Mario Tennis
  • Genre:
    • Sports
  • Platform:
    • Nintendo 64
  • Developer:
    • Camelot
  • Publisher:
    • Nintendo
  • Released:
    • JP 07/21/2000
    • US 08/28/2000
    • UK 11/03/2000
Score: 80%

This review was published on 02/22/2016.

Mario Tennis is a sports video game published by Nintendo and developed by Camelot Software Planning for the Nintendo 64. It was originally released in Japan on July 21, 2000, North America on August 28, 2000, and Europe on November 3, 2000. This is the first game in the Mario Tennis series, unless you count Mario's Tennis for the Virtual Boy. Nobody counts that game, though. Let's just pretend that the Virtual Boy doesn't exist, okay? So Mario Tennis is the second Camelot developed Mario sports game for the N64, following the release of Mario Golf, which came out in 1999. There's also a Game Boy Color version of Mario Tennis that came out a little while after the N64 release, but that one is a whole different ball game, so it won't be covered in this review. The N64 Mario Tennis is lots of fun, thanks to its fast paced, pick-up-and-play game play.

Image

In case you aren't well versed in the rules of tennis, let me fill you in. Feel free to skip this paragraph if you're already tennis savvy. Basically, tennis involves two people hitting a ball at each other with rackets, often causing a lot of racket. This takes place on a court with a net right in the middle that separates each player's side. The objective is to knock the ball into the other player's side of the court in such a way that they won't be able to hit it back. If a player fails to hit the ball back and it lands on their side of their court, the opposing player is awarded a point. In tennis, points go from 15, then 30, then 40, then the game point. Depending on the settings, each match is made up of one to five sets, and each set can consist of two to three games. If both players have 40 points, they'll enter something called a deuce. At that point, one of the players will have to score two times in a row to win the current game. There are plenty of other rules, like tiebreaker rounds and faults, but those are the basics, and Mario Tennis keeps things relatively basic.

Image

Controlling Mario Tennis is simple enough for any simpleton to figure out. You use the analog stick to move around and the A and B buttons to hit the ball. That's pretty much it, really. Of course, there's more to this than meets the eye, as you can do a lot with this simplistic control scheme. Depending on which buttons are pressed, the ball will be struck in different ways. Furthermore, two buttons can be pressed in sequence to access even more types of shots, like pressing B first and then A, or vice versa. Both buttons can be pressed at the same time to get another unique shot, too. This allows you to hit a large variety of shots, such as topspin shots, drop shots, slices, and lobs. On top of all that, if you hold a button down before hitting the ball, you'll begin to build up power, applying more strength to your next shot. It's all quite intuitive, and learning the subtle nuances doesn't take much time. You can also forego the more advanced stuff and play the game by hitting whatever buttons you feel like. As such, Mario Tennis can be easily enjoyed by players of all skill levels without sacrificing any strategic depth.

Image

A wide selection of characters is available to you in Mario Tennis. You start off with fourteen characters and there are a few others that can be unlocked through special means. This is a huge step up from the N64 Mario Golf, which only started you off with four characters. That means you save time on unlocking stuff, and that's convenient. Anyway, aside from looking different and having different voice clips, all the characters have unique attributes that give them certain advantages and disadvantages. They all differ in things like speed, power, accuracy, and reach. For example, Bowser is the strong and slow type, Peach is accurate yet weak, and Mario is an all-around kind of guy. This is also one of the first games to bring back Princess Daisy and Birdo, both of whom go on to appear in many future titles. Additionally, Waluigi was first introduced in this game. Nintendo asked Camelot to create an evil counterpart to Luigi who's also a companion to Wario, and they came up with Waluigi. Ever since then, Waluigi has appeared in almost every other Mario spinoff game, like the various sports titles and the Mario Party series. If you hate Waluigi, then you know who to blame. In any case, the varied selection of characters is more than adequate.

