"The Prince of Tennis"
There is this ongoing and completely unfounded stigma that if you slap Nintendo's Mario mascot onto something, that product will sell like hotcakes regardless of its inherent quality. It is not a difficult stance to comprehend, though. Aside from saving princesses and galaxies in his outstanding platforming game entries, you can control Mario in go-kart racing, snowboarding races, real estate competition, and most obviously in several sports including basketball, golf, and both the summer and winter Olympic Games. As such, seeing a new tennis-focused game starring the gifted plumber can be a bit overwhelming. However, not counting the Wii port of the Gamecube game, it has been nearly eight long years since the last real installment of the racket-based franchise. Luckily, the just released Mario Tennis Open for the budding Nintendo 3DS handheld is another in a long line of his entertaining non-platforming diversions.
The aforementioned Wii port was a fun re-release that naturally used motion controls to mimic the act of swinging a tennis racket around. Being on a handheld, this installment returns to the traditional button and analog-based movement of previous entries, with certain buttons offering precise types of hits like drop shots or powerful swings. However, thanks to the system's unique features, the game also includes its own unique take on motion controls. By holding the handheld vertically, gyroscopic support changes the camera view to behind your character rather than from an angled top-down view (this mode can optionally be turned off).
With gyroscopic support enabled, your character's side-to-side movement is automated, but you can specifically angle the return of your volleys depending on how you position the console itself. It should be noted that, since you have to situate the handheld in different positions and angles, the 3D is disabled in this mode to avoid blurry double images. So, you have a choice between using this mode and its interesting immersive motion-based controls and perspective or the fine-tuned traditional controls and the added advantage of stereoscopic 3D.
While the use of the Nintendo 3DS's most prominent feature is viewed as little more than a gimmick, in Mario Tennis Open, it does provide some gameplay benefit. Much like its platforming brethren, seeing into 3D space on a flat plane can become a tad difficult when its gameplay hinges on judging depth. With the handheld's stereoscopic 3D in use, it becomes so much easier to react accordingly to incoming volleys at the right time.
The general objective of the game follows basic tennis rules. In exhibition mode, you can customize the amount of sets and games needed to win, but, logically, you are incapable of doing so for tournament mode. Your enjoyment will greatly depend on if you have people to play with, since the single-player experience is strangely lacking. However, extra techniques and special play modes pad out the gameplay.
When an opponent returns a shot poorly, you have the opportunity to pull of a Chance Shot. A small colored area encircles your character and, by tapping the corresponding color on the bottom touch screen or the appropriate button sequence, you can execute one of several unique return shots that can hinder the opponent (eg. being pushed back or spinning out of control). You can also be on the receiving end of a Chance Shot and in these cases, executing a distinctive counter to the appropriate Chance Shot will lessen the blow.
Mini-games add objects strewn about the court where you attack enemies, collect coins and blocks with your serves and returns that all serve to enhance your skills. Other than run-of-the-mill tennis courts, some stages take on themes from various levels from Mario's platforming games, adding a level of nostalgic charm to the proceedings.
There are 16 playable characters, each with different specializations and techniques. You can also custom create one using the simple but charming Miis as a base. You can then unlock items such as rackets, wristbands, uniforms, shoes, and costumes to specially decorate them.
In reality, it is just a lucky coincidence that almost all games the talented plumber has starred in have been made with such care that quality is almost a guarantee. While there are some strange omissions and quirky design choices, Mario Tennis Open still fits under that category.
GameDynamo's Score for Mario Tennis Open (3DS)
Writes for a few media outlets, does graphic design work for a few clients, as well as production work for a few studios (all poorly). Believes the best correlation between the words "twilight" and "sparkle" has less to do with vampires and more to do with a sarcastic pony.
[View Mario Tennis Open images / screenshots +]
[Watch Mario Tennis Open videos / trailers +]
[View more Mario Tennis Open articles (news, previews, reviews) +]
[View Mario Tennis Open cheats / guides +]
More from GameDynamo