Review by Squirtle53

"One of the best Mario games"

It's basketball mayhem in Mario Hoops 3 on 3. Developer Square Enix has teamed up with Nintendo to bring one of the best looking games onto the Nintendo DS despite some obvious shortcomings beyond the game's gorgeous visuals. Mario Hoops is far from your classic basketball game, taking elements from Mario Kart and combining them to form one hell of a title. What starts off as a brilliant concept soon diminishes over a frustration that can only be brought upon by dreaded Super A.I.

There are no rules, no boundaries and only three players per side, all of which are initially made up of well-known Nintendo mascots. The game is spread over four cups and several colourful courts where the ultimate aim is the outscore the opponent but not in the traditional sense. To win you must have the most coins that can be obtained by throwing the ball into the ring or dribbling on the famous 'Question Mark' squares. This proves to be tricky during later stages of the game as the A.I. will stealthily try to steal the ball off you.

The controls are touch screen based, which has become Nintendo's legacy of late with Star Fox Command to the upcoming Phantom Hourglass as prime examples. Movement of your character is controlled via the D-pad and this can feel a bit clunky at times as it is difficult to move in every direction. To pass the ball to a team-mate you simply swipe the stylus across the touch screen in either qcright or left motion. To shoot you can run up to the ring, and at the same time, swipe upward across the touch screen, producing a slam dunk. Alternatively you can stay back and charge up a shot, then swipe upward to throw the ball. Dribbling simply involves constantly tapping on the screen and this is used to collect coins and items from the Question Marks. Never fear, Tte controls are not all offensive based. When the opposition has possession of the ball you can jump, chase, steal and counter the slam-dunk technique by swiping upward on the touch screen twice in a row. The touch screen controls are almost spot on but some occasional mistakes like shooting when you meant to pass occur throughout the game. The D-pad controls aren't as responsive as I hoped but they do not hinder the experience too much.

Something that needs to be mentioned is the games A.I. The problem with the A.I. is that it lures you into a false sense of security and before you know it you're competing against God-like opponents. In the first few cups the A.I. is barely responsive and pretty much a push over for seasoned gamers. In the last cup however, you are meet with a challenge; one that had me sweating as time was ticking away with my team up by 4 coins. If they stopped it at this difficulty the rest of the game would have been an enjoyable challenge but instead you are meet by unforgiving opponents that will require a great deal of patience. While not a major issue, it does make the latter parts of the game feel tiresome and the retry screen will become imprinted upon your eyes.

The game is split up into several modes. The first is Challenges which hardens your skills and also teaches you how to use the signature Special Shots. Next comes Tournament, the powerhouse behind this non-WiFi enabled game. You start off in the Mushroom Tourney and progress upward to the Star Tourney. Like almost every Mario title that involves this particular set up, there will be a number of surprises along the way as well in the form of extra levels and cups.

By playing the Tournament and earning trophies unlockable characters become available; some of which you may remember from the Final Fantasy series. The last two modes are Exhibition and Match Up. Exhibition simply allows you to play in whatever court you desire with whatever characters and game settings. In Match Up you have the ability to go up against four friends in several modes of play including Exhibition (limited to Multicard play only), Dribble Race and Coin Hunter.

In Dribble Race, you and three friends compete to collect a hundred coins and pass the finish line first. Question Marks are player specific, no doubt causing confusion amongst players as they seek out there own. Coin Hunter has been taken straight out of the Mario Kart handbook. You and your friends are dropped right in the middle of a battlefield, each with an equal amount of coins. When the game starts it's every man, woman and child for themselves as you collect items and deal damage to other characters. The winner is ultimately decided by who lives the longest or who has the most coins at the end of the day. It's a frantic multiplayer mode that is only let down by it's lack of playable maps.

The court variety is spectacular and offers a different way to play every time. Initially in the Mushroom Tourney the courts are quite bland, ordinary and hardly inspiring. Enter Flower and Star Tourney and you have a ghost infested Luigi's Mansion, a barrel rolling raft as well a mini casino that rewards you or punishes you depending on your luck with slots. This is but a taste of the brilliant court design that will wow and amaze you.

Something that Mario Hoops is sorely missing is online functionality. It was a concept we all hoped for since this game's unveiling at E3 2005 but unfortunately we were met with much disappointment. The game also suffers from being incredibly short - even on top of all the unlockables.

There's only so many times you can come back to Mario Hoops for the single player experience and unless you have a friend/s with another copy of the game, the multiplayer is also sorely lacking.

Is Mario Hoops 3 on 3 worth your money? It depends. If you're looking for another solid Mario sports title then 3 on 3 is right at home. While it has some elements of traditional basketball mixed in there somewhere, Hoops soon becomes a frantic battle against your opponents rather than an organised game of basketball. The game's eventual difficulty is unfriendly to casual gamers but the rewards are worth every sweat-inducing second.

Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 09/24/07

Game Release: Mario Hoops: 3 on 3 (US, 09/11/06)

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