[floatleft]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/mariopowertennis/cover.jpg[/floatleft][i]Mario Power Tennis[/i] is the latest in the series of highly successful [i]Mario Sports[/i] games. Over the years, Mario Sports games have become quite a staple for Nintendo fans. The Nintendo style and approach seems to draw people to certain sports that would otherwise not give it a second glance. I know that I fall squarely into that category as I don’t have any desire to play a tennis sim, or any other tennis game for that matter, as the sport just doesn’t strike me as being overwhelmingly fun to play.
With that being said, [i]Mario Power Tennis[/i] rocked my world. I am not familiar with the previous Mario Tennis, so I had no idea what to expect. Knowing that Nintendo has been on a hot streak lately with their first-party titles, I was expecting something great-but how they were going to accomplish that I wasn’t so sure about.
[i]Mario Power Tennis[/i] brings it’s A game in terms of a straight-up tennis game. You have a myriad of different hits that anyone familiar with the game of tennis will appreciate. A gives you a normal topspin shot, while B gives you a nice slice. Moments before you hit the ball, you have the opportunity to aim your shot with the analog stick. The direction of your hit can make all the difference in the world, so execute those shots with skill. You are also equipped with a lob, a drop shot, and a smash shot. You can hit a high lob by pressing A and then B, or a shot drop shot by pressing B and then A. Keeping those straight can be a difficult task, but using a variety of shots is sure to keep your opponent guessing. In order to execute a smash shot, your opponent has to lob the ball to your side of the court. When this happens, a small star will appear on the court. If you get to the star and press A and B at the same time, you will drive home a point for sure. Double-tapping the button for normal shots will also give you a slight increase in power.
[floatright]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/mariopowertennis/ss01_thumb.jpg[/floatright][i]Mario Power Tennis[/i] gives you the option of playing as a number of different familiar faces. Many of these people made an appearance in Mario Kart: Double Dash. With such a wide variety of characters, it was fitting to have different characters exhibit different strengths and different weaknesses. This will make who you play as a very important choice and ultimately make it about choosing a player geared towards your style and not just your favorite Nintendo character. In addition to different strengths, each player sports a few different SuperMoves. SuperMoves can be executed when the player’s racket starts to glow and they can turn the tides of a match. Each character is equipped with one defensive SuperMove and one offensive Supermove. Defensive SuperMoves assist you in saving a shot that you would otherwise be unable to hit, while Offensive SuperMoves create an interesting trajectory for the ball or a massive amount of power behind the shot. SuperMoves can be turned off should you get tired of watching the mandatory cut scene each time you perform one.
If plain tennis is not your cup of tea, then boy is [i]Mario Power Tennis[/i] for you. There are a massive number of gimmick courts and gimmick games for you to play. The gimmick courts are a standard game of tennis set on a court with a very abnormal set of rules. Take the Gooper Blooper court for example. On the face of the court are a bunch of brownish panels. Landing the ball on these panels causes them to move. The panels will either expand to cover more of the ground or contract and expose water underneath. The catch is that you can only hit the ball onto areas of your opponent’s court where a panel currently exists. So not only do you have to keep a game of tennis going, but you have to keep the ball in play on an ever-changing court. This is just a small example of what is in store for you with the gimmick courts of [i]Mario Power Tennis[/i].
The special games are also a blast and keep the tennis concept fresh and enjoyable. Games like “Artist on the Court” place you in front of an unpainted wall where you are bombarded with colored paint balls. You are expected to hit these paint balls to the correct spot on the wall in order to properly color the picture. A mirror image of the picture in full color is projected onto the court floor to aid you in the task. As you progress, the paintings become more and more complex. The Bowser and Yoshi pictures could very well cause you to pull your hair out if you don’t have a very comfortable grasp on the different types of hits in the game. More special games can be unlocked by winning one of the many tournaments in the game.
[floatleft]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/mariopowertennis/ss13_thumb.jpg[/floatleft]The tournaments are the bread and butter of [i]Mario Power Tennis[/i] and will probably occupy the bulk of your single-player time. Tournaments vary in length and difficulty, and they utilize a mix of standard and gimmick courts. The early tournaments feature a single-elimination bracket with three rounds. The first rounds are single-set matches, and the finals are a three-set match. Latter tournaments feature rounds with longer matches and much more difficult opponents. The nice thing is that you can save the game after each round and come back at a later time. This allows you to keep a game in progress on each of the many tournaments.
In essence, [i]Mario Power Tennis[/i] covers all its bases from standard gameplay to the wacky and zany antics you have come to expect from Nintendo. The single player experience is great and highly entertaining, while the multiplayer and party game aspect is about as good as it gets. Making [i]Mario Power Tennis[/i] a part of your GameCube library would be a very smart move. Just make sure you watch out for Diddy Kong-he is a tricky one.