Mario’s last two games on the 3DS, Super Mario 3D Land and Mario Kart 7, helped turn the handheld device into a blockbuster during the holiday season. Those games focused on inspired gameplay, while actually giving gamers 3D action. Mario Tennis Open won’t have any such impact on the Summer gaming season. This uninspired Tennis game doesn’t offer the realistic excitement and skill of Wimbledon, nor does it capture the playful antics of other games in the Mario Sports arena. With nary a power-up in sight, you’ll quickly get bored from the inconsistent gyro controls, touch-screen gameplay and a few forgettable mini games, which hinder this Mario game from being all that it could have been.
Mario Tennis Open takes aim at being a pure Tennis game, similar to Wii Sports Tennis. There’s not much fan fiction to be found in this game and players won’t even get a Bowser or Wario driven opening to give purpose to playing. This game focuses on one thing – playing Tennis. Gamers engage in a series of three match tournaments, top spinning and lobbing balls back and forth. With the name Mario in front of it, you’d expect some turtle shell or mushroom action to power up the Tennis match, but it never comes. The only thing that’s Mario about this game is roster of 13 Mushroom Kingdom characters.
Players have access to the classic cache of Tennis shots, including: topspin, flat, slice, lob and the drop shot. There’s also a multitude of control schemes that work to varying degrees of success. The easiest way to play is with the gyro controls. Let me correct that, the matches just become easier. The computer takes over control of your player. You’re simply tilting your 3DS from side-to-side to control the direction of the shots. Right away, most of the skill in playing a fast-paced tennis match is lost. Also, if you tilt your screen down the game will revert back to circle pad controls. Gyro controls require you to play through the matches with your 3DS perfectly level. Unfortunately, holding up your 3DS for an extended period of time becomes tiresome and makes this method of play almost useless. And, of course, there’s the problem with gyro controls and 3D. Once you play in gyro mode, you’ll basically cut off the whole 3D part.
Throughout matches, you’ll also get special concentration shots. These are the one “power up” found in the game. A color-coded circle appears on the court, signaling a type of shot. In gyro mode, your player will automatically move to the circle and executes a trick shot as long as you press the appropriate button. Your opponent will almost always miss these shots.
Since gyro controls are a bore, most players will want to stick to the circlepad controls. However, these two can get awry thanks to the shot layout. Shots can be executed via touch screen or through the standard button map. Theoretically, the touchscreen is the optimal way to play. The shots are color coded to correspond with concentration shots that appear on the court. However, if you take your eyes off the top screen to look down at the touch screen for the right shot, you’ll almost always miss out on the action.
You can tell right away that Mario Tennis Open realized that Tennis alone wouldn’t be enough of a selling point for this game. Unless you’re playing against a friend, the AI opponents don’t offer much in the way of an exciting challenge. The development team threw in a few mini games to capture more of the Mario world. Sadly, most gamers will lose interest in these mini-games after they play each for the first time. Ring Shot just asks you to score two hundred points and then the game is over. There’s no escalating scale of interest, warranting another round. Probably the most interesting game is Super Mario Tennis. It’s an odd game, which lets you play through the Original Super Mario Bros game as if it were tennis ball activated. Cool concept – poor execution. It will take you forever to play through levels that can be beaten in less than a minute.
Mario Tennis Open is a game that can only be enjoyed with a friend. The gyro controls are a needless add-on and the lack of Mario Sports flavor is a definite slip-up. For the same price, gamers should have received a full roster of sports titles, similar to Mario Sports Mix, rather than this singularly drab tennis game.