Thursday 29 August 2019

Mario Tennis (N64 review)

Developer: Camelot
Publisher: Nintendo
Released: 2000

Mario Tennis is a sports game that features the very first appearance of Waluigi.

Tournament mode (singles or doubles) has six cups with three matches each. There's 20 characters and alongside the usual shots (e.g. top spin, slice) is a powerful charge shot that's executed by holding down a button. Unlike later Mario Tennis games which rely on gimmicks, this is a purer version of the sport that arguably places a greater emphasis on skill; I found this to be more enjoyable as you can focus on tactics without a random event interfering. The characters play completely different to each other and I love how they're vulnerable against certain shots as it gives the matches a puzzle-like element. The biggest motivating factor to completing the game with each character is to see their trophy celebrations which are hilarious! Ring Shot mode tasks you with collecting a certain number of rings by hitting the ball through them while battling an opponent: It's a clever idea, as you have to adjust your mindset towards working with your foe, before turning on them to win the point! It's also a great training tool for learning how shot selection, distance and speed can alter the flight / path of the ball. In Piranha Challenge, 50 balls are randomly launched towards you and you must hit as many as possible past the other player; it's a mediocre diversion and after a handful of tries you'll likely stick to the more substantial modes. Bowser Stage sees you playing matches on shifting courts that include power-ups such as Bolts (stuns opponents) and Stars (increases power). It's carnage due to the amount of things happening, but the chaos breeds fun and hilarity due to the unpredictable nature of each point.

Mario Tennis is a terrific sports title that still plays well today and its basic approach is refreshing in a series that has since adopted a more unrealistic tone. The gameplay is entertaining across all character types and the package is complimented by well-executed mini-games that are wholly addictive in their own right.

Random trivia: Extra courts and characters can be unlocked by using the N64 Transfer Pak and the Game Boy Color version of Mario Tennis (2001).

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