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Mario Tennis Open Review

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Developer: Camelot Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: May 20, 2012 Available On: 3DS

Mario Tennis Open - banner

I recently published a preview of Mario Tennis Open for the 3DS, detailing most of the features and basic gameplay mechanics that are featured in the game. For that reason, I would like to refer you to that page if you have any questions or concerns about the basic descriptive stuff that I would normally include in the review; and without further adieu, I would like to get down to the nitty-gritty with Nintendo’s first Mario sports title for the 3DS:

1. This is the Mario Tennis you know and love:

Mario Tennis Open - gameplayAs I mentioned in the preview of Mario Tennis Open, this game is fundamentally the exact same as it has always been: it’s the Mario Tennis that you have known and loved for years, whether you played for the first time on the Nintendo 64, the Game Boy Color, the Gamecube, or the Game Boy Advance. There hasn’t been a Mario Tennis game for quite some time, and the 3DS seems like the perfect host for a new installment. For the most part, Mario Tennis Open succeeds at everything you’d hope for: it’s a solid game of tennis, from the variety of shots to the roster of characters and the selection of courts.

Mario Tennis Open - ring gameFor solo players, Mario Tennis Open offers the four basic “cups” – Mushroom, Flower, Star, Special – and then four additional tournaments once those are completed, for both singles and doubles matches. In addition, there is a handful of mini-games to play, including but not limited to the tennis-based version of Super Mario Bros. that is played on the wall of a practice court. The point of playing the mini-games and finishing tournaments is to earn coins and unlock new custom items, respectively. By purchasing these items, you can buff up your Mii character’s attritubes as well as customize its appearance for online play.

2. The 3DS “gimmicks” really change the game:

I discussed the Dynamic View in my preview of Mario Tennis Open, but didn’t realize at the time how much of an impact this feature would actually have on the final product. When I started playing Mario Tennis Open, the game was automatically in “Dynamic View” due to the position of my hands and the way I normally hold the 3DS. Apparently, I’m used to holding it in the “vertical position”; I spent most of my time playing the game with this mode automatically active. In addition to activating the gyroscope controls, Dynamic View switches off 3D mode – allowing you to move the handheld without irritating your eyes, a smart move by the designers. Also, your character is controlled automatically by the CPU, shifting your focus entirely to using the gyro controls to aim your shots, and the touch screen to select from the different types of shots. In each match of Mario Tennis Open, colored circles appear on the court that are tied to the various types of shots – if you happen to be standing on the circle and use the correct shot, you’ll put some extra “zing” into the swing, and typically send the opposing players scrambling to recover. With the gyroscope, you can quickly set up and spike shots, resulting in some pretty easy points during some matches.

Mario Tennis Open - touch screen

I’m not sure whether it’s a good or a bad thing, but I noticed that playing Mario Tennis Open in “regular mode” – i.e., holding the 3DS at a “rested” position, and not using the gyroscopic controls to aim – was ultimately much harder than using the Dynamic View. Basically, the automatic movement in the latter takes away the responsibility of positioning your character on the court, which is actually pretty difficult to do during some of the fast-paced matches featured in this game. Regular mode really brings out this difficulty, which can be maddening at times – a shame, considering the 3D effects can only be enjoyed when the regular mode is active. Mario Tennis Open isn’t really any harder or easier to play than its predecessors; I just spent most of my time playing in Dynamic View, and the result was some difficulty when adjusting to the 3D-enabled regular mode.

3. The replay value is strangely lacking:

Mario Tennis Open is definitely focused on its multiplayer component – that much is obvious just by looking at the back of the box, which almost exclusively details the multiplayer features contained in the package. For what it’s worth, Mario Tennis Open is one of Nintendo’s most robust online offerings to date, from the extensive collection of unlockable custom items to the glorious return of the “Download Play” feature. Unfortunately, with all those things considered, the game still feels very light on content – unusual, considering that almost every Mario sports title to date has been loaded to the brim with “stuff to do”.

Mario Tennis Open - equipment

You would think that the extensive collection of items in the Item Shop would add some replay value, but the process of earning coins and ultimately purchasing these items is sometimes more work than it’s worth: unless you are amazingly skilled at the various mini-games, it takes quite a while to earn enough coins to purchase some of the rackets and costumes in the shop. Also, the only way to unlock more items is to play single-player matches and tournaments – it’s a strange design descision that results in the player going back to the same basic tournaments time and time again, just to unlock more goodies.

Overall, Mario Tennis Open will no doubt satisfy the fans of Mario Tennis games and Mario sports titles in general, but it won’t be for the same stretch of time – the lacking replay value really hurts the overall package, though not enough to forget how solid the fundamentals really are. This game is very well designed, from the various shots and courts and unlockable items to the gimmicky features exclusive to the 3DS and the accessible multiplayer content.

If there was a little more for solo players to enjoy, perhaps a deeper selection of mini-games or a “Career” mode of sorts, Mario Tennis Open would be the “AAA” title I was expecting for the 3DS. Unfortunately, the game falls a little short of some admittedly high expectations – but the result is still Mario Tennis, and just knowing that I can turn on the game and enjoy a quick match alone or with anyone in the world online is reasonably satisfying.

Graphics: 9
Sound: 8
Gameplay: 9
Creativity: 5
Replay Value/Game Length: 5
Final: 8 out of 10
Written by Cliff Bakehorn Write a User Review