Mario Hoops 3-on-3ESRB:
Platform: Nintendo DS , DSI
Developer – Square Enix Publisher - Nintendo Features Wireless Single-Card Download Play (2-4 Players) Wireless Multi-Card Play (2-4 Players) Mario is one of the most diverse sports characters I have ever seen grace the videogame world. From kart racing, baseball, tennis, golf, and even soccer, he seems to do it all. Well Nintendo has once again put Mario through his athletic paces as they have recently released Mario Hoops 3-on-3. The interesting thing about this most recent sports release is that it was developed by Square Enix, on of the most renowned RPG makers known to the console world. Graphics This is no doubt one great looking game. As one would expect with any Mario based game, especially on the DS lite’s new and improved screens, it is a bright and colorful title. Each level is, of course, based on the Mario world and each is rendered in wonderful 3D. And to top that off it runs at a rock solid framerate without a hiccup in sight. You will no doubt find yourself looking at each level (court) with a kind of awe as the question of “how did they do that so well” will continually come to mind. All the characters are well rendered and animate just the same. Look at Donkey Kong’s tie, it even moves around as he runs up and down the court. I also want to comment on the various levels in this game as do they look great. For example, during the first tournament challenge, the Mushroom Cup, Koopa Beach is one of the courts you will play on. I have to say that this level made me realize early on how much detail went into the development of this title. The court is along the beach and includes palm trees in very tropical setting. All during gameplay the water would come in and out over the court and you could run through it while playing. All though simple it is this level of detail that this game has all throughout. Overall I would have to say that this game ranks up in the higher echelons for graphics in a DS title. Sound If you have played any Mario Sports game then you have a general idea of what to expect. For those who haven’t played any of the various Mario Sports games on any previous console then you are in for a treat. Many of the musical sounds are recognizable as they come various Mario games and are remixed. There is also some music I didn’t recognize but it seemed to meld in with the rest of the music available. As for the rest of the sound I would have to say that I was somewhat impressed. Each level has environmental effects that add to each level. For example, in the aforementioned Koopa Beach level there was the sound of seagulls flying around the area as well as the sound of the water coming in and out. Each level has something unique to it. Each character has their repertoire of voice acting too. However these are quite limited and can become somewhat repetitive as you play the game for extended periods. As for the rest of the sound, from the ball bouncing on various courts to the sound of a rim shot, everything else rounds off a pretty good sound experience which sounds really come through well on the DS’s stereo speakers. Gameplay As with most Mario themed sports games the main goal is to go through the various tournaments and win all the cups available in the game. Of course these levels (courts) are based on the Mario universe and they add for some pretty interesting looking and playing games. As you go through the game you unlock various items including some pretty cool characters later on. I would love to tell you who they are, but as I don’t want to ruin the surprise I am not going to tell you who lies for unlocking later in the game. Let me just remind you that this game was developed by Square Enix, so expect some enjoyable treats. Most people who see this game on any videogame store shelve may think that this is just another Mario Sports game. This view is partially correct, however as the game is on the DS there is some great innovation in this title. Square Enix opted for the majority of the game control to be done via the DS’s touch screen. I was somewhat skeptical of this, however after some playtime with this hoops game I have to say my skepticism is gone. Control of the character is done using the D-pad or ABXY (for those lefties) while everything else from dribbling, shooting, passing and stealing the ball, is done using the stylus and touch screen. For example, to dribble the ball you tap the stylus on the screen while you make your way down court. The faster you tap the faster your character runs. There is a slight learning curve to this method but once you get accustomed to it you should have no problems running up and down the court with success. I think the only problem that anyone will encounter with this new type of control is pulling off any special moves as they have to be done in such a way that you have to tap out specific patterns, and not just simple touches of the screen. Although the word “hoops” is in the title of the game, this is by far not your typical basketball game. Just like regular basketball the main way to score is put the ball through the hoop, but in order to rack up major points you collect coins at various boxes on the court. The more coins you collect the higher score your basket will be worth. The first time I scored a 71 point basket made me chuckle as I knew this was not your typical basketball game. And of course as this is a Mario game there are your typical Mario special items from koopa shells to invincibility stars and all make for a crazy game of hoops. I give kudos to both Nintendo and Square Enix for making basketball the Mario way and I found that the Marioesque twist to basketball was kind of cool at the start, however the emphasis on coin collecting did take some of the fun out of the later stages of the game as it became a challenge of who could stand the longest on the coin squares and rack up the most coins. As one would expect with this type of game the earlier stages are relatively easy and the computer AI offers very little challenge. In many ways this was a plus as it allowed for time to learn and adjust to the new style of playing a b-ball game but you will find yourself racking up some really large scores on your end. Should you manage to push through these earlier cups you will eventually come across some tougher computer AI putting who will put all your newly found skills to the test. Of course no Mario Sports game would be complete without multiplayer. The game allows for some standard Mario Hoops play via exhibition mode and some mini-games such as Dribble Race and Coin Hunter. These two latter games can also be played via the download option of the DS. The exhibition mode can only be played with separate copies of Mario Hoops. Playing against another human being was quite enjoyable and anyone who buys this game would be best to have a friend who also has their own copy. Conclusion Square Enix has put forth on heck of an effort bringing the Mario Universe to life in a basketball game. Although the control is quite innovative the overall gameplay just manages to make it over that average mark. However the great sound and great graphics help make this a pretty good addition to any DS owner’s library.