Mario Tennis Open Review
Once upon a time, I was bizarrely excited for Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour for the Nintendo Gamecube. I have no idea what exactly sparked my intense desire for the game, but for some reason the idea of Mario-themed golf seemed awesome to me, especially following addictively wacky fun of the Mario Party series.
Instead, I got a humdrum golf game with Mario characters. I played it maybe twice and never touched it again.
It's sad to note that developers Camelot still haven't found much to do with the Mario franchise, failing to create anything more ambitious than by-the-books sports titles with Mario characters seemingly thrown in at random. Such is the case with Mario Tennis Open for the 3DS, a game which despite having plenty of great examples to follow from (Virtua Tennis, Mario Tennis GBC) decides to play it far too safe, resulting in a game with some decent multiplayer and little else.
The game modes are sparse, with the single player tournament mode nothing more than a series of bracketed competitions played across varying terrains. The gameplay will be familiar to anyone who's played a tennis game before: run over to where the ball is and press buttons to hit it back the opponent. Mario Tennis Open spices this up slightly by letting players deliver special skill shots, showing where the ball is about to land and which "color" return to use for maximum effect. The problem is that this dumbs the competition down to a color matching game, and running over to differently colored circles and pressing the appropriate colored pad on the touchscreen feels like a game for primary school children.
The weirdest game feature is the tilt sensor controlled gameplay, which is automatically turned on by default. If this is honestly how Camelot expected people to play the game, it's time to hire some actual focus testers. The feature is utterly bizarre, requiring players to first hold the system at the right angle, then swivel it to aim their shots. To make up for your inability to properly control your player while jerking the system around like a moron, Camelot has made it so your player automatically gets under the ball regardless of where you are on the court. For fun, you can run all the way over to one side of the screen, then jam on the return button to immediately teleport to where the ball is. It's downright silly, and a great example of effort wasted on something nobody wanted.
Truth is that the game has two redeeming features. One is that playing against actual human opponents is decently fun, while one of the included minigames lets you play the original Super Mario Bros. by slamming a tennis ball at a projected level, collecting coins and overhanding baddies to extend the timer. This minigame is perhaps the closest Camelot gets to doing something unique with the license, and it's tragic they didn't have similar thoughts for the main game. After all, this is Mario, one of the most unique gaming licenses ever. So why is this game so mundane? Throw some coin blocks on the court, let me serve up some fireballs, have Bowser stampede through the middle of a rally and set the net ablaze. Something! Anything!
Point is, Camelot could've had some fun with this one. Instead, we've got a mediocre tennis game where you can play as Yoshi. For $40, that just isn't going to cut it.