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Mario Tennis – Nintendo 64

Mario Tennis – Nintendo 64

Mariotennis64_n64boxboxart_160wPlatform: Nintendo 64

Developer: Camelot Software Planning

Publisher: Nintendo

Release Date (NA): August 28, 2000

Genre: Sports

Nerd Rating: 7 out of 10

Anyone for Tennis?

Anyone_for_tennis_45_sleeve_cream

No, not the Cream song…though they are quite a good ensemble.

Mario Tennis people. The kind of tennis where you know a dash of whimsical fun will be added to the recipe.

Let’s face it – this is a Mario game. You already know it ain’t gonna stink.

Whenever Mario’s face is on anything, one assumes Nintendo’s top team of programmers and designers are going to join forces and harness their powers to forge a gold-plated hit.

Before you even click the article, the question on your mind is not “Is this a good game?” The question is “How good?” When it comes to Mario, in most cases you’re dealing with a different scale – one ranging from 6-10. Yes, even Super Mario Land 2, while I consider it less than stellar, was still a quality game. Of course, if you’re not a fan of the Mario franchise, none of this pertains to you. It’s all subjective. But there’s no questioning his importance and influence.

Enough chitchat, let’s get to it.

Screen Shot 2015-11-01 at 4.32.48 PM

What a lovely place the Mushroom Kingdom must be. It’s always so bright, colorful, cheerful.

Screen Shot 2015-11-01 at 4.33.24 PM

Mario has such a diverse assortment of friends, and they’re always off on adventures, carefree and gay (in a pre-1960s sense of the word). So of course, when they’re all cavorting about in preparation for a nice game of tennis, only to be invaded by the likes of Wario, Waluigi, and even Bowser himself, there’s only one thing to do: make a party out of it!

Screen Shot 2015-11-01 at 4.40.10 PM

The opening cutscene is cute and full of lighthearted fun. It gets you in a Mario mood, ready to play. And no, I don’t want you to get the idea that this is a party game. It is very much a tennis game.

Really, there’s nothing more to it. Sure, you have a full assortment of options and modes, including different ways to play (which I’ll get into in a bit), but at its core it’s a sports game. And a good one at that.

I’m going to say the real appeal of this is the Mario character lineup, which is for the most part what stands between Mario Tennis and the bargain bin overflowing with valueless sports titles.

Screen Shot 2015-11-01 at 4.35.31 PM

Yikes! What did they do to my man Wario here?

Let me get the one major criticism out of the way now: this game looks hideous. Honestly, it’s one of the ugliest the system has to offer, to my knowledge anyway. And while I have previously mentioned how ugly NES games can still be pleasant to the eye, early polygonal graphics from the late 90s do not possess the same charm. When you see those blocky, jagged figures waltzing around it makes your eyes want to commit suicide. I’m aware of hardware limitations; the NES had limitations, but the aesthetic is still appealing, even in its worst form. This is just ugly. Plain ugly. And I know Nintendo is capable of more. Super Mario 64, a game released four years earlier, looked better than this.

Mario Compared

I mean, okay, I know I’m being a little harsh.  As a good friend pointed out to me, you don’t see the players up close very often, and of course, Mario Tennis has multiple playable characters rendered, but I simply can’t help feel a little nauseated whenever I see that mess on the screen.

Anyway…

Despite graphical inferiority, the characters are able to shine with tremendous personality. You can clearly see each player has their own set of quirks and attitudes. It’s quite fun to watch.

Finally, some gameplay!

Playing Mario Tennis is a highly enjoyable experience. It’s a tough game to master…for me anyway. I’m pretty terrible when playing an exhibition. I’ve noticed exhibition appears to be much harder than tournament because you can select your difficulty whereas the latter seems to start you off on easy, forcing you to work your way up. Apparently easy is more my speed.

It’s very user-friendly. You have a fair amount of wiggle room when it comes to hitting the ball, which means precision is not critical. Even if you are just outside of ball’s reach (get your mind out of the gutter!) your character will make it work for you. It’s refreshing, not to mention accommodating for the more casual player. It can, however, work against you too. At times, you’ll think your opponent will surely miss the ball, but you must remember they are gifted with the same hitbox as you. As such, it is imperative that you stay on your toes and never take the other competitor for granted.

Your set of moves is probably the only thing other than the Mario crew setting this apart from any other tennis game, and not even necessarily in a significant way. You are given a number of different button combinations with A and B to perform a variety of swings. Your basics are the slice and topspin, which are more powerful if you press the button twice. Hitting A followed by B will lob the ball whereas the reverse will give you a drop shot. If you press A and B together, you’ll perform a smash shot. What does all this mean? I don’t know, I’m not a tennis expert.

