Mario Power Tennis GameCube Review
The Mushroom Kingdom has hosted tennis tournaments before, but never one as explosive or downright wacky as this! Use new character specific power moves- one offence for smashing the ball at high speeds across the court, and one defence for reaching the ball no matter where your opponent hits it! Struggle to return the oppositions’ shots as you play on new ‘gimmick courts’ where things such as sludge and conveyer belts will try and slow you down. Play as one of 18 playable characters in the sequel to the smash N64 hit Mario Tennis, Mario Power Tennis!
The visuals in Mario Power Tennis are wonderful. All character models are stunning and move around realistically, (Well, as realistic as a turtle who plays tennis can look.) The courts each have a different look to them and the presentation of the menus are clear and simple. What’s even more impressive however is that it does all this without a single drop in the frame rate. Not to say they are perfect though; the crowds are simply 2d sprites repeating the same animation over and over again, and I can’t help but wonder what happened to the ultra realistic fuzzy tennis balls shown in screens back when the game was going to be a deep tennis simulation. But with so much else going on, you don’t really have time to sit back and watch the crowds, especially if you are playing on one of the gimmick courts.
Forget what you knew about the rules of tennis. When playing this game, you must use everything at you characters disposal to win that point, even if it means using giant hammers to smash the ball or jet packs to reach it. Or perhaps you would prefer to dish out some sludge onto your opponent’s court in order to slow them down?
Every now and again after you have been rallying with your rival you will be treated to the use of a power move, which, when activated by pressing R and A will either use an offensive move, such as a high speed shot covered in flames, or a defensive shot, which will enable you to reach otherwise unreachable strikes. When you use these moves you will first be shown a short animation of your player getting ready to hit the ball, but as you can imagine, after seeing everyone’s can get quite annoying, especially when used frequently. Other than that though, the power shots work well and help make the matches that little bit more interesting.
Next on the new things list is the gimmick courts, which while most are good ideas, some are executed poorly. This is because some courts, particularly Wario’s Factory, where conveyer belts move in all directions, are just too distracting to keep your eye on the ball all the time. This happens because of constant flashing lights and moving objects. This often leads to you using a defensive shot when on any other court you would not need to use one and consequently losing the point. Not that gimmick courts are all bad, in some cases they do make the match more fun, but more often than not you will prefer to play on the standard type courts.
If you do happen to get sick of the standard and wacky styles of gameplay however, there are a few tennis themed mini games to test your skills on. These range from a never-ending rally with Gooper Blooper from Super Mario Sunshine in which you must not hit the ball into a certain area, to a fight against Mecha Bowser by firing energy balls at him to deplete his health. Some of these games are downright addictive, while others are mildly entertaining. All of these manage to be quite a challenge and have various levels of difficulty to choose from.
Multiplayer wise is where this game really comes in, with up to four players at one time this game can get really hectic, and ‘stealing’ your partners shot with a defensive power move provides unlimited humour, and using four offensive power moves in a row looks incredibly cool. More than one player can get stuck into the mini games as well so there is a lot of fun to be had in this game.
The same chirpy music you have come to expect from the Mario franchise is present as usual and unfortunately there isn’t much variety so it quickly becomes a little repeatative, but not so much as to make you turn the sound down. The sound effects are quite good though, the voices sound nice and the score announcer is spot on so no complaining there. I have to say though, the sounds that come out of Wario and Waluigi’s mouths are hilarious. It also runs in Dolby Pro Logic II as well which is always good to hear.
The most impressive thing about Mario Power Tennis is its lifespan, there is an extremely large amount of things to do in this game, and then there is the endless hours of multiplayer you can play. In total there are 3 tournaments, of which there are 8 cups, of which there of 3 matches each. Providing you complete the game with all characters in doubles and singles, thus there is a total of 864 one player matches in the game, and then there are the mini games. What’s disappointing though is the game starts of far too easy, I didn’t lose a point until the third cup of the first tournament. The difficulty soon picks up once you unlock the star tournament though.
While the power shots and gimmick courts are intuitive and fresh they do sometimes get frustrating, so most people will be relieved that they can be turned off in exhibition mode, and that the gimmick courts have a separate tournament to the standard grass, clay and hard courts. The graphics aren’t perfect, but they are pretty to look at. The sound can get repetitive, but when it comes down to it this is one solid game.