Image

The two standard modes of the game are exhibition and tournament mode. Exhibitions are merely regular matches where you pick your opponents and select their difficulty levels, allowing you to either polish your skills or simply have carefree fun. On the other hand, tournament mode is the primary single player mode of the game, where you go to get a true sense of progression. In this mode, you challenge opponent after opponent to tennis matches, eventually earning a trophy if you win the tournament. There are six cups of increasing difficulty in tournament mode, which is sure to take you a while to beat. If you win the first three cups with a particular character, you'll earn an upgraded version of that character that you can then use in any other mode. This is a good incentive to beat the tournaments with every character, if you have the patience for it. You're also able to unlock additional characters and courts by completing certain tasks in the various single player modes. If that's not enough for you, it's also possible to input secret codes to play special promotional ring tournaments, some of which were given out in magazines. Either way, there's plenty to do in Mario Tennis.

Image

In addition to the standard modes, there are a couple of other modes where the game deviates from traditional tennis to spice things up. First up is Ring Shot mode, which tasks you with shooting the ball through rings while also facing an opponent in a tennis match. There are several variations to this mode, but they're all pretty similar. The second one is the Piranha Challenge; this one involves a bunch of piranha plants that spit balls at you during a tennis match, and your mission is to knock as many balls past your opponent as possible. Bowser Stage is by far the most interesting mode of the lot. During this mode, you play on a unique court that tilts around as players walk on it, but also, there are Mario Kart-like item boxes that appear every so often. Whoever touches these boxes will get a randomized item that they can use to hinder their opponents or give themselves special buffs. This is a fun mode to play from time to time due to its frantic nature. The other modes are neat, too, but this is the best one.

Image

Like many other N64 titles, it's possible to play Mario Tennis with up to four players. You may be wondering how to accomplish such a feat. Well, in real tennis, there is something referred to as a doubles match. In doubles, two teams comprised of two players each face off in a tenacious tennis tussle. It's through a doubles match that you'll be able to play with four humans. In the event that there are only three humans around, one of the players can be set to a computer AI. You could also go for a two humans versus two computers team. As for the available modes, only three of them are playable in multiplayer: exhibition, Ring Shot, and Bowser Stage. They all work mostly the same, just with the number of human players of your choosing. All the modes are entertaining in multiplayer, but Bowser Stage mode is where it's at. Bowser Stage is already frantic in single player, but with three or more people, it gets downright ludicrous. Multiplayer in Mario Tennis is great fun, especially if four people are involved.

Image

This game supports an accessory known as the Transfer Pak. The Transfer Pak hooks up to a port on the back of an N64 controller and it has a slot for Game Boy or Game Boy Color games. As its name implies, it's used to transfer data from Game Boy or Game Boy Color games to N64 cartridges. Originally, the Transfer Pak came packaged with Pokemon Stadium and was used to transfer Pokemon from the handheld games, but some other games also made use of it, Mario Tennis being one of them. Just like the Game Boy Color and N64 versions of Mario Golf, the two versions of Mario Tennis can utilize the Transfer Pak to transfer characters around. The Game Boy Color version of Mario Tennis has a role-playing game mode where you create custom characters and level them up to increase their stats. These custom characters can be transferred to the N64 version of Mario Tennis, where you'll be able to play as them in glorious 3-D. Yoshi, Wario, Waluigi, and Bowser can also all be sent to the Game Boy Color version, as they aren't initially playable in that game. Some tennis courts are unlocked like this, too. It's a cool feature, but a bit impractical due to the steep hardware requirements.

Image

Tennis has never been more fun than in Mario Tennis. Okay, well, that's not necessarily true, but Mario Tennis is still pretty good. This is also a far better package than Mario Golf was, what with more characters and features being available right out the gate. It has an all-around nicer feel, too. Part of that might just be that tennis is better suited for video games than golf, though. In any event, the fluid controls, robust mechanics, and depth make Mario Tennis a tennis game that's definitely worth its salt. Mario Tennis is the perfect game for people who hate tennis games, so try it even if you don't think you'll like it.

Word Count: 1,701

Tweet