Close This Open –
Known for being over-the-top with super powers, quirky characters, and interactive courts, the Mario Tennis series has always been about colorful and wired gameplay. Mario Tennis Open, however, is a more straightforward tennis title that is loaded with needless grinding, lack of substance, and poor control schemes.
The premise behind this 3DS title is simple: each Nintendo character is available to play in tournament or exhibition tennis matches. There is no convoluted story or RPG setting here. Winning tournaments with each character will eventually unlock “star” status in which a higher skill set and more difficult challenges await.
Like other Mario Tennis titles, Open uses very awkward control schemes. All-in-all, there are 6 shot types to choose from: simple, topspin, flat, slice, drop, and lob. Each shot can be performed with the face buttons or by tapping the corresponding shot icon on the touch screen. However, the button layout on both the 3DS hardware and the touch screen is not intuitive whatsoever. On the touch screen, each type of shot is laid out in a diamond pattern with topspin at the top, slice at the bottom, and flat and simple on the left and right side with lop and drop tucked away on the left. The face buttons, on the other hand, have no relation to the layout of the touch screen. Topspin, for example, is mapped to the A button while lop and drop use a combination of buttons instead of being mapped to the unused shoulder buttons. Further, using the touch screen means the player needs to take his or her eye off the ball on the top screen in order to tap the desired shot on the bottom touch screen. Even after playing many matches, the controls never became reliable. And why is there still no option to turn off the dumb instant replay after every point!?
Making the stubborn control scheme even more uncooperative are the gyro controls. By default, holding the 3DS in a vertical position initiates gyro controls in which the game basically plays itself with the player only controlling the direction of each shot by tilting the hardware left or right. Holding the system downwards releases the gyro over-the-shoulder view and control scheme back to an overhead perspective with circle-pad movement. This system is disorienting at best and limits how the player can play the game. I wanted to play this game lying down on my sofa but was forced to sit up and play thanks to these annoying control options. Using gyro controls also automatically shuts off the 3D effect and actually moves the character to the best possible position making this game even easier.
The difficulty is a joke. Most matches can be won without losing a single point no matter which character is used. Chance shots have replaced the unbalanced Power Shots of previous Mario Tennis titles. Colored circles randomly appear on the court that correspond to a specific type of shot: red for topspin, yellow for lob, or a gray color for a dropshot, for example. Hitting a corresponding shot will result in a return that can stagger your opponent and essentially acts as an instant win button. Opponents rarely return one of these easily executed shots making most matches a pushover.
Both the single and doubles tournaments can be played via single-player. Doubles matches are rather vexing as computer controlled teammates will randomly decide when to hit the ball, if at all. The single-player campaign is lame and unfulfilling, forcing players to mindlessly complete one dull matcher after another. The payout is not justified by trying to tediously unlock new characters or articles of clothing that barely enhance gameplay. Mario Tennis Open is a worthless grindfest that feels like homework.
The only saving grace is the online multiplayer if you can find a few friends that own a copy of the game. Local download play is also available which is a welcomed featured but online matches against randoms are restricted to limited rule sets. There is also a Streetpass option that pits Mii characters against each other but isn’t anything to get excited about. There are also four minigames that provide nothing more than a few minutes of distraction. The Super Mario Bros. minigame is really the one and only minigame that hasn’t been done before in a Mario Tennis title. Here, the player plays through slightly altered levels of the original NES title with the ball acting like Mario himself. Hitting the ball against bricks will smash them to bits when sporting a mushroom power-up, coins can be collected to increase the stage timer, hit a pipe with a well-placed shot to go down it, and enemies can be squished when the ball makes contact. It is a new way to play this classic game and is the standout feature of this Mario Tennis title. Too bad it is also frustrating just like the rest of the gameplay. The last stage in particular is wearisome as the player must guess the way through a pipe maze.
Even though there are a million things to unlock, there is little incentive when everything requires monotonous hours of grinding. It is nice to the see the developers try and take advantage of the system’s hardware capabilities but each of the game’s control methods never feel truly instinctual. If you have a few friends that are dedicated enough to play a few matched over WiFi, then Mario Tennis Open will provide a couple hours of entertainment. Unfortunately, the entire experience doesn’t contain any staying power or sense of accomplishment.
Not As Good As: Mario Tennis on Gameboy Color
Also Try: Tennis, the original old school classic GB title available now on 3DS Virtual Console
Wait For It: Mario Golf 3DS
By: Zachary Gasiorowski, Editor in Chief myGamer.com