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Review: Mario Tennis Open

Poor Mario, always trying to save the day and princess from the upcoming evil. It’s a tough job to handle and some relaxation could do wonders. To relax Mario often goes racing with his friends, or he plays tennis with them. In Mario Tennis Open on Nintendo 3DS, our favorite Italian plumber is ready to relax and do as less as possible.

You can take that quite literally for this game. Mario Tennis Open is a little bit different from other Mario Tennis games ever released. This game is created for everybody who wants to play tennis without getting frustrated. The result of that, is a game where you can choose to do practically nothing.

Imagine a tennis game where your player automatically runs towards to the bal. The only thing you’ll have to do is touch a button on the touchscreen et voilà, you’re playing tennis like Nadal. In Mario Tennis Open you’ll be able to do this. The game lets you choose between two different camera settings and controls.

The first camera stand is right behind the shoulder of your character. In this stand you can use the gyroscope to look around and aim your shot. You won’t need to run towards the ball doing so, the computer will take care of that for you. That means you’ll only have to use the action buttons on the 3DS to launch your bal. But if you’re feeling a little bit tired you can even ignore the existence of real buttons and use pre-set touchscreens buttons like ‘slice’ and ‘drop-shot’. This camera stand is designed for new gamers but can off course also be used by the more experienced gamer. The downside about this setting is without a doubt the loss of full control.

A regular tennis match on the Donkey Kong court.

Although it isn’t a bad idea to include those controls, Nintendo was wise enough to add an alternative setting. By turning off the gyroscope, your camera will switch to a more traditional top-down 3D view of the field. You can now use your analog stick to move your character around and the action buttons to pass the ball over the net. The touchscreen controls will still be activated but just like the previous setting you aren’t obligated to use them. This control scheme is more traditional and looks more like the one used in the older Mario Tennis games.

Learning the different controls and choosing which you prefer to use will be the first thing you’ll be doing during your first minutes in the game. After wise you’ll start looking for what this game has to offer you.

Mario Tennis Open consists out of two different segments. You can play tennis like you’d normally do in a tournament or match and then you have the mini-games as well. Let’s start with the ‘regular’ matches first.

The tournament mode gives you the opportunity to complete eight different tournaments, each tournament gets a little bit harder and the later ones can be a challenge to conquer. Although you’ll have eight different tournaments and locations, the mechanics remain the same. You play with one of the playable characters (including Mii’s) against a computer controlled opponent. You can also choose to play as a double, joining forces with one of your friends or another computer controlled character. It doesn’t really matter if you play alone or with a partner, the goal always remains the same, win enough matches to win the game.

The result of that, is a game where you can choose to do practically nothing.

A Mario tennis game won’t be a Mario tennis game however without the use of some special powers. This time you can’t use this powers as you please and every character can use the same types of special shots. The reason for this is that the special powers can only be activated on the court itself. While playing tennis you’ll often see bright colored circles appearing on the court, if you stand in one of those you can use the special power. For example change the direction of the ball in midair or firing a ball on fire. It’s a nice innovation to the franchise and it gives you a more balanced character list. The downside however is that the characters also use the one thing that could make them unique. Without a custom special attack, there isn’t really a noticeable difference between the playable characters.

Mii customization in action.

The only character that really stands out of the rest is your Mii character. You can buy different clothes, costumes and tennis rackets for your Mii character, changing his/her look every time you please. Each item also changes the stats of your Mii. By matching different clothes and rackets from the same style you can make your Mii stronger, faster or even more tricky. Playing as your Mii therefor is more fun than playing with one of the Nintendo cast.

This customization goes rather far. You earn coins by playing in tournaments or by completing mini-games and you unlock new gear the same way. The more coins you have, to more gear you can buy for your Mii. If you’re really passionate on collecting as much coins and gear as possible, you’ll often end up in one of the mini-games.

The mini-games are something that really makes this game stronger. Mario Tennis Open comes with four different mini-games and Super Mario Tennis is by far the most interesting one. In this game you’ll have the opportunity to play through 4 classic Mario stages using your tennis skills. Defeating goombas and breaking question blocks really is challening if your only weapon is a ball. Next to this you have more regular mini-games as well like ‘Ring Shots’, where you have to aim your ball perfectly. The smaller the ring, the more points you earn. ‘Galaxy Rally’ is a bit the same but instead of hitting rings, you have to hit certain parts of the court to continue playing. The last mini-game in the list is ‘Ink Showdow’, a regular tennis match where Piranha plants spit ink towards you to make it more difficult.

As you can see the four mini-games are rather easy to understand but are challenging enough to keep you going for a while. Unlocking new playable characters is without a doubt an extra reason to play this game mode as well.

Super Mario Tennis mini-game.

If you finished all the single player modes you can also take the fight to the online courts. Connection with players online is very easy and doesn’t take much waiting time. Before you know it, you’re playing against another human player. The online network add something to the replay value of the game but can get rather boring after a while. Just like in the single player mode, the online mode always is quite the same formula repeated.

+/ Pros

  • Customization of Mii character
  • Looks wonderful
  • Mini-games and online mode

-/ Cons

  • No real difference in characters
  • Lack of a story or RPG-mode
  • Not a lengthy game

All in all Mario Tennis Open is a decent and good looking portable Mario Tennis game but lacks the depth its precursors had. The game is most enjoyable to play in short sessions rather than days after days. It’s not a bad game but it doesn’t feel complete. The customization and special powers are great innovations but aren’t enough to keep you motivated for a long time. If you’re looking for  a game to play with your friends or to play when you have a few minutes on the train, it’s perfect. If you’re looking for a deeper Mario Tennis experience, you’re better of with the older episodes.

7/10

Got interested in games since I could read. Started with Nintendo but evolved into an all-round gamer. I love all kind of games; triple A games to Indie. If the vibe is right, I'll enjoy playing it.