal is to hit balls past a single opponent, while making sure to destroy the ink balls spat by three Piranha Plants located on the back edge of the court before they splatter the screen, which makes it very difficult to see temporarily. This was probably the least interesting of the four Special Games I saw, as there wasn’t much to it both gameplay and theme wise.
Ring Shot is the most conventional of the bunch, as it was also present in previous Mario Tennis games. And like the previous incarnations, the goal is the same: hit the ball through as many rings as possible that appear above the net. The rings start small, but grow increasingly larger the longer you take to hit them making them easier targets, but reducing their point-value.
This mode is, as far as we could tell, the only one of the Special Games that can also be played in multiplayer, with the victory going to whoever reaches the pre-set goal first, with an additional 50-points being awarded for every actual tennis point scored on the opponents. Though this Special Game’s been around the block a few times, that’s for a good reason: it’s still fun, particularly when competing with others.
Club House (Unlockables)
As you play the game, specific items such as Raquets, Uniforms, Wristbands, and shoe, become available for purchase, which you can buy using coins earned in events such as the Special Games. These items can then be equipped on your Mii character to enhance one of three attributes: Power, Spin, and Movement, and are available for both use in single-player and multiplayer (including online!) These items are themed to Mario characters, such as DK’s Wristbands, and you’ll even gain a small power boost if you wear a matching set.
Unfortunately, this apparel can be equipped ONLY on your Mii and not the main characters. It’s a little disappointing that, what may be the deepest part of Mario Tennis Open, is available to the character Mario fans will likely least want to play as. Despite that small annoyance, the Club House is looking like it’ll add a decent amount of depth to the experience.
All in all, I was excited by the additions I saw to Mario Tennis Open. It’s clear the developers are going out of their way to make the game feel as Mario-like as possible, while staying true to the core fundamentals of tennis. Look for this one to hit North American stores on May 20th.
If you’d like to read more about the core gameplay, as well as the available courts and characters, check out our previous coverage of Mario Tennis Open here