Review by BradRock

Reviewed: 09/15/00 | Updated: 06/14/01

The best tennis game featuring Mario ever.

When I think of sports heroes, the three names that immediately spring to mind are, Tony Hawk, Anna Kournikova, and of course, Mario. Mario may have started his sports career as a lowly referee in the classic NES game, Punch Out, but he has now fought his way to the top in sports such as kart racing, golf, and now tennis. Now if you’re like me (I feel your pain) you probably thought tennis was just for Europeans who couldn’t understand baseball, but not so! Just like Mario Golf, Mario Tennis translates a sport with limited appeal into a game just about anyone could love.

Mario Tennis features many different modes of play for your enjoyment. The most basic one is the exhibition mode. Exhibition mode is simply one match, (singles or doubles) with one to four human players. One handy addition here is how the game charts your successes in singles matches against the computer. The only gripe I have with that, is that at some point in the game you unlock a higher difficulty level to use in exhibition mode and the game doesn’t distinguish a win at that level from the previous level. Then there is the Bowser Stage mode. This mode features, once again, a singles or doubles match with one to four players but with a twist. This time the court rocks back and forth as you play, and Mario Kart like power=ups are available, such as shells and mushrooms. To be honest, this mode felt pretty tacked on but it provides a fun, quick, break from long multiplayer sessions in plain exhibition mode. The other extra mode is called “the piranha plant challenge” and a challenge it is. Piranha plants spit 50 tennis balls at you and your job is to return everyone without your opponent hitting them back. Once again this feels tacked on but it’s still a fun bonus. The third mini game is the ring challenge mode where you have to play basic tennis games but you must now concentrate on hitting the ball through rings. This mode is great, but the biggest time consumer of all is the Tournament Mode. Tournament mode has you playing through three tournament named, mushroom, flower, and star (just like Mario Kart). The Mushroom cup is laughingly simple and the flower cup isn’t much harder but the star cup proves to be a real challenge. It will take even the most experienced player hours to get through all the tournaments with every character. But never fear, your efforts will be rewarded…in the form of three more tournaments… Whee!

The graphics are about what you’d expect from a N64 game, which is a good or bad thing depending on your tastes. Actually, this game actually looks a little better than your average N64 game due to the complete lack of fog, (sure it’s a tennis game but you gotta admit it’s rare not to have any fog). It also helps that all the characters are bright and vibrant with very little blurriness. The visual presentation isn’t perfect of course. The characters seem to have very small polygon counts. On many of the characters, such as toad, or birdo, you’ll never really notice enough to care, but some characters, Donkey Kong in particular, have serious cases of the jaggies. There is also the issue of cuteness. Like all recent Mario games, Mario Tennis is enough to give you cavities, but luckily it’s not as overbearing as Mario Golf, or Diddy Kong Racing.

The folks at Nintendo pulled off the sound department well enough considering the cartridge format but neither the music nor the sound effects are anything to get excited about. The music is adequate, but there aren’t any tunes you’ll find yourself humming after playing. Mario Tennis uses the same technique of supplying tense music during match points that Tetris used way back in the day. The sound effects are also pretty decent with realistic effects when hitting the ball and various remarks and grunts from the characters.

If it’s replayability you’re looking for, than Mario Tennis has more stuff to do than a Swiss army carnival. As mentioned before there are enough modes to keep anybody busy, not to mention six different tournaments and a whole slew of characters. Plus Nintendo has provided special ring tournaments available through codes available over the internet. Not a huge deal but it’s interesting at least. The game also has a bunch of extra stuff available to unlock, such as two new characters (DK JR, and Shy Guy) and some new courts with different attributes.

Mario Tennis is one of those rare games that is recommendable to everybody, not just tennis fans, not just Mario fans, but everybody. Sure it isn’t perfect but there is unlimited replayability in the multiplayer modes alone. The four player doubles matches almost rival games like Super Smash Bros. and Perfect Dark in the simple fun department. In other words if you ever play multiplayer you must buy this now. Now all that it’s missing is Anna Kournikova…

Rating: 9

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