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Mario Tennis Package Art
GENRE
Sports
DEVELOPER
Camelot
PUBLISHER
Nintendo
NUMBER OF PLAYERS
1-2
CONNECTIVITY
Yes
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Mario Tennis

Mario Tennis blew me away on the Nintendo 64. I was impressed with its simplicity, and floored by its 4-player action, suitable for gamers of all ages. Naturally, I had to pick up Mario Tennis for the GBC. I'm happy to report that I've found a new favorite Game Boy game!

visuals

Often times, toning graphics down from 3D to 2D means a serious drop in quality and/or playability. Not so with Mario Tennis. A similar camera angle is used in this version, so N64 players will feel right at home. However, because of the GBC's inability to scale sprites on the fly, a more static camera is used, meaning it doesn't zoom in and out of the action, but it does move side to side and up and down. When your character walks out of the camera's view, they're represented by an icon of their face moving along whatever plain they walked out of. This camera system works extremely well, and never creates yucky, distracting LCD motion blur.

While in play mode, the relatively large sprites had to be drawn in a wide variety of positions since the GBC doesn't have the benefit of 3D. Luckily, the artists didn't skimp on the details, so you're treated to smooth, fluid 2D animation (except for those times when you decide to jitter in place to fake out your opponent, which everybody seems to do unconsciously). The tennis courts are fairly detailed, with minute touches like bare patches in the paint around the service areas where players stand most frequently.

You'd think an itty-bitty ball would be tough to follow on the GBC, wouldn't ya? For the most part, you'd be wrong. When players hit the ball with power, a tail follows the ball, not unlike Fox covering NHL games. The rest of the time when the ball moves by itself, you'll find it easy to track by keeping one eye on it's shadow along the ground, thus allowing you to determine the position of a single-sized ball in a 3D world. The only time it gets a bit though to find the ball is in poor lighting conditions. This can be a pain without a good light, cause you'll be wanting to play this one 24/7.

I'm thrilled with how well this conversion is graphically, despite the minor issue of seeing the ball in darkness. I like 'em even more than the 64 bit visuals!

audio

Mario Tennis has got some cute and bubbly, if not typical, background music for the RPG portions of the game. When in the actual tennis mode, the music is fast paced, reminiscent of the glory days of arcade gaming. The tempo is cranked up a few more notches when someone is one point away from winning a game. Overall, you'll be very pleased with the variety and quality of music in Mario Tennis.

The sound effects in Mario Tennis aren't anything to write home about, but they won't disappoint you. They don't completely float my boat, but the killer music is enough to make me crank up the sound nonetheless.

gameplay

The first thing you should know about the gameplay in Mario Tennis is that the whole "RPG" thing isn't completely correct. True, you do walk around in an overhead perspective for a good portion of the game, but there is nothing in this mode that couldn't have been accomplished with a series of menus. When I kept reading "RPG" in the same sentence as "Mario Tennis," I was salivating at the possibilities. I thought maybe you could go on adventures to find faster shoes or gold racket strings. I still press the A button behind every tree, just in case someone put an Easter egg there for anal RPG players like me to find. Alas, it's just not to be. The only way this game is an RPG is in that you develop a character and decide where to put your experience points (for his traits). To me, that's the definition of a kickass sports game, not an RPG. But enough with that.

Mario Tennis has three main modes: Exhibition, Mario Mini-Games, and Mario Tour. They're all worth their weight in gold.

In Exhibition Mode, you can only play against Luigi, Baby Mario, and Donkey Kong, initially. You can unlock additional characters in Mario Tour mode, including a ton of tennis players unique to this game. After choosing your character(s) and opponent(s), and the number of sets and games, you're off to the races. If you use your character from Mario Tour, you can gain a few experience points while you're at it. Very nice touch - this actually makes the exhibition mode worth pulling off by itself.

Next up is Mario Mini-Games. These are basically little distraction games to give you a break from regular tennis, and allow you to earn some new courts and high scores in the process. When you first start playing, you can only play games with Donkey Kong (bounce ball off banana tiles on the wall), Baby Mario (hit the targeted area on the court with the required shot), and Luigi (hit the stars for exponentially larger points). After beating 3 levels in each game, a new court is made available. If you're a Transfer Pak owner, you'll find you have more games available to you as well, but I'll get into that can of whoopass later.

The meat of the game comes in Mario Tour. Here, you choose a character (male or female) and are assigned a partner that you can name. From here, it's all about climbing the ranks at the Tennis Academy, developing you and your character as you go. From the Junior Class, you move on to the Senior Class, and eventually the Varsity Team where you compete in the Island Open, where a familiar plumber might just stop by to wipe the floor with you. To move up the rankings, you must face an endless stream of opponents in long, challenging matches made up of 2 sets (first to 6 games wins a set). Each opponent is different from the last in terms of style, look, and general talent. Some of the earlier opponents can be smacked around without ever having a point scored against you.

Mario Tennis is different than a lot of other sports games in that you can mould your character as you wish to create a character that most matches your style. Experience points are mainly earned by beating tough opponents, but you can also earn them for simple things like beating a highscore in the Training Center, or hitting some targets in the practice court. Earn enough points to move your character up a level, you're giving a point to add to one of four categories (power, speed, spin, and control) to determine your character's traits. I find it best to concentrate on one or two categories while ignoring the other two. If you should ignore a category, you run the risk of your stats dropping in that category, but it's easier than trying to perfectly balance all the categories to get a well-rounded player. It's impossible not to have a weak point in this game, which adds a definite strategy element.

To help you develop you further develop your style, you can change your equipment at the Training Center. A larger, heavier racket may allow for easier smashes, but it might also slow you down. Is it worth the risk? It's all up to you. There's also training equipment (the iron shoes and racket) that will drop all your stats, but increase your experience points by 50% when you earn them.

The fun doesn't end at the singles court. In Mario Tour mode, you also have to build up a partner that will play with you in Doubles Mode (follows the exact same pattern as Singles Mode, but there's less work for you). Whether you're playing a singles or doubles match, you can choose to give some of your value experience points to your partner. If you choose to waste your points this way, more power to you. I'll stick to boosting my own character and picking up my partners slack. It's all up to you.

The Transfer Pak is ignored by a lot of developers. Luckily, Camelot is better than a lot of developers! The Transfer Pak can be used to send you main character and partner to the N64 version of Mario Tennis, and you can transfer Yoshi, Wario, Waluigi, and Bowser to your GBC and play their minigames. There might be other options available with the wonderful Pak, but I'm waiting to buy one used ($40 CDN is too much for a new one, in my opinion). Those are the most widely publicized cheats that can be used, but chances are more are out there that I haven't heard about. Either way, I'm not buying a new Transfer Pak when there's two new Zelda games coming down the pipe soon (nevermind GBA!).

If the sheer number of features in this title hasn't made you jump out of your chair and buy this game, let me reassure you that everything is executed with the impeccable precision and unmatched fun you've come to expect from Nintendo. There's enough replay value in here to keep you busy for months on end. Forget the GBA -- you need this game now.

multiplayer

About the only thing missing from this game is four-player partner gaming (maybe because there's no four player GBC link adapter?). There is however, a two-player mode that allows you to try out your built-up characters against those of your friend. Great replay value, no?

overall

Camelot's tour de force de tennis is the best GB game of all time. In my eyes, it beats Zelda, Metal Gear Solid, and any other game that you can think of. This is as close to the perfect game as anyone has come on our 8-bit buddy. Don't buy a copy of this game -- buy 50 copies of this game. Amazing!

final score 10/10





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Staff Avatar Ty Kris
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"Boomer? But, but, my name's Boomer!"


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