Review by Pyro Vesten

"HAL have delivered what will go down as one of the greatest N64 games of all time. Brilliant stuff!"

Introduction
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Poor Mario. After years of feasting on his favourite Italian foods Mario has noticed in recent times that he has gotten a bit Tubby. He’s tried golf, and even fighting to improve his health and fitness levels but they still weren’t enough. Mario has decided to give Tennis a go, before he ends up looking like his evil brother, Wario.

Gameplay
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It’s already common knowledge that Nintendo can, and do make great game. They’ve even recently proven that their Second Party developer, Hal Laboratories can make the “slow” and “boring” game of golf work well as a video game. Their second attempt at a Mario Sports title is Mario Golf. Thankfully HAL have done a fantastic job with Mario Tennis as well.

There are 20 characters all up in Mario Tennis (at least that I know of), 14 of which are accessable right from the word go. All your favourites are in there, Mario, Luigi, Wario, Bowser, Toad, Yoshi, Donkey Kong plus a bunch of other lesser known characters, as well as a new Mario Brother, Waluigi, who is the evil brother of Luigi (as Wario is to Mario). Each of the players are very different. The bigger players move slower, but have awesome ball hitting power, the smaller characters move much faster, but can’t hit as hard, and then you have the floaters as I call them. Boo and Paratrooper. They move relatively slow, and because they float, when they hit the ball, or return serve they will be pushed back a bit.
You’ll have to experiment and find out who you are best suited too.

There are five single player modes. The main one being Tournament, and the others Exhibition, Ring Shot, Piranha Challenge and Bowser stage. I’ll explain each of these so you get an idea of the varied modes of gameplay.

Exhibition is pretty much the quick play mode, and is also what’s used to train you up to standard for competing in the tournaments.

In tournament, you can choose to play either singles or doubles, in your standard tournament kind of game. You have a series of matches, and the winner of each match moves on to the next round, until eventually the two best players meet in a final match.

There are three different tournaments for you to try (at least to start with), they get harder and harder in difficulty as you move along too. They are Mushroom, Flower and Star (Which will sound very familiar with seasoned Mario game players).

Ring Shot is an excellent game which will teach you how to hit more accurate shots, among other things. Of course, there are a number of different modes of ringshot you can play, ranging from easy to very difficult. The basic idea in Ring Shot is that you play a game of tennis, where golden rings float above the net. You have to collect as many rings as the game requires (you select the number before the match) by hitting the tennis ball through them. Rings tally up from both players and whoever wins the point gets the rings. By the end of the match you need to have collected enough rings.

Piranha Challenge is another training type game, but is much harder than ringshot. There are three Piranha plants (really just tennis ball cannons) on the opposite side of the court as you, and also another player. The idea is to return each of the balls that are fired at you, into the court (so the other player can return them). Piranhas only fire one after the other, but returning all of the balls is rather hard.

Bowser Stage rocks. Apart from the ****ing awsome music, the whole concept is cool. You’re on a tennis court that is balancing on something in the centre of underneath it. When you run to one side of the court the court will tilt that way, but the other player(s) can even up things by going to the opposite side. If you all run to one side the court will tip very sharply.
Apart from the tilty court the actual games are kewel. It’s played just like your usual match, but there are Mario Kart style items you can use mostly by attaching them to your ball, such as bananas and shells. This adds an element of strategy to your games.

Mario Tennis stays true to the game of Tennis in rules and style of matches. If you don’t know how to play Tennis the game will teach you, but you’ll pick it up fairly quickly even if you don’t know a thing about tennis.

It is really amazing how simple yet comprehensive the control set up is, I’ll explain it a little deeper lately, but with just two buttons for playing shots you’ll be able to perform a good variety of shots, volleys, lob shots, slams and more.

As you progress through the game you’ll be rewarded with new players, and courts (which have greatly varied ball speed and bounce, as well as court designs, and differeing environments) and other little nifty things which I don’t want to spoil for you, so there is something too keep you playing.

The ball physics are great (including when playing on a titled Bowser court).

Overall, mario Tennis is an awesome game to play, it’s fun, enjoyable, challenging, varied and just all around excellent. The incentive of unlocking extra courts, difficulty level and players (not to mention the “other” things) adds even more to the gameplay.
Mario Tennis is seriously addictive stuff.

