Friday, July 13

Mario Tennis Open Review (3DS): Charming bounce

She would argue that Burnout 3: Takedown took first blood, but my wife and I cut our gaming couple teeth on Mario themed sports titles for the Nintendo Gamecube. Mario Kart: Double Dash, Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour and Mario Power Tennis helped our love (and love of gaming) grow in our relationship's early stages. For that very reason, I have a soft spot for anything that gets that mustachioed plumber off his arse. Mario Tennis Open isn't quite as charming -- or as brutal -- as its predecessors, but it's an enjoyable romp while it lasts.

First thing I noticed after a few matches of Mario Tennis Open is that it's stunning to behold. Don't get me wrong, it's not the most ambitious game on the planet, but it's literally bursting with colour. Everything about this game's visuals is dripping with whimsy; if you need to smile, boot this game up for a quick hit. Not every aspect of the presentation is a winner, however. Like every tennis game in videogame history, the one note soundtrack fails to impress. Much in the vein of other Mario Sports titles, it's beautiful, well animated and sounds like mascot hell.

The second thing you'll notice -- almost immediately afterwards -- is the painfully easy single player component. The first seven of eight Singles tournaments fail to register any sense of challenge. Dropping no games and precious few points, you may be asked to play for longer (as in win more sets per match), but nothing will be asked of you in terms of skill, dexterity and reflexes. All of this makes the final Singles tournament (creatively named, the Final Cup) all the more bemusing: it will break you. Well, it will break you if you use any member of the standard cast. Use the Mii with some top tier gear and it won't pose much of a problem. You may lose a game, possibly a set, but you should pull through with a little focus. Save for a serious hump at the end that can be undermined by dressing up an avatar, the enjoyable part of the single player offering is a push over.

Now solo Doubles play (oxymoronical as it may sound) is a complete bust. I didn't have the patience to play through every tournament as my AI partner was a dead weight. Even when using a Star level companion, victory would not come easily. Between being hit by your own partner's shots and their inappropriate shot selection, frustration was all but assured. After the first Doubles match, I knew making the Final Cup was a long shot. Lush visuals and a respectable roster can't do much to save this form of competition. There are some enjoyable mini games to soften the blow though.

The tennis itself is surprisingly sedate for a Mario Sports title. Characters no longer have their own signature shots. Instead, mistiming shots or poor shot selection will cause special shot tiles to appear on the court. Pressing the "Simple Shot" button on these tiles will allow you to hit sensational lobs, curve shots, inch-perfect drop shots and power shots. The mechanic is unexpectedly equitable unless you're playing on the Morph Court. Granted this is only a concern for the Final Cup or for any sadists who desire to play on said court regularly, but the wacky bounces (which AI opponents are able to foresee with an annoying level of regularity) are guaranteed to kill the fun. For the majority of the time I spent with it, however, Mario Tennis Open is an enjoyable and somewhat balanced game of tennis.

I only managed to find a handful of multiplayer matches, but the lag was noticeable. One disconnect and three jumpy duels means those looking for a solid multiplayer tennis game for the 3DS will need to keep waiting. Those happy to play by themselves have a colourful, charming and -- for the most part -- consistent grand slam fest on their hands. Sure, it's easy, short-lived and Doubles is pretty much busted, but it's worth a look.

1 comment:

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