Mario Power Tennis (GameCube) review
"Nintendo scarcely makes sports games (wow, that doesn’t really roll of the tongue). It just so happens that when they do, nine out of ten of the times you have an excellent game that defies the minds of many sports haters. I for one love games like Metroid Prime and Paper Mario. You know, adventure, action, RPG and the like. But as soon as I got my hands on Mario Power Tennis, I was overjoyed. Camelot has an expertise at combining a realistic sports atmosphere with oodles of..."
Nintendo scarcely makes sports games (wow, that doesn’t really roll of the tongue). It just so happens that when they do, nine out of ten of the times you have an excellent game that defies the minds of many sports haters. I for one love games like Metroid Prime and Paper Mario. You know, adventure, action, RPG and the like. But as soon as I got my hands on Mario Power Tennis, I was overjoyed. Camelot has an expertise at combining a realistic sports atmosphere with oodles of charm and entertainment that we would expect from a game with Mario in the title.
You can immediately sense it when you first load up the game. All you need to do is hold that mischievous finger of yours back from the Start button, and you are treated to a marvelous five minute long CGI sequence about Wario and Waluigi accidentally stumbling upon Bowser’s secret lair, and becoming ruthlessly trained to beat down Mario and Luigi in the upcoming tennis tournament. But wouldn’t you have it, folks, Mario and Luigi manage to prevail in an epic portrayal of the tried and true fact: cheaters never win. This scene is practically holding you by the neck, rubbing the Gamecube’s graphics up in your face and chanting “Yeah, you like that!”
If you managed to endure such a thrill ride of sorts, you have the strength to carry on to the menu screen. We have the classic exhibition, tournament… hrm, what’s this? A special games mode. Here we have an assortment of Mario Party-esque minigames, all managing to include tennis in some way, shape or form. They range from lobbing paintballs at a billboard with a tennis racket to buffeting fireballs at a mechanized Bowser. Yes, with a tennis racket. You only start with five of these games, but as you complete the effortless tournament mode, you will gain many, many more.
Do you think that that was the only major innovation? Snap back to reality, this is a Nintendo game. Let’s look into exhibition mode. We have about sixteen characters to choose from, each with their own strength’s and weaknesses. Once our mind is set upon the perfect character, we have the court selection. As with any tennis game, there is a variety of courts, that in turn make the ball bounce higher, go faster, and bear all sorts of effects. Now that you’ve chosen the court, we still have one more option to pass. Do you want to play a normal match, or a gimmick court match? Normal is exactly how it sounds, but the real innovation is in the gimmick courts. They exploit the characteristics of each course in either a negative or positive way. Take the Delfino Plaza court for instance. Piranha Plants will spew sludge upon the ground, tripping nearly all who walk upon it, and making the ball bounce and slide in erratic ways.
Not to mention the gimmick courts really do the best job of showcasing the graphics of this game. The silky smooth translucent ghosts of the Luigi’s Mansion court look as vibrant as ever as they whisk away your ball. The aforementioned sludge will show a clear reflection of you whilst you battle to reclaim your footing. Even though the gimmick courts may hinder your play and get on your nerves sometimes, you would miss them dearly if they were gone.
A cool new addition to all modes of play are the power shots. By holding R and pressing A while the ball is in close range, time will magically freeze and your character will take an item out of who knows where and devastatingly whack the ball with it. These shots, if returned, usually leave the opponent stunned or hindered, and are the third biggest presentation of the amazing visuals. When the ball is far away, R and A will once again freeze time and your character will get the ball back and clobber it by over the net by any means necessary. You may get tired of the little miniscenes, but unfortunately, you can leave them on or turn them off altogether. I would leave them on, however. They serve as the paprika for your deviled eggs; you can do without them, but it tastes a lot better with them on.
Tournament mode really isn’t that special. You can either play singles or doubles (one or two player teams), and you must work your way up the tournament ladder until you win and claim your reward. Most of the tournament is ludicrously easy until the final match on the 3’rd ladder. The computer suddenly becomes a tennis expert, and happens to know where each shot is going to land and precisely how to counter. While this imbalance in difficulty is certainly unneeded, it can be shrugged off quite easily. And, if you simply can not get over it, there’s a save feature which you can use at any time in the game, particularly before the final tournament match.
And if that wasnt enough, Camelot decided to season the game with a vast variety of ways to hit the ball. L and A is a long-distance lunge, L and B is a low flying slice shot, A and B is a high and lofty lob, A is a normal shot, and B is a normal slice. R in rapid succession with A or B is the previously mentioned power shot. Another thing about the power shot; you have to play well and return difficult shots, and then your tennis racket will brighten and sparkle, enabling you to use it. While most will never master every kind of shot, more is always better. That would make a perfect slogan for all the features of this game.
The sounds of this game are pretty good; although not as much of the nostalgic tunes you would expect to hear from this type of game. The characters do say their name, and have many different grunts of approval or dismay, but no ’real’ voice acting. If you were to ask me, it would be a little peculiar should Wario happen to recite an essay on the tennis court. All in all, Mario Power Tennis is a fun game that appeals to the whole family, even for the folks out there who loathe sports games; Nintendo and Camelot have cranked out yet another masterpiece.
Community review by meeptroid (December 29, 2004)
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