9.3/10

Graphics
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Mario Tennis came out fairly late in the N64’s life, and it shows it too. HAL obviously know the N64’s internal hardware inside out. Mario Tennis looks very pretty indeed. Player models are very good (compared to others on the N64 at least) with a good lot of polygons thrown in, with nice textures and smooth animation.

The tennis courts you play on all look great as well, one the grass courts you can see the textures of the grass, as well as the way it has been mown. Clay courts look like clay courts and so on. The environments the courts are in, as well as things such as the stands and umpire’s seat look decent too, but you’re not really going to be focusing on them…….. unless perhaps you are reviewing the graphics of this game :P

Mario Tennis features a number of special effects, among them are the different coloured trails that follow the tennis ball (to indicate what kind of shot was played, as well as to help you keep your eye on its progress). The special effects look very nice as well.

Another aspect worth mentioning is the frame rate of the game, which happens to be very nice. Running at a good 30-35+ frames per second constantly. This ensures gameplay is smooth and seamless 100% of the time.

Another thing which has to look good is the tennis ball, thankfully it does, even up close it still looks nice and detailed.

Mario Tennis is a joy too look at for an N64 game, I don’t think it could have looked much better without the expansion pak, and the way it looks without one is perfectly fine.

9.5/10

Sound
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Generally speaking, Mario games (well Nintendo games actually) usually have good music. It’s just one of those things that Nintendo seem to get right just about all of the time. Mario Tennis is one of those “just about all of the time” games.

First the sound effects. Now, there are few things that you’ll hear much in game, other than the sound of hitting the tennis ball around. There would be, I’d say at least 30 different samples for the sound of a ball being hit, including harder and softer sounds, as well as ones just in there for variety. The sample quality of these sounds are very high, probably because they could afford to be (because each one of them is less than a second long).

While playing characters grunt and make noises when they hit the ball, some more than others, which adds to the game. Some of the special effects also have their own sound effects, all of which are of sufficient quality.

Now, onto the music. I must say, the menu music is…..well…….crap. At least, I really don’t like it. I wish they had of used the title screen music in the menu instead. But luckily, this is my, only gripe when it comes to the games music. The rest of it is sweet. In the game you will find a few remixes of some of your favourite Mario tunes, along with heaps of new and original tracks. Most of the music isn’t quite at the level of being a classic tune, but it adds to the gameplay very much, and helps set the mood for you. It will speed up at certain moments (like on the set, game or match points) as well as in big matches.

My favourite tune in the game however, is a remix. This music plays only on the Bowser court, and is a remix of the kewel Mario 64 bowser music. Honestly, if the game only had one track in the game, as long as it was the bowser music I’d be happy :P

In fact, I like the music so much that I ripped it and burnt it onto a CD and took it to a rave party about two weeks ago…. I gave it to the host, they asked what it was and I told them it was “good”. They put it in and everyone was dancing to it…. Someone then asked what it was from, and I told them it was from a game, they then proceeded to beat me up…………. Ok I lied, the entire last paragraph was a lie…… but at the next party I go to I will bring that song :P Honest!

Good sound effect, topped of with excellent music make hearing Mario Tennis almost as much fun as it is to play.

9.2/10

Multiplayer
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Damn! DAMN YOU HAL AND NINTENDO! Another classic multiplayer game….. not another!
*sigh* This is getting out of hand…. See everytime I have a bunch of friend over for the night we have too many great multiplayer games to play, and not anough time to play them all. While Mario Tennis gets up to a few hours of our attention, people want to play other games as well.

Mario Tennis I can safely say if one of the best multiplayer games, not only on the Nintendo 64, but is on of the very best multiplayer games EVER! You can play doubles or singles games, on all of the unlocked courts you’ve got, and the game is so fun with friends that you can play it all night. In fact, I’d even go as far as to say that a 4 player game of Mario Tennis is as good as a 4 person game of real tennis :P

It’s almost as if Mario Tennis was designed as a muliplayer game, but my theory is kind of destroyed by the awesome and extremely extensive single player porion of the game.

The N64 is a fantastic multiplayer console, and Mario Tennis adds one of the best multiplayer experiences that the consoles library has to offer.

