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Mario’s Tennis – Virtual Boy

Mario’s Tennis – Virtual Boy

Virtual Boy Mario's Tennis Front CoverPlatform: Nintendo Virtual Boy

Developer: Nintendo R&D1

Publisher: Nintendo

Release Date (NA): August 14, 1995

Genre: Sports, Tennis

Nerd Rating: 6.5 out of 10

Reviewed by Nerdberry

Many of you nerds and nerdettes out there are more than familiar with the Virtual Boy. After all, you are sorta checking out a website called Nerd Bacon. Even if you have no real hands-on experience playing Nintendo’s retarded stepchild (redheaded, of course), just know that this awkward turd-on-a-bipod machine is still heralded in cult circles despite the critical and commercial failure it received. Why? Honestly, I’m not 100% sure why, but I think it has to do with three things:

  1. The Virtual Boy is a limited release item due to the fact that they ceased production after a very short few months, making a neat little collector’s item.
  2. There’s something to be said about the quality of the games. With only 14 total VB games released in North America, it’s surprising when you discover that many of them are pretty fun and enjoyable, and one in particular, Wario Land, is downright impressive.
  3. It bears the golden Nintendo moniker, despite not living up to Nintendo’s gold standard.

With only 14 games to choose from, there is a pretty low ceiling in what I can offer you, my most loyal and trusted reader. But I tipped my hand in the title of this article, so there’s no point in poking at the peas and carrots anymore. Let’s get down to the entree. One of maybe 100 different sports title’s in Mario’s repertoire, Mario’s Tennis delivers a wicked strike right into your eyeballs. I’m not making this up, just look at the clip below. I mean this quite literally.

vb mario tennis 2

Mario, his brother, his friends, and his enemies; they’re all quite the group of athletes, aren’t they? From golf to tennis to soccer and much more, there’s very little that this moustachioed Italian plumber can’t do. Today he’s taking to the black and red tennis courts and serving up an Ace in the migraine department. Why? Not because the game is a pain to play, but because this 3D-Abortion-Boy gaming system is [in]famous for its headache-inducing eye-strain. If not for the complete and utter awkwardness that IS the Virtual Boy’s plight, Mario’s Tennis might be known as one of the better Mario sports titles of the 1990s! Woe is me, the world may never know. But that isn’t to say that Mario’s Tennis is perfect, or even great, by any means.

What Mario’s Tennis lacks in replayability, long-term enjoyment, and depth, it more than makes up for in solid tennis fundamentals and strong graphical layout. I’m a bit perturbed by all of the negativity surrounding the Virtual Boy and its “hardware limitations.” I find the illusion of 3D in Mario’s Tennis to be superior to many other sports titles on the market at that time, with the SNK arcade soccer games being an exception. One of the biggest issues surrounding tennis, and other sports using the third-person perspective, is the trouble locating the ball. Depth perception is a true challenge, so the use of shadows and changing the ball size to show how close or far it is are the standard ways to make up for the lack of “real” 3D. The game’s developers utilized the Virtual Boy’s hardware to the best of their abilities to provide a quality 3D feel. Is it perfect? Not even the slightest. But you have to remember that this was 1995 and “3D gaming” was still an unproven and growing trend. Suffice it to say, Mario’s Tennis does more visually than it has ever received credit for, especially when put up against the countless other sports titles who were trying to make the leap to 3D.

vb mario tennis

The controls in Mario’s Tennis are simple but effective, essentially offering up a 1980’s arcade style control scheme, albeit slightly more advanced. As the player, you can control your hit strength and shot by using A for a solid, harder shot and B for a softer, lob shot. Both are effective in getting the ball over the net with ease, but the inclusion of both allow the player to strategize based on preference or opponent position. Overall, the controls are very solid and tight, but the players feel a bit big on the court which make the controls feel too effortless. It’s not very challenging getting from line to line or alley to alley. And to make things even easier, the ball never feels as though it moves too fast to handle. The layout isn’t great, but the controls work fine within that design. The biggest challenge is timing your swings, but that’s not exclusive to just this particular tennis game.

SONY DSC

Other than the above-average 3D capabilities and solid controls, I find the animation and music to be Mario’s Tennis‘s shining moments by far. The character animation is really great considering the Virtual Boy’s difficulty in drawing thin lines, but that’s not even what stands out to me as a fan of the series or the game. What really stands out is the variety in locations and the developer’s attention to detail. For example, while playing with Koopa, I served up a double fault. Koopa turned to the screen to walk back to his serving position and he was crying. Also, the backgrounds are pretty sweet if you take the time to actually check them out. These are subtle things that have nothing to do with the gameplay but offer up a little spice to a moderately bland game.

The music, however, is anything but bland as the development team chose to stay close to home on this one. Featuring your standard run-of-the-mill Mario-esque music is never a bad thing, and that’s exactly what they did here. If you were to hear these tunes through headphones with your eyes closed, you would never know that you were playing a Virtual Boy game. You might think you’re playing a classic Mario game on the Nintendo or Super Nintendo. It’s just that good.

mario tennis 3

Overall, Mario’s Tennis is not a “special” or wildly unique experience by any means. But Mario’s Tennis IS, however, a solid, yet shortlived, tennis simulator worthy of a couple playthroughs for any Mario fan. The ease of difficulty paired with the lack of depth are the biggest hindrances to this game’s replayability, or even its length of enjoyment. But the simplicity and charm spearheaded by the lovable characters and recognizable music provide a somewhat timeless experience for Nintendo veterans such as myself. I say that Mario’s Tennis is worth your time, even if just for novelty’s sake. Enjoy.

Nerd Rating: 6.5 out of 10

Reviewed by Nerdberry

Written by Nerdberry

Nerdberry

What’s up yall? David “Nerdberry” here! I am the founder of Nerd Bacon and the current co-owner (and CEO) along with partner David “theWatchman!” I hail from North Carolina, hence my love for all things pork! Oh, you’re not familiar with NC? Well I’m not 100% sure, but I am pretty confident that NC and VA lead the nation in pork production. I could be wrong, but even if I am, I still love bacon!

Come enjoy some bacon and games with us yall.

 
 

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  1. In regards to the limited number of VB’s out there, here’s a fun figure to remember – 770,000 units were produced. I think that’s a world-wide total. Now think of allll those that are missing parts, all those that got thrown in the trash after a couple of years, and all those since then that have popped up with “recalibration errors” with no more support from Nintendo to fix them.

    That’s gotta be what, at least 2/3’s out of the mix, permanently? 3/4’s? Anyone got a better guess? Maybe a small number of those could be reclaimed if spare parts were combined from incomplete units to form complete ones. If we go with 3/4’s gone forever, that’s roughly 192,500 left in the world. Not a small number but not a huge one either. The VB didn’t thrive in Japan either and I can’t remember if it saw an EU release or not; either way, those 192K should be pretty evenly distributed through whatever parts of the world they were released in.

    Personally, I’d be surprised if there were any MORE than 50,000 intact, operational units left worldwide. But I’m totally pulling that figure out of thin air.

    We should initiate a worldwide VB cataloging effort to document and account for every working VB still left…or at least maybe those in North America….that would get us some major press!

     

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