Mario Tennis Open Review
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On 05/29/2012 at 09:59 PM by Nick DiMola
Slight tweaks to the core formula prove fun, but Camelot barely volleys it over the net.
Only for those dying for the latest Mario Tennis game.
It’s much easier to consider Mario Tennis Open the latest home console iteration of the Mario Tennis series rather than the latest handheld title. Lacking the handheld games’ iconic RPG mode, the experience is more like a follow-up to the GameCube’s (and Wii’s) Mario Power Tennis. In and of itself, this isn’t a bad thing; however, Mario Tennis Open is thin on content and new gameplay enhancements don’t do much to vary up the experience from past iterations.
Being that Mario Tennis Open is more along the lines of Mario Power Tennis, it’s apt to compare the two rather than Power Tour on the Gameboy Advance. The once irritating Power Shots are a thing of the past, but in their place come Chance Shots. Represented by glowing colored circles on the court, players must return the ball with the corresponding shot in order to take advantage of them. As such, if they glow blue, you’ll need to slice the ball in order to send it back at your opponent with a wild arch.
Nearly each and every time a ball is volleyed across the court, a new chance spot will appear in the trajectory of the ball. Though the colored spot that appears is seemingly random, they’re not completely. If you manage to send a lob back, as in the past, you’ll open up a purple chance spot, which can be used to slam the ball back across the court. Similarly, other shots will have predictable consequences given the circumstances of the match.
This new design carries a few flaws. For one, they do bring a degree of predictability. There’s no guessing where the ball will land any more, it’s made obvious by the placement of the chance spot. Furthermore, the chance spots lessen the effectiveness of a standard shot. The drop shot, for instance, loses much of its effectiveness when not used on a chance spot. As such, it’s often obvious when an opponent is going to use the move.
If it isn’t clear, the chance spots set the pace of the game when you reach a high level of expertise. It becomes a simple mind game wherein you must decide in a split-second whether or not you’ll use the suggestions of the chance spot and reap its benefits or trick your opponent and place a shot in an unexpected quadrant of the court. It’s a decent enough spin on the core formula, but at times it can become a bit tedious, especially against an equally skilled opponent.
In true fashion, the tournament mode is the same boring slag it has always been in the console Mario Tennis games. Even in the Final Cup, computer opponents don’t pose much of a threat, which makes the entire climb up the ladder an extremely arduous one. Aside from unlocking the Ace computer difficulty, there’s little reason to see each of the characters in the game through the Final Cup.
However, as you play through the mode, you’ll unlock the ability to purchase different equipment in order to customize your Mii. Unlike the standard characters in the game, the Mii’s attributes are completely customizable, which provides at least a degree of incentive to push through the tournament mode.
As has always been the case with the console Mario Tennis games, Mario Tennis Open suffers severely from a lack of content. There are a collection of four special games that can be mildly entertaining, but have no staying power. Aside from the standard ring mode challenge, players can partake in Galaxy Rally (volley the ball with a Luma without dropping it onto the disappearing quadrants of the court), Ink Showdown (return ace your opponent a given number of times while avoiding ink blots on screen), and Super Mario Tennis, the most interesting of the bunch.
Super Mario Tennis has you hitting a ball off a giant TV screen that’s displaying a modified version of Super Mario Bros. This allows you to collect coins, break blocks, reveal power-ups, go down pipes, and kill enemies. Collecting coins and defeating enemies extends the ever-dwindling time until you ultimately reach the flag pole and beat the level. Despite being a clever mash-up it’s not particularly fun to play and can often be frustrating when you’re unable to place the ball at the desired position of the (scrolling) screen.
Considering you’ll likely blast through this content in no time, the only staying power the game offers is its online multiplayer, which is underwhelming to say the least. While it’s simple enough to hop online and easy to get into a game, I’ve yet to play a match where the game was running at the same frame rate as when it’s offline. The drop in responsiveness makes it extremely difficult (for both players) to keep up with the ball, often resulting in unfairly earned points. When things do work, it’s quick and easy fun, but the trend seems to indicate that the mode has a problematic implementation.
Make no mistake, Mario Tennis Open is a fun game, but it’s one that offers very little over preceding titles, and in the case of the handhelds, less than what we’ve come to expect. The online mode is perhaps the biggest shame as it’s not consistent enough right now to act as a true benefit to the overall experience. If you’re dying for the latest and greatest in the Mario Tennis series, Mario Tennis Open isn’t a poor choice, but it could’ve and should’ve been so much more.