9.7/10

Originality
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Tennis games have been around for a very long time. Technically pong was a simplified tennis game, over the years they have come and gone, but Mario Tennis stands out as one of the best. Most Tennis games that try to deliver a realistic experience, all too often end up boring. But Nintendo knows their games, and by letting you play with your favourite Mario game characters, as well as the use of items, and a number of other innovative concepts Mario Tennis stands out as one of the best and original not only Tennis games, but also as one of the best and most original games that has come around for a long time. It’s great to see that Nintendo can turn just about any sport into a great game by adding their magical touch.

8.5/10

Controls
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Mario Tennis mainly uses only a few simple controls for most of the game. The thumbstick controls the movement of your character and you use the A and B buttons (and combinations) to perform Volleys, Smashes, slices, backhands and more. Nintendo have kept the controls simple but comprehensive, and I like them that way.

The actual controls themselves are very responsive, which is kinda necessary because of the fast pace of the game of Tennis.

Nothing to complain about here. All you’ll find is great, simple yet comprehensive, responsive controls.

9.1/10

Replayability
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Well, well. Isn’t this just great? The game is very replayable as well. That means you’ll be playing it over and over for months after you initially buy it.
There are loads and loads of things to earn and unlock, plus the game keeps extremely in depth records of what you have completed with which characters and so on. To complete everything in the game with all characters will take a very long time. And the thing is you’ll want to do it because the game is so fun.

If you find yourself finally tired of single player, the awesome multiplayer parts of the game will insure you play this for many more months. And years down the track you’ll still be giving this a good work through when you have a few friends over. Top stuff.

9.5/10

Difficulty
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Initially, at least on the easier setting Mario Tennis will be pretty basic. But as you progress and move up and onto harder matches you’ll find a fair challenge is there to be had. The mini games like Piranha Challenge and Ring shot will be relatively easy on their lower difficulty levels, but they can get extremely hard. And let me tell you, completing Piranha Challenge perfectly (which is required to unlock something) will be a very hard task.

Load Times
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As in just about all cartridge games, Mario Tennis has no load times, meaning gameplay is seemlessly linked together and there is no waiting around, at all.
But would you expect anything less?

Other
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The “other” category makes a return. Why? Because I have to have somewhere to tell you this little bit of information, which doesn’t really fit anywhere else.
If you have an N64 Transfer pack, and the great Mario Tennis game for the GameBoy Color (which by the way is a mix of Tennis and RPG elements, that work great together) you will be able to upload your four characters from Mario Tennis on the GBC to your N64 version. The higher their stats on the GameBoy Color version, the better they will perform on the N64 version.
Cool, no?

Pros
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(_) Perfect single player gameplay, with a good variety of modes to play, and also a varying level of challenge.
(_) The graphics of Mario Tennis are great, especially considering it doesn’t require the N64 Expansion Pak
(_) You’ll find almost nothing but great music in Mario Tennis, with a mix of Original tracks and Mario game music remixes.
(_) The music on the Bowser court is kewel.
(_) Mario Tennis is even more fun with a few friends than it is by yourself, which says a lot.
(_) Thanks to the N64 Transfer pack, there is some minor interaction with Mario Tennis on the N64 and Mario Tennis on the GameBoy Color.

Cons
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(_) I can’t think of anything bad about this game…….. well, I suppose I would consider the menu music a con. Yeah, that’ll do.

Buy/rent
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Buy. Unless you have a passionate hate for both Mario characters, good games and tennis then this is a must buy. The single player experience alone makes it a must to own, so if you don’t have any friends the game will still be worth every last dollar. If you do have three other friends then Mario Tennis just became a hell of a lot more appealing. If you are unsure about this game (I suppoe I can’t blame you, I mean it is a tennis game…) then rent it, but you’ll only end up buying it anyway, so why not save yourself the money of renting it and just buy it eh?

Overall
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Mario Tennis is the perfect example of a fun and original sports game. The single player mode is great, and the multiplayer experience is even better. You’d be crazy to pass up the opportunity of owning such a marvellous game, you really would. If you don’t trust me check out the rest of the reviews for the game. Mario Tennis will go down as one of the classic games of the Nintendo 64.

Overall
9.5/10
(Rounded to 10/10 for GameFAQs)


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 08/30/01, Updated 08/30/01


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