Mario Tennis Open - See how the minigames go to a whole new (but nostalgic) level this time
Mario and sports have shared a close connection for years, but it's been some time since a new Mario Tennis game hit the courts. Next month sees the release of the Mushroom Kingdom gang's return to tennis in the brand new 3DS title Mario Tennis Open. Fans of entries on the N64, GameCube, GBC and GBA should be happy to know that it's developed by Camelot, the team behind previous Mario Tennis awesomeness. But that doesn't mean everything is exactly the same.
Older handheld Mario Tennis titles had deep single player campaigns with RPG elements and richer-than-expected stories. This time around Nintendo is going a simpler root with this handheld release, aiming for an experience closer to console versions. But in our recent play time with the nearly finished game, we did get to see several interesting new modes that beef up the single player fun.
Play level 1-1 in a whole new way
A staple of tennis video games (and actual tennis) involves "playing" against the wall. Bouncing shots against the bricks and returning them for as long as you can have appeared previously in Mario Tennis, but none have been as inventive or nostalgic as this. The new "Super Mario Tennis" mode has you serving against the wall as classic Mario stages scroll by. As we started 1-1 we quickly learned to aim our shots at Goombas and question mark boxes, but it wasn't as easy as it seemed...
Same goes for level 1-2
Once we moved on to level 1-2, we noticed it wasn't all fun and games, as the timer was counting us down, with time about to run out before we reached the stage's end. We quickly learned that hitting the enemies on screen added seconds to the clock, while coins added to your overall cash collection (we'll have more on that later). After besting both levels, we're curious just how many classic Mario stages we'll see recreated in this clever new way.
Practice around the Galaxy
Galaxy Rally is another fun enhancement of classic tennis minigames, where you try to aim your shots to hit specific areas of the court. In Mario Tennis Open that minigame gets a Mario Galaxy twist as you collect star pieces and do your best to build full star like the one that transports Mario throughout space in Galaxy. Admittedly it plays about the same as the old minigame, but the Galaxy aesthetic really enhanced the flavor.
3D Land's Inky Piranha Plants invade the court
The last of the new minigames takes a page from Super Mario 3D Land. The ink-spitting Piranha Plants that first appeared in 3D Land spit tennis balls at you, but occasionally send out inky shots as well. Hit those and it obscures the whole screen for a few moments, just like in 3D Land. It's another instance of Camelot creating similarly exciting gameplay but embracing Mario's legacy more than ever.
Why play all these minigames?
Aside from being fun, what's the point of those minigames? They allow you to collect coins that you then can spend on different items at the in-game shop. Rackets, shoes, wristbands and more unlock, all of which you can use to outfit your Mii. Though we were initially disappointed that the Mario characters couldn't wear the new clothes, we do like the idea of making our Mii unique (especially for online matches).
RPG elements are back (for Miis)
The collecting of coins to buy items aren't the only RPG elements to bleed back into Mario Tennis, as each item has their own special buffs and powers to add to player. You even get extra bonuses if your Mii wears all the items from a collection, like Bowser or Waluigi lines. Though we still miss the RPG story, additions like this could easily extend our time with the single player. But will it be enough?
Mario Tennis Open is out in the US May 20, and bounces into UK stores May 25.