RELEASED: July 2000
AVAILABLE ON: GB, N64
DEVELOPER(S): Camelot Software Planning, Nintendo
The first 3D tennis game in the Mario franchise, Mario's Tennis, was released in the summer of 1995 on the ill-fated Virtual Boy. Even though the critical reception and commercial success of the Virtual Boy were simply awful, Mario's Tennis was considered one of its better games - out of the total of 14 that were released in North America. The Virtual Boy was discontinued six months into its launch, but some ideas for its games lived on. Exactly five years after Mario's Tennis, a similar game was released, primarily on the Nintendo 64; it was even named similarly. This game, Mario Tennis, enjoyed formidable success, and it is indeed a very entertaining sports game in itself, as well as one of the most essential multiplayer experiences on the Nintendo 64. It's like Mario Kart, but it's tennis.
Game Bowser! Game Bowser!
Just about two weeks ago, I was visiting a friend on some real business, but ended up melting my backside into his sofa for an extended period of time. Eventually, we had nothing left to do and another friend plugged in the Nintendo 64, prompting us to join him in a game of Mario Tennis. I didn't feel up to it, but we had quite a posse there and the minute this guy said "Mario Tennis", I started to hear "I'm in", "Yep", "Count me in", "I'll be there for the next round" and all that. 11 years after its release, this game has become a cult multiplayer title for the N64, on par with, if not even more popular than Mario Kart 64. It's tense, it requires keen reflexes, one round can easily be over in a minute, and it can just as easily take tens of minutes. It all depends on your concentration... and of course, your skill to screw your opponent over in numerous ways. Tennis is a much harder game than it looks like. Video tennis is even harder.
The graphics are quite simplified. The characters look somehow different from what we've used to, but in this game, graphics don't matter one bit and there's simply no time to start picking up errors once you've begun the game. The only graphics you'll care about once it begins are the polygon clusters that form the ball. The music is composed by RPG veteran Motoi Sakuraba; I believe this was his first Mario game, if not even the first game he did for Camelot Software Planning. It's very basic stuff, nothing out of the ordinary and nothing too irritating, I think it's a fine way to go in a game like this. The voice samples are once again hilarious, but they might start grinding some nerves after a long stretch of matches. Especially if your human opponents are annoying enough to repeat the lines and giggle afterwards.
|Get ready for the Bowser bombshell.|
There are many ways you can go at Mario Tennis. There are lots of options for a single player; you will get the most out of the game by having four players in a game of 2-on-2, but since I'm still primarily reviewing single-player games due to my usual take on multiplayer games, you can consider that a suggestion rather than a critical point. In addition to a normal game - for which you can choose the court type and number of players up to four yourself - there's a tournament mode (of course), Ring Shot, Bowser Stage, Piranha Challenge and two different quickplay modes available for a single player. Ring Shot is a challenge in which you need to make the ball go through yellow rings in addition to owning your opponent in a standard game, to collect points. There are a few variations of it. The Bowser Stage is to be taken very literally. The advanced court is modelled after the topsy-turvy Bowser stages in Super Mario 64. Hard, but fun. In the Piranha Challenge, you need to face a trio of Piranha Plants in addition to your opponent. Once again, hard, but fun. Mario Tennis offers up quite an array of games, whether you're going at it alone, with friends, or against friends turned sworn enemies.
The controls are very good and they have a lot more variety than one would think. It takes a while to learn the advanced moves, but the main point is that there ARE advanced moves which you will want to master before taking on another breathing opponent. A total of seven different shots are possible to execute with the press of one single button. It all depends on how long you press, how many times you push the button in succession, and of course, your direction. Have fun.
Mario Tennis withstands time quite darn well, as proven by many points in this review, but I guess that you have to try it to believe it, especially in these times when Wii Sports has created a new standard for video tennis and using a traditional controller for tennis, among some other choice sports, has become commercially obsolete. I love Wii Sports, but every once in a while, a man needs his round of Mario Tennis.
GRAPHICS : 7.0
SOUND : 7.3
PLAYABILITY : 8.8
LIFESPAN : 8.5
CONCLUSION : 8.7
a.k.a. Mario Tennis 64
Nintendo Power ranks Mario Tennis #91 on their list of the Top 200 Nintendo Games of All Time.
Mario Tennis marks Paratroopa's first appearance as a playable character, and Waluigi's first appearance altogether.