Review by Megamur

"As Luigi himself says, 'Oh, yeah!'"

My story is this. I am on a neverending quest. A very difficult quest. I am on a quest to find a reasonably easy game that me and a friend could play together COOPERATIVELY. Now, these days, where deathmatch and head-to-head are the norm, the type of games I am constantly searching for are hard to come by. It seems that I am destined to play Mario Kart for the rest of my life.

Suddenly, in the distance, a warm glow attracts my attention. It's my TV, and it's really not generating that much heat. What's this I see? A commercial for Mario Tennis? ...Did I just see...I did! A four-player mode, with two teams of two going head-to-head! I bet me and my friend could play that together COOPERATIVELY! I must get this game! (Note to all game companies: See what a good ad campaign can do for business?)

Thus, my wishes were finally granted. I was no longer binded solely to Mario Kart. It was time for something new.... Something...great!

The story is this. The houses throughout the Mushroom Kingdom are empty. The inhabitants which once resided within them are gone. Where could they be? What's going on? Why did they leave? ...To go see a game of tennis, of course!

Mario and his friends have all gotten together for their biggest battle yet.... The battle...for the championship trophy! Who will win in the wackiest tennis match you've ever seen?

What is it?- Now that you know the storyline, it's time to ask, ''What's this game like, anyway?'' Good question. Mario Tennis is a 3D, virtual reality tennis simulator (yes, simulator. It's physics engine is quite realistic) featuring (most of) your favorite characters from the Mario universe. I think I've said enough.

Statistics-

Mario Tennis allows 1, 2, 3, or 4 players to play simultaneously.

Mario Tennis features many game modes, including Championship Mode, Exhibition Mode, Ring Shot Mode, and the Bowser Stage, to name a few, with most having both singles and doubles modes (unfortunately, Championship Mode is for 1 player only).

Mario Tennis features over a dozen characters to play as, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, and styles of play. There's even hidden characters to unlock.

Mario Tennis has many different types of courts to play on, each with different surfaces that alter ball bounce strength and ball speed. Many of these are secret and must be unlocked.

From what I can tell, Mario Tennis has no Rumble Pak or Expansion Pak support.

Mario Tennis is battery-backed. No Controller Pak required.

Graphics- Mario Tennis sports some nice graphics. Each character has their own set of animations, which really gives them distinctive personalities. And, of course, all of the movements are well-animated and very fluid. Even their facial expressions change! They even look in the direction that the ball is heading! Unfortunately, the character models look a little jagged around the edges sometimes (this is most noticeable with the larger characters). Still, it's not that much of a problem. Leave it to me to nitpick about the tiniest little imperfection.

The lighting effects are superb! The game features actual light-sourcing. Characters actually cast shadows depending on which direction light is coming from, and the shadows actually look real (instead of just being a black oval underneath them, like in most games)! Sometimes the ball will change color, depending on how you hit it, and the glow emanating off it can actually be seen on nearby characters! Neat, I'd say.

As for the courts themselves, they're tennis courts, alright...with a Mario twist. Mario sits in the judge's chair (or, at least, some guy who looks alot like him), watching the entire match, while a Lakitu, floating on the sidelines in his little cloud, films the match with a camera hung from a fishing pole (for instant replays!). Surrounding the courts are Koopa Troopas, who duck into their shells when the ball comes their way, and Bob-ombs that explode when you get a fault or hit the ball out of the court. There's even a scoreboard, and a radar that shows the speed of serves in Mph.

Each court even has it's own unique style. Some are indoors, some are outdoors, some are in special locales...even some courts have pictures of the game's characters pasted across the ground. It's obvious that alot of time and effort went in to making little touches in this game, and it's good, too. Besides, who wants to play tennis on a plain ol' tennis court, anyway? Too bad that the audiences are still unanimated, pasted-on textures, but, I think any more would be asking too much.

All this detail leads to some slowdown, but only during replays and match introduction screens, and never during actual gameplay.

Sound- The sound category doesn't falter, either. You'll be hearing the characters hitting the ball alot, but it sounds fine. The racquets make different noises depending on how hard and how lightly you hit the ball, and what way you hit it, which is cool, and very realistic. Unfortunately, the sounds don't have that reverberating quality that you'd most likely hear in a big stadium tennis court thingie (I don't know what they call 'em in tennis).

The characters also have their own set of voice clips, which are used when they hit the ball a certain way (Waluigi says something different when he does a drop shot rather than when he does a normal slice), when they win, and when they lose, and most of them are pretty clear and easy to make out. There's no taunts like in Mario Golf, though, so don't get excited. Each character even has different footsteps (from Mario's pitter-pattering of boots, to Bowser's mammoth stomping).

