What if Mario were a real person? With his prolific resume and schedule, he'd be busier than Samuel L. Jackson and Ryan Seacrest put together. Mario Hoops 3-on-3 is his first official role as a basketball player - his cameo in the GameCube version of NBA Street 3 notwithstanding. After playing the game, maybe putting a short, pudgy white dude on a basketball court - even if it is Mario - wasn't the best idea Nintendo ever came up with.
We've come to expect some wild concepts out of new DS titles, especially those out of the Nintendo camp. Mario Hoops doesn't disappoint, using the stylus and touch screen in ways that few could imagine for a sports game. Where it does let us down is in execution. The bulk of your moves require some degree of swiping with the stylus. Many of them are cumbersome, and will confuse either you or the game. Or both.
Passes are often mistaken for shots, which is just as well, since the computer doesn't bother to cut to the hoop. There's a reason nobody has done this type of control in a basketball game before: it doesn't work well. Worse still, the stylus combined with using the d-pad for movement results in cramping that will make your left thumb attempt to murder you in your sleep.
The control woes are a shame, as Mario Hoops does offer a fresh take on basketball. Point values go up depending on how many coins you've collected before sinking a basket. Mario Kart-style weapons allow you to snatch possession away from your opponents, and unique courts have their share of exclusive pitfalls. Basketball purists will take to these changes like Detroit Pistons fans to an on-court skirmish, but it really does make the game more Mario.
The goodies you get for winning (characters, outfits, new balls) are welcome - proving once and for all it's not whether you win or lose, but how many unlockables you get that matters. Some form of statistics would've been nice, though. The cast features all the familiar Mushroom Kingdom denizens, along with a few Final Fantasy types (Square Enix developed it). Additionally, the graphics are extremely sharp, with detailed 3D characters and a variety of dunk animations.