N64 Review: Mario Tennis
Review by: Hairball (hairball@sm128c.com)

Game Info

 System: N64
 ESRB: Everyone
 Genre: Sports
 # of Players: 1-4
 Size: 128 Megabits
 Developer: Camelot
 Publisher: Nintendo

 Controller Pak: No
 Rumble Pak: Yes
 Transfer Pak: Yes

 Release Date:
 US: Aug 28, 2000
 EU: Nov 3, 2000

Screenshots:

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Final Score:
9.0/10

Reviewed on: September 4, 2000

Mario and his buddies are back and this time they are taking their tennis skills to the court! From Camelot, the creator of Mario Golf, comes Mario Tennis! This game features fun, fun and even more fun! You gotta play it to believe it.

Introduction

Mario Tennis has 16 different characters to choose from. Each character has their own strengths, weaknesses, and special tennis abilities, so try them all out to see which one fits you most. The characters that you can initially choose are Mario, Luigi, Peach, Baby Mario, Yoshi, Donkey Kong, Wario, Paratroopa (flying Koopa Troopa), Wario, Daisy (from Super Mario Land), Toad, Birdo (from Super Mario Bros. 2), Bowser, and Boo. Oh, and did I mention Waluigi? Waluigi is the new character that is the new rival of Luigi, like Wario is to Mario. The other 2 remaining characters are DK Jr. (DK's son), and Shy Guy, who are hidden in the game. There are also 4 other characters that can be unleashed via the Game Boy Mario Tennis game.

There are 4 regular tennis courts to play tennis on. Each court has different advantages and disadvantages that will vary by the player that you are using. The hard court has normal ball speed, and strong bounce. The clay court is slow all around. The grass court has strong ball speed and weak bounce. Next is the composite court, it has the fastest ball speed and a normal bounce. Although this isn't a regular court, there's also a Bowser stage, with interesting events. There are also a couple more tennis courts with characters on them by beating the tournament, and the Piranha challenge.

GraphicS

The graphics in Mario Tennis are superb, the tennis courts look realistic, and the characters look cartoony, and they make a great crossover. Even though this is a tennis game, the graphics look like they are run on the same engine that Mario Golf was. The characters look pretty much identical to their golf counterparts in nice 3D. The game plays smooth, and the frame rate never slows down a tad, it's fast-paced action tennis, with hardly any stoppages within play.

The camera angle of the tennis court when playing is frustrating when you are playing on the top half of the court. It's hard to get a good view of the ball when playing from the top. It's about 1/3 at the top, and 2/3 at the bottom, which means it's easier to see the play from the bottom then from the top. This isn't a problem in the single player mode because the camera can be adjusted to be behind your character only. But in multiplayer, this problem cannot be avoided as you and other players will take turns at each side of the court. But compared to splitscreen play, this is still much better.

Sound

Mario Tennis has great sound and music. Every character in the game talks, and they express themselves when they win, or when they lose. On every serve they do, you'll hear them yell. Mario's Italian-accent voice is also heard throughout the game as he's the announcer, and he announces all the plays that occur. The music that you hear during gameplay is very similar to the music found in Mario Golf, but it's faster, and quieter, and it really fits the mood of the game. The music gradually increases speed as the gameplay speeds up. Mario music is featured on the secret tennis courts.

Controls

The controls in Mario Tennis are the simplest yet. When in the game, you move around the tennis court using the control stick, and whack the tennis racquet using the A or B buttons. It's that simple. Pressing the A button slices the ball, and pressing the B button creates a topspin. You can also do a lob shot by pressing A then B. If you press B then A, you'll get a drop shot. Pressing A and B together at the same time you can do an awesome power smash. You can also charge up your shots, so they are more powerful. Hold down the A or B button to charge your shot, and press A or B again, and you'll get a much more powerful shot. But when you're charging up for a shot, your character won't be able to move, but you can press Z to cancel charging, and continue to move again. Once you get the hang of it, and put proper aiming into the shots, it'll be a breeze. After all, practice does make perfect.

Gameplay

There are 5 different play modes in Mario Tennis. Each mode has different objectives, obstacles, and challenges.

The Exhibition mode is just a friendly tennis match, up to 4 human and CPU players can play on any court, in singles (1 on 1) or doubles (2 on 2). Test out the characters on various courts in this mode, learn the basics of the game, or duke it out against friends or computers.

The Tournament mode is for 1 player only, and you go through the 3 cups, Mushroom Cup, Flower Cup, Star Cup and try to win the tournaments in singles or doubles. Winning the tournaments can open up tennis courts and players. The tournament increases difficulty as you play, which is one of the challenges in the game. One disadvantage in the doubles tournament is that you cannot choose your partner, the computer chooses one from the fixed list. For example, if you choose Mario, your computer partner will be Luigi. If you beat the tournament with all 16 characters, you'll open up even more tournaments to take part in. Opening the new tournaments will be one tough job, and once you get there, the job will be even tougher.

In addition to the regular modes, there's also a Bowser stage. This court is actually on top of lava, and held by metal chains, moving back and forth. Up to 4 human and CPU players can play on this court. There are also items you can use to affect gameplay, the items are like the ones from Mario Kart 64, but on a tennis court, not on a racetrack. Shells, stars, lightning bolts, banana peels, they're all here. Trying to stay alive will be one tough job, and you still have to play tennis in this crazy environment.

You might remember the Ring Shot Mode from Mario Golf, well it's back in Mario Tennis too. But this time you're hitting tennis balls into the rings. In single player mode, you are trying to go through as many rings as possible (or get your opponent to hit through the rings), and if you win the point, you get all of the rings collected. If your opponent wins the point, you get nothing. You can play by clearing the specified number of rings, clear the number of rings before the set time runs out, and clear the number of rings using a limited number of balls. In multiplayer ring mode it works the same way, but if your opponent wins the point, they get the rings collected, and see who meets the necessary rings first (to 50, 100 or 200).

The last mode is the Piranha Challenge for 1 player only. Your mission, if you choose to accept it is to return all 50 balls the Piranha Plants shoot at you. There's also an opponent to hit back the balls you return. You will not get credit if your opponent returns the ball back to you. This means you have to hit all 50 balls from the 3 Piranha Plants, and get it by the opponent as well. This will be one tough challenge, and only the true masters will be able to do it.

Replay Value

There are also a lot of open possibilities, giving the game a lot of replay value. With all the modes that you can play on already, there's still much more that hasn't been mentioned. There's a code entry system like Mario Golf, so tournaments can be run on the Internet at MarioTennis.com. A Game Boy version of the game is also in the works, and the N64 and GBC games can be connected using the Transfer Pak, and data between the games can be exchanged.

Final Thoughts

Mario Tennis has to be one of the best games released on the Nintendo 64 in a long time. The addictive fast-paced gameplay is already great enough, throw in Mario characters, and bonus modes, and you've got one game you never want to stop playing. Mario Tennis is one of the games you can play day in and day out, and it'll still be fun to play.

-- Hairball (hairball@sm128c.com)

Bottom Line: Mario Tennis provides smashing fun for the Nintendo 64.