Mario Power Tennis (Game Boy Advance) Review

By Mike Mason 01.12.2005

Review for Mario Power Tennis on Game Boy Advance

Camelot have finally finished off their version of Mario Power Tennis for the Game Boy Advance and unleashed it upon the world, complete with added features that aren't found in its bigger brother, the Gamecube version. Can they keep up the rally of quality Mario Sports games?

Enjoy a bit of tennis? Played any version of Mario Tennis before? Yep? Then you’ll know not to expect the ordinary – quite the opposite. Filled with wacky little touches, you’re placed in control of some of your Nintendo favourites to play a good, fair game of sport. Except it’s not ‘fair’ when you’re having balls shot at you out of a cannon…

Masters of the genre that they are, Camelot have managed to shoehorn an RPG mode in, which makes up the bulk of the title. Your partner awakes you from your slumber in your little bed in your sty of a room after apparently being comatose for three days following a training session where you just didn’t know when to stop. You’re at the Mario Academy of tennis now, though there’s no presence of the man himself save some statues, so you’d better get really good really fast, or plumbing isn’t going to be the only thing Mario’s doing with those pipes. As you go foraging for food, you discover that a mysterious masked player is beating all the trainers at the academy – anybody want to take up a bet as to who it is? Don’t worry; it’s not too difficult to work out.

Your aim at the academy is simply to get good at tennis and become a pro, basically. To do this you start in the lowly Junior Class with no rank, and must rise up the ranks by beating the ranked players in both singles and doubles matches. After winning matches you’re given experience points to level up your characters and improve their abilities. It’s particularly important to spread the points evenly, unless you like being able to perform a killer serve yet are only able to paw lamely at the ball when it makes its inevitable return – not the best strategy, I’m sure you’ll agree. After rising through the ranks and classes, as well as being forced to take part in such exhilarating practice exercises such as ‘hit the ball against the wall’, you take part in tournaments to further prove your mastery of the racquet.

Little Camelot touches are all over the RPG mode. The characters wouldn’t look out of place in Golden Sun were it not for the fact that they play tennis rather than summon various deities, and the trademark expression bubbles make a very welcome re-appearance. When characters are sad, happy or angry you’ll know it, as emoticons are projected above their heads. These emotion indicators, along with some great little animations (shaking with rage, charging forward at opponents angrily), give the game some physical comedy that adds to the game’s already vast appeal. It’s not a laugh-a-minute game that’s going to have you falling off your chair in a guffawing fit, but one that you probably won’t be able to resist the odd cheery grin at. Nothing is more satisfying than seeing your opponent hit square in the face with the ball mid-match, either…

The RPG mode is just an excuse to put together strings of many tennis matches more than anything, though, which becomes quite apparent as you realise there isn’t that much to do aside play, play, play; not that this is a bad thing. As they should be, matches are an absolute joy to participate in, with never a moment for you to stop and get bored during the proceedings. It has to be said that the singles matches are less interesting than doubles matches until you get higher statistics, going on for an age while doubles matches are more fast paced and enjoyable. Also frustrating is that it is impossible to pause mid-match – why this wasn’t implemented we’ll never know. The handling is wonderful, giving you no excuse not to do well. Your opponents are suitably intelligent, and the difficulty curve slowly creeps up at a comfortable, smooth snail’s pace until you realise that the matches are noticeably more difficult than they were at the start. Even during matches you have to constantly alter your strategies to ensure that you’re not on the ‘love’ end of the spectrum after a few serves.

Control is pleasing, very pleasing indeed. All of the buttons are used, with A and B delivering a number of different shots when used in different combinations, L being used to dive for the ball, and R used to charge up Power Shots – ludicrously overpowered special moves that come in offensive and defensive types, which thankfully aren’t too overused. As the ball comes towards you, you press A or B to begin a charge and then press either of the buttons again to deliver a hit, or you can smack it back with no charge at all. This system opens up a mass of possible moves and is incredibly intuitive and simple to use; it’s only after you’ve played a few matches that you start to realise just how deep it is despite its deceitfully simplistic commands.

Mario Power Tennis certainly takes full advantage of the mighty portable’s abilities. While the music can be a bit repetitive (though the special effects are tremendous), the visuals are stunning for the Game Boy Advance, with special effects a-plenty on Power Shots, with trails zooming after balls and bunches of things flying about the screen in some instances - time has allowed developers to really get to grips with the GBA, and it shows here. As previously mentioned, the characters resemble those used in Golden Sun, only more fine-tuned, and the intro features some shockingly good pre-renders that just weren’t expected on the platform at all. If the GBA is indeed slowly sailing towards the end of its era, this is the kind of thing that is leading it into a very graceful swansong.

Where are the mentions of Mario and his various cohorts though, throughout all this? Well, there’s a quick and easy explanation for this – you don’t get to see a lot of them unless you’re playing in exhibition mode. This is where you can have quick matches with whatever rules you want, playing as characters you’ve unlocked in the main Power Tour RPG mode and yes, the franchise characters. This is where you want to be going if you fancy a quick five minute game and is where a lot of the fun is at. There’re no stats to be built, no worrying about training, just good, fast games of tennis with Power Shots activated as default (at least with the famous characters) so that you can play crazy tennis to your hearts content. Insane move highlights of this title include Waluigi creating a pool of water and having a swim over to the ball to smack it back, but the biscuits have to be well and truly taken by Donkey Kong, who tears open the packet, tips said confectionary into his mouth and crunches them to crumbs in seconds with the mental special move where he pulls out a cannon and launches as many balls as possible at you in the space of three seconds. Beat that, Henman…

Mario Power Tennis could be described as a flat shot in tennis terms. There’s no spin to it at all, it is what it is and never claims to be more, and it’s probably going to be hitting a soft spot in your gaming heart quickly and square-on. Game, set and match to Camelot, then.

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

If you're a Mario sports fan, or a tennis fan, or both, you've got no excuse for not giving this a good play. Bursting with character, it's definitely worth your attention. Camelot have served up an ace with this one, with no resounding faults (or indeed double faults) anywhere.

Also known as

Mario Tennis: Power Tour

Developer

Camelot

Publisher

Nintendo

Genre

Sport

Players

2

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10 (1 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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