Review by matt91486

Reviewed: 08/08/01 | Updated: 08/08/01

Watch. With all of these sports games coming out, Mario will be skinnier than Luigi by the time his GameCube venture is released

Mario has a thing for those snobby country club sports. First, he released a golf game, open only to members of his game series at one point or another. Poor Link was left on the outside, unable to hit the links with Samus, Fox McCloud, Kirby, or a host of other characters. Well, in Mario Tennis, once again a multitude of famous Nintendo characters are out in the cold, as in Mario’s Golf and Tennis Country Club, he chooses the members. And all of these members are members of a game in his series’ past, with the exception of new face Waluigi. And these sixteen famous characters will certainly all put up a tough fight.

Many game companies have a notoriously difficult time recreating sports as video games. Camelot can now join the ranks of Tiburon and Visual Concepts as companies who have truly mastered the art. Mario Tennis offers an accurate representation of tennis, with a classic Mario cartoonish flair. The gameplay is so superb that you can even hit your opponents in the head with a tennis ball, if you aim it good enough. Backhands and forehands are the default hits, but by pressing buttons in quick succession or at the same time, you can carry out lob hits, hits that barely make it over the net, and hundred mile smashes that would make Pete Sampras proud.

What makes the gameplay complex in Mario Tennis is the anticipation required. You need to be able to predict where your opponent is going to hit the ball. You then need to think up a location on the court where he or she will not be able to return it. You also need to choose what type of hit you will use against the little green ball, as you need to think up any way possible to keep the ball from being returned. You also need to decide if you want your character to be up at the net, near the baseline, or somewhere in between. All of these things combine together to make an unbelievably realistic gameplay experience.

Mario Tennis has some of the best graphics that the Nintendo 64 has to offer. All of the featured characters are replicated excellently in three-dimensions. This is worth mentioning because, even though some of them had already made an appearance on the Nintendo 64, many of them were making the trek for the first time, such as Daisy and Donkey Kong Jr. All of these characters look just like they used to, except with the necessary depth to make them work in Mario Tennis. All of the animation is great, and much of it is character specific. You will see Baby Mario zipping across the screen, while Donkey Kong lumbers along like the giant gorilla he is. Of course, this also means that Donkey Kong is amazingly slow and a pain to play as if you cannot get to some of the well-placed smashes of your foes. Such is your choice, though, so live with it.

The courts are all quite different from each other. On the normal courts you can easily tell the difference between the four surfaces. Then, by completing different requirements, you can gain courts with characters from the game on them. These courts have different bounce and speed than others, so it is good to get them all. Besides, it also allows you to have a few bragging rights. Another nice graphical touch is, when you hit a ball perfect, a trail will emanate from the back of it. The trail’s color will vary depending on the type of hit you use. This really does not do a lot, but it still is a nice touch.


The music in Mario Tennis is really just simple Mario music, nothing special. But, the music on the hidden courts is special. On each hidden court, you will hear music that is from that character’s game. On the Donkey Kong court, music is heard from the Donkey Kong games on the Super Nintendo. On the Baby Mario and Yoshi court, you can hear the tunes from Yoshi’s Island. This really brought back nostalgia, and I absolutely loved every moment of it. These songs, unlike music in many Nintendo 64 games, I actually listened to, paid attention to, and remembered vividly for weeks at a time after playing Mario Tennis.

The sound effects are above average, but hardly anything to write home about. There are really just the hits back and forth to listen to, and the little noises that the characters make when they win or lose. The voice actor portraying Mario went a little too thick on the accent at times, so it kind of sounded like a B-Movie. (Actually a B+ or A- movie is more like it. He was not all that bad, just a bit corny.) The noises in the menu are fairly well done, but once again hardly as memorable as the amazing recycled tunes.

All of the control is easy to carry out. The menus are easy to navigate, and actually playing tennis is a cinch. All of the types of hits are carried out by using ‘B,’ ‘A,’ and various combinations of the two buttons. Many people have complained that the control is rather shallow and primitive, but I believe that it is simply well thought out. When only two buttons are needed for all of the work, why bother using more, and just making it needlessly complicated. Really, the ‘C Buttons’ do not carry out any functions in Mario Tennis, so the aforementioned striking buttons and ‘Start’ are all you will really need.

Nearly exactly a full year after Mario Tennis was released; it still stays with my Nintendo 64 wherever it may go. I currently play it more than any other game, attempting to gain access to all of the secrets, do as good as I can in all of the Ring Tournaments, and master each character’s playing styles. The multitude of special modes, ranging from the Bowser Stage, in which Bowser distributes weaponry a la Mario Kart 64, and you can fire at your opponents. Actually, the method of getting these weapons is exactly the same as in Mario Kart 64. In fact, so is the weaponry. So, if you have played Mario Kart 64, you know what to expect from this mode. Just add a tilting, walled tennis court.

Another interesting stage is the Piranha Plant stage. In this stage you need to return the fifty balls that the Piranha plants serve to you, without the opponents returning them. This actually is quite a challenge, and, sadly, I have never quite gotten there. Forty-eight is the best that I have done. My favorite non-actual tennis mode, though, is Ring Shot. There are plenty of customizable options in this mode, in which you need to play with a partner, hitting the ball through the various rings, to reach a specific total. It is not always that easy, though, as you are limited to something, depending on what you chose, being it number of tennis balls, a time limit, an actual tennis game, or any other one of the options that you choose. And, also, each character progresses through the levels separate from the others. What I mean to say is, that if you reach the ninety ring plateau with Waluigi in the time limit stage, you will need to redo all of that progress if you enter the mode with Paratroopa. I actually like this, as it has presented me with much more playtime, progressing with each character.

The challenge in the single-player mode starts out quite easy, but once you hit the Star Cup, you may find yourself getting stuck numerous times. I was stuck at the championship in the Star Cup for about three months before finally getting over the hump and beating him. The doubles tournament has the same difficulty curve. What is really difficult, though, is completely clearing the Ring Shot and Piranha Plant Modes. The Ring Shot Mode is difficult due to the sheer size, and needing to beat it with every character to complete the mode. The Piranha Plant Stage is difficult because not only do you have to return every shot within the court boundaries, but you also need to aim your returns so your opponent cannot return the shot.

As I said before, Mario Tennis remains with my Nintendo 64 wherever I take it. I keep slowly progressing through the Ring Shot Mode whenever I get a chance, and, about once a week, I attempt to master the insanely difficult Piranha Plant Stage. Whenever I have friends over, Mario Tennis is one of the Nintendo 64 games we play, along with other hits like Mario Party and Goldeneye. It is great to play for years alone, and it is even better to play for the duration of your ownership of a Nintendo 64 with friends. And, I will have you know that Mario Tennis is the first game I have given this replay value ranking to, so whatever you do, go and buy it.

*Best tennis gameplay in any video game.
*Excellent graphics that are among the best the Nintendo 64 has to offer.
*Classic music from dozens of excellent Nintendo games of old.

*Some may get stuck for long periods in the later cups.
*The depth of some modes may overpower some players.
*The sound effects simply are not up to snuff with all other aspects of the game.

Mario Tennis is, and will always be, among the Nintendo 64’s royalty. My hopes are certainly up for a sequel to this amazing game on the GameCube. Hopefully, then, Nintendo will allow some of their other characters, to make their appearances, preparing for Nintendo’s version of the grand slam.


Rating: 10

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