The Mario Tennis series is as close to some people as the Mario Kart series, but how many people really enjoyed the last installment in the series? Mario Tennis Open on the Nintendo 3DS has eight tournaments, online and local play (singles and doubles), special games, and an extensive Streetpass addition. Once again made by Camelot, does this title live up to the standards of the series or should it stay under the rug?
Mario Tennis Open highlights the power of the 3DS with the Gyro Sensor, but it can be turned off in the options menu or mid-match. With this feature turned on you can play Mario Tennis focusing solely on the touch screen; your character moves automatically. The Gyro Sensor aims your shots the direction you have the 3DS pointed, that way you can focus entirely on your shots. This demonstrates Camelot changing not only the elements in tennis, but how the player chooses to approach the act of playing. However, veterans of the series will prefer to be in control of their character’s movement and play the more traditional way; with the analogue stick and buttons (touch screen still available).
Three different bottom screen layouts exist, (and can be changed with the shoulder buttons) each one offering a different arrangement of available moves. The bottom screen layout is important for new players because it describes how to perform each shot using the buttons, plus the touch screen can be used without the Gyro Sensor.
The last Mario Tennis game was on the gamecube and featured “Power Shots” which would allow the player to aggressively or defensively pull off a shot. This made the game feels gimmicky to most and subtracted from the real tennis appeal it offered, these have been removed for the newly added “Chance Shots.” During play colored circles will appear on the court, if you enter the area of one of these circles and use the corresponding move you will pull it off in a spectacular motion. For example, if you go into the blue blooper shot and slice (B) the ball will curve extremely. Each of these chance shots can be countered appropriately and the touch screen highlights which move to use when the action is available. These chance shots change the game by creating new situations that can be followed in whatever fashion you like, just because a player is standing in a drop-shot circle doesn’t mean they will use a drop-shot.
Unlike previous portable Mario Tennis titles, this one does not have RPG leveling aspects. Instead, it has heavy character customization, which encourages the use of Miis and thus the Streetpass portion of the game. Doing Streetpass games such as “Ring Shot” will yield coins for both players. Using QR codes you can get eight new characters, each a different colored Yoshi, as well as Metal Mario. The full costumes can be worn by your avatar and give the corresponding stats of that character. Most costumes are obtained by completing specific goals while individual items (rackets, shirts, wrist bands, and shoes) are unlocked by winning or losing exhibition or tournament matches. Also, when all four corresponding items are worn the avatar experiences an extra stat boost.
Selling just over a million copies, Mario Tennis Open remains mostly ignored by many 3DS owners even though it can now be found for about $20 (unless you are going through the Nintendo eshop). As the next installment of the series it fixes many small problems seen in the past and adds a number of fun new experiences, plus the local play is far too good to ignore.
Mario Tennis Open received mostly mediocre reviews, Game Informer however did give it a 8 out of ten, praising the online capabilities and the switch from power shots to chance shots. Combine that with the low sales the 3DS had at the time and it becomes easy to see why this title was swept under the rug. As it stands, the Nintendo 3DS has a lot of great games for it, even looking back its’ beginning shows that. Although forgotten by most, Mario Tennis is the next iteration of the series, it takes the good from past games and fixes the problems titles like Mario Power Tennis were experiencing. Mario Tennis is a well-tuned tennis experience you can take with you that also offers full character customization and a competitive sense; truly something that will please Mario Tennis (or simply tennis) fans.