Nintendo GameCube Review: Mario Power Tennis
With the success of previous incarnations of Mario Tennis, it's not a surprise to see Mario Power Tennis released on the Nintendo GameCube. This game has been talked about for about two years or so, and it certainly doesn't disappoint. Nominally, it's a tennis game, but the developers at Camelot have continued the quality gameplay from its predecessor.
Of course, all of Mario's friends and enemies are also here to join in on the fun. The wide range of characters includes: Mario, Luigi, Yoshi, Bowser, Wario, Waluigi, Peach, Shy Guy, Koopa, Donkey Kong, Diddy Kong and others. Each character has different advantages and disadvantages, and each can be a challenge to play against.
Included in Mario Power Tennis are numerous tennis courts to play on. The basic venue is the Peach Dome, a large stadium that has a grass, clay and composite court at your pleasure. But, if you enjoy having a more difficult match, there are numerous other "gimmick" courts such as Delfino Island (from Super Mario Sunshine), Luigi's Mansion, Wario Factory, and Bowser Castle. These gimmick courts are filled various moving objects as well as enemies that come around and harass you. Each gimmick court poses a unique challenge, and it takes some practice to succeed. But, if you like you can "turn off" the gimmicks, and you will have a nice Mario-themed court without surprises.
With the word "Power" in the game title, it is no surprise that power shots are in fact part of the game. Each character has a special offensive and defensive power shot that can significantly alter the play of the game. The offensive power shot is often a powerful (or even tricky) shot that is often difficult to return. The defensive power shot is incredibly useful because it will always be able to return the ball to your opponent no matter how out of place you may be, essentially making it a life saver. But, power shots should only be used sparingly as it takes time to power up. Whenever you use a power shot the game shows a brief cut-scene, unique to each character and some of them are quite neat. However, it is possible to play without power shots; as a result it becomes a regular tennis match.
Mario Power Tennis has fairly quality graphics. The various cut-scenes and the start-up video are well rendered, showing off the power of the GameCube system. The gameplay throughout is very smooth, and it handles well in some of the cluttered gimmick courts. You can even see the texture of the court clearly; the graphics are very well rendered. The sound and music in the game are typical Mario-themed tunes, basically what you would expect in a game like this. For those with surround sound, there is Dolby Pro Logic II support, and it's a great feature, giving the player more of a "feel" while in action.
The controls in the game are quite simple, and it can be essentially played with two buttons, A (top spin), B (slice) and the control stick. Combinations of the two main buttons can give you different moves such as a smash, lob and lunge, using the right combinations at the right time can give you a huge advantage in a match. The X and Y buttons are used to perform the offensive and defensive power shots respectively.
The exhibition mode allows for up to 4 players (human and computer-controlled) to take part in a singles or doubles match where you can choose the number of games and sets to play in a user-selected tennis court. For many people, this is likely the part of the game they would play the most. Other features include the ring shot, item battle, and special mini-games with different tennis challenges, all with unique themes. As well, there are various tournaments you can choose from to play, adding to the value of the game.
One may find the special features found in Mario Power Tennis, a little too excessive. But thankfully, it is possible to play a tennis match without any of the bells and whistles. Both the power shots and the gimmicks in the courts can be disabled. The result is a clean, fair tennis match between you and your opponent. In a way, this takes away the "cheap" factor; a win is fair and square without outside influences.
On the other hand, having the power shots and gimmick courts results in a more challenging, exciting match. Especially in multiplayer, the use of power shots often requires the use of tactics. Since you can't continuously use power shots, choosing the right time to use them is important. When one person uses a power shot, the opponent will likely retaliate, so knowing when to use a power shot will make a huge difference in the match.
Overall, Mario Power Tennis is a great game to play, with numerous characters and tennis courts to choose from. You can play a basic tennis match, or have an obstacle-filled frenzy. Along with the tournaments, and tennis mini-games, there is something for everyone to enjoy. The fast, simple, and exciting gameplay no doubt makes Mario Power Tennis a smash hit.