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Mario Tennis Open review

Is this love at first sight or is Mario all outta deuce?

Mario Tennis seems to expand and contract with every passing game in the series. In one iteration it'll throw in special items and strange RPG elements, in the next it'll shave it all off again in favour of the fundamentals. Mario Tennis Open is one of the pared-down entries in the series, eschewing much of the weirdness of the last couple of games and focusing on the basics: smashing a tennis ball into Yoshi's stupid face as hard as you possibly can. Now in 3D.

As per ancient traditions, the Mario sports games have very little to do with realism. They're children's drawings of sports, with the chunky and colourful cast of the Mario universe rollicking around rainbow coloured pitches, fields and velodromes, kicking, putting, slapping, rolling and slicing all kinds of balls in a manner that only vaguely ascribes to a given sport's rules. It's a lot like when a PE teacher insists that sport isn't about winning but about having fun, when in truth it really is all about winning. Not just winning either, but humiliating anybody who dared enter into competition with you. Underneath Mario Tennis Open's friendly let's-have-fun veneer is an intense tennis game that will have you gritting your teeth in concentration, whimpering with frustration, yelping in triumph, squealing with delight and howling in defeat.

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However, your introduction to Mario Tennis Open is not an entirely pleasant one, as it attempts to coerce you into using some of the game's brand new, hardware-specific features. For a start, the game will automatically switch to an over-the-shoulder viewpoint if the 3DS is held upright, enabling you to aim using gyroscope controls - that is, turning the handheld to the left and right like a mad person.

Slipping into this mode disables the 3D effect and removes the burden of having to move your character around the court. You can manually control your player's movement in this mode, but lift your thumb off the Circle Pad and your player will automatically move into the correct position to return the ball. The game pretty much starts playing itself.

Automatic Stop

Slightly more useful are the touchscreen controls. As you play, areas of the court will glow a certain colour. Move to that highlighted spot (they only appear anywhere the ball is headed) and, by using the special shot that corresponds to that colour, you'll unleash a powerful Chance Shot. Say, for instance, a glowing blue circle appears on your baseline. You would move into this circle, press B to charge a slice shot and, once the ball arrives, your character will launch a dramatically curved shot back into their opponent's court.Rather than press the corresponding face button, however, you can instead touch the corresponding coloured panel on the touchscreen, which flashes helpfully whenever a Chance Shot appears on the court.

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This is useful for new players, though once you've had enough practice you'll build the required muscle memory to know which colours match up with which face buttons. Interestingly, if you play using the flashing touchscreen and the gyroscope controls, you can - and this is something we tested rigorously for this review - win a match without having to look at the top screen at all.

There's a certain degree of unwelcome hand-holding going on in Mario Tennis Open, and if you're even vaguely familiar with videogames you'll doubtless breeze through the first few championships without losing a single match.

Still, switch off these stabilisers and rise through the ranks of the Novice and Intermediate AI opponents and the classic Mario Tennis appeal begins to shine through. Mario Tennis Open stars a line up of 12 Mario characters, from Mario to Bowser, Diddy to Donkey and Peach to Daisy, with more unlocked as you play. Nine courts host eight singles and doubles tournaments of increasing difficulty, each with their own surfaces and characteristics to contend with and exploit.

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26 comments so far...
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  1. AaronMclaren Thursday 17th May 2012 at 11:28

    Whilst I prefer the standard tennis gameplay (don't get me wrong, I loved Power Tennis on the Gamecube even if the power shots did become annoying in the harder championships!) I think they still should've been included in this, but with the option to turn them off. Looking forward to this next week though!

  2. MarvelFan Thursday 17th May 2012 at 11:43

    Pre-ordering this tomorrow! Cannot wait for this to arrive.

  3. theJelly Thursday 17th May 2012 at 12:02

    So can you play it with just the regular controls from Power Tennis? And do you lose the 3D in this?

  4. lminett Thursday 17th May 2012 at 12:03

    Ill be getting this, i like the mario tennis games

  5. lifetimegamer Thursday 17th May 2012 at 12:13

    Thanks for the review :) Was planning on getting this but it sounds like I may as well stick with my GameCube version.

  6. OrangeRakoon Thursday 17th May 2012 at 12:49

    If you play online, can you choose to only play against people using the same control scheme?

