Mario Power Tennis
Power? For the uninitiated the term inserted, rather clumsily, into the title refers to Camelot’s new gimmick for the 128 bit generation. Power shots.
Exchange a few volleys with your opponent and a strange phenomena occurs. The head of your racquet bursts into glowing life and, at the tap of a button, a cut-scene is unleashed. Your chosen character then summons a hammer (or a banana or a love heart or a…) and smacks the ball triumphantly back over the net. Only this time with added ‘power’. A further move is also possible. Ball too far away and heading for a second bounce? Strap on a rocket (or flood the court, or fly or…) and the point has been saved.
The very idea sounds horrible. Yet somehow in practice, it isn’t. Somehow the power shots work. Survive the initial disgust that a gyrating chimp has just smacked a seemingly unreachable ball past you, and a world of possibilities is opened up. Put simply, the power shot idea gives rise to a number of new tactics and strategies, gifting the traditional tennis game an extra dimension. And these new possibilities are exposed at their brilliant best when in multiplayer.
Ah, the multiplayer. As with its illustrious N64 forefather, Mario Power Tennis simply excels when played in the company of friends. This is just as well, given the relative limpness of the single player action.
Firstly, the initial mini-games hardly inspire confidence. When contrasted with the excellent extras provided by the original Virtua Tennis, the offerings included in Mario Power Tennis are distinctly unimpressive.
Meanwhile, the ‘sounded good on paper’ Gimmick Courts are horrible. Irritating and obtrusive, once the novelty has worn thin, there will be few returns.
This leaves the Tournament mode. Certainly, its good enough, but the games cruel insistence on winning every cup with every character to simply gain each mascots star variety is markedly unnecessary.
However, Mario Power Tennis is, distinctly, a multiplayer game. Leaving aside further niggles (using button combinations to simply lob or place a drop shot is a cumbersome hangover from the N64 days) the multiplayer truly excels. It is invariably riotous entertainment, especially with the full complement of four players.
A thrilling rally, complete with lobs misplaced, strong drives landing barely on the line, irretrievable winners somehow dragged back into play by a last gasp power shot. This is what Mario Power Tennis is all about. Remember it for that.