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November 8, 2004

Mario Power Tennis

Camelot surprised just about everybody with the quality of their N64 and Game Boy (Color and Advance) Mario sports titles series featuring Mario Golf and Mario Tennis. What on the surface appeared to be dumbed-down, simplistic sports titles aimed at kids ended up being much more. While a more simplified take on the sports than, for example, the realistic EA offerings we all know so well, the games held their own as creative and addictive takes on golf and tennis. What they lacked in realism, they made up for with polished presentation, varying playing styles for different characters, and a whole lot of personality. Mario Power Tennis looks to deepen and refine the accessible and addictive mechanics of its predecessor and offer up some more of that sweet multiplayer action that made the first title so great.



Mario Power Tennis is not so much a revolution in the Camelot Mario sports “series” so much as it is an evolution. Much in the same way as Super Smash Bros. Melee brought an N64 multiplayer favorite to the Cube complete with refined presentation, much more depth, and some shiny new threads while maintaining the core appeal and mechanics of the N64 favorite, so to Mario Power Tennis looks to upgrade the best of Mario Tennis and improve on the original’s weaknesses.

Still firmly intact are the easy to pick up, yet deep, controls. The control stick moves your character, A volleys, B lobs, and you can hold either button to power up the shot (which briefly paralyzes you in exchange for the added power). Powering up the shot is just one of the ways Camelot effectively added depth to the control of the first title, and adding topspin to the ball is also making a welcome return. Add to this the new ‘Power’ special moves of the title, and things get even more interesting. As you do well, you build up power to execute a special move (accomplished by pressing R before you hit the ball). Each character will have individual strengths, styles, and special moves. Mario and Luigi, for example, are well rounded, but not spectacularly strong in any area (as per usual), Donkey Kong and Bowser are slower but more powerful, etc.

The specials are widely varied and are often accompanied by truly hilarious animations. For example, Mario can whip out a hammer (familiar to the original Donkey Kong and Smash Bros. fans out there) and smack the ball back with added oomph, Luigi creatively uses the Poltergust from Luigi’s Mansion, and many more. Offensive special moves can in turn be responded to by defensive special moves on the other side, and the matches quickly become even more frantic and intense. When activated, the special moves are highlighted by a quick in-game movie that really shows off the impressive animation but doesn’t seem to really detract from the flow of the match.

The fluid frame rate itself works well to bolster the fast-paced insanity, and it appears to hold up splendidly even with some crazy particle effects, special moves, detailed characters and backgrounds filling the screen. Everything is impeccably rendered in the Mario Sunshine style found in other Mario titles of this generation, yet is colorful, well animated, and fast enough to stand out as one of the more visually pleasing multiplayer or sports titles for GameCube. The courts are all recognizably Nintendo inspired. The most important aspect of these new areas, and in fact, one of the biggest additions to Mario Power Tennis, is the themed gimmick courts. The first Mario Tennis featured a decently realized special Bowser court that tilted over lava, but acted more as a diversion than a truly fun addition to the game. Mario Power Tennis looks to remedy this issue with a plethora of off-the-wall courts.

In the Luigi’s Mansion course, ghosts litter the area and cloud your view, Donkey Kong’s court is placed over a waterfall and has krocs that attack players, the Mario Sunshine stage is partially covered in slippery mud that the player has to negotiate around, and that’s just a taste. Think the Donkey Kong stage rocks, but don’t want to deal with the hazards? No problem. You’re given the option to turn them off if you so choose.

You’re also given the option to change ball speed, difficulty, and play modes to give you exactly what you’re looking for. The Exhibition mode features a versus mode, the return of the challenging and addictive Ring Shot mode featured in the first title, and an Item Battle which has Mario Kart style question blocks that yield traditional Mario power ups when hit. Of course, the Tournament mode also makes a return and allows up to eight-character playoffs. Perhaps of most interest, are the new special modes, which all appear to be challenging and intriguing mini-game additions to the core gameplay.

The mini-games feature everything from using tennis paint balls to paint a mural of Mario on the wall, to a tic-tac-toe game and Chomp battles. Though some seem more replayable than others, they all add a nice variety to the basic gameplay of Mario Power Tennis and will definitely help players hone and advance their skills. Undoubtedly, these modes, in combination with the unlockable content, will extend the lifetime of the game’s single player mode quite a bit over the first game and add even more spice to the already robust multiplayer attractions.

word on the street

If the special moves factor in smoothly and the gimmick courts prove to be entertaining, Mario Power Tennis should meet all expectations and give GameCube owners another great single and multiplayer option for the holiday season and beyond.

press release notes


  • Standard Master the basics of tennis.
  • Ring Shot Technique trumps brute force in this challenge to hit the ball through rings.
  • Item Battle Hit the ball through boxes for classic Mario power-ups like Koopa Shells, Bananas, Mushroom turbo boosts and more!
  • Gimmick Court Keep your footing on tilting courts, dodge ghosts, slog through sludge and more!

Special Games

  • Artist on the Court Whack paint balls to color in a Mario mural. (His correct colors are shown in a reflection beneath your character's feet). It can be tough to finesse a blue paint ball onto Mario's eyes. Work on your lob shot.
  • Terror Tennis Outside Luigi's Mansion, whack balls at ghosts trying to escape from their portraits. You'll get more points if a ghost is just about to escape.
  • Tic-Tac-Glow On Delfino Plaza, step on nozzles, then whack balls of water to rinse sludge and free Shine Sprites. Bonus points for freeing three in a row or, better yet, more than one line at a time.
  • Chain-Chomp Challenge You and three other players visit Wario Factory to bat tennis balls, water balls and Bob-ombs at Chain-Chomps. Score points for hitting tennis balls into your Chain-Chomp's mouth. If it gets hit by one more Bob-omb, though, it will break free and chase you! You'll then need to stomp the water switch to cool off your Chain-Chomp. You can also Bob-omb your rival's Chain-Chomps.
  • Gooper Blooper Volley With four rackets, Gooper Blooper never misses a return. Panels slide back and forth with each hit, reducing or enlarging the size of your court. You're a winner if you keep the volley alive for the specified number of shots.
  • Mecha-Bowser Mayhem Slam tennis balls, Bullet Bills and Bob-ombs at Mecha-Bowser. Grab invincibility and turbo boosts. Meanwhile, M- B will try to drain all your energy with his terrifying fire breath. It's not personal. He's just mad that no one told him of the beneficial effects of breath mints.


What it all adds up to is a crazy light-hearted multiplayer title that should have enough single player bite to keep all the loners out there happy for quite a while and enough true tennis action to satisfy even the most skeptical tennis fan. Mario Power Tennis has shaped up to be quite impressive mechanically and should carry on the excellent tradition of the Camelot Mario sports title in full form. Players looking for a deep, frantic, and easily accessible multiplayer experience should have something to keep their trash-talking skills in good shape for a long time to come.

Staff Avatar Mike Spaulding
Staff Profile | Email
"The only thing better than a giant squid is a giant squid with katanas."

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