    I can imagine using control stick/facebuttons would be annoying if your opponent is moving automatically to the ball and just tapping the screen for their shots.

  7. GloverMist Thursday 17th May 2012 at 15:26 added to my ever-increasing list of games I want/need! Looks brilliant!

  8. vtheyoshi Thursday 17th May 2012 at 16:18

    I'M GOING TO KILL YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!! HOW DARE YOU INSULT THE AMAZING AWESOME MASTER YOSHI!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I'LL KILL YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Gripe over, this game looks quite good.

  9. Argenthor Thursday 17th May 2012 at 16:26

    If you play online, can you choose to only play against people using the same control scheme?

    I can imagine using control stick/facebuttons would be annoying if your opponent is moving automatically to the ball and just tapping the screen for their shots.

    There is no way of selecting what control scheme you play against online, which could be annoying for pros. Even street fighter had that!

  10. Spaciouz Thursday 17th May 2012 at 16:35

    Looks good, but I don't think Tennis will ever get as big as Kart did or has.

  11. Diddy ZX Friday 18th May 2012 at 02:25

    I'm going to pick this up, I think. I've never played any of the previous Mario Tennis titles, and the absence of things like RPG elements is a big plus for me.

  12. wolfy252 Friday 18th May 2012 at 16:24

    sounds awsome XD

  13. Commandervideo Friday 18th May 2012 at 19:14

    I really like the look of the chance shots, seem way better than special moves
    Scanning QR codes to unlock chracters sounds mad, plenty of them too

  14. Xenobladeperson Saturday 19th May 2012 at 11:25

    Looks good, but I don't think Tennis will ever get as big as Kart did or has.

    What if a new law comes out, which bans kart racing...

    The game looks good, but I'm saving up for Wii U

  15. cubazoid Monday 21st May 2012 at 19:43

    Wow i only just got that title joke (love at first sight??). Anyway, this looks promising, even though I read the mag and I knew what it got anyway... :P

  16. Link9427 Tuesday 22nd May 2012 at 08:06

    Well I think I might pre-order this. :3

  17. sciqueen Wednesday 23rd May 2012 at 23:35

    From reading many reviews, I've heard that the game doesn't have that spark the originals have so I'm going to give it a miss.

  18. NintyHippo Thursday 24th May 2012 at 16:02

    I'm getting this.

  19. Diddy ZX Saturday 26th May 2012 at 17:36

    I grabbed it whilst on holiday, and nabbed HMV's pre-order bonus (a tennis ball-shaped stress-ball bearing the game's logo) along with it.

    I'm really enjoying it - it's always great when trying something new works out well! :D

  20. NintyHippo Saturday 26th May 2012 at 17:39

    This game is very good. :D

  21. jonnyjazz Tuesday 12th Jun 2012 at 00:59

    Got this on release and it seems to be very similar to Mario Kart 7, where the emphasis is on multiplayer and the single player is very bare bones. The gameplay is as good as it ever was, but I don't think there is enough content to buy it just for single player. Still the multiplayer is excellent and the graphics are probably the smoothest I've seen on 3DS.

  22. Gamer 1 Thursday 2nd Aug 2012 at 12:52

    For me only gyro controls ruin this game but if you turn the gyro controls off great game but is it me if you have the gyro controls on its harder to deal with lobs

  23. Wacko212 Friday 24th Aug 2012 at 08:46

    Loved Mario Tennis Open so im gonna well get this game

  24. Wacko212 Friday 24th Aug 2012 at 08:48

    So can you play it with just the regular controls from Power Tennis? And do you lose the 3D in this?

    What do u think its a 3ds and not a wii

  25. chojin Thursday 30th Aug 2012 at 12:39

    Picked this up today. Game plays well, just looking for the Yoshi QR codes, I've grabbed a few but a lot give me incompatible code message

  26. SM3DL2 Thursday 8th Nov 2012 at 23:01

    I'm stuck on Flower Cup. Can't defeat Bowser and Boo :evil:

    Unlocked Metal Mario AND all the Yoshi's! :D

    ONM complain it's too like the other one's, but the others were a huge success, so why risk changing the formula? :?

    It's like NSMB2. The plot's been the same for over 25 years, but I'm not concerned, as long as there new levels.

    P.S. Yoshi has a lovely face (read the first couple of sentences in the review) :D :D :D

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