Forget Federer, Mario is where it's at.
Mario is a connoisseur of sports whether he's jetting it on a go-cart, shanking a shot while playing golf, scoring a goal in soccer, refereeing a boxing match, and hitting one out of the park while playing an inning of baseball. Case in point, the portly plumber does everything and the kitchen sink. He is one versatile plumber indeed. Now he's returning to handhelds to play a wonderful round of tennis with friends and rivals in Mario Tennis: Power Tour for the Game Boy Advance. Does Mario and company hit an ace, or do they get penalized for a double fault?
This game plays like the Golden Sun of tennis games. From the character gibberish to their animations to gaining experience points after every match, there's definitely a Camelot RPG feeling, and there's no doubt since Camelot developed this game. As you gain levels by accumulating enough experience points, you can upgrade your stats from serve strength to how much your shot spins after it is hit. You can upgrade your character to suit your play style which is a welcome addition to the game. Some players will divide up the points between all stats while others can pick and choose which stats are right for them. Want to be a power server? Then upgrade the serve category as you gain a level.
Like Mario Power Tennis which came out on the Gamecube, the Game Boy Advance edition of the game features power shots. There's two types of power shots: offensive and defensive. Say a ball is far away from you. Use a power shot to transport yourself to the ball location to save the day. For your character of choice to learn new power shots you must participate in mini-games. From running on a conveyor belt, leaping over barrels Donkey Kong-style to walking on a tight-rope and trying not to tip over into the water. As you continue to play these games, your power shot gets more... well... powerful.
There's over thirty characters to select from in Mario Tennis: Power Tour. Before blowing a gasket, however, at the promise of more Mushroom Kingdom characters than ever before, only six of the thirty-something characters are actually Mario-related. The others are generic humanoids with little in the way of personality. Out of the Mushroom Kingdoom cast presented only Mario, Luigi, Peach, Waluigi, Donkey Kong, and Bowser are playable. In fact, the Mario gang seems like an afterthought as they only appear in the story at the tale-end. That's pretty disappointing as it makes the game seem like a tennis title that has Mario characters shoehorned in.
Playing Power Tour feels great. Serve the ball just right, and you'll slam it down your opponent's throat. One button does topspin shots while the other does backspin shots. Tapping A then B performs a lob shot that sends the ball over the head of anyone severely guarding the net. Meanwhile, tapping B then A does a drop shot that puts a stop to players too far away from their side of the net. When your power shot meter builds up, you can unleash your shot while holding the R button and hitting the A or B button. It's a simple set-up, but damn does it feel nice.
Visually, the faux 3D models in the game look just like they do in the Golden Sun series of games. Again, not a shock considering the developer. The game does its hardest to replicate an authentic tennis experience, and for that it does an admirable job. From the announcer keeping tabs of the current score to wild applause and "oohs" and "ahhs" when a magnificent play is executed, there's plenty of presentation to love with this game.
Mario Tennis: Power Tour may not feature the Mushroom Kingdom cast as much as I'd like, and finding another player to play with you over multiplayer may be difficult if not impossible nowadays. The single-player game is also short even when you're getting championships in both singles and doubles play, but if you look past these errors you will find a fun portable tennis game. It's not the best one currently on the market, yes (that would be Hot Shots Tennis: Get A Grip), but Mario and company are still churning out remarkable sports games.
[SuperPhillip Says: 8.0/10]