When you think of a typical game of tennis you generally think of white outfits, an appropriately timed applause from the crowd and the occasional Ace if you’re lucky. Barrel Cannon Blasts, Spear Dancing and Magic Paint are things you are less likely to see. Unless you just happen to start up a game of Mario Power Tennis on Nintendo’s Gamecube.
Mario Power Tennis is one of those ‘pick-up-and-play’ titles that everybody can immediately get into. If you’ve played Top Spin or Virtua Tennis you’ll latch onto the concept very quickly, if not… well you still won’t need a laborious tutorial to know what’s going on. You move your character around and smash away with a combination of the action buttons. The different button combinations result in the required shot you are after. A single push of the A button gives you a topspin shot, the B button produces a splice shot. A and then B will lob the ball while A and B at the same time produces a fatal smash shot . Those are the basics. There are a number of characters to choose from, each with their own unique pair of super moves, one for offence and the other for defense. These super moves are accompanied by a captivating animation, which can’t however be skipped. After the novelty has worn off and can feel like a nuisance after seeing it repeatedly. That being said; they do create some tense moments when playing co-op.
The exhibition mode is the most ‘regular’ mode letting you select your character of choice, your opponent and your court of preference. The tournament mode is a combination of both regular and gimmick courses which unlock new characters upon completion. In addition to the Standard, Exhibition courts you also have the option to try your hand at the Gimmick Courts where you are presented with clever gimmicks that can either assist or help or get in the way. On the Luigi’s Mansion court Boo’s throw banana’s across the court and on the Wario Factory court, there are conveyer belts that can misplace both you and the ball. If this Gimmick mode wasn’t enough there are also the Special games namely; Artist On the Court, Balloon Panic, Gooper Blooper Volley, Mecha-Bowser Mayhem, Chain-Chomp Challenge, Coin Collectors, Terror Tennis, Tic-Tac-Glow. More than enough mini game variations to keep you busy when not playing the main game mode.
Nearly every one of these game modes in Mario Power Tennis can be played with four players. Anything from a four player doubles match to one of the over-the-top minigames, Mario Power Tennis is one of the most unsuspecting yet fun ‘party’ games around. Even with all four players there isn’t a moment where the frame rate suffers or the visuals get distorted.
Mario sport titles are often seen as a watered down, simulation when compared to the so-called “true” sport sims. While Mario Power Tennis doesn’t strive for the realism that other tennis titles may it does bring its own credentials to the table. This variation of the usual game of tennis is rounded with outstanding visuals, an abundance of charm and solid gameplay, making it one of the best tennis titles around.