Monday, May 30, 2011

Mario Tennis (N64, VC) Retro Review

The French Open marches along, so what better way to welcome it than a review of a tennis game? What's that, you say? "Good idea, SP!" Why, thank you. Thank you very much, good sirs and missuses. Here's the second Retro Review of the year in Mario Tennis for the Nintendo 64 and Wii Virtual Console (1,000 points).

Mario and crew make a racket on the tennis circuit.

Mario is an all-star. He's destroyed Bowser's plans multiple times, he's raced go-karts, played rounds of golf, even slammed one out of the park like Barry Bonds. In 2000 he returned to the sporting arena to play a game of tennis. Not only was there a companion game on the Game Boy Color that allowed you to transfer characters to the Nintendo 64 version, but it was the introduction of Luigi's archrival, Waluigi. With a colorful cast of characters, multiple modes, and awesome multiplayer play, Mario Tennis is one of the great tennis titles on any platform.

As stated already there's many modes to discover in Mario Tennis. The main single-player mode has you playing a tournament-styled mode either in singles or doubles play. There's ring shot where you volley between yourself and the computer, hitting the ball through the rings that pop up, going for a high score. Then there's a piranha plant game where you attempt to hit fifty balls that shoot out from the mouths of the plants. Meanwhile, you have to get your shots past a defender who will do anything he or she can to thwart your efforts.

Toad tries to make it past Peach's defenses in this mode.

Tournament play has you playing three rounds in three cups, Mushroom, Flower, and Star. The first two rounds of each cup is always a 1 set, 2 game deal. The third round of each cup is the best of 3 sets with 2 games apiece. Completing singles gives you a new character in the form of Shy Guy while dominating doubles will give you Donkey Kong Jr. to play as. The computer AI is quite smart and will do anything in its power to run you ragged across the various courts the game has.

Mario gets ready to serve up an ace.

There is a plethora of things to do in Mario Tennis. For one, you can earn trophies for all of the over-a-dozen characters in both singles and doubles play. By winning tournaments as certain characters, you unlock new courts to play on in exhibition play. Battle in the skies of the Mushroom Kingdom on Mario and Luigi's court or monkey around on Donkey Kong's jungle-themed court. There's an expansive number of unique courts to unlock through singles and doubles play.

Speaking of characters there's multiple ones to control and conquer with. Some characters are well-rounded like Mario and Luigi, some like Wario and Donkey Kong depend upon their strength to win while characters like Boo and Paratroopa rely on tricky curved shots to get a one-up on their competition. When you win a tournament as a specific character, you earn the ability to play as their star character giving them more power and speed in their ball-handling.

Mario Tennis plays like a traditional tennis game believe it or not. This was before the advent of power shots that Mario Power Tennis on the Gamecube introduced. One button hits a top spin shot, another controls a flat shot, while pressing A and then B executes a lob shot that flies over those occupying the net. Conversely, B and then A performs a drop shot for those defenders too far away from the net to reach in time. Lob shots are tricky to do as a star appears on the opponent's side of the court that your enemy can get under and strike with a strong, powerful shot that can speed past your defenses in the blink of an eye.

Mario Tennis came out in 2000, so it is an older Nintendo 64 game. Still, the character models are made up of simple polygons, court textures are nonexistent, and the crowd is made up of 2D characters. It looked good for the time, but the game looks severely outdated. That does not stop the game from being a blast to play with friends (up to four players at once), however. Meanwhile the audio is quite good and stands the test of time. Motoi Sakuraba's music is energizing and matches the action on the court. Who else gets tense when the match point theme plays? Continuing with the sound, Mario announces the score as well as who earned the point.

Bowser's court tilts and tumbles as you hit the ball
through items to trip up your opponent.

It's best to play Mario Tennis with having the camera on your side of the court at all times as playing on far side of the screen can get confusing real fast. There's an option to alter where the camera view is designated inside the options menu. Moreover, each time a player scores there's a replay of the winning shot. This can get tedious when you want to just play a game uninterrupted, but thankfully replays can be skipped entirely.

Mario Tennis is a tremendous tennis title. It has everything you'd expect from a game from Camelot including addicting gameplay, challenging modes, cunning CPU opponents, loads of unlockables, and a plethora of characters to choose from and master. The game is a steal at ten bucks on the Wii Virtual Console service, or you can find it for cheap on a site like eBay. It's definitely worth the cost of admission. Mario serves up an ace this go round.

[SuperPhillip Says: 9.25/10]

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