Mario Tennis Open
With the French Open on the horizon, Nintendo hits the court a bit early with another entry in its popular tennis series.
Mario Tennis Open will likely disappoint a few Nintendo fans, largely because it's among the more content-lite entries in the series. You can forget about role-playing elements from its handheld predecessors, or the annoying character specific power shots from the console side (happy to see those get the boot). This title's more casual friendly, with a heavier emphasis on letting the computer take the reigns to make things easier for novices, while a more in-depth social element allows players to compete against friends in singles or doubles matches locally, via download play and even online. You know what? Fine by me.
So what if you can't join a prestigious tennis academy and move up the ranks? The basic foundation of Mario Tennis that first appeared in the original N64 installment is alive and well, with you selecting a handful of famous faces (Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, Bowser, Donkey Kong) and hitting a variety of themed courts to serve and volley like mad.
To that end, Nintendo and Camelot's newest creation plays a mean game of tennis, as matches quickly turn into seesaw affairs where the person to blink first winds up losing the point. That said, you can expect some minor differences, beginning with Dynamic View. Hold the 3DS vertically, and the camera quickly transitions from the usual aerial view to a behind-the-back perspective, with the computer automatically handling character movement, though you can override this with the circle pad. What's more, you're free to use the system's gyroscope to look around, and return the ball with multicolored icons located along the touch screen. These tie into Chance Areas that occasionally appear on the court. Whenever a character steps inside one of these multicolored sections, you'll then hit the corresponding button on the touch screen to perform a Chance Shot, a power-up return that may catch your adversary off guard. Thankfully, Chance Shots don't necessarily give someone an unfair advantage, as the opponent(s) have a great chance of countering. The only downside, though, is the inability to filter players using Dynamic View from those using the more traditional method in online matches. Perhaps Nintendo will fix this in a future update.
As expected, single player comes with exhibition matches, along with various tournaments to complete. Experience either, win or lose, to unlock different items you can buy in the Clubhouse. The in-game currency, gold coins, are obtained through playing four Special Games that put unique spins on the Mario Tennis formula, from Ring Shot (direct the ball through gold rings) to Super Mario Tennis, which brilliantly blends the original Super Mario Bros. on NES with frantic volleying. From there, simply head to the shop and splurge, though in a weird twist, you can only customize your Mii, and not Mario and the gang.
As for the online component, everything works quite splendidly. You should have no trouble connecting and then finding people from around the world, and this definitely boosts the game's fun factor and longevity. Kudos to Nintendo for including this.
Taking all of this into account, while Mario Tennis Open is one of the shallowest Nintendo sports games we've seen, it's still highly enjoyable, well-polished and attractive, with Nintendo once again proving that it's the master of glasses free 3D. Worth a look for solo players, and definitely a must buy for multiplayer.
Review copy provided by Nintendo.
What's Hot: Super Mario Bros. inspired mini-game, plenty of detailed courts and characters, user-friendly Dynamic View, lots of items to unlock, eye-friendly 3D effects, online multiplayer, download play.
What's Not: Less content than previous Mario Tennis games, you can only customize your Mii, no way to filter Dynamic View from online multiplayer.