Screen Shot 2015-11-01 at 5.23.57 PMAside from your standard swings you have the ability to charge, of which successful execution is entirely contingent on timing. Pressing A or B before the ball is close will initiate this process. Tapping the same button again will give you either a power topspin or power slice, respectively.

While gathering power, you move slower and are unable leap to the ball, which can be dicey during a heated match for those who likes to mash buttons. If you’re not careful, you may hit the button too soon, charge up, and miss the ball as it flies to the opposite corner. Luckily, if you’re fast enough, hitting Z can cancel you out of this sluggish state.

The controls? Smooth as Marty McFly’s save when he accidentally calls his unwitting father “dad.” Everything performs like it should, which is good for any sports game. If you miss the ball you can only blame yourself. But again, it’s the Mario brand, so tight controls are to be expected.

Screen Shot 2015-11-01 at 5.32.14 PMOn top of the standard options, you have a few alternate game types in Mario Tennis. Ring Shot is a fairly clever cooperative mode where you have to work with the other player to hit the ball through as many rings as possible. Aside from the teamwork involved, it feels pretty much like a regular match.

NINTENDO64--Mario Tennis_Apr9 8_14_36.pngThe Bowser Stage puts you on top of an unstable court, which tips as the players move along the platform. This mode offers items, much like in the Mario Kart series. While it’s a good idea in theory, it feels a bit lackluster, only adding more confusion to the scene.

PiranhamatchThe Piranha Challenge is okay. Basically, piranha plants spit tennis balls your way as another player serves them back to you. Scoring is the same as it is in a regular match. It’s a neat variation but feels kind of empty and pointless.

There’s really not a whole lot you can do with tennis to make it anything else, and these mini-games prove such a point.

Although you can’t fault the developers for giving us the options, all in all, you’ll probably want to play this for the tournament or the exhibition. Oh, and some “special games” are also included, but there’s not much to them.

Since this is the Mario name, we are treated to the Mario cast, each with their own attributes. And I must say, this is quite an impressive lineup for its time. Back when you had Mario Party featuring six characters, Mario Kart 64 giving us eight, and even Mario Golf with 10, Mario Tennis blows the others out of the water with a whopping 16 characters; 20 if you include the exclusive transfer pak players. And on the list we’ve got…Donkey Kong Jr.? Long time no see, buddy, how’ve you been?

Screen Shot 2015-11-01 at 6.03.11 PM

This is also…oh boy…

This is the game that introduced us to the controversial, oh-so-forgettable wart Waluigi. Some love him, some hateScreen Shot 2015-11-01 at 4.34.34 PM him. I can’t stand him. Although, I dunno, maybe that’s not true. He’s been around long enough, he’s kinda growing on me. But…yeah…

If you hate Waluigi, you’ve got Mario Tennis to thank for spawning this unholy blister of a man.

Aside from gimmicky side modes, power moves, and the star-studded roster, Mario Tennis is really just a tennis game – a good tennis game that does everything right. And that’s not a bad thing. I really enjoy games based on this sport, so I really like this one. I guess all I’m trying to say is you shouldn’t be blinded by Mario’s charm and stunning stache. While this is a very good title, it’s mostly because Nintendo’s A-team made a tennis game. Now, is the Mario franchise enough to make a sports title stand out?

*sigh*

Yes. I’ll admit it. It worked on me, didn’t it?

If you don’t like tennis, this one probably won’t change your mind. But who knows, there are all different walks of life out there. Maybe more competitive games need mustachioed players to make them more appealing.

Screen Shot 2015-11-01 at 4.34.51 PM

Written by ZB

ZB

Since the tender age of four, I have been playing video games to occupy my free time. Raised on Nintendo and Sega Genesis, I have an extensive knowledge and enthusiasm for the classics. Also an avid collector, I have accrued such consoles as the Atari Jaguar, Super Famicom, Odyssey 2, Sega Nomad, just to name a few.

Got any questions, comments, concerns, or threats? Feel free to email me at zb@nerdbacon.com. I am happy to hear your feedback!

 
 

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2 Comments

  1. I never got around to playing this one. Around the time of this release, I was more into Super Smash Bros. and my Dreamcast games. But this does look interesting, albeit not enough for me to go back and play it. It looks like one of those sports titles that you don’t NEED to play anymore once an updated version comes out (GameCube, Wii, Wii U, etc). Good review though! And you aren’t kidding about the ugly blocky characters.

     
    • It’s a solid game, I’d still recommend you give it a go. You’ll find yourself inadvertently having fun.

      Yeah, Mario Tennis is offensively ugly.

       

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