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Mario Tennis Open (Nintendo 3DS) Review

Review for Mario Tennis Open on Nintendo 3DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Mario Tennis has a strong heritage, but it has been several years since Camelot and Nintendo released the last edition. Now the duo is back with a Nintendo 3DS version that is hoped could appease the masses. Read on for Cubed3’s review of Mario Tennis Open.

Mario Tennis on the Nintendo 64 proved to be such as massive success that it helped to pave the way for a whole series of other spin-offs with Mario taking up football, golf, baseball and even basketball over the following years. However, after a parting of ways with Camelot, fans have had to simply bide their time and make do with the Wii motion-control upgraded edition of Mario Power Tennis from the GameCube era rather than a full-blown new version. Thankfully, though, the relationship has been rekindled and the duo is back for this latest entry. Mario Tennis Open on Nintendo 3DS may not focus on the added 3D depth that the hardware can offer, but does hark back to the purer experience of the N64 iteration that certain factions thought had been lost in the transition to GameCube. Whilst that 64-bit classic still remains fantastic today, whether or not repackaging the same experience with some online shenanigans is sufficient enough is another question entirely.

In some ways it is good old Mario Tennis, with the same old characters making an appearance, from the Italian brothers themselves, to the ghostly Boo, the middle-of-the-road Yoshi and Daisy, plus the heavy hitters like Wario and Donkey Kong, all playing on a variety of different court styles and themes to attempt to spice up the traditional sport. Simply work through various tournaments at varying levels of difficulty, from the simplest of stages that can be overcome by most in mere seconds to the toughest that even veteran gamers will end up struggling to get to grips with. Thankfully the overreliance on power-ups and lengthy scenes that accompanied and plagued Mario Power Tennis have been removed, although their spirit still remains, with special panels appearing on the actual court now and moves being triggered when the correct shot is taken whilst standing over one of them.

The controls actually are quite the sticking point and will leave many people feeling torn between whether to love Mario Tennis Open or play until the final credits with a mere feeling of apathy and disenchantment that it feels empty compared not only to the very first game, but the two previous handheld outings as well. To entice a wider audience, Nintendo and Camelot have simplified the control system, with it now possible to merely tap on appropriate colour-coded boxes on the touch-screen to unleash lobs, slices, and the rest of the normal strokes. Anyone wanting to play the traditional ‘button input’ manner is free to do so, but the emphasis on making use of the on-court coloured special power panels means that it is more straight-forward to refer to the touch-screen’s colour key than memorise the button configuration for each colour set. Thinking you can win on standard shots alone? Good luck with that. Although not as ridiculous as in Mario Power Tennis, where one power shot meant the point was won 99% of the time, it still becomes unbearable to play a back and forth session where the fastest to react, manoeuvring into the right coloured circle and pulling on the appropriate move, is nearly always the outright winner.

Screenshot for Mario Tennis Open on Nintendo 3DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Another reason for coming away from Mario Tennis Open without that adrenaline high is that it is over almost before it begins. Although the difficulty ramps up as more cups are unlocked, and there is the option to customise a personal Mii character, there is no real meat in the single-player dish. Both the previous portable outings featured pleasingly engrossing RPG modes, whereas this 3DS edition is very light on options, focusing more on the region specific and Friend Code online match-up and four-player local wireless from one 3DS card instead.

The key fresh inclusion that Nintendo has been touting is that of an upgradeable Mii character, with new items opening up the more cups have been beaten. However, despite various stat updates, the changing of outfits is definitely no replacement for a sturdy single player experience. Also, the game definitely encourages players to work through and grow accustomed to each character on the roster, not just the Mii, giving some special treats to those who persevere. What it lacks, as stressed before, is real incentive to keep coming back in solo mode. Anyone buying Mario Tennis Open and looking for a robust single-player mode, as in the previous handheld outings, will be sorely disappointed. There is no RPG mode to be found and only a handful of, albeit enjoyable, Special Games to tinker with; the highlight being the Super Mario Bros. mini-game, where hitting the ball against a wall emblazoned with the old NES game in a squash manner allows for progression through the platform title’s levels. Including StreetPass player information exchanges is a smart idea, but those hoping for a lengthier solo experience will end up finding those desires quashed.

Finally, there is a highly misguided attempt at using the gyroscope. Changing the angle of the 3DS unit itself means that players are supposed to ’become’ the player, moving the system around to change the viewpoint for shots. This quickly becomes extremely awkward after a couple of shots, and even causes issues when the 3DS thinks the angle has been altered too much and switches from gyro-to-standard mode and vice versa in the middle of, as bad luck would have it, important points!

