New Play Control! Mario Power TennisESRB:
Platform: Nintendo Wii
Wii Remote Compatible
Nintendo seems really focused on giving their target base, the casual gamer, a chance to experience a lot of what they have been, and what they currently are. In terms of what they have been, they are re-releasing older games onto the Wii that were previously on the GameCube. In terms of what they currently are, they are adding Wii centric controls to these older games. I had the chance to take one such game for a spin. Aptly titled New Play Control! Mario Power Tennis, the original GameCube version definitely has a solid following and it makes sense to bring the game to the Wii. After spending some time checking out the new play control, I would have to say that I am somewhat disappointed that by the end result of mixing old and new.
Visually, New Play Control! Mario Power Tennis looks pretty good, just don’t expect any major improvements from the previous GameCube version. There is no doubt that it is a colorful game, but this should almost be a given as this is a Mario game set in the Mario universe, any less would have been a crime. The traditional look is there with many familiar locales and special effects that make Mario titled games their own. The game runs at a solid clip with no technical issues to take away from the experience. On a plus note, the game is in 16:9 this time around, so those with 16:9 displays should be happy. And of course, for those who played the GameCube version, the very long and very good looking CG intro is once again included in the Wii version. I have to make sure that anyone who buys this game does not skip over it as it is that good. Overall the game looks pretty much the way it did on the GameCube, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing; it is just that a true sequel could look so much better.
Does the term “typical Nintendo” ring a bell here? In a nutshell that is what Mario Power Tennis on the Wii is. From the very Marioesque music, the recognizable voices, to the sound of the various power ups on the court, everything sounds as it should given the source material of the game. If there is any disappointment here, as it was in the GameCube version, there could have been more voice work from each character. All in all fans of Mario Sports games should be happy with the sound, just don’t expect any big jump over the GameCube version.
When Mario Power Tennis was originally released on the GameCube it provided some arcade like tennis action with some strategic elements thrown in. All of this took place in the Mario Universe as well so the well known characters, locales, and some neat Mario twists to tennis were present and accounted for. Well all of this content still stands given that this is pretty much a direct port of the original game with new Wii centric controls.
Gameplay wise there are a few different modes to play in Mario Power Tennis. Exhibition mode allows for one to four players to play in a versus mode. Depending on the court you choose you can play standard tennis or something a little more unusual and Mario themed. A standard court lets you play standard tennis. Ring Shot courts have you scoring points by hitting the ball through rings that appear around the court, the smaller the ring the higher the points. To win a Ring Shot game you must collect half of your opponents ring points and reach a set number of points. Item Battle is a tennis game where you can use special items that appear on the court. These items are well known Mario items such as red and green shells, mushrooms, and stars to name a few. Exhibition mode has quite a few characters and courts available to play right off the get-go too.
There is also your traditional Tournament mode in Mario Power Tennis. As you’d expect, here you pit your skills against other players in a tournament and aim for a championship in this one-player mode. There are different cups for you to win (e.g. lighting and fire) and each tournament allows for different skill levels and different courts to be experienced. As you win a tournament you open up new tournaments to play later on. This is where you will find yourself, as I did, playing the majority of the game.
Finally there are mini-games for you to play. Mario Power Tennis’ game manual calls these special games. These are tennis-themed games you and up to three others can play. You can set the difficulty level as well as time limit when playing multiplayer. These games are very unique and still carry the same Mario charm they had in the GameCube version. You will find yourself coin collecting, painting with tennis balls, hitting return shots into specific areas on the other side of the court, in a boss battle with mecha-bowser, and even rallying with Glooper Blooper. Bottomline, the mini-games will keep your attention for awhile and they are a very nice diversion from the regular tennis fare offered.
One of the best features of the GameCube version of Mario Power Tennis was the control. Using the GameCube controller you could pull of some pretty amazing shots. Although the game was arcadish in nature, there was some strategy involved in terms of what shots you may attempt. From lob or drop shots to figuring out when to use specific Power Shots (offensive and defensive) it was a pretty engaging experience to say the least as you would skilfully make some fantastic shots. Unfortunately the new play control does not make for such an engaging experience.
There is no doubt that the Wii’s capabilities are being utilized for this game. You can employ the use of the Wii Remote only, or you can use the Wii Remote and Nunchuk at the same time. You can tell that Nintendo was aiming at the casual audience in terms of the control features of this game. You can control your character with the Nunchuk and use the Wii Remote to make your shots. There is the option to have the computer AI control your character, but where is the fun in that. As well, you can set both your power shots, as well as for those times when your character lunges/dives for those “almost out of reach” shots, to be done automatically.
The main addition to the control scheme is the Wii Remote motion control for shots. Although great in theory, the execution of such is where I was let down. To pull off various types of shots, you have to do some pretty strange feeling movements. For example, a lob has you move the Wii Remote from down to up, while a drop shot is up to down. Seems simple but in actuality it is not as easy as it seems or as intuitive as could be. And given that you might be controlling your on-screen character it can get pretty crazy indeed. All the shots, including topspin, slice, flat shot, smash, lob and drop shot are not only dependent on your movement, but the trajectory of the ball too. I found that controlling my shots just didn’t feel as instinctive or as natural as they could have. I also found that the game itself didn’t read my movements as accurately as I hoped and that some of my shots didn’t even register. This could be frustrating to say the least.
It is truly hard to ignore the inconsistent control issues. I know that Nintendo wants to flaunt their now well known motion sensing capabilities of the Wii, but if they want to really show it off they need to make right. Having the game not register, and having the moves feel somewhat strange, makes for a game that doesn’t feel as good as it did when released on the GameCube. That being said though, with the ability to put a lot of things on “Auto”, casual gamers will still most likely enjoy the experience.
As for the rest of the game, everything is still there from collecting trophies to opening new characters. The game has some legs, given the nature of unlocking stuff, and the multiplayer component. The latter can be fun, especially with a group of friends swinging wildly away; it is just that the nagging control issues do get in the way more often then not.
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