Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Review: Mario Tennis Open (3DS)

The good thing about Nintendo Character GamesTM is that it's a almost a given that it will be an enjoyable experience. ("Almost" because the Mario Party games can be hit or huge miss.) Mario Strikers Charged, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Mario Kart, Mario Golf and Mario Tennis do a great job capitalizing on the most popular Nintendo characters and as a result, or more likely because of it, a lot of care and attention go into the games to make them pleasant games.

This basic tenant applies to Mario Tennis Open, which features the usual roster of Nintendo characters: Wario, Daisey, Donkey Kong, Boo, Luigi, et al, each with their specific traits that run along lines of all Nintendo Character GamesTM. Donkey Kong is powerful but not very nimble; Luigi is an all-round character; Boo is quick but not very powerful. And these characteristics are set in stone apparently (unless there's some unlock I haven't come across). The only "blank slate" character is the Mii, who can be outfitted with an assortment of clothes, shoes, wrist pads, and rackets, to boost various attributes.

The list of clothes and equipment grows after each match. If there's a rhyme or reason to getting the items unlocked, it's not obvious, but after every match there seems to be something new available in the shop.

Buying those equippable items is a problem. The only method to earn coins is to take part in the tennis mini-games and only one of those is a viable option to really grind out coins to buy upgrades for the Mii. If the player wins a tournament, why not award some coins for that? It seems obvious that the bulk of the gameplay in tournament and exhibition -- sinlges/doubles, online/offline -- be rewarded so the player feels no compulsion to grind a meagre selection of mini-games to acquire coins.

The actual tennis part of Mario Tennis Open satisfies the "fun" factor. It's of the Arcade variety so there are plenty of "I can't believe I managed to return that one!" and power-up circles to exploit. The game is very friendly to newcomers as witnessed by the fact my 3-year old son can win matches.

Add to the point, the best return methods are highlighted on the touchscreen. In fact, players don't even need to use the face buttons, they can simply press items on the touchscreen, which really takes the mystery out of trying to perform successful lobs. And running around the court can be wasted effort because the game is generous with the area the player needs to be in to make a successful return.

The first couple of difficulty levels are complete pushovers, so anyone with previous experience should jump to the Hard difficulty level. Then the game comes down to accurately predicting opponents and taking advantage of their weaknesses. (Luigi is atrocious at returning "fish tile" power shots.) As with most games like these, maatching skills against computer-controlled opponents takes a backseat to human competition. Either way, Mario Tennis Open is pleasant, though it seems to lack any addictive extras or some hook to make it addictive.

- Aaron Simmer

- Mario Tennis in portable form!
- Pretty much anyone can play it
- Online play

- Only collecting coins in the mini-games seems like a weird limitation
- Not sure how useful the over-the-should view actually is

Score: 7.5 / 10