Here’s how a typical Mario Tennis Open match proceeds: For the most part, it’s standard tennis whether you play a singles or doubles match. Each round is best of three, with the goal being to win two matches. In early levels of the singles and doubles tournaments, it’s usually enough to just win the two games, but as time goes on you’ll have to win four, six or even more like eight games to prove your character is the best. As in all tennis games, the ball is hit back and forth across the court, with players hoping to get the ball past his or her opponent.
Where Mario Tennis Open differs is that it offers specially-enhanced chance shots. As a match goes on, a colored circle with a power-up symbol inside may appear on the court. Running to that spot and tapping the appropriate face button, or on screen button, will make your character unleash an uber assault on your opponent that, more times and not, will definitely make it past their defenses.
Each chance shot is tied to a different kind of tennis shot. So, if you see the purple star on the court, you can tap the purple Flat Shot button on your touch screen or tap the Y button. I highly recommend memorizing which buttons relate to which colors, as it’ll help in later singles tournament matches. If you’re playing any doubles tournament or in the Mushroom or Flower Cup single player tournaments, you can easily win by playing with the touch screen.
This brings us to the tournaments themselves. They’re what Mario Tennis Open players get instead of an RPG or story mode. Unfortunately, while the tournaments aren’t bad, they just don’t have the same personality that the story modes in prior Mario Tennis games had, and they tend to drag on after the first few tournament games. After your third one, you start having to win about six matches against your opponent to move up the brackets, and sometimes have to play even more. It isn’t even all that challenging. The later matches almost felt like everything was left up to chance, based on which side would get the better chance shot option first.
Another first for the Mario Tennis series is Mario Tennis Open‘s Dynamic View, which I’m proud to say I used for two whole matches. I will admit it’s a rather cool feature. You hold the 3DS upright and the system’s motion sensors will let you aim the ball. In this case, all you have to do is pretty much hold the system up and press A, B, X or Y. You don’t have to move your player, he or she will run to the ball automatically. You don’t even have to really turn if you don’t want to, as the aforementioned chance shots will likely zoom past opponents with little effort. It’s the effortless version of the game. You’d think it’d be the perfect way to enjoy a new viewpoint with 3D effects, but alas that isn’t even an option. The 3D turns off the second you lift the 3DS up for Dynamic View, which is the one point where I think it’d be super effective.
While the single player tournaments and matches weren’t really my favorite part of the Mario Tennis Open, the Special Games and multiplayer were. Granted, the multiplayer matches proceed in the same manner as the standard, single player matches, but they just felt more exciting and challenging when a real person was playing on the other end. It meant the Chance Shots weren’t always a sure win! All the options worked really well too, and I didn’t experience a single hiccup when playing over Wi-Fi or with a friend using the single cart local multiplayer. Even the StreetPass multiplayer, which lets you play with an AI controlled version of someone else’s character that was passed in a match or Ring Shot, was more fun than usual.
However, it was Mario Tennis Open‘s Special Games that really stole my heart. Super Mario Tennis, in particular, is my darling. In that game, your player is hitting the tennis ball up against a wall with a screen showing a Super Mario level. The level auto-scrolls and your goal is to keep hitting the ball against the wall, reaching the flag at the end. The ball can be used to hit blocks for power-ups, enemies for coins, coins for, well, coins and pipes to travel to a different area. It’s really quite cool and I admit spending most of my time playing and replaying the levels I’d unlock at different difficulty levels. Superstar is another new mini-game and it involves hitting a tennis ball to a Luma on the other side of the court. The catch is, the other side is divided into four panels and when the ball bounces on one, the panel temporarily disappears. You have to keep volleying it back and forth X amount of times without having it drop into the abyss.
The two other Special Games will be recognizable to anyone who’s played Mario Tennis before. One is Ring Shot, which remains unchanged. Three rings appear on the court and you have to hit the tennis ball back and forth to the computer controlled player, getting the ball through the rings to earn a certain amount of points before time runs out. It may not be especially thrilling, but it’s a great way to earn coins for unlockable Mii accessories in the Pro Shop. The other game is my least favorite—Ink Showdown. It’s a more annoying version of the original Mario Tennis‘ Piranha Showdown. In the original mini-game, the piranha plants spat tennis balls at your character that needed to be hit past your opponent. Ink showdown gives the piranha plants ink balls to spit, which black out your screen if you miss them. For some reason, I found the ink balls easier to miss than the regular balls in the original Piranha Showdown, which frustrated me to no end.
The point to persevering through all of these matches, tournaments and mini-games is the hope you’ll unlock stuff. Miis can get clothing, rackets and outfits to wear. You get access to them by completing matches, and earn coins from primarily the Special Games to buy them. Each item of clothing and equipment has certain stats attributed to it, which can eventually make your Mii the strongest and most versatile character in the game.
I guess whether or not you’re going to enjoy Mario Tennis Open comes down to how you intend to play it. If you like to breeze through games, finishing every tournament as quickly as possible, you’re going to burn-out and hate it. Mario Tennis Open is designed to be played in quick spurts. In fact, I tended to enjoy it more when I played in 20 or 30 minute sessions over the course of a few days, mixing things up along the way so I wasn’t playing in tournament after tournament or focusing on mini-games. As long as you have friends nearby or online who are willing to play with you and take your time with it, you’ll find Mario Tennis Open a great way to kill time this summer.
Food for Thought
1. There’s no nice community option like there is in Mario Kart 7, which is a bit of a bummer.
2. There are 17 available characters, four of which have to be unlocked. The bonus characters can be unlocked by playing one of the four special games.
3. There is a free-play Exhibition mode, where you can set up a single match.
4. Tournaments are best for unlocking new items in the Pro Shop, while the solo mini-games are your primary source of coins for buying these Mii accessories.
5. There isn’t a menu option for unlocking QR codes. You have to hold up on the D-pad at the save file select screen, then press start. Then you can take a picture of a code to unlock extra Mii items.