Release date: May 20th, 2012
Camelot brings us yet another Mario Tennis game with Mario Tennis Open for Nintendo 3DS. The lack of an RPG element made a few fans upset at the loss. While it doesn’t contain that addictive element, the game more or less makes up for it in other ways.
In Mario Tennis Open, there isn’t much of a story. Once you start a game and go through the mandatory tutorial, you’re simply given an invitation to compete in the Mushroom Cup. There is no rhyme or reason as to why you’re competing. On the other hand, it allows the game to focus on what’s important.
Mario Tennis Open is obviously a tennis game, one that doesn’t try to be realistic with how it plays. Instead it’s an arcade type game of back and forth with a few different modes. No matter what mode you choose, you’ll have the option of picking whichever Mario character you’d like to play with. Each have a different set of skills: for example, Mario is a good, well-rounded, jack of all trades player, while Bowser is more of a heavy hitter. You can also choose a Mii to and customize it with items to your liking.
The game has a few different modes to choose from. In Tournaments, you can compete solo or pair up with another character for a few rounds of doubles. Each section has a Cup to win and computer AI players to defeat. For the majority of the game, the AI is laughable in difficulty. However, towards the end I noticed a quite a few cheap shots were being slung my way, making it extremely frustrating. It’s not impossible to advance, but for beginners it may provide an exercise in patience. If you find yourself stuck or in need of practice, the Exhibition area will allow you to play without the pressure of needing to bring a Cup home.
To break the monotony of simply playing straight tennis matches, Camelot has included Special Games. The four modes, including Ring Shot, Super Mario Tennis, Galaxy Rally, and Ink Showdown, bring out a real arcade feeling since they’re endless and score based. Each game type is different, however. Ring Shot has you volleying the ball through rings. Super Mario Tennis takes you through modified levels from the original Super Mario Bros., where the goal is to play wallball and grab as many coins as possible to stay alive. Galaxy Rally is set with a Super Mario Galaxy backdrop as you try to aim the ball on visible platforms so a Luma can hit it back to you. Lastly, there’s Ink Showdown, which has three Piranha Plants spitting balls that you must hit and avoid letting the AI hit with a random character. Occasionally ink blobs will be thrown that obfuscate your vision if not hit. These all can take some time to master and get the highest score on.
Those looking to take their game online will have no problem doing so. Online play worked flawlessly and had no noticeable lag while I played. Games were quick and opponents challenging, just as online should be. Each game determines your rating, which starts at 2000. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to sort out those with much higher ratings from those with lower ones. This can lead to horribly mismatched games where one player takes a beating or simply stands around waiting for the game to end. The solution to this is to only play with those on your friends in the Exhibition option. Aside from the match-making gripe, online seems to function nicely.
The Clubhouse is perhaps one of the more interesting features of the game. While you play, you’ll gain Coins and unlock items which will be available in the Clubhouse to buy. There is a massive stock to be unlocked and bought that add to your Mii’s play style as well as their look. The items range in type by attributes like Power and Speed, which allow the player to customize their Mii with a bit of freedom. Although items are fun to mess around with, there’s no comparison tool between each item, so you’ll be scrolling back and forth quickly to try and determine which is the better option. One other downside is the fact that items in the shop seems quite expensive, which feels like an artificial way to pad the length of the game. It’s quite annoying if you’re trying to collect everything there is to get.
If you live in a populated area where you can take advantage of StreetPass, you’ll be battling it out with those you pass by with a simple regular match. There’s Ring Shot available with each new Mii you encounter as well. With each new encounter, if you do play through, you’ll unlock items in the Clubhouse.
The new “Dynamic View” adds a new control scheme to the series that utilizes the Nintendo 3DS gyroscopes. Simply hold the system up and aim where you’d like your shot to go, and watch the ball fly across the court. In this mode, the 3D automatically turns off so you’re not distracted by trying to locate the sweet spot for the 3D. A minor negative to the Dynamic View is the fact that it can change inadvertently to the standard controls in the middle of a volley. Standard controls make use of the slide pad for determining which direction the ball will travel. Both modes provide a different perspective, with Dynamic being a pseudo-third-person view, while standard has more of a top down look. In either mode, you’ll be screwed if you need to sneeze when you’re trying to volley, simply because you can’t pause in the middle.
There are also two ways to perform power shots in the game. For those who may be lazy, the touch screen provides the player with three options. Two of these involve only three shot varieties, with the placement being flipped. The last is the one that most will use that contains all the shots available. At times I found that trying to hit the correct button was a bit cumbersome when using the touch screen, due to having to focus on the action on the top screen.
If you don’t care for touch screen controls, there is always the button option. Single button presses along with two button combinations will provide all the shots available. The downside to this is that you’ll need to memorize these, otherwise you’ll end up looking down once again at the touch screen to verify which button combination does what.
While no one will be in awe at the visuals, Mario Tennis Open is clean and clear. The 3D for the most part looks decent and crisp. It does appear that the 3D is a lazy effort though, when it comes to menus and in-game video type events. Characters in the background will seem flat in the 3D space, while objects such as the Winner’s Cup will pop out more dramatically. It’s not too noticeable unless you’re a 3D snob. One area that did impress me was during Galaxy Rally. It felt like a tiny sample of what the Super Mario Galaxy universe would look like on the Nintendo 3DS, which was stellar.
As for the audio, the soundtrack isn’t anything to get too excited over. It can even become annoyingly repetitive at times. The sound effects somewhat make up for that, with Mario characters making the appropriate noises when they’re hitting or running to the ball. I didn’t care for the way the Miis sounded though, with the female Mii in particular sounding very dainty and weak. Not exactly how I think of myself or many others playing tennis.
Final Word (Not an average): 3.9/5
The Dynamic View was a big reason for my enjoyment of the Mario Tennis Open. It allowed me to feel more in the game, but has the side effect of making you look silly when using it. With the Clubhouse, there’s a reason to keep playing, but those who want a reason to stick around longer will want to look at the online matchmaking, or not bother. This is a center piece for pick up and play in bursts type games, for better or worse.
Thanks to Nintendo for the review copy!