Monday, March 30, 2009

New Play Control! Mario Power Tennis (Wii) Review

Nintendo's New Play Control! series seems like a great idea. For those who have played the Gamecube originals, it's a whole new experience, sometimes for the better, for their old favorites. For those who never played them, it's a $30 new game! I entered my local Blockbuster the other day and picked up the NPC version of Mario Power Tennis. I sort of knew how well Pikmin translated to the Wii (and affiliate World 1-1 confirms my suspicions), so I was curious as to the quality of Mario's last new home console tennis game. Hmmm.... I wonder how soon I will give it away in my review...

Fault? No. Double Fault.

Let's face it. Although the Nintendo Gamecube had a fantastic library for the Nintendo faithful, it was pretty much a failure in capturing the majority of the video game market. Now that the Wii has been the breakout hit that it is, Nintendo has opted to let millions of new gamers and those gamers who skipped the Gamecube experience several of the system's best with brand new motion control. Nintendo's label for this series of games is New Play Control with Pikmin and Mario Power Tennis as the first two titles for North American audiences. The latter hasn't turned out so well.

The original Mario Power Tennis released in November of 2004 in North America, and it was a very enjoyable arcade-style tennis title with plenty of fun for newbies yet plenty of strategy and depth for more advanced players. New Play Control! Mario Power Tennis captures neither of these positive qualities. It all has to do with the motion controls that have been implemented, and with the main selling point of these Wii-makes (hurt me for that pun later) being the motion controls, it's rather ironic that Power Tennis suffers because of the phoned-in controls.

Pete Sampras has nothing on Mario save for
that secret about the plumber and the tranny.

Firstly, the motions used for volleying the ball to the opponent's court are completely unintuitive and are inaccurate half the time. To perform a drop shot, where the ball falls just behind the net on the opponent's court, you need to slash the Wii remote directly downward in a completely vertical motion. In the real world, hitting the ball like that would make it land a foot in front of you, costing you the serve. Conversely, moving the remote upward will initiate a high-flying lob shot which also doesn't feel satisfying whatsoever. It doesn't help that regular shots require you to do a cross-body swing that usually registers somehow as a lob or drop shot, and you have one frustrating experience.

But wait-- there's more! A lot of the gameplay from the original Mario Power Tennis has been dumbed down for the New Play Control! version. No longer can you aim where you want to hit the ball via holding the control stick in the direction you want the ball to fall. instead, the location of your shot on the opponent's court lies with the timing of your swing. Seeing as the gestures don't register correctly most of the time, it's essentially about luck. Who needs to hit the ball in that wide open area that your opponent couldn't possibly reach when you can just inadvertently pass it right back to him? Furthermore, charge shots are automatic now. All you need to do is be in position, and your character will power up. There's no need to worry about being in the right place or not as you'll know immediately by whether or not your character gains a glowing aura.

The courts are vibrant and varied.

Other than the new controls added that are detrimental to the experience, the rest of the content from the Gamecube is the same. There's multiple tournaments to enter which the player can save their progress after each round and multiple mini-games usually revolving around one or two elements of tennis play. Unfortunately, nearly all of the available mini-games focus on precision which makes those bothersome motion controls a little difficult to master these games-- much less play them. The cast of color characters from the Mushroom Kingdom are all present and accounted for from Mario to Bowser, Peach to Daisy, and Luigi to Boo. Four characters can be unlocked as well as multiple new courts based off the Super Mario Sunshine and Luigi's Mansion games of the Gamecube era. Each of these have different themes and gimmicks to them from none to ghosts blocking your shots.

Regardless of what anyone says of the Playstation 2 era of graphics, Mario Power Tennis certainly looks bright, vibrant, and alluring to the eyes. There has been a slight bump to the visuals from the transition to Wii. There's nary an instance of the game slowing down or stuttering even in the more busy courts and mini-games. Character models are animated superbly and are full of life. It's just a shame the fate of the controls isn't as fortunate.

Playing against hard opponents with less than
reliable controls is an effort in frustration.

It's disappointing that a series of remakes selling off the idea of new controls suffers from them as badly as New Play Control! Mario Power Tennis has. Those wanting to play Mario Power Tennis for the first time should just find a used Gamecube copy from eBay or Amazon as the Wii version is just an abomination. The completely clumsily implementation of the Wii's motion controls for this game when every Wii owner in North America already owns a superior tennis game from Wii Sports is just pitiful. Stick with Wii Sports Tennis or wait for the upcoming Grand Slam Tennis from EA Sports this June.

[SuperPhillip Says: 3.5/10]


Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Great review!!!I agree with your take on the controls.There not exactly free flowing are they?You can check out my new blog if u wish...I have also done a post on MPT!!

Unknown said...

Thank you very much! Glad you liked it. Good luck and have fun on the new blog!