Version tested: Wii
Wii remotes worldwide are crying out of their little speakers for a full-featured tennis game, so natural is the fit of the sport for the controller - but a new version of this over-egged 2004 effort can't ever be more than a stop-gap. If the objective of Nintendo's New Play Control! reissues of GameCube games for the Wii is to give these games an extended lifespan, then Mario Power Tennis' return from the grave might end up being somewhat brief.
There are several reasons for that. The first is that you need a really, really good reason to look past the deceptively simple and addictive Wii Sports Tennis that comes bundled with every machine - a game that sacrifices character movement for the subtle and responsive racquet-head control that still stands as some of the best gesture-recognition the Wii has seen.
The second is that that reason is coming. Wii MotionPlus is out this summer - it's an add-on offering greatly increased responsiveness and fidelity from the Wii remote, and it impressed us at E3 last year. It has clearly impressed EA too, which is using MotionPlus as its excuse to finally enter the videogame tennis grand slam with EA Sports Tennis. You'd be a fool to bet against this becoming the default tennis game on Wii - and even if it fails, there will surely be one or two competitors waiting for it to slip up.
The third is that New Play Control! Mario Sports Tennis doesn't actually work that well. Unlike Pikmin, whose pointer control system was an obvious and automatic improvement when mapped to the Wii remote, this is an arcade game designed for high-speed button-and-stick input. The replacement gesture commands are simply not reliable or quick enough to give you what you want 100 per cent of the time.
A horizontal swing with the remote gives you a flat shot; give it an upward slant for topspin, and downward for slice. Forehand and backhand are now determined by whether you swing from right to left or vice versa, rather than the placement of your character relative to the ball. Straight up gives you a lob, straight down a drop shot or smash depending on the context. It's a completely logical and intuitive scheme, but it's not a precise one, and it's quite easy to trigger the wrong type of shot, which rarely loses you the point, but might lose you a winner.
Offensive and defensive power shots - Mario Power Tennis' marquee feature, the over-the-top special moves you can use once a power meter is maxed out - are executed by combining shot gestures with A or B. Press the plus or minus buttons when swiping horizontally for a lunge to the right or left. If you're a novice player, someone's mum, or you just want to concentrate on getting the swinging right, power shots and lunges can be triggered automatically with various difficulty settings.
Mario Power Tennis' biggest draw over Wii Sports Tennis is the ability to direct your player around the court yourself. This can be done with a nunchuk stick or, if playing with a solo remote, the d-pad. D-pad control works surprisingly well, especially with the game's generous auto-correction giving you plenty of time and space around each shot to get your swing in, and it's a thoughtful addition - the game supports up to four-player doubles matches in multiplayer, and few are the households that have four nunchuks lying around.