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Nintendo 3DS Review: Mario Tennis Open

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Mario loves sports.  Mario loves Olympic sports, basketball, baseball, kart racing, soccer, and so many more. And tennis – we can’t forget tennis. Mario has been into tennis for nearly as long as he’s been stomping Goombas. He was a ref back on the simply named NES title, Tennis, back in 1985. And, in 1995, he got off the referee stand and onto the court in the ill-fated Virtua-Boy title Mario’s Tennis. In all, there have been six Mario-based tennis games, plus that original Tennis title. Today we will be looking at the latest version of tennis in the Mushroom Kingdom, Mario Tennis Open.

Having been on the court for well over a decade, Mario should know his way around a court, and he certainly does in Mario Tennis Open. If you have ever played any of the dozens of Mario sports titles, you have a good idea what to expect here.  Take tennis, add some of the iconic faces of the Toadstool and Koopa variety, mix in some mini games, and shove into the latest Nintendo handheld.

Being on the 3DS, there are some features that take advantage of the system’s unique features.  Of course, it is in 3D (which, like with all 3DS games, you can turn down or off as desired). You can also play as your Mii.  See yourself take the court against Bowser; play a doubles match with Mario on your team.  It’s kind of neat, actually. The Mario characters each have slightly different focuses — defense, speed, technique, tricky, and all-around (which is the more generic/balanced type). You can earn coins to buy clothing and rackets to alter the stats on your Mii character to make you more powerful and to move toward one or more of those types of play styles.

There are “Special Games” focused on teaching different tennis techniques — aiming, timing, ball control, reaction time. My favorite is the not-so-cleverly named “Super Mario Tennis.”  (I mean, the overall game itself is called Mario Tennis Open and they couldn’t come up with a different name, really?)  This is where you hit the ball against a wall like handball, but as you do, you are progressing through an original Super Mario Bros.-style level that is on the wall.

The title can be played in three different control schemes — traditional button controls, touchscreen control, or motion control. The button and touch controls are pretty similar, in fact, both are available without changing any settings. I prefer the button controls–I grew up with an NES and Game Boy–it’s the most normal way for me to play games. While you are in motion control, the computer automatically moves your character into place, it actually makes hitting the ball a lot easier — but the computer assist takes control away from the player, which I find disappointing.

There are, as one would expect, different game modes in the title.  There is the aforementioned Special Games as well as tournaments to play through, quick Exhibition Matches, and multi-player.

All-in-all, it is a decent title.  It is fun, don’t get me wrong, but unless you are just dying for a new Mario sports game to play, there’s no need to rush out and buy it.

Mario Tennis Open is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB.

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