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Mario’s Tennis – Virtual Boy

Mario’s Tennis – Virtual Boy

iur-1Platform: Virtual Boy

Developer: Nintendo R&D1

Publisher: Nintendo

Release Date (NA): August 14th, 1995

Genre: Sports

Nerd Rating: 6.5 out of 10

Oh god, is that blood I see?

No, just a splotch of red that’s been permanently burned into my eyes. I think I need to stop playing the Virtual Boy.

It’s Mario’s Tennis everyone! We recently took at look at the sequel, Mario Tennis, and even the site’s co-founder NerdBerry got in on the fun by reviewing Mario’s Tennis.

And now it’s my turn.

I wonder who liked it more…

Okay, so from my review of Virtual Boy Wario Land, you can probably tell I am sort of in love with the Virtual Boy. It’s an abusive relationship really, but I can’t help myself. I mean, look at this thing.

virtual-boy

It’s the coolest! The pseudo-3D effects are awesome! And the fact that you’re right up there in the action while the visor blocks out any and all light, I mean, there’s nothing like it. And how can you not dig that eye-poison red and black design?

Alright now.

Tennis.

Screen Shot 2015-12-16 at 1.05.33 PM

You ought to know by now I’m a Weeg man

What a perfect sport to include with the Virtual Boy.

That’s right, this game was packaged with the system, and it’s awesome.

I’m going to say right now if you’re not into the whole Virtual Boy thing, you won’t like Mario’s Tennis. Hell, you won’t like any of these games for that matter. But still, if you strip away the cool 3D effect, you’re left with a pretty bare-bones tennis game. But is a gimmick enough to make a game stand out?

Well…as far as I’m concerned, yes.

Let’s start with the controls. Mario’s Tennis could have really benefitted from a more advanced control scheme. What’s cool about Mario Tennis for N64 is the number of different swings you have based on button combinations. While the N64 controller is equipped with more buttons, the swings are all built around the order in which you press A and/or B. The moves in Mario’s Tennis are instead limited by these two buttons and depend more on your court position, the angle of the ball, and so forth. It’s less work for you, but also less dynamic. I prefer simple, so it works for me.

The one thing I really want to see in Mario’s Tennis is the ability to run. You have two dead weights in the form of L and R, which could have easily carried out this function…but for whatever reason they weren’t utilized.

Screen Shot 2015-12-16 at 1.39.39 PM

Both Toad and Koopa can actually lunge toward the ball, leading me to suspect each character sports slightly different handling (perhaps Nerdberry confirms this?). Still, this does not make up for the lack of a running ability

Some shots simply cannot be returned because the players are not fast enough. If the ball is too far from you just wave it goodbye, since it is not physically possible to make it. While it would be nice if you could dart to the incoming ball, you must keep in mind the AI is just as slow. Besides, Mario’s Tennis is not unreasonably hard.

The game’s difficulty is fairly moderate. I mean, look at me – I’m no good at tennis games. Hell, I barely make the cut as a video gamer. I was able to beat the computer on medium, and even hold my own pretty well on hard. By “pretty well,” I mean I won two of six rounds. Am I using the right terminology? I dunno, whatever the screenshot below says, that’s my best on hard.

Screen Shot 2015-12-16 at 1.16.11 PM

Anyway, getting the hang of Mario’s Tennis is a little tough at first. You’ll have to adjust to the strange 3D perspective before you’ll understand when to swing. As you play and get used to it, you’ll begin to notice the rounds become easier, and you become more of a threat to the AI.

Screen Shot 2015-12-16 at 1.13.19 PM

I may be slightly off…

It can also be unclear when a shot is out. You may be fairly certain it flew outside the court lines, but if you don’t hear the little penalty “beep,” it’s still in. You might as well swing regardless; if your opponent returns the ball out of bounds, you score even if you hit it back.

