Game Rant‘s Riley Little reviews Mario Tennis Open
Another Mario game has joined the current line of software for the Nintendo 3DS, this time in the form of Mario Tennis Open. The series stands as one of the many Mario sports-related spin-offs that is actually fun to play, and with Camelot once again at the helm it seemed like nothing could possibly go wrong in the franchises latest portable installment.
Mario Tennis Open manages to mirror the same quality gameplay found in the home console iterations, but the lack of depth can, at times, make the entire experience feel tedious.
Camelot has done a great job bringing a console-esque experience to the 3DS. The controls have been expertly mapped to the face buttons and circle pad, and there’s even touchscreen options for newcomers who aren’t accustomed to tactile buttons. The bottom screen of the 3DS is full of several different types of shots that make it easier to get into the game. Mario Tennis Open also makes use of the gyroscope feature, and enables players to change their play style based on how they’re holding the portable.
This, however, is where the experience begins to falter. Tilting the 3DS vertically will place the camera behind the player’s character, and when this happens the mascot will move into position to hit the ball — sans circle pad. This frees up time that would have been spent moving into position, and allows gamers to choose which shot they’ll use to best the opposition from the variety found on the touch screen. Players who brandish the portable horizontally, however, don’t get the luxury of not having to ever move their characters; giving the vertical players a noticeable advantage.
There are a handful of different modes that are available right from the get go for players looking to tear through the game solo. The biggest feature is the ‘Tournament’ mode, where gamers are tasked with taking on other Mushroom Kingdom residents in an elimination setting. Winning matches will progress the player through the rankings until they find themselves in the finals, and winning this will earn them the coveted first place championship. Winning each cup unlocks other cups that offer a tougher challenge, but ‘Tournament’ mode is tragically short lived.
Winning the championship only takes a matter of minutes to accomplish, and that’s because it only ever takes a maximum of three games to win it. Since there are a total of eight cups per division (between singles and doubles), ploughing threw the mode is only a short matter of time. The CPUs fail to provide much of a challenge too, so as a whole the entire mode isn’t very rewarding. There is one redeeming quality, however, and that’s the rewards that are doled out with every victory or loss in ‘Tournament’ mode.
Those rewards are new pieces of tennis gear that can be applied to a player’s Mii. Not only does purchasing new clothes and decking out the avatar give the individual’s Mii a personalized appearance, but it will actually change the character’s stats as well. Gear can affect three different types of stats: Power, Spin, and Move. All of these will noticeably impact the way the character handles when they enter a game, and earning new garments does give the game a little bit more depth.
While ‘Tournament’ will add new items to the ‘Item Shop’, earning enough cash to actually purchase them is another task entirely. This is where ‘Special Games’ comes in. The mode includes four very different mini-games that’ll earn players coins and unlock new characters. ‘Ring Shot’ focuses on shooting balls through golden hoops and getting enough points within a limited time frame. ‘Super Mario Tennis’ has gamers interact with the original Super Mario Bros. game by spiking the ball at the screen. ‘Galaxy Rally’ tests a player’s accuracy by making them collect pieces of a star, and ‘Ink Showdown’ stars ink-spitting piranha plants that’ll disrupt the view if given the chance.
These games offer some of the most fun had in Mario Tennis Open, and provide the toughest challenges found anywhere else in the game. The only problem? The ‘Special Games’ are all short and, more importantly, there are only four of them. If Camelot had focused on expanding this mode then there would be a lot more incentive to keep playing after burning through the other single-player options.
Those hoping for a solo-focused experience will be let down, but the game’s multiplayer features are a strong selling point for social gamers. Whether it’s local or online, Mario Tennis Open accommodates both and fulfills the desire to battle friends who are in the same room or across the country. I played several online games, and I’m happy to report that the experience is, for the most part, lag free. I experienced a bit of turbulence while playing a gamer from Japan, but other than that it’s a nearly flawless experience. The only issue is that players are unable to team up with a friend online and play against two random strangers – which is definitely a missed opportunity.
The graphical capabilities of this instalment of Mario Tennis are up to par with other games offered on the 3DS. The 3D would seem like it would be an outstanding feature (with furry green balls flying at the screen and whatnot), but it’s really nothing special. Certain scenarios, like the previously mentioned ink-spitting piranha plants, make good use of the technology, but turning the 3D off doesn’t detract from the experience.
Mario Tennis Open falls short of being the must-have title many were anticipating, and that’s because it doesn’t give players enough to do. The gyroscopic controls are vastly superior in matches, tournaments are easily won, and the lack of mini-game variety are all downers. The core gameplay is great, but the longevity of this game just isn’t there. Nintendo failed to serve up anything outstanding in this latest Mario spin-off, but there’s certainly some fun to be had for those looking to take their game online.
Mario Tennis Open is available for the Nintendo 3DS right now.
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