Mario Tennis - Retro Reflections - TBT

Mario Tennis by developer Capcom Co., Ltd. and publisher Capcom Entertainment, Inc.—GBC (Game Boy Color) Throwback Thursday review written by Hamza. 2001.  

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

On such a primitive handheld as the Game Boy Color, I did not expect such a fluid and wildly entertaining game as Mario Tennis. I say primitive because I’m looking at the handheld from a modern perspective. The consoles which we call superior today will too be primitive tomorrow, i.e: 15 years. Our descendents are going to be the death of us!

Coming back to the game, playing Mario Tennis was such an invigorating experience, given the titles I’d played on the handheld till that point: a rather well done third-person Perfect Dark, the superior RPG Daikatana, and a very weird port of Pong.

A third-person Perfect Dark, an RPG-Daikatana, and a very weird port of Pong; yes, Mario Tennis was indeed a fresh experience. Mario over the years has had more occupations than Kirk Gleason. And seeing that those said jobs have included being a doctor, a referee and a go-kart racer, it seemed only natural that Mario would pick up a racket and go one-on-one with either Donkey Kong or Luigi. But that’s the problem. In the GBC version that’s being reviewed here, it’s not Mario who appears, but instead Baby Mario. Yes, that helpless infant with the grating cry from Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island. The inclusion of Baby Mario surprised me, as it raised some impossible questions; the chief being how can a baby play professional tennis... but who am I to question video game logic?

The game starts off with a badly sunburnt boy and a Bella-esque girl playing tennis. After they're introduced, a group of ugly characters are then presented next. When that’s over, a fully grown Mario is revealed as the greatest player ever. Though the cutscene is nowhere as cute or likable as Mario Party’s, the menu music that follows next is easily one of the best from the Mario games. In fact, I’m ready to say probably in the top 5. Not since the original game and Yoshi’s Island have I thoroughly enjoyed the music more than the game itself.

With initially only Baby Mario, Luigi, Donkey Kong and 3 other human characters to choose from, the start of Mario Tennis isn’t that flawless; so they say. Though the N64 version has all but 2 characters already unlocked, you have to go through an RPG-type experience in this GBC version to unlock a majority of the characters. Honestly, having only a few characters to choose from suited me just fine. Do I really, desperately need Wario and Luigi competing against each other? If I ever feel the need to play as Yoshi or Wario, I play the N64 version, which is, in my opinion, quite inferior – if compared to the GBC version. True, the N64 has better graphics, 3D and more to observe – but it sorely lacks in charm and character. I guess this one time handheld outwins console.

When I played Activision’s Tennis for the Atari 2600, I was taken back by its fluid movement and how smart it looked in front of its peers. I got a déjà vu of that feeling while playing Mario Tennis. It has in it enough smooth movements and animation to make you rub your eyes to make sure you’re not dreaming. But not everything is gold, and unfortunately Mario Tennis suffers from setbacks.

Sometimes your character abruptly stops while running; and the ball goes out of court. Other times – and this is attributed with the computer player – you can clearly see the racket is far away from the ball, but yet they manage to hit it. There’s another; when you try to activate the special shot, it doesn’t always activate... and you’re left holding your head and wondering what went wrong!

In conclusion, Mario Tennis indeed has a lot to offer, like create your own player, career mode, a dictionary to learn the terms and choose from different courts. But just as how it is with other games, everything boils down to whether or not the end result is satisfactory and fun. Mario Tennis excels in both and proves to be more! It’s a solid, fun little game that is bound to see you as Baby Mario competing against Luigi for hours on end!

Note: Screenshots from all platforms that were available at the time can be found here at Moby Games.

Score: 10 / 10



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