The lights are on
Ever since the re-release of Mario Power Tennis on Wii, people began to wonder if we would see a new release in the Mario Tennis. Fans would have to wait three years to get some new solid Tennis action with Mario and the gang. Mario Tennis Open marks the series return from a seven year hiatus, this time being on Nintendo's newest handheld. But, can it live up to the series greatness?
Mario Tennis Open continues to keep the same Mario Tennis action the series is known for with a little twist. Like all Mario Tennis games, Open is based on the basics of Tennis. To win, the player must hit the ball on the other side of the court and bounce twice. Players earn 15 points for every shot that is successful and can win the game by earning game, set, and match points by earning 60 points on each game. The amount of set and game points can be set by the player in exhibition mode but not in tournament mode. It's pretty straightforward, but then you're introduced to Chance Shots. Chance Shots are Open's Power Shots from Mario Power Tennis, but more balanced. When rallying the ball, a Chance Shot may spawn, where the player can enhance their own shots. The Chance Spots are activated by first standing on top of it and then using the right shot. For example, In order to use the Star Chance Shot, or the purple colored Chance Shot, the player must first get on it and then use a flat shot. Chance Shots, while powerful, are not always winners. The opponent can actually counter the shot by using the right shot and possibly cut off your Chance Shot spawns. The Chance Shots mechanic actually introduces some slight strategic elements into the game. Knowing when to use a Chance Shot and how to counter an incoming one becomes very important.
The game is split into four gameplay modes: single player, local multiplayer, online multiplayer, and Streetpass. Single player has your standard Tournament mode (first handheld Mario game to have tournament mode, by the by), Exhibition, and Special games. If you've been a fan of the handheld Mario Tennis games then you'll notice the lack of Story mode and RPG elements in single player. While Miis slightly make up for it, they don't live quite up to expectations (more on Miis later) The majority of your time in single player mode will probably be tournament mode, but even this is disappointing. While you have eight cups to do for the 16 characters (not including QR downloadable characters and your Mii) for both Singles and Doubles, you can easily blast through these. The first four regular cups will put you against ridiculous easy computers. Things slightly heat up when you're in the Star cups, or the last four cups, but even then the computers won't be anything too difficult. This is really disappointing as the only challenge you'll get is by playing against others or playing against Ace level computers in Exhibition.
There's also Exhibition mode, which is the basic versus mode if you just want to play a quick game of tennis against computers, (Note: you can't turn off Chance Shots like you could in Mario Power tennis) and Special Games, which is games with special rules that alter gameplay. You have series regulars like Ring Shot, where you rally the ball while trying to score points by having it go through rings, Galaxy Rally, or this game's version of "Rally the ball X amount of times!", and Ink Showdown, or Open's twist on the Mario Tennis (N64) Piranha Plant Challenge. The real cream of the crop of the special games is Super Mario Tennis, which basically has you play the first four levels of the original Mario Bros., but with a Tennis Ball. It's original and intuitive, while also yielding a great amount of coins.
Speaking of coins, Mario Tennis Open has a unique feature of customizing your Mii. The Clubhouse feature of Mario Tennis Open, keeps a record of your achievements, the Item Shop and the ability to customize your Mii. You buy items from the Item Shop using coins collected from the Special Games and can equip them on your Mii. However, most of the items are locked and must be unlocked by playing Tournament mode. So if you want to customize your Mii with different clothes, you first have to unlock them from playing Tournament mode, then get coins from Special Games and buy them. This gives players some extra incentive to play both modes and ultimately maximize your playtime. Sadly, your Mii's clothes doesn't give you full satisfaction as say leveling up and improving your stats. Your stats are shown on a Pie chart and different pieces affect the amount of each stat. The clothes you wear can affect the stats of you Mii, but again, It's not the best supplement to the old story mode.
Finally, we get to the main thing Nintendo touted about since Open's debut, Online multiplayer. Open marks the first time this series has seen online multiplayer, and it generally works smoothly. Sadly, there isn't a lot of options to choose from, just Quick (a Tiebreaker game) or Extended (a 2 game, 1 Set match). You'll occasionally get lag, but there's rare cases when the lag is unbearable. It's not as smooth and polished as Mario Kart 7's online multiplayer, but it's still effective and good. For other mutliplayer modes, Open features monthly online leaderboards, local and download play, and Streetpass. Streetpass basically has you versus or play with the the person's Mii. Although Camelot doesn't do anything revolutionary with StreetPass and Online multiplayer, it's a nice little feature.
Mario Tennis Open is a very simple game to learn and gives a wide amount of control options. The first (and probably the one most will use) is the standard use of physical buttons. The three buttons, A, B, and Y is for Topspin, Slice shot, and Flat shot, respectively. Then you also have lobs which is a use of pressing A then B and Drop shots which is vice versa. X is for simple shots. L is used for canceling charge shots, or telling your partner "I got it!" in Doubles and R is for cycling through the Touch Screen panels when serving or for lounging toward the ball. The second control scheme is the Touch Screen where you can use all the shots, just by tapping. Finally, you have the gyroscope option where your characters runs after ball for you and all you have to do is select the shot while moving the system to determine which way to hit it. This goes hand to hand with the Touch Screen scheme and is probably the easiest way to learn the game. Although I feel Gyro was forced into the game for no reason, at least it's optional.
As expected for a Mario game, it features remixed tracks from various Mario games (surprisingly, it has remixed tracks from Mario Tennis (N64) as well). The new tracks are okay, but aren't amazing by any means. Most of the little character quips from Mario and the gang are reused too.
In the Graphics department, the game has that colorful, cartoonish look Mario is known for, without having to sacrifice the visuals because of lower power. On thing that is upsetting though is the poor use of 3D. There's barley any effect here at all for an overhead game. It might have been better when the game switches to an over the shoulder style view in Gyro, but 3D turns off.
Overall the value and content of Open is what you put in. Competing all the tournaments for every character will take some time and unlocking and buying all the items in the Item Shop will take even longer. Plus it can be enhanced by multiplayer.
Conclusion: Mario Tennis Open is that standard tennis game fans of old will recognize and love. The Chance Shots are more balanced than the horrid Power Shots and multiplayer is a fun and important part of the package. However, it comes at the cost of a really amazing single player experience. What you see is what you get, and for some, they may not like it. Overall, if you enjoyed the console Mario Tennis games, then you'll enjoy Open. If you loved the handheld Tennis game, you may be slightly disappointed. And if you're a newcomer to the series, you have a whole new Tennis experience in front of you.
Pros & Cons list
Wow.... What a great review...