“It’s a hot day on the court folks, and who would have thunk it? We’re through to the final two and we have an Italian plumber on court!"
"Shying away from more traditional tennis garb, he has opted instead for a practical blue overalls-style ensemble. The real buzz though, is around his charming opponent – and crowd favourite, Princess Peach. Yes, mixed singles is now the game and anything goes when it comes to Mario Power Tennis!”
The premise of the game is to take the cutesy heroes and villains of the Mushroom kingdom, throw them onto centre court and let them battle it out with racket and ball. It obviously made sense at the time, when it was first released on the GameCube (it was a time when eating certain mushrooms caused a lot of outlandish things to make sense), but these quirky characters on court are an indication that this is tennis… but not as you know it.
The gang’s all here: Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, Daisy, Shy Guy, Bowser, Donkey Kong, Wario, Yoshi, Diddy Kong, Koopa Troopa, Boo and Bowser Junior. Each character has its own special moves (both offensive and defensive). These creatively named gems include Fire Breath, Flower Bed Return, Sweet Kiss Return, and Barrel Cannon Blast, to name but a few. Despite your fantastic forward cross court return, Princess Peach blows kisses and the ball magical and frustratingly returns. It’s clear from the outset that this is less about tennis and more about when you can use your power moves to the best effect to score a point.
This would all be okay were it not for some inconsistent performance from the controls. Granted, using the Wii remote and nunchuck instead of standard ‘old school’ controller has breathed new life into this classic GameCube title, but we found the system to be frustratingly unresponsive at times. Close to the net play was very unforgiving, with the back of the court and the longer shots being the easiest to nail.
Rather than offering an opportunity for deft skill against a console controlled opponent, the controls instead place you at a disadvantage. It takes a long time to get the hang of them; factor in the annoying power moves of your opponents, and it can be an exercise in frustration for even the most avid tennis fan. It must be noted however, that our pre-teen play tester had very little trouble with the controls. Perhaps this is an indication of to whom Mario Power Tennis is best suited…
You can elect to play Exhibition, Tournament and special matches. Games such as Tic Tac Glow, Gooper Blooper Volley are a nice diversion but are something you will not see at Wimbledon. The various themed courts offer more of a realistic challenge, with each having different bounce and speed effects on the ball. This is a good change of pace, with some of the characters obviously faring better on one court as opposed to another.
As far as entertainment goes it is fun to play - and certainly the younger set seems to enjoy the different power moves and their accompanying onscreen graphics. The audio and visual experience is pretty much what you would expect from the Wii, and in the grand scheme of things we thought they rated quite well.
We can’t help but wonder whether we are witnessing the effects of the global economic downturn in the gaming industry, when we see the recent slew of old games repackaged and ported to a new platform. The original was firmly in the OK camp when it was on the GameCube, but in this incarnation seems tired. True, it is now sporting a new control system; however its novelty fails to really fire. Don’t get us wrong: Mario Power Tennis is still a fun game, but there are definitely better tennis titles about.