Screenshot for Mario Tennis Open on Nintendo 3DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review


Whilst the engaging core gameplay mechanic remains, the focus on coloured touch-screen panels and corresponding on-court special shot circles reduces the skill level too much, draining the fun factor at the same time. Far too often matches come down to who can get the most special shots away the quickest.


The usual array of Nintendo characters are all present and correct, displayed in pleasingly chunky 3D, although the actual depth effect of the 3DS is barely used to good effect.


Familiar themes come blasting out of the 3DS on a regularly basis, helping to give off an expectedly strong Nintendo feel.


Sadly this newest entry does not last as long as expected, with the online multiplayer mode being the focus instead of pleasing solo players. Anyone hoping for a myriad of extra features will be sorely disappointed, especially coming off the back of its previous portable editions.

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 6 out of 10


About this score

Mario Tennis Open impresses and disappoints, unfortunately, proving to not be the out-and-out champion many were expecting, yet still managing to offer enough familiar fun to engage fans of old and newcomers alike. Brace yourself for a brief single-player mode and remove all thoughts of serious tennis from your mind and it will not be too much of a let-down.

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C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

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Senior ModeratorStaff MemberOur member of the week

Not too surprised based on what I'd seen, but it's disappointing. No RPG mode and in turn a lacklustre single-player experience was never going to do it any favours. Why take out the one thing fans praised time and time again in each portable rendition? Forcing online modes in games to regions is very disappointing, also.

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Senior ModeratorStaff Member

I was so happy when this turned up...but then disappointment quickly set in. I got more and more frustrated with the emphasis on the stupid power-up circles that appear far too often, and the fact that the challenge is upped in the later stages mainly by the computer AI taking advantage of these special shots over and over again, almost without fail. Takes the fun out of it...

I got rather tired of the Super Mario Tennis game as well, with it just being like a endless game of squash. Ring Shot is as fun as ever, and the Galaxy-based mode is limited fun...but, everything just started to feel SO lacklustre after a few hours, and it simply never picked up after that.

However, 6/10 is not the end of the world. There is still fun to be had if you have 3DS-owning friends to meet up with regularly. It's not as insanely addictive as MT64 was, but it's a damn sight better than MPT on GC. Online felt empty to me, but others may disagree...we shall see when it comes out next week!

Adam Riley < Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited >
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Senior ModeratorStaff Member

Good review, shame about the score really, but I can imagine it would be an average affair given the highly online focus - which shouldn't really be the case for a portable title, especially with the 3DS's lack of 3G/mobile internet. Online play is great, don't get me wrong, but with portable titles the focus should still be on the single player as core.

The RPG mode on the GBA made it easily the best entry since the N64 one, perfect for on-the-go tennis action. The customisation in this one sounds decent enough, but it doesn't appear to have that same level of character building as the previous ones.

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Senior ModeratorStaff MemberOur member of the week

With this and Mario Kart 7 I feel they've gone backwards. Lack of in-depth single-player modes isn't the way to go. Surely it's natural progression to continue with the RPG mode in MT and introduce a long-awaited adventure in MK? As it is, these games don't offer too much more to justify owners of previous games to buy them at the prices they are.

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Senior ModeratorStaff Member

Jorge, you make a very good point, and touch upon one of the key reasons I felt really let down. Basically I play my 3DS on the bus or train going to and coming back from work. No Wi-Fi hotspots, and obviously 3DS doesn't have 3G support. Therefore, I'd have to sit and hope someone else around me has their 3DS turned on, simply waiting for a game...not likely! Kills the longevity completely, since most people will blast through the cups with the greatest of ease, only struggling when the AI becomes too adept at hitting special shot after special shot.

Adam Riley < Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited >
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Senior ModeratorStaff Member

..quietly cancels pre-order, maybe when it's cheap.

My main query then is on the music, assuming Sakuraba composed is it as wonderful as the previous Mario Tennis soundtracks?

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Senior ModeratorStaff Member

I suggest you take a listen to the soundtrack here Smilie

(there are some Golden Sun-esque tunes as well)

( Edited 19.05.2012 23:01 by Adam Riley )

Adam Riley < Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited >
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter
Senior ModeratorStaff Member

Adam Riley said:
I suggest you take a listen to the soundtrack here Smilie

(there are some Golden Sun-esque tunes as well)

Lovely, that's what I was hoping for Smilie shame the rest of the game doesn't sound as good as this.

Twitter | C3 Writer/Moderator | Backloggery
Senior ModeratorStaff Member

Like I say, if you know you're getting a bare bones one-player experience and are happy to just play at home online, then maybe people will get more joy out of this than I did...but then again, if the constant power shots in MPT on GC/Wii got you down, this won't be much of an improvement.

The DK court theme rocks, by the way Smilie

Adam Riley < Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited >
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

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