Screen Shot 2015-12-17 at 10.06.51 AM

Tournament mode – for the daring Virtual Boy enthusiast

One other minor complaint I might have is the lack of shorter games. Your options are one set and three sets, each being a best of six with two games ahead of the losing player. Sometimes a game can go on for a while because you’ll be passing the advantage back and forth during a tied round. Though an involved, heated game is always fun…remember this is the Virtual Boy. One way or another you will be uncomfortable, and at a certain point, you’ll be itching to end it.

What’s that?

I mean, well, yeah, you could just turn it off if it’s a problem, but where’s the fun in ending a game prematurely?

This isn’t necessarily a problem with the game, though. It’s more a problem with combining a long-lasting sport like tennis with a medieval torture devi- uh, a Virtual Boy.

How can I go on without mentioning doubles?

Screen Shot 2015-12-16 at 1.17.12 PM

What tennis game is complete without doubles?

Well, you’ve got ’em in Mario’s Tennis. You’d think this mode would solve the problem of being unable to cover the whole court, but…nope, it’s pretty much the same as playing singles.

Nice, Yoshi. Way to miss the ball. In all honesty, Yoshi’s not as bad as some AI players (I’m looking at you, Mario!)

The biggest problem is having a partner who’s usefulness is equivalent to that of a piece of toast. You’ll just love watching the ball fly over to him or her, only to be completely ignored. And oh, isn’t it cute when they try to jump ahead of you and cover the front half of the court? Well, that’s okay, because at least you can see what’s going on ahead of you. When they’re behind, you’re putting all your faith into their willingness to swing. And a lot of the times they just won’t.

Now don’t get me wrong, this isn’t the worst AI in the world. They do connect sometimes. Some characters appear to be semi-competent even. And it may or may not be typical for a tennis video game to stick you with a lump of a partner. I suppose this brings up another big mark against Mario’s Tennis, which is the lack of a multiplayer option. However, we cannot fault the game for this, as the Virtual Boy was cancelled before a link cable was released. You could blame the console, but you know what? I blame society. For not accepting the Virtual Boy as the awesome piece of gaming technology it was.

Doubles mode does help fill up the otherwise empty, nearly lifeless field. I mean, the backgrounds are pleasant to look at, with some neat animations appearing in the far distance, but you have to admit the court itself looks like a wasteland.

Screen Shot 2015-12-16 at 1.35.34 PM

Though there’s not much going on by the court, some of the far off backdrops are quite pretty

One last thing:

The music.

It’s…kinda odd. A little all over the place. It doesn’t really fit the tone of the game. Some tracks are fairly upbeat and fun, but overall it’s nothing too special or memorable. The soundtrack is distinct, though, that’s for sure. It definitely sounds like Virtual Boy music, if such a distinction exists.

So, yeah, Mario’s Tennis. Really, there’s not a whole lot to make this one special, aside from one major…obvious element, which is the 3D. Yes, for me, and in my opinion, the “virtual reality” aspect is enough to give this a title an edge over many other tennis games. Just the notion of having the ball fly right at my face makes me excited and puts me directly into the game.

Screen Shot 2015-12-16 at 12.53.04 PM

Way cool!

I recommend this one for anybody who does not care about ruining their eyes and/or spine. For everyone else, I’m sure there are plenty of other titles available to help you get your tennis fix. You can’t go wrong with Mario Tennis for N64, or even plain ol’ Tennis for the NES.

(Seriously though, if you can tolerate it, it’s a very cool game that looks pretty good and handles well enough, despite my minor, perhaps overly-critical complaints.)

What?  You haven’t already checked out NerdBerry’s take?  Well, what are you waiting for?  Read his review of Mario’s Tennis now!

Screen Shot 2015-12-16 at 1.07.19 PM

Go Weegee!

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. yea the game IS very easy. The true challenge is not sucking at the game in general. I can’t stand the slowness of the players, it’s really stupid. I didn’t even think about how easily they could have implemented a run or super dive feature with the L and R buttons! CALL UP NINTENDO! WE’VE GOT A PLAN!

     

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