New Play Control! Mario Power Tennis • Page 2

Grab and smash.

The rest is as you'll remember, or not, from the GameCube version. There are standard tennis surfaces and "Gimmick" courts with themes and hazards hallucinated by the creators of the Mushroom Kingdom. Matches can be played with regular tennis rules, or as Ring Shot or Item Battle contests. The former's a rewarding test of shot selection that awards points for hitting the ball through rings; the latter a rather haphazard, but basically enjoyable attempt to squeeze Mario Kart's familiar arsenal of items into a game of tennis.

Three-round tournaments - playable in singles or doubles and on Gimmick or normal courts - unlock the cast of playable characters and offer an instructive and well-judged difficulty curve in their opponent AI. You also have a range of Special Games - single-player mini-games crammed with fan-service references to everything from Mario Sunshine and Luigi's Mansion to Mario Paint, but mostly Mario Sunshine. They're fun ideas, but arguably not as well-tuned or pleasingly absurd as the Virtua Tennis series' silliest moments, and they won't divert you long.

As an arcade tennis game, Mario Power Tennis has serious pedigree that goes all the way back to the SNES classic Super Tennis - and it's basically an update of the N64's superb Mario Tennis, which many (well, me) would claim still plays the best four-player doubles match videogaming has ever seen. As such, the game's basics are rock-solid: vivid visuals, consistent and punchy ball behaviour, a nice mix of AI playing styles and surfaces, great variation in pace, some tactical nuance, a gloriously satisfying system for overhead smashes and that magic ingredient of multiplayer Mario games - the sense of teetering forever on the brink of chaos, but never tipping into it.

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Think you're canon, Waluigi? Then try this ball.

But, in common with most of the moustachioed icon's Cube-era output - including Sunshine and, especially, Mario Kart Double Dash!! - Power Tennis tries just that little bit too hard, and ends up missing the point. In the early 2000s (those dark days before NEW Super Mario Bros, Mario Kart DS and Super Mario Galaxy reclaimed what was rightfully his) Nintendo's Mario games, while still well-made, were starting to slip into the gimmicky, high-concept desperation and egregiously wacky presentation of the production line.

So Mario Tennis' excellent core got weighed down with needless frippery like the Gimmick courts and Special Games. More damagingly, its shot-to-shot perfection was disturbed by the introduction of Power Shots. Their cartoon gratification doesn't really make up for the way their lengthy animations break up the rhythm of play, or their near-infallible success rate upsets the balance of the point, or their hyperactive silliness cheapens some well-loved characters. It's not like Mario Tennis was lacking in exuberance without them, although at least they can be turned off.

Power Tennis, then, is a decent arcade tennis game but not a classic - and this New Play Control! conversion isn't anything more than a more-or-less functional reboot that gives away a little precision, and doesn't add much in return apart from a sore arm the morning after. Physically swiping at shots adds to the general air of vigorous silliness, but getting the wrong one will wipe the smile from your face in short order - and when friends and family are round, it'll seem easier to just slip Wii Sports back in the slot instead. When it comes to the Wii tennis game we're all waiting for, the ball's very much in EA's court.

6 /10

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Oli Welsh

Oli Welsh

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Oli is the editor of Eurogamer.net and likes to take things one word at a time. His friends call him The European, but that's just a coincidence. He's still playing Diablo 3.

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