The announcer, Mario, sometimes isn't as easy to understand (mostly because you can barely understand what Mario is ever saying), but, it's no big deal, since everything he says is printed on-screen briefly anyway. The only real gripe with him is that, during doubles matches when he announces the winners, sometimes the names are too long, and Mario doesn't finish saying one before saying the other, and the first one's name is cut off! Still, other sound clips, like the audience gasping and clapping when characters make good shots, are crystal clear, and are just pretty neat.

The music, on the other hand, varies in quality. Most of it's upbeat and happy, and sounds fine, like in the ring shot matches. But, other tunes, like the song played during the tournaments, can get on your nerves after a while. The music getting more tense when something critical occurs, like when you reach a match point, is a nice touch. The music is very fitting, but don't expect anything great from it.

Play Control- The game really shines in this category! Before I played Mario Tennis, I'd never played a tennis game before. This was all new to me. I didn't even know what the control scheme was...and yet, as soon as I picked up the controller, it seemed like I'd been playing for ages.

It's extremely simple and very responsive. Press the A button to put some spin on the ball and send it up high, press B to slice it and send it straight across the court, press one of them before the ball reaches you to charge up, then press it again to hit the ball extra hard, move the control stick to control the direction you want to hit the ball...it's all very easy and makes it that anybody, even someone who doesn't know squat about playing tennis, can pick up a controller and play. You can even cancel your charges, and perform lobs, drop shots and the almighty smash. It's so intuitive, that your character won't even swing their racquet until the ball is on their side of the court. They won't even do their dive recovery move unless it's necessary!

It will take some time to fully master the controls, but, during the whole time, you will be one with the controller.

Challenge- Hmm...this might be a bit tough to rate. In tournament mode, your opponents will start out being as dumb as posts, but will get increasingly more difficult as you progress. This game really focuses on your skill, rather than how tough your opponents are. If you know how to play (which isn't too hard), and you're comfortable with your character, you'll do well. If you don't know how to play, and you can't seem to control your character well, you'd better practice in the exhibition or piranha challenge modes a little bit.

Still, this isn't to say that the computer opponents are no challenge. Quite on the contrary. They can really rough you up if you're not careful. Bowser's bound to get a ton of service aces on you the first time you go up against him. But, if players are very observant and patient, they'll start to see a pattern in which their opponents play, and will begin making strategies to beat them, and thus, I believe just about anyone could beat this game if the really put their mind to it.

Just be careful. If you set your opponent to ''Intense'' in exhibition mode, that's exactly what that match is going to be like!

Replay Value- Tons and tons and tons. There's a very large variety of modes to play in, different ways to play those modes, many different characters to play as, many secrets to unlock, many skill settings at which they can set their CPU opponents to...there's so many things to do in this game. Bring some friends over and plug in some extra controllers, and the multiplayer modes will entertain you forever.

So, to sum it all up....

Graphics- Great animations and a large variety of them, awesome lighting effects, lots of little details, but some slowdown that doesn't affect the actual gameplay at all.

Sound- High-quality, realistic sound effects, a variety of voice clips, but less-than-amazing, yet fitting music, and a somewhat hard-to-understand announcer.

Play Control- Absolutely flawless controls that will take a little while to master.

Challenge- Not too hard, not too easy. With a little practice, though, anyone could beat this game.

Replay Value- Very high. Tons of modes to play, tons of ways to play them, lots of secrets to find, and, with the multiplayer mode, you can play forever and never tire of it.

Other Gripes- I know this is no big deal...but the tennis courts in this game seem just a bit smaller than those in real life. Maybe it's regulation size for the Mushroom Kingdom, but it's just that I noticed it, and I thought I'd point it out. Thank you.

Overall- I'm not a big sports fan. In fact, I pretty much hate sports. And I never liked tennis...until I played Mario Tennis. That's how fun this game is. You don't even have to like tennis to play it. You could just be a Mario fan. Heck, you probably even don't need to be that! You just have to like to play video games. It's my opinion that anybody who likes to play video games will love this game. That's all I have to say.

Rent or Buy?- You could rent it first, but I guarantee that you'll love it, so you might as well just skip the renting and up and buy it. I paid $50 US for it, and I think it's worth every penny.

Mario Tennis is absolutely fantastic. Mario Golf was pretty fun, too. Let's see what Camelot can do next!

That's my two cents.


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 03/25/01, Updated 03/25/01


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