Unfortunately developers haven't quite cracked it yet, and whilst Wii Sports Tennis works well by taking the simple approach, it can be inaccurate at times. Nintendo have had several years to try and crack out a perfect tennis sim, and what better way to do so than revamping an existing title. And that's what Nintendo did, by taking Mario Power Tennis, originally designed for GameCube, stripping away traditional control and tagging on Wii remote support.
For the most part it seems to be nice bridge between the wrist flicking in Wii Sports and regular tennis labels: either let the computer fill in many of the gaps for you, use a more traditional approach where you're in near enough full control. To do this Camelot has thrown in four different remote options: easy, normal, technical and manual, each progressively adding more control to a user.
Making a shot is simple, mapped out in a clear enough way: flick up and down to serve, diagonally upwards for a little topspin, diagonally downwards for a slice. Others are fixed to remote flicks; straight up gains you height over opponents with a lob and a straight swipe down for a tricky drop shot. Generally copying over arm waving techniques from Wii Sports will nab you wins in early tournaments and easier difficulty levels, but problems arise when upping the difficulty and bringing in skilled human foes. The Wii remote just isn't that accurate enough.
Good tennis players throw in versatile shots, a few topspins, a handful of slices, and as a rally grows, maybe a drop shot or two and a well-earned smash. Flat shots are dealt with a horizontal swipe, smash, a vertical, and whilst all these moves do make sense on paper, the Wii remote's recognition can be very off at times. There are six different shots to pull off, and where the exact one would be critical for earning a point, the wrong one could still work, but then quite easily lose the point.
What hasn't been majorly discussed is that you can still move using the d-pad on the remote if there isn't a spare nunchuck lying about. This setup has been tried, and failed, in previous mini-game filled Wii titles, however here it works out nicely, especially where finding 4 nunchuck could be a problem. To counter problems with its placement on the remote, auto movement kicks in to avoid mistiming. For example you want to wrap up a rally by getting close to the net: d-pad quickly taps up, and whilst you're getting ready to time that crucial shot, the computer will move to the right spot for you. It's no way near as natural as an analogue stick on a separate hand, but it's a surprisingly smooth compromise.
Tie in a nunchuck and you're off to freely move about and for the most part it's a smooth, simple transition from a regular controller - run around with the stick then waggle about your remote to get your balls where they need to be. Even with the nunchuck it's still a little tricky to guarantee the exact shot you're aiming for, the sport's quick thinking and frantic nature sometimes causing the remote to misread your actions. After some play time these mistakes become less and less, nevertheless there's still that tendency to accidentally swing in the wrong way.
Aside from the revived control the remainder of the game is identical to the GameCube original, there are a few visual improvements and interface changes but the general gameplay remains the same. It's a standard tennis simulator, following the core rules, adding in special offensive/defensive moves dubbed "Power Shots", and a handful of gimmick courts in addition to the regular clay and grass roster.
Power shots are much like marmite to fans; some loved the inclusion of something different and fun during play, but others felt these moves broke up the smooth flow. For the most part, it's still an enjoyable addition now as it was then, and can still be turned off at the pre-match stage. The same applies to gimmick arenas, courts that range from having Donkey Kong's alligators to the terrifying ghosts that inhabit Luigi's Mansion, these can help or hinder, varying up the standard gameplay with a little dose of luck. Both power shots and gimmicks don't necessarily add a major bulk to the game, but it's a welcome addition that can be switched off at any time.
Besides the regular swing about is the return of Ring Shot, where you're earning points for placing balls through various on-screen rings and the strung-together item mode where you'd be firing shells and bananas at your opponents. Ring shot is a little trickier this time round again due to the occasional Wii-remote misreading - the best shots are crucial here - and so you'd be far more comfortable playing button-mapped shots. Item battle on the other hand neither gains nor falters from motion play; it still remains fairly basic, but is a refreshing alternative to standard play.
Power Tennis's major goal is to win tournaments; there's no character progression or development, just an increase in difficulty. As in past Mario Tennis servings, they can be taken on in singles, doubles and gimmicks, rewarding extra courts and characters for your efforts. Take a quick break with some fairly standard but enjoyable mini-games - splattering paint on Mario's cheerful mug, tennis tic-tac-toe and other wacky offerings. Good, but again hindered by Wii-remote mishaps.
Visually Mario Power Tennis was one of the better looking titles on the ol' purple box of tricks, and with its leap onto the Wii it still holds up as a neat package. The menus have been tweaked slightly to have some continuity with the Wii's branding and style, characters and courts well designed and animated. You may not be able to see each blade of grass sway through a gentle breeze, but even years later Nintendo's flagship tennis series still oozes a fun and playful image. The action is improved ever so slightly with widescreen support and 480p; an addition that makes the slick animation that little bit better. We could have asked for a little texture improvement, and refinement, but it as it is, Mario Power Tennis even now has a lot of shine in the visual department.
The sound quality has too been transferred across; it's certainly nothing out of the ordinary, but does offer some Nintendo-styled memorable tunes that you may end up humming a little while after. It's appropriate, cheerful and there's nothing here that'll force a sound muting, but there is the option to disable background music. The ability to remap sound effects to the TV screen would have been beneficial: by default they'll chime from the remote, can be sorted through the Wii's menu but not through the game itself. Each thwack and swipe, like in Wii Sports, sound fine through the remote but hearing irritating character squeals and shorts can put off the most patient of gamers.
Mario Power Tennis was and is a good entry to the series, but misses out on opportunities taken by its smaller brothers on the GameBoy Colour and Advance, for example their robust career modes and character development. As a package its good fun, and adds that little extra over other tennis titles that have so far missed the ball. It's retained the varied gameplay modes and options by moving over to the Wii, but unfortunately is let down by Nintendo / Camelot's implementation of the remote. It does work for those wanting a little more than Wii Sports, but for core series fans and those who pump up the difficulty level it staggers with unpredictable controls.