Review: Nintendo serves up another Ace
Mario Power Tennis has a total of ten different courts that you can play on, two of which you must unlock. Three of the courts are standard courts that are enjoyable because of their simplicity. However, the remaining courts are gimmick courts, which means that all of them have something that makes them harder to play on than normal courts. For example, the DK Jungle court has alligators crawling around. If you walk onto on, it attaches to you and slows you down. However, you can hit them when they are on the net to send them to your opponent's side of the net. The Luigi's Mansion court has ghost than obstruct you, and you must hit the ball on certain spots of the court to turn on the lights and make them leave your side. What's interesting is that most courts resembles levels from a game, such as the Luigi's Mansion court, Delfino Plaza court (Super Mario Sunshine) and Wario's Factory court.
Mario Power Tennis has quite a few modes of play. As always, there is the option to play an Exhibition match. In Exhibition, you have the option of playing a single one-on-one or doubles match. You pick your characters, the number of sets, the court and head out for match. If you are playing against the computer, there are four difficulty settings to choose from. Besides standard tennis matches, you can even opt to play in Ring Shot or Item Battle mode. Item Battle is the most exciting of the lot, as you hit boxes throughout the match to acquire items and then use them on your opponent. All of the weapons from the Mario Kart series, such as the banana, red shells and lightning bolt make a return. For example, shells knock your opponent back, lightning bolts make them shorter, which reduces their power and make it harder to get to the ball.
However, if you have a little more time on your hands you should head over to the Tournament Mode. This is where the bulk of the single-player hours lie. In Tournament mode, you basically choose a character and then you choose whether you wish to play the World Open or Gimmick Masters (gimmick courts only). After that you simply select a cup that you wish to contend for, and the tennis action begins. You generally have to beat three opponents to win the cup. The first cups are very easy to win, as the opponents are incredibly bad. However, soon enough the difficulty ramps up and the competition becomes intense. By winning cups, you obtain trophies, unlock new characters, new cups, new courts and new mini-games.
Speaking of mini-games, they are definitely a welcome addition to the Mario Tennis series. There are slightly over half of a dozen mini-games (some of which must be unlocked). They are very fun at first and extend the replay value, although they can become boring after a while. Difficulty-wise, they are a lot harder than they appear to be at first. One of the games is Artist on the Court, where you have to paint a picture on a brick wall by hitting different-colored paint balls at it. The fact that there is a time limit and you have to get the colors correctly makes this quite a challenge. Another game that I enjoy is Tic-Tac-Glow, where you try to line up your shots and get the most points. Some of the games are intended for multi-player as well.
In all honesty, this truly is a game that is meant for multi-player action. The single-player tournaments and mini-games will last you for a while, but sooner or later you will grow tired of it because either it becomes too repetitive or the computer AI becomes too easy for you. This is where you realize that if you had a few friends over, it would continue to be a blast. This is a game just like Mario Kart, where the multi-player action makes this a very exciting game. Your friends are far less predictable and offer better competition. This leads me to the conclusion that this game is only really worth it if you have friends over all the time. If you are a loner, renting the game is the best option. If only the GameCube had online play, then this would be simply amazing.
Graphically, Mario Power Tennis is a very bright, colorful and cheery game. The character models and animations are all terrific. Throughout the few cut-scenes that are shown in game and during all of the instant replays, the character close-ups are as sharp as ever. There are no jagged edges and this gives the game a feeling of freshness. The courts and power shots are very appealing graphically because of the nice effects that they show off.
The audio in Mario Power Tennis is also good is comparison with other Mario games. There isn't much dialogue at all, although the grunts and remarks that all of the characters exert are extremely welcome. A little more dialogue would have been welcome, but it's good enough. The background music is your standard affair ? with plenty of simple tunes that reflect the cheery mood of the game. The sound effects are nothing special, yet you can't complain about them either.