Review by Ranma
"Not quite as good as Mario Golf, but a very solid, if a bit clunky control-wise, tennis game."
Almost every Nintendo 64 owner knows about Mario Golf. Whether you like golf or not, it was a solid game and undeniably fun - definitely the best sports game on the system. Now from the same creators comes Mario Tennis. Is it as good as Mario Golf was? In a word, no - but that doesn't mean it's not a very solid game and the best tennis simulation on the system, and probably one of the best ever.
This is a nice, polished game. I can't say it has the visual flair of Mario Golf, but for what can really be done with a tennis game, they did a good job. The courts look really crisp and the backgrounds are nice. The character models could have been a little better, but from far away, they look really good - the close-ups are a little too jagged, though. One cool effect with the character models is the inclusion of an actual shadow, especially in the intro - it looks very realistic, though no where near as realistic as in Chrono Cross (but then again, what DOES look as good as Chrono Cross?). The ball is easy to see, especially with one of the many colored light trails behind it. The main visual effect I was impressed with in the game is the AWESOME camera work in the replays. Sometimes the camera will be from the ball's ''view,'' and you get special effects like motion blur, slow motion, and more. It's really cool, and it makes you even want to watch the replays (which is more than I can say for Mario Golf). Overall, a nice job, but I think it could have looked just a little better.
Music and Sound: 5/10
I have to say, I'm somewhat disappointed in this area, after the awesome music I heard in Mario Golf. The sample quality seems to be the same, which is good, but the songs just suck for the most part. It seems the producers had the intent of strictly background music in mind, something I really abhor (fancy word for hate). Music, whether it's in a game or not, should receive just as much attention as the other areas of the game and have a chance to shine. Unfortunately, very little of it does - the ''Match Point'' music's kinda cool, as is the Ring Shot theme, but everything else is just ''blah.'' The sound effects, on the other hand, are very realistic when it comes to tennis, and the voices are as wacky as you'd excpect from a Mario game. Newcomer Waluigi and veteran Luigi are particularly amusing. I only wish the music could have received more attention.
Gameplay and Control: 6/10
I'm a little confused here. Mario Golf was known for its utter simplicity, and easy-to-learn but impossible-to-master gameplay. Unfortunately, Mario Tennis is anything BUT simple; as you may know, there are many different possible types of shots in tennis: backhand, forehand, topspin, slice, etc... there are six applicable buttons on the N64 controller to which these moves could be applied - the A, B, and four C Buttons. But no, there isn't a separate button for each type of shot - EVERY type of shot is condensed into the A and B buttons, so that you have to press A, B, B-A, A-B, A+B, or more combinations of those buttons to do every different type of shot. This type of control scheme makes doing special shots so complicated that it rarely becomes worth the trouble in the middle of a heated match to use one of those shots, and you'll most likely end up just hitting A, B, or A+B. Add a VERY clunky ''charging up'' system to the already messed-up control scheme and you've got one complicated game on your hands. Be sure to read the instruction manual before you play Mario Tennis, or you'll surely be lost. Another complaint I have about the control is that shots seem somewhat automatic - if you so much as tap a button near the ball, you'll hit it back, no problem - there's little technique involved. Very rarely will you hit the net because of a badly-planned shot. To the game's credit, MOVING your character is very easy to do, and the Control Stick is extremely responsive. Menu navigation is easy, and on the WHOLE, Mario Tennis is an easy game to control and play as an ameteur - but you've got a lot of work on your hands if you want to start using the special shots in any normal game. If only all the buttons on the controller had been utilized, this game would be a gem.
Fun Factor: 6/10
Following in the path of Mario Golf, Mario Tennis has a whole lot to do, and a whole lot of characters to do that stuff with. There's your regular Tournament Mode, Exhibition Mode (like a ''practice'' mode), Ring Shot, Bowser Stage, where the tennis court tilts and you can use items Mario Kart 64 stype, Pirhana Challenge, and more. However, there's a major problem with all of this; unlike Mario Golf, there are VERY few rewards and secrets to be earned by doing this stuff. You can unlock two secret characters and three secret courts, and it takes a matter of minutes to unlock all three secret courts. It's extremely disappointing that there's no real REASON to do Ring Shot or Pirhana Challenge when you're not going to earn anything from it anyway. The game quickly becomes dry, except for multiplayer games (and multiplayer in MT is AWESOME), after you've unlocked everything you can. As a result, Mario Tennis lacks any real replay value, and certainly doesn't have as much as Mario Golf.
It's a real shame - this game could have so easily been so much better. It almost feels like this title was rushed, what with the underhwelming music, clunky control scheme, and lack of hidden features. I expected a lot more from the creators of Mario Golf. But, to the game's credit, it looks good, is awesome for multiplayer, and to an extent, is fun in singleplayer for awhile. But this isn't a game you can play for long periods of time - you'll need to play it sparingly or you'll get bored EXTREMELY quickly. The inclusion of 20 characters is a plus, but they're not as varied as they were in Mario Golf, and they all seem to have a similar playing style to an extent. Overall? Could have been better, but a solid game nonetheless, if only for multiplayer after awhile. Rent this one before you buy it.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.0 - Fair
Originally Posted: 09/02/00, Updated 09/02/00
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